A Brief History

of the



and the family that

bears it



R L Gadberry


edited by

Roy Juch

Published by

Gadberry Press, Windsor, Ca. USA


a self-published book


A Special Thanks

I would like to thank the people who spent so much time compiling the research that was used in this history. Without them it would have been impossible.

Thank You


Elva Levada Gadberry Bates

Joyce Gadberry Denchfield

Roy Juch

Shirley Betts

Juanita Naron

Billie Joyce Borders

William and Robin Gadbury

Peter Gadbury, London.



I have spent hundreds of hours researching the genealogy of the Gadberry/bury name. What I have accumulated though, is nothing compared to the information collected and shared by people like Elva Gadberry Bates and Joyce Gadberry Denchfield, each of whom has spent many years of their lives in this endeavor. As I collected this information, and information from others, two things became clear: Most researchers have reached the same impasses, asking the same questions, and are blocked by the same mysteries. And, as time passes much valuable data is being lost, as old courthouses are demolished, records destroyed, and, unfortunately researchers die and their work disappears.

This in my small way is an attempt to record what we presently know about this family. This history is not meant to be simply a recitation of facts, a Gadbury encyclopedia. But instead a review of research compiled and the exploration of possibilities. There are many things that may never be known. For the aspiring researcher there are many Gadbury/berry mysteries yet to be solved. What records yet lie in the recesses of the Fluvanna Co. Virginia courthouse, among others. As you read this history we ask several questions and detail more of those mysteries. Have you ever wanted to be a detective? Could you be the next Sherlock Gadberry?

I was recently visiting a genealogy lab and noted a sign that said, "Genealogy without Documentation is Mythology." Certainly in a legal sense this is true. You are not going to receive a valuable inheritance without legally documenting your relationship to the benefactor.

Genealogical researchers realize that many times the absolute truth may never be known. We have become accustomed to accepting different spellings of the same name, ages change from one research source to another. We blame faulty record keeping illiteracy, bad penmanship, and typographical errors for these aberrations and many ancestors gave up personal information hesitantly and often inaccurately, just as many today wary of government intrusion do.

This leaves the researcher in a difficult position with some genealogical relationships. So, what do you do? At this point there is a great deal of variance of beliefs. Some will not accept anything without legal documentation, others will accept anything told them, without any evidence. Common sense though always takes the middle road. If documentation is missing, review the evidence; the timing and placement of individuals, as well as geographical commonalities. Consider the reliability of the source, then make your common sense decision. If the decision is to include an undocumented relationship, say so, and provide reasons why you chose as you did. Your readers can then make their own decision concerning the evidence.

This is what I have tried to do in this history, documented evidence is treated as such, and assumptions are listed as possibilities.

Sometimes though proof can go beyond paper. Take the example of Peter Gadbury of London. Peter, who has no documented American relatives, came to the US for a business seminar and looked up the Gadbury’s around Muncie, Ind. He located Ross Gadbury and a meeting was planned. Peter best explains what happened next. "What I found startling at the time was the visual similarity between Ross Gadbury and myself, and further, his cousin Werth who I met later that day walked toward me with a gait my father had when walking and was very like my father to look at. I was quite dumbfounded when Werth expressed a sentiment about one of the other relatives in exactly the dismissive off hand terms my father would have used. Later an expert here (London) who lectures on the subject under the title ‘Genes and Genealogy’ told me it was no surprise to him. Evidently through hundreds of years physical features and personal philosophies carry on."

Which raises the question? How much of what we are, is what they were?

Russell Gadberry

A History of the Gadberry name, or

The Viking, Anglo, Saxon, Jute, French-Norman

Gadberry Connection

What the Gadberry name means and what its origin is may date back to eighth century western Europe. It was about this time that a group of adventuring Scandinavians, the Vikings, began settling the eastern shores of the Atlantic. Settlements were established on the island we now call Great Britain and also in France as well as other areas of the Atlantic on both eastern and western shores.

It is the Viking settlers of France who may be most responsible for the Gadberry name as well as many other ‘English’ names. When the Vikings arrived in England, they found descendants of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, Germanic tribes who had arrived in the fifth century. These three tribes had settled in different areas: the Angles in Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia, the name England came from them. There is archaeological evidence that the Jutes settled in Kent, The Isle of Wight and Hampshire. The Saxons were evidently scattered over the island. The Vikings established what were to become important settlements at York and Dublin and by the year 1016 had established the Anglo-Danish dynasty, but this was to be a short-lived government.

At the time England was being settled other Vikings were also settling the area of Northern France we now call Normandy. These settlers, later called Normans, were expansive, extending their area of influence further into France until they had received official recognition by Charles the Simple, King of France in 911. Their conquests were not to stop there. William the Conqueror (William, Duke of Normandy) leading the Normans, had by 1066 crossed the English channel, defeated their Viking cousins, conquered London and William had been crowned King. The Normans made many changes in England, replacing the Anglo-Saxon language, or common mans language with French and instituting Latin as the governmental language (now you know why Lawyers and Doctors talk the way they do)!

The Norman French Vikings are likely responsible for hereditary surnames in England. They took names mostly from the area in which they lived, some carried their names from areas in France, some adopted names from their new home, others held names of areas where their forefathers lived. Many of the Norman names carried the French prefix ‘De’ in their names as many today do, such as the name DeGaulle.

So with this varied background what does Gadberry really mean? It must be remembered that the phonetics of the name allow for many different spellings, and these different spellings can mean different things depending on which one of the historical languages you research.

Why are there so many different spellings? While the original purpose of a surname was to identify an individual by his geographic origins it eventually became a means to identify and distinguish individuals in a growing population. At this point geographic meanings became less important, individual identification more important, and different spellings could be considered not only desirous but oftentimes necessary.

During the period that surnames were developing there were no established educational systems. Those with an education in ‘letters’ taught and spelled phonetically, and the pronunciation of the name does allow different spellings, but there may be more reasons for the differences. It would be expected that not all the dwellers of an area were related, but since they all came from the same place they would share similar, if not the same, last name. Villages and families would grow, a village whose citizens all shared the same last name would present a problem for a developing postal system. This has occurred even in related families. In a small town in the northwestern United States during the nineteenth century a family became so numerous that it became very difficult for the Post Office to deliver mail. Since the family name ended in ‘ch’ it was decided that those north of town would continue the ‘ch’ spelling, those south of town would begin spelling their name with an ‘sh’.

One of the most common of the spellings is Gadbury. It is this spelling which best lends itself to translation. The syllable burye in Old English means castle or fortified place and in Saxon, place. This tends to support one Gadbury definition by a professional genealogical company as ‘dwellers at Gadd’s fortified place’, but what does Gad mean?

This definition is qualified as an onomastic interpretation, meaning a word study only, no such place or relationship was documented by this company.


There are at least four origins of the name Gad or Gadd. The first is: troop, a troop eader, cutting through to eventual success, fortune or strong in fortune. This may be from the Jewish Gadd which traditionally means good fortune, or luck. The second is an

English occupational name for "a driver of cattle." The third is from the Old Norse or Viking meaning a persistent and irritating person from the word gaddr or goad, spike. The fourth is not that simple, although it does appear to be the most likely and is from the Old English-Saxon roots referring to Gadd’s fortified place.


Researching the definition of ‘dwellers at Gadd’s fortified place’, turned up no such place. There is a Gadd family of this period and there are records of Gadd emigrants to America, but there does not seem to be a Gadd manor or village, where people would reside, which would confirm this definition, there are though the villages of Great Gaddesden and Little Gaddesden in Hertsfordshire whose histories date back to this period and are recorded in the Domesday Book as "GATESDENE". Gates in old English means ‘Goete(Saxon) or ‘Goat’, and Dene means ‘valley’. There was also the ancient village of Gaetsbury which was in the Braughing Hundreds (the Hundreds were the English equivalent of the American county). This old English name also meant ‘Goat place’. We must remember the Normans usually took their surnames from the areas where they lived.


Another clue comes from research by Peter Gadbury who lives in Kent, England. Peter researched at London’s Guildhall Library and found a series of progressive legal transactions starting in 1319, of a Richard DeGatisbury (with the Norman prefix De), in which the ‘De’ is first dropped and the spelling evolves from Gatisbury to Gatesbury and then by 1384 Gadesbury. In 1502 the Calendar of Inquisitions shows the spelling as Gadbury. Peter also found the tomb of Sir Richard Gadbury in a church in Eyeworth which bore a coat of Arms of three Goats. This Coat of Arms is different than that found in Burkes General Armory which describes a divided shield with four goats. Remember that ‘Gates’ or ‘Gatis’ means Goat.


Peter Gadbury provides a final clue to the Gadberry-Gaddesden tie. Find a map of England and follow along. Peter writes, "If you have access to a reasonably detailed map of the British Isles and draw a line from Hemel Hempstead NNW to Linslade following the main road, A416, (you will find these areas in southeast England between London and Oxford) you will see it passes through both Gaddesdens, and then further North, to the East of the main road you will see Eaton Bray and Totternhoe, both of which have Gadburys buried in their churchyards. Thirty miles almost exactly due West of Hemel Hempstead lies Wheatley from where the Gadbury who eloped with the daughter of Curson lived . . . This whole area is rich in Gadbury history with Parish Records showing them associated with Ivinghoe, Eaton Bray, Totternhoe, Little Hadham, Much Haddam, etc., a circle of 20 mile radius encompasses all these places."


There is one more possibility that must be mentioned. In Leicestershire, England there is the village of Gaddesby from which the name Gadsby or Gatsby is derived. This name is from the Old Norse or Viking language and as mentioned previously the Norse word ‘gaddr’ means a persistent or irritating person, and ‘byr’ in Norse means farm or settlement, distinguishing it from ‘Gad’bury which evolved from ‘DeGatis’bury. This name would literally mean ‘dweller at Gadd’s farm or settlement’. Research to date has not associated any Gadberrys/burys with this village.


Why did the names evolve the way they did? Could it be as simple as a change in dialect? If the village of Gaetsbury survived would it now be Gadsbury? We may never know, but with the evidence found, the common evolution of the Gadbury and Gaddesden names from ‘Gatis/Gates’, during the same period of time, the association of the Gadbury families with the Gaddesden and Gaetsbury areas, and the presence of goats on two different Gadbury Coats of Arms, one with three and one with four goats, it appears the most likely meaning of the Gadbury name is ‘dweller of Goat place or dweller of Goat Valley’.


It is important though to remember that in England from as early as the mid 1500's we find spellings such as Gadbery, Gadberry, Gadbarre, Gadberie, Gadburie, Gadbury and Gadberye. It is likely that with this many variations this early in time that there may be other origins and definitions of the name.


Russell welcomes your comments. Please email Russell Gadberry at: