Show ContentsEarly History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Early is a name whose history is entwined with the ancient Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. It was a name for a male who was of manly character. The surname Early originally derived from the Old English word Eorlic which referred to one who displayed manly characteristics. The surname Early belongs to a broad and miscellaneous class of surnames. Nickname surnames referred to a characteristic of the first person who used the name. They can describe the bearer's favored style of clothing, appearance, habits, or character. Often nicknames described strong traits or attributes that people wished to emulate in a specific animal.

Early Origins of the Early family

The surname Early was first found in Somerset where one of the first records of the name was John de Earlea who was listed in the Pipe Rolls of 1162. A few years later, William de Erlega was listed in the Pipe Rolls of Sussex in 1190 and John de Erley was listed in the Pipe Rolls of Berkshire in 1230. 1

Bardsley claims the name was a local name "of Earley, a parish in the diocese of Oxford." 2 He quotes another contemporary source "Lower says 'A liberty in the parish of Sonning, co. Berks.' " 3 The latter Berkshire local was confirmed by Reaney. The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 list the following found in Somerset: Clemens Erleghe; Phillip Erlee; and Warin Erlee. 2 The Berkshire local is the only one we could find today.

Early History of the Early family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Early research. Another 105 words (8 lines of text) covering the years 1273, 1773, 1786, 1798, 1813, 1815, 1817, 1872, 1873 and 1890 are included under the topic Early Early History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Early Spelling Variations

Before the last few hundred years, the English language had no fast system of spelling rules. For that reason, spelling variations are commonly found in early Anglo-Saxon surnames. Over the years, many variations of the name Early were recorded, including Early, Erlegh, Erlee, Erly, Earley, Erle, Erley, Arlie and many more.

Early Notables of the Early family

Notables of this surname at this time include:

  • John Early (1786-1873)American religious leader who was instrumental in organizing the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Bridget Ellen "Biddy" Early (1798-1872) née O'Connor, was a traditional Irish...
  • Peter Early (1773-1817) was an American lawyer, jurist and politician, 28th Governor of Georgia (1813-1815.)

Early Ranking

In the United States, the name Early is the 1,994th most popular surname with an estimated 14,922 people with that name. 4

Ireland Migration of the Early family to Ireland

Some of the Early family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 50 words (4 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Early migration to the United States +

To escape oppression and starvation at that time, many English families left for the "open frontiers" of the New World with all its perceived opportunities. In droves people migrated to the many British colonies, those in North America in particular, paying high rates for passages in cramped, unsafe ships. Although many of the settlers did not make the long passage alive, those who did see the shores of North America perceived great opportunities before them. Many of the families that came from England went on to make essential contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Research into various historical records revealed some of first members of the Early family emigrate to North America:

Early Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Robert Early, who arrived in New England in 1634 aboard the ship "Hercules" 5
  • John Early, who arrived in Maryland in 1669 5
Early Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Thomas Early, who landed in North Carolina in 1701 5
  • Jeremia Early, who arrived in Virginia in 1704 5
  • Jacob Early, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1761 5
Early Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • John Early, who landed in America in 1804 5
  • Catherine Early, who arrived in Baltimore in 1829
  • Michael Early, who landed in New York in 1833 5
  • William Early, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1834 5
  • Patrick Early, who sailed to Baltimore in 1834
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Early migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Early Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • John Early, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1814
  • Donald Early, who landed in Quebec in 1825
  • Pat Early, who immigrated to Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833
  • Patrick Early, aged 20, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833 aboard the brig "Ugoni" from Belfast, Ireland
  • Mary Early, aged 24, a farmer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1834 aboard the ship "Britannia" from Sligo, Ireland
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Early migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Early Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • John Early, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Bolton" in 1848 6
  • George Early, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Bolton" in 1848 6
  • Mark Early, aged 25, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1856 aboard the ship "Fitzjames"

New Zealand Early migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Early Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • J. W. Early a farmer, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Romulus" in 1862
  • J. Early, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Queen of Beauty" in 1863
  • Miss Bridget Early, (b. 1859), aged 20, Irish cook, from Sligo travelling from Clyde aboard the ship "Nelson" arriving in Invercargill, Southland, South Island, New Zealand on 28th August 1879 7

Contemporary Notables of the name Early (post 1700) +

  • Penny Ann Early (1943-2023), American first female jockey to be licensed to ride parimutuel horse races, and the first woman ever to play in a professional men's basketball league during the 1960s
  • Gerald Early (b. 1952), American author
  • Joseph Daniel Early (b. 1933), American politician, U.S. House of Representatives for Massachusetts from 1975 to 1993
  • James M Early, American engineer, best known for his work on transistors, eponym of the Early Effect
  • Burd Early, American rock artist
  • Delloreese Patricia Early (b. 1931), birth name of Della Reese, American Golden Globe Award, Primetime Emmy Award multiple Grammy Award nominated actress, singer, and ordained minister
  • Jubal Anderson Early (1816-1894), Confederate general in the American Civil War
  • Delbert E. Early, American politician, Candidate for Michigan State Treasurer, 1916 8
  • Daisy M. Early, American Republican politician, Member of West Virginia Republican State Executive Committee, 1941; Candidate for Presidential Elector for West Virginia, 1948 8
  • D. Miller Early, American politician, Burgess of Wilson, Pennsylvania, 1927-37 8
  • ... (Another 32 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Suggested Readings for the name Early +

  • Descendants of John Early Virginia (1729-1774) by Margaret Woods Hampton.
  • The Early Families of Knox and Whitley Counties, Kentucky, with Allied Families by Cleland Edward Early.

  1. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  2. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  3. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  4. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  5. 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)
  6. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) BOLTON 1848. Retrieved from
  7. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  8. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 18) . Retrieved from on Facebook