Select Fish Surname Genealogy

Some have the surname Fish derived from the Old English fisc or fische which does mean “fish.”  It could signify either a fisherman or a fish seller.  That would have been the case with Robert le Fissh recorded in Somerset in 1327. Others see the Fish root possibly in the old Saxon Fytche name, of uncertain meaning, which came out in the 15th century as Fyche or Fiche.  In America Fish could be the Americanized version of the German or Jewish Fisch or the Scandinavian Fisk, meaning in each case “fish.” 

The Fish family here includes Fish Fish of Darwen, Lancashire and Preserved Fish of Rhode Island and New York.

Select Fish Resources on The Internet

Select Fish Ancestry

England.  The Fish surname may have had its origin in an old Saxon family prior to the Norman Conquest, but there is nothing written to that effect.  In medieval times the spelling did change from Fyche to Fysshe and Fyshe and to Fish which probably came about in the 16th century.  Simon Fish, the radical Protestant reformer who died of the plague in 1531, was an early example of the Fish name.  Unfortunately there are no records of where he came from.

Yorkshire provided some Fish in the 1600’s.  Thomas Fishe, born in 1634, was a yeoman farmer at Kirby Malham near Skipton; while Thomas Fysh, born in Yorkshire around the year 1650, became the rector of St. Margaret’s, Kings Lynn in Norfolk.  Probably because of him, there were a number of Fysh families in the Kings Lynn area during the 18th century.

Then there was the Fish line from Market Harborough of Great Bowden parish in Leicestershire, starting with Edward Fysh around the year 1508.  This line is significant because it seems to have supplied nearly all the early Fish who emigrated to New England.  As one American descendant put it:

"Scattered throughout all quarters of our broad land are thousands of individuals whose lives can be traced back to John and Margaret Fish of Great Bowden.  As a rule they are diligent and conscientious citizens, content to fill the duty lying before them."

But the largest Fish numbers, according to the 1881 census, were in Lancashire.

Lancashire.  An early Fish sighting was at Over Darwen.  Michael Fisshe was recorded as living there in 1404.  The Fish family were yeoman farmers in what is now the market town of Darwen and part of Blackburn.  Thomas and Anne Fish were smallholders in 1662.  One Fish family lived at Barrons Fold in the Blacksnape section of Old Darwen.  William Fish left for America in 1841.  Graham Fish and Nathaniel Fish operated cotton mills in Darwen in 1891. 

One of the early Fish came from Sweden.  Johan Fisk (meaning “Fish” in Swedish) arrived at the New Sweden colony in Delaware on the Swan in 1648.  His line continued through his son Caspar, born in the colony in 1651, and later became Fish. 

New England.  The early Fish arrivals seem to have been all related.  There were the three brothers - Jonathan, John and Nathaniel - who came to Sandwich on Cape Cod in 1637; plus two of their cousins, Thomas who was in Portsmouth, Rhode Island by 1643 and John who was in Connecticut by 1651 and later settled in Stonington.  Lester Fish Wing’s 1948 book The Fish Family in England and America covered these lines. 

The main lines went as follows: 
  • from Cape Cod.  Many Fish remained there.  Samuel Fish and his son Thomas fought in the Revolutionary War. Eliel Fish was a captain of whaling ships in he 1850’s.  
  • from John in Connecticut came Asa Fish and the Fish active in shipping and shipbuilding in Mystic, Connecticut during the 19th century.  The Asa Fish House, built in 1824, is still standing.  
  • from Thomas in Rhode Island came three Preserved Fish, the first a blacksmith and the third a successful shipping entrepreneur in the whale oil market in New York City in the early 1800’s.  There was also a Fish line that had moved south to Edgecombe county, North Carolina in the 1730’s.  
Jonathan Fish had left Cape Cod for Long Island in the 1650’s.  From this Jonathan came the illustrious Hamilton Fish line, the first Hamilton being US Secretary of State from 1869 to 1877 and three latter Hamilton Fish all serving as US Congressmen.  When Hamilton Fish III celebrated his 102nd birthday in 1990, he was the oldest living American who had served in Congress. 

Another Fish line in New England began with Captain George Fish who arrived in Nantucket from England sometime in the 1750’s.  He eventually settled in what became Kennebec county in Maine, but then died at sea.  His only son Bolton died during the War of 1812.  Bolton left twelve children. 

One of Bolton’s sons Randall, born in 1795, was in later life a riverboat captain on the Potomac.  His fourth son was named Hamilton Fish (after the politician) and was born when Randall was 75.  When Randall died five years later he ended up in an orphanage.  Known as Albert Fish, he would become a notorious child serial killer who was eventually caught and executed in 1936. 

Other Fish.  Two later Fish families that departed from Lancashire were: 
  • from Darwen, William Fish a mason and his wife Jane in 1841 on the Astracan.  Jane died at sea only a few days before the ship arrived in New York.  
  • and from Accrington, another William Fish a stone cutter and his wife Winifred in 1849.  They made their home in Gambier, Ohio where William owned a quarry and helped build Christ Church at the Quarry in 1862. 
New Zealand.  H.S. Fish & Son was a painting and glazing company that Henry Fish from London had established with his son when they moved to Dunedin, SI in 1863.  Henry Fish jr. had a long and tempestuous career in politics in Dunedin over a period of thirty years.

Select Fish Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Fish Names

Simon Fish was a 16th century Protestant reformer and propagandist, best known for spreading Tyndale's New Testament and for authoring vehement anti-clerical pamphlets.
Preserved Fish was a prominent New York shipping merchant of the early 19th century.
Hamilton Fish was a 19th century American politician and statesman who served as US Secretary of State from 1869 to 1877. 
Michael Fish was the BBC weatherman who infamously dismissed advanced warnings of the Great Storm in England in 1987.

Select Fishes Today
  • 8,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 10,000 in America (most numerous in New York) 
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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