Brey History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Brey reached English shores for the first time with the ancestors of the Brey family as they migrated following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Brey family lived in Berkshire where the local Brai is listed in the Domesday Book. Originally, the name, is a reference to the town of Bray, near Evereux, Normandy, where the family lived prior to the Norman Conquest of 1066. [1]

"Brea, [in Land's End, Cornwall] which some have supposed to have been the original seat of the family of Brea or Bray, is now a farm house." [2]

Early Origins of the Brey family

The surname Brey was first found in Northamptonshire where Sir Robert Bray who lived about the period of Richard I is thought to be the progenitor. "His great-grandson, Thomas, was lord of Thgunby, in the same county in the ninth of Edward II." [3]

"This name occurs in all the copies of the co-called Roll of Battel Abbey, and that a great family so designated migrated from Normandy at the period of the Conquest seems certain. Three places in that province are still called Brai; two in the arrondissement of Falaise, and one in that of Bernal." [4]

"William de Braye was one of the subscribing witnesses to the charter of Battle Abbey in 1088; but does not appear in Domesday. His name was derived from Bray, near Evreux. "Milo de Brai, father of Hugh Trussel, married, c. 1070, Litheuil, Viscountess of Troyes, and c. 1064, founded Longport Abbey, Normandy (Ordaric Vitalis). Milo de Brai, his son, was a crusader 1096 (Idem). In 1148 Richard de Braio held lands at Winchester from the Bishop (Winton Domesday). The De Brais possessed estates in Cambridge and Bedford 1165 [5]. A branch was seated in Devon in the thirteenth century." [1]

"In Bedfordshire we find Eaton Bray, in the hundred of Manshead, a village about four miles from Dunstaple. 'The family of Bray were of consequence in the county,' says Lysons, 'at an early period. Thomas de Bray was knight of the shire in 1289, and Roger de Bray in 1312. When they settled at Eaton-Bray, to which they gave their name, does not appear; but it was long before they were possessed of the manor. Edmund Bray, grandfather of Sir Reginald, the faithful minister of King Henry VII., was described as of this place, and it appears on record, that the parish was called Eaton-Bray in the reign of Edward III. It is probable that the Brays held the manor under the Barons Cantilupe and Zouche. " [6]

John Bray ( fl. 1377), was an early English "physician and botanist [who] received a pension of 100s. a year from William, Earl of Salisbury, which was confirmed by Richard II. He wrote a list of herbs in Latin, French, and English, 'Synonyma de nominibus herbarum.' This manuscript was formerly part of the collection of F. Bernard; it is now in the Sloane Collection in the British Museum. " [7]

"The manor of Rescaddock or Roscraddock, [St. Cleer, Cornwall] belonged anciently to the family of Bray. Trenowth was the seat of the ancient family of Bray, some of whom continued to reside here so late as the reign of Elizabeth." [2]

Early History of the Brey family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Brey research. Another 285 words (20 lines of text) covering the years 1066, 1260, 1500, 1700, 1440, 1503, 1644, 1656, 1730, 1790, 1883, 1794, 1868 and are included under the topic Early Brey History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Brey Spelling Variations

Anglo-Norman names tend to be marked by an enormous number of spelling variations. This is largely due to the fact that Old and Middle English lacked any spelling rules when Norman French was introduced in the 11th century. The languages of the English courts at that time were French and Latin. These various languages mixed quite freely in the evolving social milieu. The final element of this mix is that medieval scribes spelled words according to their sounds rather than any definite rules, so a name was often spelled in as many different ways as the number of documents it appeared in. The name was spelled Bray, Braye, Braie, Brey, Breye, Brae and others.

Early Notables of the Brey family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Reginald Bray (c.1440-1503), English courtier, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster under Henry VII. He was the second son of Sir Richard Bray, one of the privy council to Henry VI. "The father was of Eaton-Bray in Bedfordshire, and lies buried in the north aisle of Worcester Cathedral. "...
Another 56 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Brey Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Brey Ranking

In the United States, the name Brey is the 14,390th most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [8]

Ireland Migration of the Brey family to Ireland

Some of the Brey family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 68 words (5 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Brey migration to the United States +

Because of the political and religious discontent in England, families began to migrate abroad in enormous numbers. Faced with persecution and starvation at home, the open frontiers and generally less oppressive social environment of the New World seemed tantalizing indeed to many English people. The trip was difficult, and not all made it unscathed, but many of those who did get to Canada and the United States made important contributions to the young nations in which they settled. Some of the first North American settlers with Brey name or one of its variants:

Brey Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Hans Geo Brey, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1737 [9]
  • Johann Caspar Brey, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1740 [9]
  • Johann Casper Brey, who arrived in America in 1740 [9]
  • Joh Caspar Brey, who arrived in America in 1740 [9]
  • Johan Brey, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1753 [9]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Brey Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Pedro Brey, who arrived in Puerto Rico in 1882 [9]
  • Paul C Brey, who landed in St Clair County, Illinois in 1899 [9]

Contemporary Notables of the name Brey (post 1700) +

  • Elizabeth Brey (1931-2015), née Mullen, American two-time gold and silver medalist competitive swimmer at the 1956 Summer Olympics
  • Claire Du Brey (1892-1993), born Clara Violet Dubreyvich, an American actress who appeared in over 200 films between 1916 and 1959
  • Carter Brey (b. 1954), American cello virtuoso, Principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic (1996-)
  • Mike Brey (b. 1959), American college basketball coach at the University of Notre Dame (2000-)


  1. ^ The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X)
  2. ^ Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  3. ^ Shirley, Evelyn Philip, The Noble and Gentle Men of England; The Arms and Descents. Westminster: John Bower Nichols and Sons, 1866, Print.
  4. ^ Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  5. ^ Liber Niger Scutarii ("Black Book of the Exchequer"), containing reports by county on feudal holdings in England in 1166 (reign of Henry II)
  6. ^ Cleveland, Dutchess of The Battle Abbey Roll with some Account of the Norman Lineages. London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1889. Print. Volume 1 of 3
  7. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  8. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  9. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)


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