Sunday, June 20, 2010


One of our IMFA members, Peg Redfearn, who is also a member of the Branford Mx clan, recently wrote me with some questions, which I dutifully tried to answer. One of these questions referred to the surname Embree. Since Marie Spearman likes to see this kind of thing published for all to see I'm writing it up as a Blog. Please note that my answers were extemporaneous, thus are subject to the vagaries of my aging brain rather than being the result of careful, exhaustive research. As always, we welcome rebuttal and/or comments.--wjs

Our exchange follows:
Peg's question: '...have you run into any Mulliners (spelt Melnere in Latin on the record) in Shotley Parish Ipswich dated around 1327? It came up on Ancestry with the names Ricardus, Alicia, Johannes and Willmos. There was also a "Mullener the Ducheman"mentioned on one of the tax records. I seem to get a lot of Milners as well. ol' soundex kicks in, I guess. Also do you know if the Embree family were French or English?'

Wayne's response: 'According to the tax records, there was a whole slew of Mulliners in Shotley. I've run into this Dutch thing before, but it was in the Colonies--our family's surname was sometimes spelled in a pseudo-Dutch fashion (Molinour) during the era when Westchester and the Bronx were still part of New Netherlands.

According to one of my British Mx correspondents a bunch of Netherlanders were brought over to Suffolk to drain the fens. I believe this was in the 16th Century when the Habsburgs were persecuting Dutch Protestants (I know that my Dutch ancestors fled to Schleswig-Holstein in 1525, so the timing would be good.) In Suffolk the Dutch were called ditchers or dickers (origin of several English surnames, including Deeks.) The Dutch version of the name is Molenaer/Mollenauer/Molenaar/Mulinaar, and means (no big surprise here) 'miller'.

What I can say is that Thomas Mx the Elder was born in England in the mid-16th Century and was a joiner--a trade far removed from ditching, dyking or draining. While its possible that he was of Dutch descent he's more likely to have been of either Celtic/Anglo-Saxon descent from a family of millers; or of Norman descent. (In all three cases the surname derives from the trade.) The surname Molyneux, when spoken by a Frenchman, sounds very much like Mulliner to the ear of a native English speaker.

I hadn't checked out the name Embree, but I thought it too was probably of Norman origin, perhaps a diminutive of D'embry. However, a quick check reveals (at least according to one source) that it is a Cornish name derived from a placename, as follows:
"The name Embree is a local type of surname and the Embree family lived at the town of Embrough in Devon. The name is also classified as a
baptismal name as in the son of Emory."

Since the Cornish, like the Welsh, are Celtic and thus culturally allied to the inhabitants of Normandy, its not surprising that their names/placenames would sound similar.'

Peg again: 'I saw one document that mentioned a possible Huguenot Embree, but from Normandy, it was not a record though, just a story. Ive seen nothing else to support it.'

Wayne again: 'As I said earlier, I've never checked out the Embree surname, but did find a book called The Emancipator by Elihu Embree, at Googlebooks which discusses an Embree whose family reputedly descends from Huguenots from the village of Ambres in the Languedoc region of France--unfortunately, most of that discussion is exempted from Google's on-line version, so we'll have to look elsewhere to get the full text. You'll note, that as with the Cornish-derived Embrees, the name is tied to a placename. Also note the similarity of the two placenames: Cornish Embrough and French Ambres--probably an artifact of common cultural roots.'


Anonymous said...

Re: EMBRY surname. There is much history of the EMBRY surname in the Languedoc area of what is now France. They were Capitouls and Cathares from around 1100. I have not been able to find anything indicating that they originated in the ancient town of Embry in the northern Pas du Calais, though I've tried.

Anonymous said...

P.S. our Embry DNA is I1 Giselle Embry