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The name probably derives from one or more of the places in Scotland with a similar spelling or sound. Robert Burnes, a farmer in Kincardineshire, had three sons, of whom the youngest, Willian (1721-84), left home to find work during the uncertain times that followed the collapse of the '45 Rebellion. He became head gardener on an Ayrshire estate, marrying a local farmer's daughter when he was 36,.....

Heraldry Database: Wren


Surname:  Wren
Branch:  Wren
Origins:  British
More Info:  England

Background:  This unusual name is of Anglo-Saxon origin and is one of a large group of early English surnames created from nicknames, often from the names of birds and animals, after some supposed resemblance to their best-known characteristics, such as Lark, Nightingale, Jay, Hart, Lamb and so on. The nickname "Wren", derived from the Olde English pre 7th Century word "wrenna" or "wraenna", in Middle English "wrenne", was probably used of a small, busy and quick-moving person. The modern surname has two forms, Wren and Wrenn, the latter being the most usual spelling until the end of the 17th Century. Church recordings include one Rychard Wren who married Agnis Dalton on September 12th 1561 at St. Mary Abchurch, London, and Thomas Wren was christened on December 30th 1578 at St. John's, Hackney. The most notable namebearer is probably Sir Christopher Wren (1632 - 1723), the brilliant English architect who designed St. Paul's Cathedral and over fifty other London churches after the Great Fire of 1666, as well as many secular buildings. A Coat of Arms granted to a Wren family of County Durham depicts, on a white shield, on a black chevron between three lion's heads erased purple as many wrens of the field, on a chief, red, three crosses crosslet, gold. The Crest is a lion's head erased silver collared and pierced through the neck with a broken spear, red headed gold, vulned proper. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Wrenne, which was dated 1275, in the "Hundred Rolls of Norfolk", during the reign of King Edward 1st, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307.

Motto:  Virtuti fortuna comes, Fortune is companion to valour.
Arms:  Ar. on a chev. sa. betw. three lions' heads, erased, purp. as many wrens of the field, a chief gu. charged with three cross crosslets or.
Crest:  A lion's head, erased, ar. collared gu. pierced through the neck with a broken spear of the last, headed of the first, vulned of the second.

View the Heraldry Dictionary for help.

The root of the surname Wren is the old English wrenna for the bird wren. The name probably strted out as a nickname for someone of wren-like characteristics, a small, busy and quick-moving person. The wren is also seen as wily, as the tale of the wren boys of Cork suggests. There are two spellings of the name, Wren and Wrenn. Wrenn was probably more common until the 17th century. Although Wrenn has persisted, Wren is more usual now.

In Ireland, the Wren name may have come from England. It is also the anglicized form of ther Gaelic O'Rinn, from the personal name Rinn.

England - Family tradition has it that the Wrens of Durham came originally from Denmark and settled in an area along the Wear river sometime in the 14th century.

Durham - The main line started at Binchester and William Wren at Billy Hall. The Wren name appeared frequently in the early recorded marriages at Witton-le-Wear. One branch of the Durham Wrens migrated to Cambridgeshire and thence to Ireland. Another line came to London.

The pedigree of Sir Christopher Wren, the famous architect of St. Paul's Cathedral, dates back to Geoffrey Wren of Sherburn House (the will of his widow Margery Wren in Durham has survived). Christopher's grandfather Francis came to London and was said to have kept, as a haberdasher, "the corner stall next unto Cheap Cross." He prospered as a mercer. Descendants of Sir Christopher are numerous, with many of them to be found, from his son Christopher, in Wroxall, Warwickshire.

While the early Wrens may have come from Durham, there is little trace of that name there today.

Cumbria More Wrens are to be found west in Cumbria. There were Wrens in the village of Crosthwaite just outside Keswick from the 1600's and the name later cropped up in Kendal, Cockermouth, and the Newlands valley.

Elsewhere, however, the main Wren presence has on fact been in the south of England.

One cluster of Wrens was in Hertfordshire, particularly in villages in the eastern part of the county:

- Joseph Wren was a yeoman farmer in Standon in the 1670's. - another Joseph Wren was a farmer in Sawbridgeworth. - and a Joseph Wren again a wheelwright in Wheathampstead in the mid/late 1700's.

A Wren cluster was also to be found in the southeast. Felbridge on the Surrey/Sussex border has had a Wren family since the early 1700's. They were village blacksmiths who later took over Golards Farmhouse. Local newspapers recounted the tales of two Wren unfortunates.

Ireland - Captain Thomas Wren came with Cromwell from Cambridgeshire to Meath in Ireland in the 1640's and was later said to have appropriated for himself Littor House in county Kerry. Later Wrens were High Sheriffs of Kerry in the 18th century. There were said to be 118 Wren families in Ireland in the mid 19th century, of which 42 came from Kerry.

The Gaelic O'Rinn name, found in west Cork and Roscommon, sometimes anglicized itself to Wrynn (as with a Wrynn family in Bantry) and to Wrenn and Wren.

America - Nicholas Wren was an early settler in Virginia, first recorded as marrying Margaret Bell in Lancaster county in 1670. Then there was William Wren, probably his son, who married Elizabeth Steptoe in the same county in 1698. They were the forebears of many of the Wrens in America. Their history is recounted in John Howard Wren's 1992 book A History of the Wrens of Virginia and its sequel. Wrens in South Carolina in the early 1800's moved onto Henry county, Tennessee and to Dallas county, Alabama. Nicholas Wren left Tennessee after a split with his family and joined Sam Houston and his cause in Texas.

"Sam Houston suspended Lieutenant Wren. But we all liked him and knew that no power on earth could have held those terror stricken animals after the Indians had made their dash. So we unanimously petitioned the President to reinstate him, a petition which was granted. There was no braver or better man in the service than Lieutenant Nicholas Wren. When his term expired he left and we never knew where he went."

William Wren was a cattle rancher and sheriff in Lampasas county, Texas in the 1870's. He got embroiled in the notorious Horrell-Higgins family feuds of that time.

Irish Wrens - A sizeable number of Wrens in America are of Irish origin. The most prominent of these Irish immigrants was probably Edward Wren from Littur in county Kerry. He came to Springfield, Ohio in 1874, started a dry goods store, and later opened Springfield's first department store. At the other end of the economic pile were Patrick Wren and his wife Ann from county Leitrim. They had fled the famine in Ireland and made it to New York in 1850.

Australia - John and Margaret Wren were poor Irish immigrants in Melbourne in the 1860's. Two sons came to nothing, one a drunkard and the other sentenced to flogging and imprisonment for aiding and abetting a rape. But a third son John Wren made a fortune in gambling and developed a range of sporting enterprises. His rags-to-riches story was the basis of Frank Hardy's 1950 best-seller Power Without Glory. John Wren died in 1953 and, as with many self-made men, he left a feuding family.

Name Variations:  Wren.

One or more of the following publications has been referenced for this article.
The General Armory; Sir Bernard Burke - 1842.
A Handbook of Mottoes; C.N. Elvin - 1860.
English Surnames; C.M. Matthews - 1966.
A Dictionary of English Surnames; P.H. Reaney - 1958.
Selectsurnames2: http://www.selectsurnames2.com/wren.html Geni: http://www.geni.com/surnames/wren


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