Show ContentsPalfrey History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The history of the name Palfrey dates back to the ancient Anglo-Saxon culture of Britain. It is derived from a member of the family who worked as a person who worked as the palfreyman, who was in charge of the palfreys or colts. [1] This occupational surname was first derived from the Old French word parfrement which referred to the individual who saddled horses for women. [2] The term palfrey usually referred to the most expensive and highly-bred types of riding horse during the Middle Ages. [3]

One source presumes the family came from Normandy as Richard, Roger Palfrei or Palefridus were listed in Normandy (1180-1195.) [4]

Early Origins of the Palfrey family

The surname Palfrey was first found in Hampshire where Hunfridus Palefrei was listed at Winton in 1148. Later Ralph Palefray was listed at Boldon in 1183. [3]

Proving the widespread use of this occupational name, the Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 included: Thomas Palfrei, Lincolnshire; Richard Palefray, Salop (Shropshire); Gilbert Palfrey, Norfolk; and John Palefrey, Norfolk. [2]

Chaucer in his Knight's Tale notes "And to the paleis rode titer many a route Of lordes, upon stedes and palfreis."

Early History of the Palfrey family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Palfrey research. Another 177 words (13 lines of text) covering the years 1148, 1200, 1321, 1359, 1411, 1586, 1589, 1633, 1636, 1637, 1638, 1651, 1662, 1665, 1667, 1668 and 1685 are included under the topic Early Palfrey History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Palfrey Spelling Variations

Only recently has spelling become standardized in the English language. As the English language evolved in the Middle Ages, the spelling of names changed also. The name Palfrey has undergone many spelling variations, including Palfrey, Palfry, Palfreyer, Palfreyman and others.

Early Notables of the Palfrey family

Notables of the family at this time include

  • Thomas Palfreyman (died 1589?) was an English author and musician...
  • John Parkhurst, the Bishop of Norwich, addressed an epigram to Palfreyman and Robert Couch conjointly, and complimented them on their proficiency alike in music and theology...
  • Palfreyman seems to have lived in the parish of St...

Ireland Migration of the Palfrey family to Ireland

Some of the Palfrey 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 Palfrey migration to the United States +

To escape the unstable social climate in England of this time, many families boarded ships for the New World with the hope of finding land, opportunity, and greater religious and political freedom. Although the voyages were expensive, crowded, and difficult, those families that arrived often found greater opportunities and freedoms than they could have experienced at home. Many of those families went on to make significant contributions to the rapidly developing colonies in which they settled. Early North American records indicate many people bearing the name Palfrey were among those contributors:

Palfrey Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Peter Palfrey, from Somerset, who arrived in Massachusetts in 1624 aboard the ship "Zouch Phoenix"
  • Peter Palfrey, who landed in Salem, Massachusetts in 1626 [5]
  • John Palfrey, who arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1658
Palfrey Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Alexander Palfrey, who settled in Santa Clara Co. CA in 1850
  • William Palfrey, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1866 [5]

Australia Palfrey migration to Australia +

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

Palfrey Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

New Zealand Palfrey 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:

Palfrey Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Ellen Palfrey, aged 25, who arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Oriental" in 1840
  • Mr. John Palfrey, (b. 1788), aged 51, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Oriental" arriving in Port Nicholson, Wellington, New Zealand on 31st January 1840 [9]
  • Mrs. Palfrey, (b. 1808), aged 31, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Oriental" arriving in Port Nicholson, Wellington, New Zealand on 31st January 1840 [9]
  • Mr. Thomas Palfrey, (b. 1837), aged 28, British farm labourer travelling from London aboard the ship "Greyhound" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 7th May 1865 [10]

West Indies Palfrey migration to West Indies +

The British first settled the British West Indies around 1604. They made many attempts but failed in some to establish settlements on the Islands including Saint Lucia and Grenada. By 1627 they had managed to establish settlements on St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Barbados, but by 1641 the Spanish had moved in and destroyed some of these including those at Providence Island. The British continued to expand the settlements including setting the First Federation in the British West Indies by 1674; some of the islands include Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Belize then known as British Honduras. By the 1960's many of the islands became independent after the West Indies Federation which existed from 1958 to 1962 failed due to internal political conflicts. After this a number of Eastern Caribbean islands formed a free association. [11]
Palfrey Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • Jonathan Palfrey, a bonded passenger, who arrived in Barbados in 1698

Contemporary Notables of the name Palfrey (post 1700) +

  • Yolande Palfrey, English actress, best remembered for her BBC work "Pennies from Heaven"
  • Deborah Jeane Palfrey (1956-2008), owner of Pamela Martin and Associates
  • John Palfrey (b. 1972), Executive Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School
  • William Palfrey, Chief Constable of Lancashire
  • Stephen Palfrey Webb (1804-1879), American politician, Mayor of Salem, Massachusetts; Mayor of San Francisco, California, 1854-55 [12]


  1. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  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. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  4. 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)
  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. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 13th August 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/earl-cornwallis
  7. State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2015, January 8) Arab voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1834 with 230 passengers. Retrieved from http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/arab/1834
  8. State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2014, November 27) Angelina voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1844 with 171 passengers. Retrieved from http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/angelina/1844
  9. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  10. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_West_Indies
  12. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 8) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html


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