Show ContentsSpry History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The distinguished surname Spry originated in Cornwall, a region of southwest England that is celebrated in the Arthurian romances of the Middle Ages. Though surnames became common during medieval times, English people were formerly known only by a single name. Under the Feudal System of government, surnames evolved and they often reflected life on the manor and in the field. Nickname surnames were rare among the Cornish, they did occasionally adopt names that reflected the physical characteristics or other attributes of the original bearer of the name. The name Spry is a nickname type of surname for a person who is lively and alert. Tracing the origin of the name further, we found the name Spry was originally from the Old English word spray, of the same meaning.

Early Origins of the Spry family

The surname Spry was first found in Cornwall, at St. Anthony in Roseland, a parish, in the union of Truro, W. division of the hundred of Powder.

"The living is a donative, in the patronage of the family of Spry: the tithes have been commuted for £118. The church, beautifully situated on the border of a navigable lake separating this parish from St. Mawes, contains some handsome monuments to the Spry family, of which one, by Westmacott, is to the memory of Sir Richard Spry, Rear-Admiral of the White." [1] Alternatively, the family could have originated in Spreyton in Devon which dates back to the Domesday Book of 1086 when it was known as Spreitone. [2] [3]

Early History of the Spry family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Spry research. Another 308 words (22 lines of text) covering the years 1485, 1547, 1796, 1627, 1612, 1685, 1660 and 1663 are included under the topic Early Spry History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Spry Spelling Variations

Cornish surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The official court languages, which were Latin and French, were also influential on the spelling of a surname. Since the spelling of surnames was rarely consistent in medieval times, and scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings of their surname in the ancient chronicles. Moreover, a large number of foreign names were brought into England, which accelerated and accentuated the alterations to the spelling of various surnames. Lastly, spelling variations often resulted from the linguistic differences between the people of Cornwall and the rest of England. The Cornish spoke a unique Brythonic Celtic language which was first recorded in written documents during the 10th century. However, they became increasingly Anglicized, and Cornish became extinct as a spoken language in 1777, although it has been revived by Cornish patriots in the modern era. The name has been spelled Spry, Spray, Spre, Spraye, Sprye, Sprey, Sprie and many more.

Early Notables of the Spry family (pre 1700)

Another 46 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Spry Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Spry Ranking

In the United States, the name Spry is the 9,626th most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [4]

United States Spry migration to the United States +

Analysis of immigration records indicates that some of the first North American immigrants bore the name Spry or a variant listed above:

Spry Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • William Spry, who landed in Virginia in 1648 [5]
  • Aba Spry, who landed in Maryland in 1670 [5]
  • Christopher Spry, who arrived in Maryland in 1675 [5]
Spry Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Francis Spry, who settled in North Carolina in 1701

Canada Spry migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Spry Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
Spry Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century

Australia Spry migration to Australia +

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

Spry Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mary Spry, English convict from Devon, who was transported aboard the "America" on December 30, 1830, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia [7]
  • Mr. William Spry, (b. 1809), aged 40, English farm labourer from Bideford, Devon, England, UK travelling aboard the ship "Courier" arriving in New South Wales, Australia on 11th September 1849 [8]
  • Mrs. Dorothy Spry, (b. 1810), aged 39, English settler from Bideford, Devon, England, UK travelling aboard the ship "Courier" arriving in New South Wales, Australia on 11th September 1849 [8]
  • Miss Charity Spry, (b. 1834), aged 15, Cornish nursemaid from Lostwithiel, Cornwall, UK travelling aboard the ship "Courier" arriving in New South Wales, Australia on 11th September 1849 [8]
  • Mr. William Spry, (b. 1839), aged 10, English settler from Bideford, Devon, England, UK travelling aboard the ship "Courier" arriving in New South Wales, Australia on 11th September 1849 [8]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Spry 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:

Spry Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Jane Spry, aged 21, a servant, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Rakaia" in 1878
  • Miss Jane Spry, (b. 1857), aged 21, Cornish servant departing on 6th July 1878 aboard the ship "Rakaia" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand on 8th October 1878 [9]

Contemporary Notables of the name Spry (post 1700) +

  • William Spry (1864-1929), American Republican politician, Member of Utah State House of Representatives, 1903-06; Governor of Utah, 1909-17; Delegate to Republican National Convention from Utah, 1912, 1916; Candidate for U.S. Representative from Utah, 1918 [10]
  • Clyde Spry (1889-1961), American Republican politician, Iowa Secretary of agriculture, 1950-61; Appointed 1950 [10]
  • Henry Harpur Spry (1804-1842), English writer on India, born at Truro, son of Jeffery or Geoffry Spry (d. 1829) of the excise
  • Sir Samuel Thomas Spry (1804-1868), English politician, M.P. for Bodmin, and High Sheriff of Cornwall in 1849
  • Thomas Spry (d. 1828), English Admiral
  • Major-General William Frederick Spry (1770-1814), English Army officer
  • William Spry (1734-1802), English military officer, made a Lieutenant-General (1799)
  • Admiral Sir Richard Spry (1715-1775), British Royal Navy officer who served as Commander-in-Chief, North American Station
  • Major-General Daniel Charles Spry (1913-1989), Canadian Vice Chief General Staff [11]
  • Sir Charles Spry (b. 1910), Australian Army Brigadier, Director General of Australian Intelligence (1950-1970)
  • ... (Another 2 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

The Spry 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: Soyez sage et simple
Motto Translation: Be wise and simple.

  1. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  2. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)
  3. Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  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. Seary E.R., Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland, Montreal: McGill's-Queen's Universtity Press 1998 ISBN 0-7735-1782-0
  7. State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2014, November 26) America voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1830 with 135 passengers. Retrieved from
  8. Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 2018, May 30). Ships' Passenger Lists of Arrivals in New South Wales on (1828 - 1842, 1848 - 1849) [PDF]. Retrieved from
  9. Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 2018, April 30). Emigrants to Wellington 1872-1880 [PDF]. Retrieved from    
  10. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, April 29) . Retrieved from
  11. Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2011, October 3) Daniel Spry. Retrieved from on Facebook