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2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

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About the study

The study has several aims:
* to collect all available records of people with the surname Merry and its historical variants,
* to attempt to form these records into family groupings and clarify their origins, and in the longer term,
* to use DNA testing to confirm family groupings and origins.

The Merry One-Name Study was registered with the Guild in 1989 by Jill Bhar (nee Merry; resident in Canada but with Merry origins in Buckinghamshire).  Jill produced a newsletter The Merry Times€™ for some years.  This newsletter contains much information about Merrys from various parts of the world.  In 2010 the study passed to Richard Merry (resident in Australia but with 16th Century origins in Oxfordshire, and possibly earlier in Gloucestershire) who has corresponded with Jill for many years.

Variant names

The variants Merry, Merrey, Merrie, Merye and Mery have been registered with the Guild but there are some other spellings of the name.  Some branches of families are known to have added a second 'e' to Merry in comparatively recent times, and the Merrie spelling may be more commonly associated with older Scottish records.  As late as Tudor times, in records such as English parish registers, the letter following M is frequently 'y' as Myrry or Myrrye, which may reflect the early English word for 'merry',€ myrige, or may just reflect local pronunciations.  Early forms include Mery, which may have a French origin, and is not uncommon in France today.  The spelling seems to have largely stabilised in England by the late 19th Century.  However, spelling has been variable and care is needed especially when the surname has changed geographic location or people such as census enumerators take liberties with pronunciation.  For example, the name Merry has sometimes been recorded as Murry.  The Scottish name Murray is sometimes mis-written as Merry by English people, but these names are believed not to be related, even in Scotland, and it is probable that DNA studies may be needed to prove this.

Name origin

Most authorities (including PH Reaney, 1997, A dictionary of English surnames) suggest that the name developed as a nickname for a person with a happy disposition (or perhaps a liking for certain beverages), from the Old English  €˜myrige , but other possibilities are outlined below.  The geographical spread of the surname in Britain suggests multiple origins and it is likely that only DNA studies will resolve this.

Some early origins and spellings of the name may have arisen from Norman origins developing from names such as de Mery, de Meri and de Mereio but are not necessarily the origins of modern families.  These Norman families may have acquired land in England and their names most likely derive from place names in France.  There are at least two places historically called Mery and another called Merry in France.  Walter de Mereio or Mery is recorded from Normandy in 1180-95 and Robert de Mery in 1198 (Magn. Rotul. Scaccarii Normaniae).  Richard de Mery or Mereio is recorded in the Norman Calendar of Documents between 1084 and 1105. This may be the Richard de Meri mentioned by Camp (AJ Camp, 1990, 'My Ancestors came with the Conqueror€', Society of Genealogists) as a companion of William the Conqueror.  Almost certainly if this person has been identified correctly, he would not have given rise to Merry descendants as they appear to all have been named 'Bohun'€ (JA Merry, pers. comm.).  Reaney (1997) also reports Gilbert le Mirie (12th C, Leicestershire) and John Myrie (1219, Yorkshire Assizes).  However, these early individuals do not necessarily provide the origins of the name but the progression of the spelling can sometimes be traced from Norman forms in early English scrolls through medieval times to the modern form.  This is illustrated in the table below.

Early French and English rolls, calendars and charters record the following early spelling variations of the surname.  These records were mainly recorded by the hard work of Jim (whose Merry origins were in Godmanchester) and Marjorie Merry (see the table below). Many are obviously the same individual and sometimes names are spelled more than one way in a document. The most common modern spelling as 'Merry'€ starts to appear in the 1300s, but still has not €˜settled by 1700. The people who I am fairly sure were my ancestors (Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire) mostly spelled their surname as 'Myrrye'€ or 'Merrye'€, sometimes 'Mirrie', in the 1500s.

Early records of the Merry surname and variants


Name Document Year
Ricardi De Meri Calendar of Documents France 1084
Richard De Mereio Calendar of Documents France 1092
Richard De Mereio Calendar of Documents France 1093
Ricardus De Mereio Calendar of Documents France 1105
Richard De Meri (Bequest by son Engelger De Bohun) 1155-1165



Name Document Year
 Radulfus De Meiri  Curia Regis Rolls  1203-05
 Radulfo De Meri  Curia Regis Rolls  1203-05
 Radulfus De Mery  Curia Regis Rolls  1203-05
 John De Mery  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1259
 John De Meyry  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1259
 Johanni De Mairy  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1259
 John De Mairy  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1259
 Johannes De Mery  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1259
 William De Merre  Catalogue of Ancient Deeds  1207-1313
 William Merre  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1207-1313
 John Merre  Calendar of Ancient Deeds  1207-1313
 William Merre  Calendar of Fine Rolls  1307-1319
 William Merre  Calendar of Fine Rolls  1311
 William Merre  Calendar of Fine Rolls  1312
 William Merre  Calendar of Fine Rolls  1313
 William Merre  Calendar of Fine Rolls  1314
 William Merry  Calendar of Fine Rolls  1314
 William Merre  Calendar of Fine Rolls  1315
 William Merre  Calendar of Fine Rolls  1316
 William Merree  Calendar of Memorandum  1326
 John Le Merie (Merree)  Calendar of Memorandum  1326-27
 John Le Mirie  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1327-30
 Robert Le Myry  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1338-40
 John Le Miry  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1345
 Robert Le Myry  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1354-58
 Robert Miry (Appelby)  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1354-58
 Christiana Miry  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1354-58
 Thomas Miry of Appelby, son Robert  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1360
 Robert Miry  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1370-74
 Roger Miry  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1370-74
 Christiana Miry  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1370-74
 Robert Merry  Calendar of Post Mortem  1370-74
 Roger Merry  Calendar of Post Mortem  1370-74
 Christiana Mery  Calendar of Post Mortem  1370-74
 John Mirye (Taillour  Calendar of Close Rolls   1369
 John Mery (Taillour)  Calendar of Close Rolls   1369
 John Merry (Taillour)  Calendar of Close Rolls  1381-85
 John Mery (Taillour)  Calendar of Close Rolls  1392-96
 John Mery (Taillour)  Calendar of Close Rolls  1397
 John Mery (Taillour)  Calendar of Close Rolls  1399-1414
 John Mery  Patent Rolls  1376
 John Mery  Patent Rolls  1377
 John Mery  Calendar of Inquisitions 1-7 Richard II  1377-99
 John Mery (Middlesex)  Calendar of Close Rolls  1401
 John Mery (Parish of St.Clements)  Calendar of Close Rolls  1403
 Philip Mery (Sherman)  Calendar of Close Rolls   1404
 John Mery (Taillour)  Calendar of Close Rolls   1405
 John Merye (Taillour)  Calendar of Close Rolls   1405
 John Mery (Taillour)   Calendar of Close Rolls   1405
 John Mery (Taillour)  Calendar of Close Rolls   1405-9
 John Merye (Somerset)  Calendar of Close Rolls   1405-9
 Thoma Mery  Curia Regis Rolls  1428
 Thoma Mury De Cokeham  Curia Regis Rolls  1428
 Thomas Mery of Cokeham  Calendar of Fine Rolls  1428
 Thomas Mery  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1429-36
 Thomas Mery  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1451
 John Mery (Salford)  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1452-61
 Philip Mery  Calendar of Patent Rolls  1465
 Thomas Mery  Calendar of Close Rolls  1476-88
 John Merie  Courts of Chancery  1477
 Katherine Merie  Courts of Chancery  1477
 William Myrrye  Born Blockley, Gloucestershire (1573 deposition)  1500
 Richard Mery (Chaplain)  Calendar of Close Rolls  1506
 Richard Mery (Chaplain)  Calendar of Close Rolls  1507
 Richard Mery (Chaplain)  Calendar of Inquisitions  1509
 John Mery  Letters and Papers Foreign and Domestic  1517-18
 John Mery (Clerk of Spicery)  Letters and Papers Foreign and Domestic  1517-18
 William Mery  Letters and Papers Foreign and Domestic  1521-23
 Anthony Merye  Letters and Papers Foreign and Domestic  1549-51
 Frances Mery  Letters and Papers Foreign and Domestic  1549-51
 William Merie  Letters and Papers Foreign and Domestic  1549-51
 Constable Merye  Assize Rolls  1593
 Sir Thomas Merrie  Acts of Privy Council  1629-30
 Sir Thomas Merry  Acts of Privy Council  1629-30
 Sir Thomas Merry  Calendar of the Committee for the Advance of Money  1642-46
 Henry Merry (Gentry)  Calendar of State Papers (Committee for Compounding)  1648
 John Merrey (Recusant)  Calendar of State Papers  1650
 John Merrey  Calendar of State Papers  1651
 Anne Merry  Calendar of State Papers  1651
 John Merrey  Calendar of State Papers  1653
 Comet Merry  Calendar of State Papers  1657
 Squire Merry  Calendar of State Papers  1657
 Sir Thomas Merry (Clerk of the Green Cloth)  Calendar of State Papers Dom  1668
 John Merie Calendar of State Papers  1696
 Captain Merry (Ship King William) Calendar of State Papers  1697
 Jonathon Merry Calendar of State Papers  1699-70
 Richard Merry (Merrye) Calendar of State Papers  1702-3
 Lambert Mery Calendar of State Papers  1702

Wikipedia gives the following: 'The Clerk of the Green Cloth was a position in the British Royal Household. The clerk acted as secretary of the Board of Green Cloth, and was therefore responsible for organising royal journeys and assisting in the administration of the Royal Household.'  Sir Thomas Merry was knighted 18 Apr. 1617 and was Clerk Comptroller on 6 Jan 1617

For more:  and

I would gratefully appreciate any other early references to Merry or variants, especially from Scotland.

Historical occurrences of the name

There are few records of famous Merrys, though some of those listed above had positions in the English royal court. Several Merrys were associated with the Hudson Bay Company (founded in 1660).  Cape Merry in Manitoba, Canada, was named to honour Captain John Merry, who was a Deputy Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company from 1712 to 1728, as was one of his sons.  John Merry'€s father was from Yarmouth (Norfolk) and London, but he claimed ancestry and was granted arms of the Merry family of Barton, Derbyshire. A poet, Robert Merry (1755-98), wrote using the pen name Della Crusca and was a grandson of the above-mentioned John Merry.

The Robert Merry of €˜Robert Merry'€s Museum€, a children'€s magazine in the USA from 1841 to 1872, was a person fictionalised by Samuel Goodwin (see

Wikipedia provides a list of the following notable Merrys:

*   Abdelkarim Merry (born 1955), Moroccan footballer
*   Anthony Merry (1756-€“1835), British diplomat
*   Cyril Merry (1911-€“1964) West Indies cricketer
*   Diana Merry, computer programmer
*   Gus Merry (c.1888-1942), Welsh dual-code international rugby player
*   James Merry: various including: James Merry (born 1982), British actor
*   Katharine Merry (born 1974), English sprinter
*   Mustafa Merry (born 1958), Moroccan footballer

 Thomas Merry (c 1605 - 1682) was an English landowner, mathematician and politician and son of Sir Thomas Merry, Clerk of the Green Cloth

Name frequency

If a One-Name Study aims to collect all records of the surname, how do we know how many Merry individuals have there been?  Following Bardsley (A Bardsley, Journal of One-Name Studies April -€“ June 2002, p 14), the estimated number of Merry€™ births between 1541 and 1996 in the UK and Ireland alone will be about 17,000. In addition there are significant numbers born in the USA, Australia, Canada and other countries, possibly more than a further 10,000. So we are looking for evidence for the lives of 27,000 or more individuals.


The most comprehensive treatment of current distribution of the surname has probably been provided by World Names at and is based on telephone directories and electoral rolls from 2000 to 2005 (using Onomap, see web site and Mateos, Webber and Longley (2007) The Cultural, Ethnic and Linguistic Classification of Populations and Neighbourhoods using Personal Names , CASA Working Paper 116, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London).  This data is presented in frequency per million (FPM,€“ see below).  This number should be multiplied by the population of the country to give an estimate of total number.   Multiple listings may have resulted in overestimates of numbers.

Although the largest national population of Merrys today is in the USA, in FPM terms (see the table below) the surname is estimated to be most common in England and Scotland, followed by countries that were former British colonies, then the European countries adjacent to Britain where expatriates are likely to reside, although the surname spelled Merry has been recorded in France for at least four centuries.  The USA numbers given here must be an overestimate as the year 2000 USA census indicated only 3700 Merrys.  There should be Merrys in South Africa, and 15 are listed in the telephone directory.  A known Merry family in Japan is expatriate Australian/English (Oxfordshire). The Merry del Val surname occurs in Spain, but is of Irish origin.

[Note that the accuracy of the values provided here for frequency and distribution are not known and should be regarded as a guide only.]

Country Frequency per million Population (m)   Total 
United Kingdom 74.5 62 4619
Australia 49.3 22 1084
Ireland 25.0 4.5 112
Canada 24.8 34 843
New Zealand 20.5 4.3 88
United States 17.0 307 5219
Belgium 3.2 11 35
Netherlands 3.1 17 52
France 2.8 65 182
Spain 1.7 48 81

['Population' of country approximate in millions; Total number estimated 2012.]

Regions and cities

According to the WorldNames€™ web site, the highest frequency of the name is found in Nelson City, New Zealand, and several other regional areas in that country have high frequencies, but these regions are small both geographically and in total population. Aside from New Zealand, the highest frequency of the name is found in Maine (USA) and Nova Scotia (Canada), East Anglia, East Midlands, and South-East UK. Ayrshire in Scotland also has a high frequency.

According to WorldNames€™, the cities with the greatest present-day proportion of the Merry surname are all located in England and probably reflect the region of origin of the name in England, although there is no doubt that the numbers in cities have increased since the early 1800s due to a general migration from rural areas to the cities (including especially London where there are many Merrys, though the frequency per million is low).

Cities with the highest Merry population density:
Leicester, East Midlands, UK
Coventry, West Midlands, UK
Birmingham, West Midlands, UK
Oxford, South-east, UK
Cambridge, East Anglia, UK
Sheffield, Yorkshire and Humberside, UK
Nottingham, East Midlands, UK
Nuneaton, West Midlands, UK
Worcester, West Midlands, UK
Northampton, East Midlands, UK

Distribution of the name

England and Wales

Census listings: The numbers presented below are approximate as there are known mis-spelling of the name (for instance, my family was recorded as Murry in Oxford in 1881).  Census spelling as €Merrie is mostly recorded as being from Scotland or Bedfordshire.  Spellings generally showed some variability and may include Meery (often from Ireland), Merray and Mery (which is probably European in many instances), and it is not known whether some of these are actual mis-spellings or represent different surnames as they are relatively uncommon.   Where identifiable, these variants have not been included in the census statistics shown below.

Year   Merry   Merrey   Merrie
1841 1104 113 0
1851 1270 85 10
1861 1563 93 7
1871 1681 118 18
1881 1944 65 23
1891 2081 115 10
1901 2375 97 12
1911 2957 82 0

[Note that in the 1841 census, the small number of Welsh Merry records occur in south Wales in Monmouthshire and Glamorganshire. Even in the 1911 census, when Merrys were more widely distributed in Wales (about 100 records), many of the origins of the head of the household were indicated to be counties close by in England.]

The distibution of Merry in England, Wales and Scotland given by the 1881 census (from Archer Software: The British 19th Century Surname Atlas, 2003) is shown below.  Total numbers are given as about 2250.  The distribution shown is much better defined in the Poor Law Union view, but this is too complex to show here.  Note that prior to 1881, for several decades there was considerable movement of Merrys from rural areas of Britain to the major cities and industrial areas, especially London, Birmingham and  Manchester/Liverpool.Merry dist 1881


Census listings: A guide to the numbers of Merrys living in Scotland is provided by the census summaries given below, but the numbers can only be approximate due to mis-spellings and other errors.  They are concentrated in Ayrshire and Lanarkshire.  There was significant migration from Scotland during the 19th Century.  Historically the Merrie spelling was most common in Scotland.

Year   Merry   Merrey   Merrie
1841 139 6 9
1851 189 16 38
1861 171 6 38
1871 231 7 25
1881 286 0 29
1891 325 2 38
1901 328 0 41
1911 321 0 40



According to the 1911 census, there were 109 Merrys, 12 Merreys and 3 McMerrys in Ireland, principally in Dublin, Kilkenny, Armagh, Waterford and Wicklow.  The Spanish Merry del Val family has origins in Waterford.

France and Europe

As noted in the table of frequency by country above, there are Merrys living in several continental European countries. As also noted above, the surname Merry has been recorded in France at least since the early 1600s (there is a place called Merry-sur-Yonne€™).  €˜Mery€™ is not uncommon in France and emigrants may be the origin of the same name as it occurs in more recent times in the UK and North America. Although a connection is not impossible, it will probably require DNA studies to prove one.  Other European Merrys are frequently British in origin.


Census listings: Federal Census records for Merry (according to Ancestry) provide the following indication of the surname Merry in the USA.  Searching for an exact match for the surname provides results of varying quality as the search engine seems to be variable in its output from the 1900 census until 1920 and included many surnames (up to about 500?) that are unlikely to be Merry and will need to be checked on the original returns.  The 1930 numbers may be more realistic.

Year Number  Year Number
1790 23 1870 1333
1800 34 1880 1454
1810 41 (includes a few McMerrys) 1890 [records lost]
1820 59 1900 2408*
1830 111 1910 2682*
1840 142 1920 2930*
1850 865 (Slave schedule 30) 1930 2390 (72 Merrey)
1860 1041 (Slave schedule 37) 1940 3487 (67 Merrey)

*  The 1910 to 1920 searches included a substantial number of '€˜not Merry'€™ individuals (see comment above).

According to the year 2000 census web site, there were 3698 Merrys recorded in the USA (1.37 per 100,000 population, the 8242nd ranked surname).  Merrey was not recorded. This is at odds with WorldName€™ web site which indicates a low frequency of Merrey in Maryland and New Hampshire.


As noted above, the highest frequency of both the Merry and Merrey surnames in Canada is in Nova Scotia.  Canadian census records are being worked on (December 2014) for inclusion in this profile).


Australian censuses are conducted every five years.  The most recent was in 2011.  Although a few very early muster lists, convict records and censuses exist, since Australian Federation in 1901 and earlier, historical census records for Australia have been destroyed although following public request an optional ability to retain some personal census information (embargoed for a long period) was introduced in 1996.  As BMD registration information in all Australian states has also been embargoed for varying lengths of time (till about the 1920s for births and later for marriages and deaths), recent records are more difficult to gather, except for publicly available sources such as post office and telephone directories, newspaper personal notices, cemetery records and so on, where they have been transcribed by local governments or family history groups.

New Zealand

As noted above, New Zealand has a relatively high frequency per million of the Merry surname, though the total number is relatively small.

South Africa

There should be Merrys in South Africa, and 15 are listed in the telephone directory.  Any help that can be offered to locate and identify the origins of South African Merrys would be greatly appreciated.


There are occasional records of Merrys from other parts of the world.  For example, there is at least one record from Argentina. As noted above, there were two Moroccan footballers with the Merry surname.


The sources of Merry data collected (December 2014) include the following:
* FamilySearch/IGI listings for the UK.
* Some UK parish registers, wills and sundry other records.
* Censuses of England and Wales (to date the 1841 to 1911), and Ireland (1911).

* Census of Canada (1871 and 1881)
* Various BMD records for the USA, Australian states and territories, and New Zealand.

This One-Name Study aims to accumulate records from all available sources. At December 2014, the study is concentrating on the censuses of the USA and Canada, and Irish data.


The use of DNA testing is becoming more common in family history studies and for surname studies the use of Y chromosome DNA testing is particularly appropriate.  A Merry DNA project was established in 2012 and any males with the Merry or variant surname is invited to join (see Merry Surname DNA Project).  You may find Merry as part of a Murray DNA surname project: this may be possible for some people of Scottish origin, but there is no reason to believe a common origin with all Merrys.

I personally have had a large amount of DNA testing completed, including '€˜Walk Through the Y' and 'BigY' through Family Tree DNA (FTDNA).  A 5th cousin who lives in the USA has also had some short tandem repeat (STR) marker testing done which proved to be the same as mine (as we would hope!) for 45 markers (common ancestor born Eynsham, Oxfordshire, in 1776). I know of few other Merry who have had STR marker testing completed.  Ths results suggest different origins though they seem tobelong to haplogroup R1b1a (see below).  I believe that my DNA testing suggests that my Merry surname is in no way related to the Scottish Murray surname, as has sometimes been claimed, and that any relationship that may exist dates back many thousands of years and long before surnames were acquired.

More detailed testing of my DNA for single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, unique DNA mutations that contain clues to the long-term history of my Y chromosome) indicate that my Merry family belongs to a DNA group called R-L21 (also called R-S145, R-M529, or R-rs11799226) or haplogroup R1b1a2a1a1b4 (ISOGG, March 2011 – see, a discussion of the origins of the group can be found here: but beware of haplogroup name changes as outlined below). More specifically, I belong to the group R-Z253 (R1b1a2a1a1b4g, added by ISOGG in December 2011, but I also have two previously unidentified mutations L894 and L895, the significance of which have yet to be determined.  Irish Type III €“ (R-L226) is another subgroup of R-Z253. More significantly, I have no €˜close genetic€™ relatives when compared with available databases of STRs (67 markers), the closest so far being a genetic difference of about 21. This implies branching off from the closest male genetic relatives€™ a long time ago, possibly as long as 3000 years.

I have given some detail of my DNA profile in the hope of encouraging other Merrys to embark on testing and am happy to share any other detail.  I believe that it is likely that the Merry surname has multiple origins and that DNA testing will confirm this as paper trails have little hope of connecting many of the Merry families of different geographic origins.  Then again, we may get some big surprises!

If you become interested in DNA testing you should be aware that haplogroup names of the form €˜R1b1a2a1a1b4g€™ can change regularly (check the ISOGG web site) and that references of this type can mislead in older discussions of the haplogroups. It is much safer to look for references to R-L21/R-S145 or R-Z253 which do not change.  There is much information on these mutations and haplogroups available on the web.

Men of the R-L21 (R-S145) haplogroup are reported to be most commonly found in England and Ireland (25-50% of the whole male population), though they have also been associated with the Picts in eastern Scotland (see A Moffat and JF Wilson (2011) The Scots - A Genetic Journey, Birlinn, Edinburgh, 256pp).  A good coverage of the peopling of Europe is provided by Jean Manco (2013)  Ancestral Journeys - the peopling of Europe from thefirst venturers to the VikingsT, Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, 312pp.  R-L21 are also relatively common in coastal western Europe (British Isles, France, Iberia).  They are believed to belong to the so-called Celtic€™ people who likely brought farming, possibly metal working and the Celtic languages to Britain at some time 5000 to 4000 years ago.