The Bray Family


Notes about the Bray surname

Although I remember hearing that the Brays were descendants of William the Conquerer, I suspect this came from those fanciful post-Roots days of the 1970s when everyone was searching for their ancestors in lofty places. According to, the surname Bray is probably a “habitational name from places in Berkshire and Devon. The former is probably named with Old French bray ‘marsh’, the latter from the Cornish element bre ‘hill’.” I’m more inclined to believe this version.

The family that I am researching came from St. Teath in Northern Cornwall and emigrated to Ontario, Canada and Pennsylvania in the U.S.

Surname distribution

The Cornish origins of the name are evident in the 1881 English census:

Bray surname distribution in the UK 1881

Bray surname distribution in the UK 1881. The name is concentrated in Cornwall, Devon and Exeter.

Important branches on my tree

  • John Bray and Mary Lobb. I haven’t fully completed the research on this branch yet, but it is the farthest back that I can get at this point. The trail gets difficult to follow before John Bray as he is listed as “not of this parish” on the marriage record, and there is conflicting information about his home parish.
  • William Bray and Elizabeth Pethick. Much research has been done on the descendants of William Bray and Elizabeth Pethick. Two of their six sons emigrated to Canada. The other four sons settled in Pennsylvania with varying degrees of success.
  • William Bray and Betsey Bath. This family has been well researched. A tree of their descendants was created in the 1950s and I have built upon it. Note, however, that two illegitimate children were missing from the earlier tree.

Brays on Twigged

 Posted by at 4:07 pm

  One Response to “The Bray Family”

  1. Hello,
    I was googling some family names and came across your blog. I’m amazed at the amount of research you have done and the level of detail given to your blog. My maiden name is Bray. My father was born in Pen Argyl, PA. His father was Herman and his grandfather was Albert Bray who, from looking at your chart, is the son of Samuel Bray, who immigrated from England. It was interesting to see this genealogy. My father showed no interest and my grandparents passed away when I was a child. Just wanted to say hi cousin and thanks for the information.

    Carol Palmer
    Bel Air, MD

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