Select Fisher Surname Genealogy

The root fiscere meaning "to catch fish", which gives us the occupation of fisherman, results in a number of Fisher-type surnames around Europe - Fisher in English, Fischer in German, Fiszer in Czech and Polish, Visser in Dutch, de Vischer in Flemish, Fiser in Danish and Fisker in Norwegian.
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Select Fisher Ancestry

By far the largest of the Fisher numbers has been the German Fischer.  It is the fourth most common surname in Germany and there are roughly 270,000 in Germany with that surname (with most bearers of the name, interestingly, living inland).  It is also the 15th most common in Austria and is a Jewish surname as well. 

By contrast, the UK Fisher numbers of 56,000 rank it there at 138th.

England.  The Fisher surname might suggest a place along the coast.  But the early Fishers seem to have come from inland locations (where they were perhaps river fishermen instead).

Leicestershire  Robert Fisher was recorded in Leicestershire as early as 1342.  His family established themselves as clergymen in Cossington village.  Geoffrey Fisher of this family became the 99th Archbishop of Canterbury in 1945.  Another Fisher family took over Packington priory near Coventry after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1540's.  Packington Hall, which still stands, has the following inscription on its lead roof:

"This house was built by Sir Clement Fisher Bart. in the year 1693 and was cased with stone and enlarged by his grandson Heneage Earl of Aylesford in the year 1772."

Elsewhere  The Fisher name also occurred at an early date at Rolleston in Staffordshire and Foremark in Derbyshire.  St. John Fisher, the Catholic bishop who was executed for treason in 1535, was born in Beverley in the East Ridings of Yorkshire.

By the late 19th century, the largest number of Fishers was being recorded in Yorkshire.  A number had migrated there.  Linda Ann Carn in her book The History of the Fisher Family recorded one such family who had moved from Shelford in rural Nottinghamshire to Whitby in Yorkshire in the 1860's.

Cumbria and Lancashire  The Fisher name became prominent in Cumbria and the Furness district of Lancashire during the 19th century:
  • first there was Charles Fisher who lived in Distington Hall on the proceeds of his rail line which moved out the red haematite iron ore from the Cumbrian hills. 
  • then there was William Fisher the farmer who recorded the growth of his village of Barrow-in-Furness into an industrial port. 
  • and finally in 1847 came James Fisher and his steamship company.  He shipped out the iron ore from Barrow and was operating by the 1870's the largest coastal fleet in the UK. 
Scotland.  The Fisher name also came north to Scotland and was to be found primarily in Glasgow and Ayrshire.  Its most famous son was probably Andrew Fisher, born into a coal mining village near Kilmarnock. He emigrated with his brother to Australia in 1885 and rose to become Prime Minister of that country on three separate occasions, starting in 1910.

.  The English brought the Irish name to Ireland, although the name was also sometimes adopted by the O'Bradain sept in Connacht. 

Sir Edward Fisher, an English adventurer, received large land grants in the early 1600's in west Dublin and Wexford (after his death, these estates passed onto the Chichester family).  Dublin was also the home of Quaker Fishers from Cheshire, many of whom moved onto a safer refuge in Pennsylvania, and of Jonathan Fisher, the landscape painter.

The Fisher merchant family of Dunlavin in county Wicklow has been traced back to the early 1700's.  Their home was burnt down by insurgents during the 1798 rebellion.  William Fisher of this family emigrated to Nova Scotia in the 1850's.  Richard Fisher was recorded as a saddler in the 1881 Dunlavin directory.

America.  German Fischers outnumber English Fishers by about five to one in their home country. Consequently, during the wave of immigation to America that occurred over the 18th and 19th centuries, more Fischers came than Fishers.  The 1850 Federal census reported Fischers/Fishers of German origin outnumbering Fishers of British origin by roughly three to one.  However, once in America most Fischers would anglicize their names to Fisher.  The 1920 census showed more Fishers than Fischers by almost five to one.

New England  Early Fishers were Anthony, Cornelius and Joshua Fisher who had come in 1637 with other folk from Suffolk to settle in Dedham, Massachusetts.  John Dix Fisher who founded the Perkins Institution for the Blind in Boston in the early 19th century was a descendant.

There were early Irish Fishers who came too.  Deacon Samuel Fisher came to New England aboard a "starved ship" around 1740.  He went to New Hampshire.   Abel Fisher arrived ten years or so later, settling first in New Jersey and then heading west to the Pennsylvania frontier.

Pennsylvania  The main entry point for Fishers and Fischers turned out to be Pennsylvania.  The first were probably English Quakers.  There were many.  But Joshua Fisher the merchant was the most prominent of these Quakers.  He wrote in 1762:

"My grandfather John Fisher removed from Clitheroe in Lancashire in the year 1682 with all his children to Philadelphia."

According to Ann Wharton Smith's 1886 book Genealogy of the Fisher Family, John Fisher arrived with his wife Margaret on the same ship, the Welcome, as William Penn.  And it would appear that his family originally came from Yorkshire (near Wakefield), not Lancashire.  Joshua's own large mercantile business in Philadelphia was carried on by his son Samuel.  Samuel's daughter Deborah was an early proponent of women's rights. She married into the Wharton Quaker family and it was their son Joseph who founded the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Sebastian Fisher came to New York with his wife Susanna from the German Palatine in 1709.  Not getting any land tenure rights where they settled in New York, they moved in 1723 with fifteen other German families to Pennsylvania and settled in Tulpehocken valley in Berks county.  Some branches of the family later migrated to Virginia and Kentucky.  The family history was recorded in Gertrude Fisher Harding’s 1942 book Fisher Genealogical History.

Meanwhile Christian Fisher came to the new Amish settlement in Berks county in 1749.  His family line was covered in Janice Egeland's 1972 book Descendants of Christian Fisher and Other Amish-Mennonite Pioneer Families

Many Fishers later moved south into North Carolina.  Charles Fisher, for instance, was in Rowan county, North Carolina by the 1760's.  Others stayed.  T
he farmhouse which Henry Fisher built in Berks county in 1801 still stands today and proclaims itself as "Pennsylvania Deutsch."   

A Fisher family of Dutch roots was in Pennsylvania by the 1790's, moving from there to Ohio and Indiana and later Kansas.  James Fisher, the first settler in Chase county, Kansas, was murdered there in 1871.  David Fisher left Pennsylvania with his family in 1819 and headed west, to Ohio, Indiana and then Iowa. Descendants have spread over the American West. 

Other Fisher lines began in Virginia and led into Kentucky and Tennessee.

Canada.  Early Fisher arrivals were Empire Loyalists, although none of those below were of British origin:
  • Lewis Fisher was probably of German origin.  He had come to New Brunswick in 1783 from New Jersey, settling in Fredericton.  Son Peter was known as the first historian of New Brunswick and his son Charles was Premier of New Brunswick in the 1850's.
  • Jacob Fischer, of German origin, had fought for the British in the Seven Years' War.  He moved his family north from Pennsylvania in 1796 to new lands in York county, Ontario.  Sharon Smith Troian's 1991 book The Fischer-Fisher Family History recounts this story.
  • and three Fisher brothers of Dutch speakers - John, Michael and Valentine (Feltie) - left their homes in Pennsylvania for Huron county, Ontario.  Feltie Fisher was one of the early settlers in Goderich and kept an inn there in the 1830's and 1840's.  Some descendants later moved west to Saskatchewan.
There were also Fishers from Britain.   James Fisher arrived in Montreal from Scotland in the 1770's and was one of the early settlers of the Loyalist township of Cobourg, Ontario.  John Fisher brought his family over from Beverley in Yorkshire in the 1840's and settled in Whitby township, Ontario.

  Fred Fisher was a murky figure in the early history of the New South Wales colony.  A London shopkeeper, he had been convicted in 1816 for the possession of forged banknotes and transported to Australia.  Move the clock forward a few years and he was surprisingly in funds, leading a venture in Sydney to build a new papermaking mill.  Then in 1826 he was murdered.  

"One evening Fred Fisher left his home in Campbelltown and was never seen again.  Four months later a local farmer stumbled into a local hotel in a state of shock, claiming that he had seen the ghost of Fred Foster.  The ghost had been sitting on the rail of a bridge and had pointed to a paddock down the creek.  Fred Fisher's body was later discovered by the police in this paddock."
Fisher was also a name in the early history of South Australia.  Sir James Fisher had been a driving force behind its development as a colony and served as the first mayor of Adelaide in 1840.  A Fisher family from Wales was among its early settlers, arriving on the Dutchess of Northumberland in 1839.

The best-known Fisher in Australia, however, was Andrew Fisher, who served as the country's fifth Prime Minister.  He had arrived as an immigrant from Scotland in 1885.

Select Fisher Miscellany

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

Select Fisher Names

Saint John Fisher was a prominent Catholic Bishop martyred by Henry VIII in 1535 for refusing to accept the King as the head of the Church in England.
Joshua Fisher was a prominent Quaker merchant in 18th century Philadelphia.
Andrew Fisher was Australia's fifth Prime Minister, holding office on three occasions from 1910.
Bud Fisher was the American cartoonist who created Mutt and Jeff.
Bobby Fischer was briefly and famously chess champion of the world in 1972. 

Select Fishers Today
  • 56,000 in the UK (most numerous in Somerset)
  • 88,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 51,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).

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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