Select Barry Surname Genealogy

Here are some Barry stories and accounts over the years:

Barry Island and the De Barris

Sometime between 1070 and 1090 the coast of Glamorgan in south Wales was seized by Anglo-Norman invaders.  Barry island and the adjacent coastline was allotted to a Norman nobleman who took the name of de Barri.  The following was an early account of the name origin by Gerald de Barri, Archdeacon of Brecknock: 

“Not far distant from Cardiff is a small island on the shore of the Severn, which island the neighbors call Barri from Saint Barroch, formerly an inhabitant of that place whose relics are contained in a chapel situated there.  Moreover, from the name of this island those noblemen are denominated, taking from Barri the name de Barri first as a surname and afterwards as a family name."

Barry and Barrymore

The name Barrymore as a term for the head of the de Barrys made its first appearance in 1420.  An entry in the Annals of the Four Masters at that time reported: “John Kittagh de Barry, Lord of Olethan, alias Barrymore appears to have died in the first quarter of 1420.” 

The Barry alias Barrymore depiction (meaning Great Barry in Gaelic) continued with his descendant Sir John de Barry who was recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters in 1486 as follows: 

“John Barrymore (Sean An Barrack Mor), the choicest of the English youths of Ireland, was slain on Christmas Day by Donogh Oge MacCarthy after he had gone on a predatory excursion against him.” 

Another slaying was recorded in 1500 when the Barrymore was slain by his brother, David Barry. 

These Barrys became the Earls of Barrymore in 1628 and in that form lasted two centuries. 

The latter Barrys were rather disreputable.  Richard Barry the 7th Earl, known as Hellgate, was a rake, gambler and womanizer.  He died in 1793 as carelessly as he had lived, shooting himself through the eye in an accident with a loaded gun.  He was just twenty four.  His brother Augustus, known as Newgate (because he had been inside every jail in England except that one), died in 1818 and the Barrymore line ended in 1823 with the death of his other brother Henry (known as Cripplegate because he limped).

The Barrys of Fordingbridge in Hampshire

Sir John Wolfe Barry in his 1906 book The Barry Genealogy in England and Wales speculated that his ancestors in Fordingbridge might have come originally from Wales. 

The first recorded Barry in Fordingbridge was William Barry, yeoman, who died there in 1545.  The churchyard of St. Mary there contains several Barry tombstones; while the parish registers, which started in 1642, has the Barry name continually appearing, although with different spellings. 

Sir John’s line went from Walter, who had migrated from Fordingbridge to Salisbury, to his son Francis who matriculated from Oxford in 1713 and was vicar first in Hampshire and then at West Alvington in Devon.

Barry/Barrie in Scotland

The surname is generally Barrie in Scotland but the name comes from the village of Barry in Angus, and means a rough, grassy hill.  Barry as a place-name dates from the 12th century.  Many of the people of the parish were linen hand loom weavers, a prospering industry in the latter half of the 18th century, but one which went into rapid decline soon after the beginning of the 19th century.  The playwright J.M. Barrie - of Peter Pan fame - was born to a family of small-town weavers in Kirriemuir, Angus in 1860.  The Scottish golf course of Carnoustie is located near Barry.

Commodore John Barry

John Barry was born in county Wexford in 1745 and went to sea at a young age.  The colony of Pennsylvania soon became his adopted home. 

When he was but twenty five he had risen to be the commander of the Black Prince, one of the finest traders between Philadelphia and London.  Early in the War of Independence, he was given a naval command by Congress and was one of the first to fly the US flag at sea. He was publicly thanked by General Washington in 1777 for his services to the American cause.  It was said that Lord Howe vainly endeavored to tempt him from his allegiance by the offer of the command of a British ship-of-the-line. 

In 1778 and 1779, he commanded the Relief and was accorded the rank of Commodore. From the conclusion of the War until his death, he was constantly occupied in superintending the progress of the United States Navy.  He has been called by many the father of the American Navy.

Barrys from Cork to Massachusetts

With the potato famine rampant in Ireland, two young Barry boys left their home in Ireland for a hopeful new life in America.  John left in 1848 at the age of sixteen and his brother Michael departed two years later.  He was just fourteen at the time (his age was in fact listed as thirteen probably because on most vessels children under fourteen could receive a reduced rate). 

“They probably followed the usual route.  Walk from their home town of Lisgoold which was about 15 miles outside of the city of Cork and sail to Liverpool to board one of the immigrant ships to New York. These ships were known as coffin ships due to the fact that so many Irish immigrants died on the voyage to America from disease and hunger and they had crowded as many passengers as they could in their holds.” 

Both John and Michael ended up in Westfield, Massachusetts.  John's first job upon arrival to the United States was drawing wood chips from Southwick to Westfield for a quarter a day.  By the time his brother Michael had joined him he was working for a local farmer.  Another brother William arrived with their widowed mother in 1854.  William died young.  John and Michael both worked for the local railroad company.  Their mother Ellen lived onto 1881, John to the early 1900’s, and Michael to 1911.  By that time the Barry family was well established in Westfield.

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