Prior History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Prior reached English shores for the first time with the ancestors of the Prior family as they migrated following the Norman Conquest in 1066. Prior is a name for a monastic official immediately subordinate to an abbot having derived from the Old English word prior, meaning superior, and indicates that the original bearer of the name held this position. [1] [2] [3]

Early Origins of the Prior family

The surname Prior was first found in Suffolk where Roger Priur was listed in the Curia Regis Rolls of 1205. A few years later, Roger le Priur was found in the Feet of Fines for Cheshire in 1237 and Nicholas le Prior was in the Assize Rolls for Somerset in 1268. [1]

In the plural form, Editha le Priores was found in the Subsidy Rolls for Somerset in 1327; and William atte Priours was in the Subsidy Rolls for Essex in 1327. [1]

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 include Hugh le Priur, Suffolk; Richard le Prior, Suffolk; and Hugh Priour, Huntingdonshire. [3]

In Somerset, early rolls there provide John Priour, 1 Edward III (during the first year of King Edward III's reign.) [4]

In Scotland, Ricardus Priour was subprior of the Abbey of Dunfermline in 1448. Janet Prior was married in Perth in 1568 and Robert Pryor in Dundee was charged with aiding the English in 1552. [5]

Early History of the Prior family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Prior research. Another 77 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1125, 1664, 1721, 1682, 1751, 1680, 1751 and are included under the topic Early Prior History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Prior Spelling Variations

Multitudes of spelling variations are a hallmark of Anglo Norman names. Most of these names evolved in the 11th and 12th century, in the time after the Normans introduced their own Norman French language into a country where Old and Middle English had no spelling rules and the languages of the court were French and Latin. To make matters worse, medieval scribes spelled words according to sound, so names frequently appeared differently in the various documents in which they were recorded. The name was spelled Prior, Pryor and others.

Early Notables of the Prior family (pre 1700)

Another 47 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Prior Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Prior World Ranking

In the United States, the name Prior is the 5,297th most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [6] However, in Australia, the name Prior is ranked the 678th most popular surname with an estimated 5,783 people with that name. [7] And in the United Kingdom, the name Prior is the 645th popular surname with an estimated 10,161 people with that name. [8]

Ireland Migration of the Prior family to Ireland

Some of the Prior family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 83 words (6 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Prior migration to the United States +

Because of this political and religious unrest within English society, many people decided to immigrate to the colonies. Families left for Ireland, North America, and Australia in enormous numbers, traveling at high cost in extremely inhospitable conditions. The New World in particular was a desirable destination, but the long voyage caused many to arrive sick and starving. Those who made it, though, were welcomed by opportunities far greater than they had known at home in England. Many of these families went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Analysis of immigration records indicates that some of the first North American immigrants bore the name Prior or a variant listed above:

Prior Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Thomas Prior who settled in New England in 1630
  • John Prior, who settled in Boston in 1635
  • Margaret Prior, who settled in Virginia in 1637 with her husband
  • Margarett Prior, who landed in Virginia in 1637 [9]
  • Matthew Prior, who landed in Long Island in 1665 [9]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Prior Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Ramon Prior, aged 19, who landed in New Orleans, La in 1835 [9]
  • William Prior, aged 32, who landed in America in 1843 [9]
  • James Prior, who landed in Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1847 [9]
  • Cornelius W Prior, who landed in Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1847 [9]
  • Patrick Prior, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1853 [9]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Prior migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Prior Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • John Prior, aged 23, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1834 aboard the brig "Maria" from Cork, Ireland
  • Johanah Prior, aged 28, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1834 aboard the brig "Maria" from Cork, Ireland

Australia Prior migration to Australia +

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

Prior Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • William Prior, English convict from London, who was transported aboard the "Asia" on July 29th, 1823, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia [10]
  • Mr. James Prior, Scottish convict who was convicted in Aberdeen, Scotland for 14 years, transported aboard the "Exmouth" on 3rd March 1831, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [11]
  • Mr. John Prior, English convict who was convicted in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Eden" on 27th August 1836, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [12]
  • Jane E Prior, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Isabella Watson" in 1846 [13]
  • Jane E. Prior, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Isabella Watson" in 1846 [13]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Prior 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:

Prior Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • John Prior, aged 22, a carpenter, who arrived in Nelson, New Zealand aboard the ship "Olympus" in 1842
  • Alice Prior, aged 20, who arrived in Nelson, New Zealand aboard the ship "Olympus" in 1842
  • Miss Prior, Scottish settler travelling from Clyde aboard the ship "Robert Henderson" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 5th October 1861 [14]
  • Jane Prior, aged 24, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Bombay" in 1865 [15]
  • Miss Mary Ann Prior, (b. 1843), aged 25, British domestic servant travelling from London aboard the ship "Gainsborough" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 2nd May 1868 [16]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Prior (post 1700) +

  • Tom Prior, American actor, known for The Theory of Everything (2014), Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) and Alex Was a Friend of Mine (2012)
  • David A. Prior (1956-2015), American director, screenwriter, producer, known for Night Wars (1988), Deadly Prey (1987) and Killer Workout (1987)
  • Mark Prior (b. 1980), American baseball pitcher for the Chicago Cubs
  • Herbert Prior (1867-1954), English pioneering screen actor
  • David Gifford Leathes Prior (b. 1954), English politician, Member of the UK Parliament
  • Spencer Prior (b. 1971), English footballer
  • Matthew Prior (b. 1982), English cricketer
  • Ms. Lucy Prior M.B.E., British International Trade Director for Rail Alliance, was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire on 8th June 2018, for services to Rail Exports [17]
  • Sir James Prior (1790-1869), British miscellaneous writer, son of Matthew Prior
  • Pedyr Prior (d. 2018), Cornish nationalist politician, Leader of Mebyon Kernow (1985–1986)
  • ... (Another 8 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Empress of Ireland
  • Mrs. Edith Prior (1881-1914), née Auger Canadian Second Class Passenger from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada who was traveling aboard the Empress of Ireland and died in the sinking [18]
RMS Titanic
  • Mr. Harold John Prior, aged 21, English Steward from Southampton, Hampshire who worked aboard the RMS Titanic and survived the sinking by escaping in life boat 11 [19]


The Prior Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Speriamo
Motto Translation: We hope


  1. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  2. ^ Smith, Eldson Coles, New Dictionary of American Family Names New York: Harper & Row, 1956. Print
  3. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  4. ^ Dickinson, F.H., Kirby's Quest for Somerset of 16th of Edward the 3rd London: Harrison and Sons, Printers in Ordinary to Her Majesty, St, Martin's Lane, 1889. Print.
  5. ^ Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
  6. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  7. ^ https://forebears.io/australia/surnames
  8. ^ https://www.surnamemap.eu/unitedkingdom/surnames_ranking.php?p=10
  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)
  10. ^ State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2016, October 27) Asia 1 voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1823 with 151 passengers. Retrieved from http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/asia/1823
  11. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 25th May 2022). https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/exmouth
  12. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 20th October 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/eden
  13. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) ISABELLA WATSON 1846. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1846IsabellaWatson.htm
  14. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  15. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 7th November 2010). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  16. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  17. ^ "Birthday and New Year Honours Lists (1940 to 2019)." Issue 62310, 4 July 2019 | London Gazette, The Gazette, June 2018, https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/62310/supplement/B1
  18. ^ Commemoration Empress of Ireland 2014. (Retrieved 2014, June 17) . Retrieved from http://www.empress2014.ca/seclangen/listepsc1.html
  19. ^ Titanic Passenger List - Titanic Facts. (Retrieved 2016, July 13) . Retrieved from http://www.titanicfacts.net/titanic-passenger-list.html


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