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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2015

Where did the English Fretwell family come from? What is the English Fretwell family crest and coat of arms? When did the Fretwell family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Fretwell family history?

The surname Fretwell is Anglo-Saxon in origin; the name is derived from "Fritwell," the name of a town located in Oxfordshire. This name is probably taken from the Old English "freht," meaning "augury," and "well," meaning "spring, stream."


Until quite recently, the English language has lacked a definite system of spelling rules. Consequently, Anglo-Saxon surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. Changes in Anglo-Saxon names were influenced by the evolution of the English language, as it incorporated elements of French, Latin, and other languages. Although Medieval scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, so it is common to find one person referred to by several different spellings of his surname, even the most literate people varied the spelling of their own names. Variations of the name Fretwell include Fretwell, Fratwell, Fretevile, Frettwell and others.

First found in Oxfordshire, where the town of Fritwell is located. The name was recorded as Fertwelle [1] in the Domesday Book [2]. It is possible that the progenitor of the surname was a descendant of Reginald Wadard, who was granted land in Fritwell after the Norman Conquest of 1066, as recorded in the Domesday Book. The earliest recorded bearer of the name was Milo de Freteuill, who was listed in the Pipe Rolls of Oxfordshire in 1204.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Fretwell research. Another 276 words (20 lines of text) covering the years 1204, 1219, 1240, 1510, 1574, 1765, and 1847 are included under the topic Early Fretwell History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 38 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Fretwell Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Searching for a better life, many English families migrated to British colonies. Unfortunately, the majority of them traveled under extremely harsh conditions: overcrowding on the ships caused the majority of the immigrants to arrive diseased, famished, and destitute from the long journey across the ocean. For those families that arrived safely, modest prosperity was attainable, and many went on to make invaluable contributions to the development of the cultures of the new colonies. Research into the origins of individual families in North America revealed records of the immigration of a number of people bearing the name Fretwell or a variant listed above:

Fretwell Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • John Fretwell, who arrived in Maryland in 1657
  • G Fretwell, who landed in Virginia in 1665
  • Roger Fretwell, who arrived in Maryland in 1671
  • Peter Fretwell, who landed in New Jersey in 1677
  • Ralph Fretwell, who landed in Philadelphia, Pa, in 1683

Fretwell Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • George Fretwell, English convict from Warwick, who was transported aboard the "Albion" on May 29, 1828, settling in New South Wales, Australia
  • Frances Fretwell, English convict from Warwick, who was transported aboard the "America" on December 30, 1830, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia


  • Joseph Fretwell III (1915-1992), American costume designer, known for his work on The Exorcist (1973), The French Connection (1971) and Across 110th Street (1972)
  • Bill Fretwell, American actor, known for Kojak: Flowers for Matty (1990), Performance Pieces (1989) and Mathnet (1987)
  • Professor Elbert K. Fretwell PhD (1878-1962), American academic, 2nd Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America (1943-1948), father of Elbert K. Fretwell Jr
  • Jerry and Lisa Fretwell, American founders of Fretwell's Flutes, a Native American flute-making company
  • Elbert Kirtley Fretwell Jr. (1923-2012), American academic and Chancellor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina
  • David Fretwell (b. 1952), English retired footballer who played from 1970 to 1981
  • Stephen Fretwell (b. 1965), Canadian actor, known for his work on The Joneses (2009), Gavin & Stacey (2007) and Degas and the Dancer (1998)
  • Sir John Emsley Fretwell GCMG (b. 1930), retired British diplomat, British Ambassador to France (1982-1987)
  • Des Fretwell (b. 1955), British cyclist in the team time trial event at the 1980 Summer Olympics
  • Elizabeth Fretwell OBE (1920-2006), Australian soprano, best known as the prima donna at London's Sadler's Wells Opera



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  1. ^ Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  2. ^ Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)

Other References

  1. Chadwick, Nora Kershaw and J.X.W.P Corcoran. The Celts. London: Penguin, 1790. Print. (ISBN 0140212116).
  2. 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).
  3. Virkus, Frederick A. Ed. Immigrant Ancestors A List of 2,500 Immigrants to America Before 1750. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1964. Print.
  4. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  5. Hanks, Hodges, Mills and Room. The Oxford Names Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN 0-19-860561-7).
  6. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. Print.
  7. Bede, The Venerable. Historia Ecclesiatica Gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History Of the English People). Available through Internet Medieval Sourcebook the Fordham University Centre for Medieval Studies. Print.
  8. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  9. Burke, Sir Bernard. Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry: Including American Families with British Ancestry. (2 Volumes). London: Burke Publishing, 1939. Print.
  10. Foster, Joseph. Dictionary of Heraldry Feudal Coats of Arms and Pedigrees. London: Bracken Books, 1989. Print. (ISBN 1-85170-309-8).
  11. ...

The Fretwell Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Fretwell Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 14 July 2015 at 15:49.

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