Show ContentsFrye History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The earliest origins of the Frye surname date from the ancient Anglo-Saxon culture of Britain. Their name reveals that an early member was a person who was referred to as the fry, which literally means free. It has also been suggested that Frye comes from the Middle English word fry, meaning "small person," or "child." In either instance, the origins of the name are as a nickname which referred to characteristics of the first person who used the name. [1] [2]

Early Origins of the Frye family

The surname Frye was first found in Wiltshire where the Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 has two listings: Thomas le Frye; and Geoffrey le Frye as both holding lands there at that time.

Another source notes that William Frie was listed in the Pipe Rolls for Sussex in 1195 and Robert le Frye was listed in Warwickshire c. 1248. [3]

In Cornwall, the Cornish version of the name denotes "a hill, a town or house on the most prominent part of a hill or eminence." [4]

"Of the old Wiltshire families of yeomen, few can boast a greater antiquity, and few have shown more love of their county by remaining in it, than those bearing the name of Fry. Numerous as they now are, especially around Chippenham, we find that as far back as in the reigns of Henry III. and Edward I., the Fryes or Fries found in Wiltshire their main abode. The Frys of Ashgrove, in the parish of Donhead St. Mary, appear to be one of the parent stocks; they gave the burial ground for Quakers in that parish, which has been used for this purpose ever since the Society of Friends was first established in England." [5]

The famed English prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, (1780-1845) born Elizabeth Gurney, hailed from Norfolk into a prominent Quaker family. After her first visit to Newgate Prison in 1813, she was horrified and vowed to make changes. One of her admirers, Queen Victoria granted her an audience that led to the Gaols Act of 1823. England still regards her with so much importance that her likeness appeared on the £5 note from 2001 to 2016.

Early History of the Frye family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Frye research. Another 87 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1273, 1307, 1312, 1461, 1426, 1448, 1474, 1609, 1657, 1666, 1748, 1777, 1861, 1780 and 1845 are included under the topic Early Frye History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Frye Spelling Variations

It is only in the last few hundred years that the English language has been standardized. For that reason, early Anglo-Saxon surnames like Frye are characterized by many spelling variations. As the English language changed and incorporated elements of other European languages, even literate people changed the spelling of their names. The variations of the name Frye include: Fry, Frye, Free and others.

Early Notables of the Frye family (pre 1700)

Notables of the family at this time include Sir John Fray (died 1461), an English lawyer who served as Baron of the Exchequer from 1426 and Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer in 1448; Walter Frye (c. died 1474), an English composer of the early Renaissance; John Fry (1609-1657), Member of the English Parliament and sat as...
Another 57 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Frye Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Frye Ranking

In the United States, the name Frye is the 885th most popular surname with an estimated 34,818 people with that name. [6]

Ireland Migration of the Frye family to Ireland

Some of the Frye family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. More information about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Frye migration to the United States +

Many English families tired of political and religious strife left Britain for the new colonies in North America. Although the trip itself offered no relief - conditions on the ships were extremely cramped, and many travelers arrived diseased, starving, and destitute - these immigrants believed the opportunities that awaited them were worth the risks. Once in the colonies, many of the families did indeed prosper and, in turn, made significant contributions to the culture and economies of the growing colonies. An inquiry into the early roots of North American families has revealed a number of immigrants bearing the name Frye or a variant listed above:

Frye Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • John Frye, who landed in Virginia in 1623 [7]
  • Adrian Frye, who settled in Maine in 1630
  • William Frye, who landed in Virginia in 1635 [7]
  • Mr. Richard Frye, who arrived in Virginia in 1636 aboard the ship "Friendship" [8]
  • Jeffery Frye, who arrived in Virginia in 1636 [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Frye Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • GabrieIl Frye, who arrived in Virginia in 1703 [7]
  • Tobias Frye, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1727 [7]
  • Jacob Frye, who landed in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania in 1741 [7]
  • Martin Frye, who arrived in North Carolina in 1764 [7]
Frye Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Bernh Heinr Frye, who landed in America in 1832 [7]
  • Joh Christian Frye, who landed in America in 1835 [7]
  • Elis Frye, who arrived in America in 1846 [7]
  • Franz Frye, who landed in America in 1849 [7]
  • W Frye, who arrived in America in 1849 [7]

Contemporary Notables of the name Frye (post 1700) +

  • William Pierce Frye (1830-1911), American politician from the U.S. state of Maine
  • Virgil Charles Frye, American actor, and former Golden Gloves boxing champion
  • Soleil Moon Frye (b. 1976), American actress, director and screenwriter
  • Joseph Frye (1712-1794), early American military leader from colonial Maine, first as a major general of Massachusetts militia, brigadier general in the Continental Army, eponym of Fryeburg, Maine
  • Sean Anthony Frye (b. 1966), American child actor, best-known role was as Steve, Elliot's older brother's friend in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  • Dwight Frye (1899-1943), American actor, best known for his appearances in the horror films Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Invisible Man (1933), and Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  • Mark Frye (b. 1957), contemporary American composer
  • Marilyn Frye (b. 1941), American philosophy professor and feminist theorist
  • Donna Frye (b. 1952), San Diego city councilwoman
  • Charlie Frye (b. 1981), NFL football player for the Seattle Seahawks
  • ... (Another 3 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

USS Arizona
  • Mr. Everett E. Frye, American Seaman First Class working aboard the ship "USS Arizona" when she sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941, he survived the sinking [9]

Suggested Readings for the name Frye +

  • The Frye Family, Being a Record of the Descendants of Stephen Frye of Keokuk, Iowa & Sheridan Co., Kansas (1841-1917) by Marian McCauley Frye.
  • Some Descendants of John Fry, Late of Licking County, Ohio by Charles Recker.

  1. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  2. Smith, Eldson Coles, New Dictionary of American Family Names New York: Harper & Row, 1956. Print
  3. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  4. Arthur, William , An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. London: 1857. Print
  5. Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  6. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  7. 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)
  8. Pilgrim Ship's of 1600's Retrieved January 6th 2023, retrieved from
  9. Pearl Harbour: USS Arizona Casualties List Pearl Harbour December 7, 1941. (Retrieved 2018, July 31st). Retrieved from on Facebook