Select Henry Surname Genealogy

Henry, originally Henri, was a French given name that was brought to England by the Normans in 1066.  Its roots are Germanic, from the Heinrich name composed of the elements heim meaning “home” and ric meaning “power.”

The Scottish versions were Henry and its variants Hendry and Hendrie where the “d” is intrusive.  This also happened with Henderson.  There were a number of Irish versions of the name - such as McHenry, McEnery and McKendrie - generally from Gaelic sources. 

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Select Henry Ancestry

Henri was a king in France in the 11th century and Henry developed there as a surname, mainly in northern France. The numbers today total some 45,000.  Brittany was an early concentration of the name.  There are now more in NE France, particularly in Lorraine.

England.  Henry in England often became Harry which provided the route to the Harris surname.  There was a William Herry in Colchester in 1337, a William Harrys in Oxfordshire in 1406, and a Harris family at Radford manor in Devon from about 1450.

Henry as a surname was slower to develop.   One Henry family came about through the old Welsh patronymic system:
  • Henry Williams was Welsh and lived at Briton’s ferry between Neath and Swansea in the early 1600’s
  • while his son John, who came to London in the employ of the Earl of Pembroke, took his father’s first name Henry as his surname.
John’s son Philip Henry was a Nonconformist clergyman in Shropshire who was imprisoned for his preachings during the Restoration.  His son Matthew preached at a time when the political climate was kinder and became known for his Bible commentaries.  Matthew had four sisters, one of whom, Sarah Savage, kept a diary which was published.  Her descendant Sarah Lawrence wrote a genealogy of the family, Descendants of Philip Henry, in 1844.

Many of the Henrys in England were of Scottish origin and were to be found more in northern England.  Alexander Henry, who had earlier emigrated to America with his family, returned to England in 1804 and established with his brother Samuel the cotton merchant company of A & S Henry & Co in Manchester.  They prospered.  The next generation of the family ventured into politics and became MP’s, John with the Conservatives and Mitchell with the Liberals. 

Some other Henrys in Lancashire were of Irish origin; while James Henry from Derry came to Durham in the 1870’s to find work in the mining industry.

Channel Islands.
  French Henrys brought the name to the Channel Islands.  Thomas Henry was listed as a Jurat of Guernsey in 1527 and Peter Henry in 1547.  There were 152 Henrys in the Channel Islands in the 1881 census.

Scotland.  The Henry, Hendry, and Hendrie names all appear in Scotland.  Hendry is somewhat the more common today, followed by Henry, while the Hendrie version, probably originating in Ayrshire, is much smaller in number.

The Henry and Hendry names have spanned most of Scotland – from Aberdeenshire in the northeast to Ayrshire in the southwest.  Henry was found further south, in the Scottish borders, and further north, in the Shetland Isles where the Henrys of Bayhall had been established in Walls parish as early as 1622. 

Ireland.   Griffith's Valuation in the mid-19th century showed two clusters of Henrys in Ireland:
  • the first was in Ulster, mainly in Derry but also in Antrim and Tyrone
  • the second was on the west coast, in Sligo and also in Mayo.
Ulster.  Gaelic Henrys were to be found in Ulster.  O'Henerys or McHenrys derived from a Gaelic chieftain O'hIinneirghe at Cullentra in Tyrone who migrated to the Glenconkeiny valley in Derry.  And there were also two Henry Gaelic groups in Antrim. 

One notable Henry from Derry was Denis Henry, born in Draperstown in 1864.  He was the only Roman Catholic to have become an Ulster Unionist MP and be the Lord Chief Justice for Northern Ireland.  He had in fact come from a well-established wealthy Derry family that had arrived from London at the time of the 17th century Ulster plantations.

More of the Henrys in Derry were descendants of Scots who had crossed the Irish Sea from Ayrshire.  John Henry reportedly held lands near Coleraine in 1681; while the Rev. Robert Henry of Fairview House was the minister at the Castle-Dawson Presbyterian church for 57 years – from his ordination in 1743 until his retirement in 1800 at the age of 92.  Both of these families had offspring who emigrated to America in the 1700’s.

Elsewhere.   Henrys were also on the west coast, in Sligo.  Paul Henry was born in the small village of Cloonlarhan around the year 1770.  By the mid-1800’s, the main numbers were to be found around Achonry.

  The Henrys who came to America during the colonial era tended to be either Scots or Scots Irish.

.  Patrick Henry was a famed orator in Virginia in pre-Revolutionary days.  His father John had come from Aberdeenshire in 1727.  Patrick’s elder brother, Judge James Henry, was the progenitor of the Henry family in Accomac county, Virginia.  He was a wealthy man and friend to George Washington. 

Robert Hendry from the Isle of Arran off Ayrshire fought on the British side in the Revolutionary War and afterwards stayed.  He and his family moved to Georgia in 1796.  His grandson James migrated to Florida in 1852 and his son Francis was a prominent rancher there.  Hendry county in Florida was named after him.

Scots Irish.   Other Henrys were from Ireland.  The Rev. John Henry arrived in Maryland in 1710 and was the Presbyterian minister at Pokomoke church in Somerset county.  His grandson John Henry was Senator of Maryland in 1789 and subsequently its Governor.

Not much is known about John Henry - the immigrant to Lancaster county, Pennsylvania - except that he probably came from Ireland in the 1720’s, married a Huguenot, and died in 1747.  He was the forebear of five generations of Henry gunsmiths.  This family line extended for nearly two hundred years - from the first William Henry in the 1750’s to Granville Henry who died in 1912.

James McHenry, later a well-known surgeon in the Revolutionary War, came in 1771 reportedly for health reasons.  William Henry, also a distinguished patriot, had arrived earlier in 1734.

“William Henry came from a well-to-do family in Tyrone.  His father had remarried after his mother had died.  William, not liking his new mother, ran away to America.”

William Henry died in South Carolina in 1819 at the reported age of 104.

Thomas Henry meanwhile was a stowaway carpenter who had arrived in Virginia with a Welsh wife sometime in the 1760’s.  Their third son Robert had fought as a lad at King’s Mountain in 1780 and was later an eccentric pioneer in Asheville, North Carolina.  He established an early health spa at Sulphur Springs.

Other Arrivals
.  Some Henrys arrived from elsewhere.  According to family lore, John Henry had come to Philadelphia from Amsterdam around the year 1800, also as a stowaway.  He and his wife Elizabeth were considered Pennsylvania Dutch.  They settled in Scott county, Virginia.  Later Henrys migrated west to Kentucky

A number of Acadian Henrys had found refuge in Louisiana, arriving there from France in 1785.  Their numbers included Jean Baptiste Henry, whose line was traced in Sandra Henry’s 1999 book The Families of Jean Baptiste Theodore Henry.

CanadaThe first Henrys in Canada (or what was then New France) came from France.  Robert Henry, aged twenty and illiterate, arrived at Trois-Rivieres from Normandy in 1665.  His descendants were caught up in the Acadian deportations of the 1750’s, with one son Pierre returning to France.

Alexander Henry, said to have been related to the English Nonconformist minister Matthew Henry, came to Montreal in 1760 soon after the French defeat and established himself as one of the pioneers of the British-Canadian fur trade.

“An easy and dignified raconteur, Henry was invited in 1776 to give an account of his journeys at the Royal Society in London and to Queen Marie Antoinette at Versailles. Later he published his Travels and Adventures in Canada, now considered an adventure classic.”

He joined forces in 1792 with his nephew of the same name to become a partner in the North West Company (later to be merged with the Hudson Bay Company).

Two Irish-born Henrys arrived in Canada around the year 1811:
  • one was John Henery (subsequently Henry) from Cavan who came to Toronto and later moved with his family to a farm at Oshawa on Lake Ontario.  His son the Rev. Thomas Henry was a well-known minister of the Christian Church.
  • the other was Robert Henry from Newry in county Down who came to Halifax where he operated a timber business.  His son William Alexander Henry became a prominent judge and politician in Nova Scotia.
Australia and New Zealand.  John Henry and his family from Ayrshire in Scotland came to Australia on the William Rodgers in 1838.  John was by trade a carpenter and they settled in the Kiama district of NSW.

A  Henry family migrated to New Zealand from Midlothian in Scotland in the 1870’s.  On arrival they founded a timber-milling operation near Riverton in Southland.  Buttressed by their Presbyterian faith and an ethic for hard work, they established what was to become in the 1930’s one of New Zealand's largest industrial enterprises.  At that time Sir David Henry established the newer larger New Zealand Forests Products Company.  Other family members have branched off into the law and merchant banking

Select Henry Miscellany

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

Select Henry Names

Alexander Henry was one of the pioneers of the British fur trade in Canada in the 1760’s.
Patrick Henry
 was a prominent planter,
orator and statesman in Virginia during the drive for American independence in the late 18th century.
James McHenry
, of Scots Irish roots, was a signer of the US Constitution for Maryland and served as the US Secretary of War from 1796 to 1800.
O. Henry,
the pen name of William Sydney Porter, was a popular American short story writer of the late 19th century.
Lenny Henry
, the son of Jamaican immigrants, is a stand-up English comedian, actor, and TV presenter.
Stephen Hendry
from Scotland is one of the greatest snooker players ever, winning the world championship seven times between 1990 and 1998

Select Henrys Today
  • 34,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 61,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 34,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

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