Select Garrett Surname Genealogy

The principal source of the Garrett surname in England and Ireland were the Gerard and Gerald personal names that the Normans brought with them in or after the invasion of England.  Gerard from the Germanic Gerhard was derived from the Germanic element ger meaning "spear" and hard meaning "brave" or "hard."  

There were about 18 Gerards recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086.  Early surname spellings in England were Gerard, Gerrard, and Garrard.  It was only around 1550-1600 that the Garrett spelling began to be preferred.

In Ireland, after the Anglo-Norman invasion, the main name was FitzGerald.  Garrett was often a synonym for FitzGerald, the name being mainly found in Ulster.  Garrett was also a Manx name; and Garrett cropped up as well in the Stranraer region of SW Scotland.  

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England.  Earlier versions of Garrett in England were Gerard and Gerrard in the north and Garrard in the south.  The Gerrard spelling has remained the main spelling in Lancashire.  Elsewhere, including London, Garrett has generally displaced Gerard, Gerrard, and Garrard.  

Lancashire.  The Gerards, originally Fitzgerald, were from Carew castle in Pembrokeshire and moved north, first to Cheshire, and then, around 1340, to Lancashire where they were established for many centuries at Bryn near Chorley and became known as the Gerards of Bryn.  

Sir Thomas de Bryn spent much of his life fighting the Scottish.  He was a hero for the English at Flodden Field in 1513, but he was killed at the Battle of Berwick ten years later.  The Gerards under Sir Gilbert Gerard grew rich during the reign of Elizabeth and became baronets under his son Sir Thomas. 

Today in Ashton in Makerfield there is a Thomas Gerrard School, a Gerard street, a Gerard pub a Gerard farmer, and a Gerard car dealer.

SE England.  The Garrards of Sittingbourne in Kent have different origins, from earlier Attegare and de la Gare lines.  They blossomed in trade during Elizabethan times and were made baronets in the next century. The family spelling started to change from Garrard to Garrett around the year 1600. 

There were also early Garrard lines in Berkshire and Norfolk: 

  • one Garrard line has been traced back in Berkshire to the 1450’s.  These Garrards were prominent in the village of Lambourn from 1530 to 1778.  William Garrard later owned a brewery in Reading.  
  • while Garrards in Norfolk have been more numerous.   Garrard records date back to 1550 in Diss.  The most well-known Garrards were the Garrards of Langford who prospered as merchants in London and were made baronets in 1662.  
George Garrard, the 18th century landscape painter, is said to have had Dutch ancestry from Marcus Gheeraerts, a painter to Queen Elizabeth.  

Garrard, Gerrard and Garrett had become closer in sound by the 16th century and Garrett was being adopted as a spelling.  For instance, the Protestant martyr was probably born Thomas Gerrard in Lincolnshire in 1498. But he was more frequently being described as Thomas Garrett by the time of his martyrdom in London in 1540.  

SW England.  There were Garretts also in the west country, stretching from Somerset to Hampshire.  One Garrett family can be traced to 1539 and the parish records of Bradford Abbas on the Dorset/Somerset border.  Some of them moved to the nearby town of Yeovil, others emigrated to Newfoundland in the 19th century.  Garretts can be found in the villages of Horningsham and Stourton in the 17th century.  And Garretts also cropped up in the Andover area of Hampshire at that time.  

Ireland.  The Anglo-Norman invasion under Stongbow brought the powerful Fitzgerald family to Ireland and they remained a force in the land for centuries.  The descendant in Kildare was called Earl Garrett Mor in the 16th century.  The Irish name for FitzGerald is MacGearailt.  

Garrett itself has been predominantly an Ulster name, found in Down and Antrim as well as in Dublin.  Garrett here can be an anglicization of the Irish MacGearailt or McGarraty, particularly in the case of those who emigrated.  

Garrett can also be an English implant.  Captain John Garrett, descended from the Sittingbourne Garrards, was one of five brothers who served with Cromwell in Ireland.  His son John established himself in 1700 at Kilgaran in county Carlow where his descendants lived until around 1870.  

Isle of Man
.  Garrett can be a Manx name.  Patrick Garrett was recorded at Andreas in 1727.  Another Patrick Garrett married Eliner Cremilt in Lezayre parish in 1794.  Their son John emigrated to America in 1827 and made his home in Lake county in Ohio, joining other Manx settlers there.  

  The Garrett name has also cropped up in Stranraer in SW Scotland.  The Rev. James Garrett, a Presbyterian minister, was born at Inch near Stranraer in 1793.  He emigrated to Tasmania in 1828.  James Garrett, born in 1811, was a well-known local fisherman who lived to be 103 years of age.

  The main point of entry for early Garretts was Virginia.  Some were reported there at the time of the Jamestown settlement.  But the main lines have come from a John Garrett who arrived in the 1630’s, after his first wife had died, as an indentured servant to his brother-in-law John Dunstan.  He then returned to England and married Lady Mary Bible.

“John Garrett married Lady Mary Bible in 1632 when he was 37 years old.  According to Cathy Osborn’s publication Garrett Folklore & Fact, Lady Mary Bible was of royal blood but was disinherited because she had married a Quaker.”

His descendants in America included children of both his first and second wives.  Later lines were:
  • from his son John, by his first wife Ann, who had come to Virginia in the 1660’s - one line from here went via North Carolina to Georgia in 1798 and then to Chambers county, Alabama in 1835 where John Garrett prospered as a farmer.  One of his sons was Pat Garrett, the famous lawman of the Old West who shot down Billy the Kid.
  • from his son William the Quaker, by his second wife Mary, who came to Chester county, Pennsylvania in the 1680’s - a descendant here was Thomas Garrett, the famous abolitionist and a leader of the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves.
  • and from Thomas, thought to be John’s brother, who also came to Pennsylvania, settling near Brandywine Creek in Chester county - this line led to the Garrett snuff line in New Castle county, Delaware; it also led to John Garrett Jr. who headed west in 1804 and founded Garrettsville, Ohio.
Another line in Virginia began with William Garrett of Essex county in 1752.  One of his descendants was Richard Garrett who owned the farm where the John Wilkes Booth who assassinated Abraham Lincoln hid out and where he was captured and shot in 1865.  This line was covered in H.L. Garrett’s 1962 book Garrett History.

Then there was the Virginia line that began with Jacob Garrett, born there in 1730, and led first to Tennessee and then to Texas.  In the early 1830’s William Garrett was one of the first settlers on the Brazos river.  His plantation home at San Augustine, built by slave labor, was completed in 1864.  It received a Texas historical marker in 1962.

Garretts from county Down in Ireland began arriving in America in the 1790’s, settling mainly in Pennsylvania.  Among them was a Scots Irish family which included the seven year old Robert Garrett who later started up his own business in Baltimore.  His son John W. Garrett rose to become the President of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and a well-known business leader and philanthropist of his time.

Hugh Garrett was also from county Down.  He was Catholic and departed Ireland at the time of the potato famine.  He came to Cass county, Michigan in 1859 and was part of the early Irish community there

Australia.   Jonathan Garrett arrived as a convict from England and lived through the Castle Hill and Rum Rebellions between 1804 and 1808.  He was the focal point of the Australian 1978 TV mini-series Against the Wind.

John and Sarah Garrett were bounty immigrants from Liverpool who came to Sydney in 1840.  Their son Tom prospered as a newspaper proprietor, their grandson Tom was one of Australia’s early cricketers who played in the first-ever Test Match in 1877. 

Meanwhile William and John Garrett had come from the Isle of Man to the Bendigo goldfields in the 1850’s and moved onto the Kapunda copper mine in South Australia  They then tried their luck farming in the Flinders Ranges.  However, persistent drought in the 1880’s destroyed them financially and many family members died, often at a young age.  John Garrett’s tombstone on the Willochra Plain still stands as a somber reminder of the harshness of the country into which they had blundered.

Select Garrett Miscellany

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

Select Garrett Names

Thomas Garrett was an American abolitionist and leader of the Underground Railroad movement before the Civil War.  
John W. Garrett
was President of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) from 1858 until his death in 1884, a position of much power and prestige at that time. 
Lesley Garrett is a well-known English soprano singer, broadcaster and media personality.  She is noted for being at home in both opera and crossover music

Select Garretts Today
  • 13,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 36,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 20,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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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