Select Terry Surname Genealogy

The English and Irish surname Terry can be traced back to the Germanic Theodoric, meaning “people rule” from the Latin Terentius or Terence.  It became Thierry in France and was brought to England by the Normans in that form. The English version of Terry began to appear in the 13th century.

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Select Terry Ancestry

England.  The Terry name distribution in the 19th century showed two main clusters, one in Kent in the southeast and the other in Yorkshire in the northeast.

Kent.  The earliest record in Kent appears to have been a Thierry, the son of Deorman in London, who was granted lands there by the Earl of Pembroke in the mid-12th century.  The later surname spelling here could be either Terrey or Terry.  For instance:
  • David Terrey died at Pelham near Gravesend in 1662; and Edward Terrey appeared in the hearth tax records at Cudham near Bromley in 1664.
  • while the name John Terry was recorded at Maidstone in 1602; and William Terry appeared in the hearth tax records at Cowden near Sevenoaks in 1664.
The Terrey spelling persisted into the 19th century.   But there were only 17 Terreys left in Kent by the time of the 1881 census. 

Hampshire.  There was a Terry family at Long Sutton in Hampshire from the early 1500’s.  Stephen Terry made his home at Hydegate House and was a substantial landowner there in Elizabethan times.  His son the Rev. John Terry was a well-known anti-Catholic writer and his grandson John a wealthy goldsmith in London. 

But the most famous Terry family from Hampshire was of reputed Irish descent (although it is not known where and when they came from Ireland).  The first known was Benjamin Terry, innkeeper at the Fortune of War in Portsmouth who married Catherine Crawford in 1812.  His son Benjamin and wife Sarah, comic actors in a Portsmouth-based touring company, were the first of the Terry theatrical dynasty. 

A later Irish arrival, from Cork, was Paul Terry who came to Portsmouth in 1899 and worked there as a physician until his death in 1951. 

  Terry seems to have been a name from the North Riding of Yorkshire. 

One Terry family record began with the birth of John Terry in Askrigg in north Yorkshire in 1705.  He was a badger by trade, a man who bought grain and carted it to a buyer, as was his son Edward.  Later Terrys were millers.  Edward Terry unfortunately drowned at his mill while tipsy in 1789.  After the Napoleonic Wars, economic conditions deteriorated in the North Riding and John Terry departed for Australia in 1818. 

There was also a Terry family from Guisbrough in north Yorkshire in the early/mid 1700’s.  Thomas Terry of this family emigrated to South Carolina in 1825.  There he organized in Fountain Inn the building of a new Methodist church that came to be known as Terry’s Chapel. 

Joseph Terry, the son of a butcher, came from the village of Pocklington at the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds in east Yorkshire.  He took over Terry’s of York, the chocolate-making company, in 1828 and it remained in family hands until 2005. 

The heyday of the company was probably in the 1920’s and 1930’s when it was run by Joseph’s grandson Noel Terry.  He it was who introduced the famous All Gold and Chocolate Orange selections. 
Goddards, close by the chocolate factory, was the home of the Terry family from 1927 until 1980. 

Ireland.  The Terrys of Cork
were an old Anglo-Norman family who were steadfastly Catholic at the time of Cromwell.  They first appeared in Cork documents, generally as Tyrry, around the year 1300 and they rose to prominence as merchants and traders in Cork city a century or so later.  Edmund Tyrry, who died in 1454, was the first in this line of merchants.  During the 1500’s and the early 1600’s Terrys served as mayor of Cork city no fewer than twenty times. 

However, it became untenable for them to maintain their position and their Catholic faith with Cromwell.  In 1644 all Catholic families were thrown out of the city.  Some Terrys converted to Protestantism and remained in the city. Others retained a certain presence in the surrounding countryside.  Still others emigrated.  Their power was broken. 

Spain and Latin America. 
After the Jacobite defeat in Ireland in 1690, many Terrys sought refuge abroad.  James Terry (whose family was originally from Cork) fled Limerick for Spain.  His relation William Terry obtained an estate with vineyards near Jerez in the region of Andalusia and began to produce fortified sherry there.  Terrys have remained there in the Cadiz region. 

One line of these Terrys settled across the Atlantic in Cuba where they became powerful.   Tomas Terry made a fortune as a sugar planter in the mid-19th century and was probably the richest man on the island on his death in 1886.  His son Emilio served as Cuba's Minister of Agriculture in the early 1900's.  Other Terrys had migrated to Peru in the 18th century.  Fernando Terry of this line was twice President of Peru in the mid-20th century.

 There were two notable early Terry lines in New England. 

New England
.  Three Terry brothers - Thomas, Robert, and Richard - were said to have come to the Massachusetts Bay colony from London on the James in 1635.  The youngest of them, Richard, was one of the thirteen original settlers of Southold, Long Island.  He died there in 1676.  From Long Island, his descendants
seem to have scattered, some settling in Orange county, New York and others in Connecticut. 

A line from Connecticut via Parshall Terry migrated to the Wyoming valley in Pennsylvania in 1763.  One of his sons Jonathan was the founder of Terrytown in Bradford county, Pennsylvania in 1787.  An elder son Parshall fought in the Revolutionary War, but later deserted and joined the British side.  After the war he decamped to Ontario in Canada where he prospered.  He drowned in the Don river in 1808.  A third Parshall Terry, born near Niagara on the New York side in 1778, moved to Ontario around 1820.  Jacob Terry of this family was a Mormon pioneer to Utah in 1852. 

Samuel Terry, born near London, was brought to New England in 1650 by William Pynchon, the man who founded Springfield, Massachusetts.  There Samuel was apprenticed to Benjamin Cooley as a weaver. 

“Samuel’s ancestry is uncertain. Some have him as the grandson of the Rev. John Terry, the noted anti-Catholic writer of his time and vicar of Stockton in Wiltshire.  John was married to Mary, the sister of John White of Dorchester.  But others have disputed this linkage.” 

His eldest son Samuel settled nearby at Enfield where he started up a sawmill. 

Several generations later, Charles and Huldah Terry departed this area for upstate New York.  They settled after the Revolutionary War in Wayne county, having purchased land in the wilderness there.  Charles fought in the War of 1812 but died two years later as a result of gunshot wounds.  His son John prospered as a businessman in Portsmouth, Ohio. 

Another line from Enfield via Nathaniel Terry led to Dr. Charles Terry, a pioneer physician and surgeon in Clark county, Wisconsin in the years prior to the Civil War. 

Elsewhere.  Thomas Terry, a Quaker, was one of the original settlers of Bucks county, from lands granted him by William Penn in 1683.  Five generations of Terrys lived there.  But David Terry, Thomas’s great grandson, found the Quakers no longer being tolerated there in the early 1800’s.  He embarked on a desperate course of action - emigration to Canada.  He and his family left Pennsylvania for Gwillimbury township north of Toronto in 1801.  

There were a number of Terrys in Virginia in the 1600’s: 
  • the earliest may have been William Terry from London who arrived in 1652.  He was apparently from a Terry family that transported indentured servants to the colonies.  William himself stayed and settled in Lunenburg county.  There were later Terrys of this line in South Carolina.  
  • Thomas Terry was born in 1665 in what became Caroline county.  His descendants were to be found in Edgefield, South Carolina in the late 1700’s.  Joseph Terry moved to Mississippi in 1836 where he bought land in Hinds county for a farm and general store.  His son William had the town of Terry named after him. 
  • James Terry was born in the 1680’s also in Caroline county.  He moved in later life to North Carolina and his descendants to Alabama in the early 1800’s.  William Terry was a Methodist preacher there. 
Australia.  Samuel Terry’s history in Australia was a rags-to-riches story, from his arrival from Manchester as a convict in Sydney in 1801 to the business empire that he had created there some twenty years later. 

He died in 1838 as the “Botany Bay Rothschild” and possibly the wealthiest man in the colony.  But any dreams of a family dynasty were soon to be dispelled.  Edward, his son and principal heir, died childless soon after Terry himself.  And much of the family’s fortune was dissipated in the speculations and bankruptcy of the mercantile firm of Hughes & Hosking. 

John Terry
arrived from Yorkshire in 1819 with a letter of introduction to the Governor to whom he appeared “a good worthy man.”  He had been a miller in Yorkshire and he established a mill along the Derwent river in Tasmania

Select Terry Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Terry Names

Edmund Terry who died in 1454 was the first of the Terry merchants of Cork.
Joseph Terry
started the confectionary company Terry’s of York in 1828.
Samuel Terry
, transported to Australia as a convict in 1800, was the wealthiest man in the colony by the time of his death in 1838.
Tomas Terry
was a Cuban sugar planter, probably the richest man on the island on his death in 1886.
Ellen Terry
 was an English stage actress of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the leading Shakespearean actress of her time.

Select Terrys Today
  • 15,000 in the UK (most numerous in Kent)
  • 30,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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