The PARRY One-Name Study

What is a One-Name study?

The Guild of One-Name Studies defines such a study as a project researching all occurrences of a surname, as opposed to a particular pedigree (ancestors of one person) or descendancy (descendants of one person or couple). The value of such studies lies not just in the collection of data, but from the way in which the information is then pieced together in order to draw conclusions from it.

Thus the aim of this study is to collect all references to the PARRY surname, worldwide, for any date, and to use this information in order to draw conclusions concerning the name and those who have carried it.

To learn more about One-Name Studies in general, click on the image to visit the Guild's site, or click here to read the entry on Wikipedia. But to learn more about the PARRYs, read on...

Picture logo for the Guild of One-Name Studies. Tree in a crest with web site address below. Click here to search their surname database.

link to DNA Research page On this page:

If you have any comments about the information on these pages, or wish to contribute to the study, then please contact me.


Meanings - the derivation, or linguistic origin, of the surname

Genealogists often seek the origins, or meaning, of their surname, partly out of general interest, but also in the hope that it will be of help to them in their research. Unlike some surnames, where the derivation is unclear, PARRY is generally accepted to come from the Welsh patronymic naming system. In this system, children were identified by their father's names, for example "Thomas son of John", or "Catherine daughter of Philip".

"Son" in Welsh is "mab", but this became "ap" when used before certain names, such as Harry. Thus a "son of Harry" would be referred to as "ap Harry". Over time, the phrase "ap Harry" became "Parry".

However, this change itself might not mark the origin of the surname for a particular family, since the pronunciation change and the settling on fixed surnames (as opposed to the change of name each generation, which resulted from the Welsh system) were two different processes.

More information about the derivation, and the variants that might have arisen over time, can be found on [on a page still to be added]


Starting points - geographical and historical origins of the surname

The name Harry has appeared in records for many years, gaining popularity in Wales following the Norman Conquest. As such, the use of the name "ap Harry", or Parry, as an identifier for the child of a particular person with that name, will also occur in early records. But, as already mentioned, this must be distinguished from its use as a surname.

Although fixed surnames became more common in Wales after the Act of Union in 1536, there are families who had settled on their surname prior to that date. There are also others who did not acquire a fixed surname until much later. So the Parry surname is likely to have both multiple points of origin geographically, since it could arise from anyone whose father was called "Harry", and also a variety of dates for its first appearance as an established surname in a particular family line.

More information about occurrences of the name in historical records can be found [on a page still to be added]


How common is it? - The frequency of the surname

In the UK, the Taliesin-arlein database, which is based on figures from the Office of National Statistics as at September 2002, includes 35,614 PARRYs. This makes it the 177th most common surname in England, Wales and the Isle of Man.

Making the suggested corrections to the ONS total (to allow for duplicate entries, deaths not yet removed etc) gives a figure of 33,121 as a better estimate of the living population surnamed PARRY as at that date, and 124,649 as the estimated population since the start of parish registers in the 16th century.

There are other methods of calculating surname populations for the period 1541-1996, based on census or birth figures. Using these produces estimates ranging from 140,000-160,000. Clearly these are very general estimates and further work is required in order to produce a more accurate figure.

In the U.S.A., the data available from the 1990 Post-Enumeration Survey carried out by the U.S. Census Bureau indicated that the surname PARRY was possessed by 0.004% of the sample population. This made it the 3369th most frequently occurring surname within the sample - a much less common surname in that country than in the UK. [Documentation concerning the limitations of this data, based as it is on a sample, is available on the Census site]

It is possible to gain some impression of how the population of PARRYs has increased over time, by examining the census figures for particular areas across different years. The following totals are from the Ancestry indexes, as at 8 February 2006:

For more information about frequencies, see [page still to be added]


Where are they? - The distribution of the surname

The census figures quoted above support the suggested origin of the name, with the highest incidence being in Wales. They indicate that there was a gradual movement from Wales to England, along with emigration to other parts of the world.

It might initially have been thought that PARRY would be common throughout Wales, since wherever there was a "son of Harry" at the time surnames became fixed, then the surname would become PARRY. However, this is a very simplistic view. Research by the Rowlands1, for the period 1813-1837, demonstrates that the majority of the most 'common' surnames in Wales show concentrations in particular areas. In the case of PARRY, although the average incidence throughout Wales is 1.08%, they found a concentration across North Wales of up to 7%, and in South East Wales of up to 3%, with a low occurrence elsewhere.

The distributions available so far on this site support this finding:

One would expect the increase in PARRY population outside of Wales to result from the combined effects of mobility/emigration and new generations born to those who'd moved earlier. For more analysis of the distribution of Parrys see [a page to be added later]


The history of this study

The study developed out of my own family history research, after I'd reached a 'brick wall' with my 4xgreat grandfather, a Thomas Parry who was born about 1788 somewhere outside of Herefordshire, England. Unfortunately, he had died in January 1851 - just months before the census which would have told me where outside!

My original intention to collect data on people connected to just three counties soon widened to include the whole of the UK when the 1901 census was first released, because of the initial difficulty in searching that census by birthplace. A personal interest in tracing my grandfather's temporary emigration to Canada led me to start collecting information on the name from other countries. And then, having also become intrigued by the old pedigrees, which I found mentioned in other people's research, it seemed a natural step to widen my collection not just in space, but also in time - and so the one-name study was born.

The study was registered with the Guild in 2005 and currently has category C registration. This means that, as yet, I do not have a substantial collection of data (relatively speaking, that is - despite having more records from just one census, than some one-name studies will ever contain). As such it is unlikely, at the moment, that I will have sufficient information on individuals to help researchers with regard to specific family relationships, especially those families in the highly concentrated areas of North Wales and Merseyside. However, contact is always welcomed, since any information you can supply will help to build up the database for future research.


Data being collected and what is available on this site

Although a One-Name Study collects every reference to its surname, there are certain "recognised sources" from which the bulk of the data is initially extracted. However, since PARRY is a frequently occurring surname, this is a time-consuming process and there are still many of the records to be collected, even from the most easily available sources. A listing of possible data sources and some indication of the progress in collecting them is available [on a page to be added].

Not all of the data collected will be made available on this site. The final aim of a One-Name Study is to be able to draw wider conclusions about the surname and so the main information presented here will relate to such conclusions. However, some data on individuals is available to aid researchers and this will be found through links on the data sources page.

One important aspect of a One-Name Study is the reconstitution of family lines. Initially this is being carried out for the three counties of Herefordshire, Breconshire and Monmouthshire, as part of my own family history research. Further information on this will be found on the Parry Family History Home Page


New Additions

Additions to the web site will be listed on the Site Updates page.


More resources for those researching Parrys

Parry mailing list on Rootsweb

Parry message board on Rootsweb

The same Parry message board, accessed through Ancestry

Parry mailing list and message board resource pages

Parry message board on Genforum

Parry DNA Group on Ancestry

Parry DNA project at Family Tree DNA



1. The Rowlands
Rowlands, John The Homes of Surnames in Wales, in Second Stages in Researching Welsh Ancestry (1999) Ed. John & Sheila Rowlands
Rowlands, John & Sheila The Surnames of Wales for family historians and others (FFHS 1996)

This is the Parry ONS Home Page
Copyright © Barbara Griffiths 2002-2008
Last amended: 30 July 2008