Wright Genealogy

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ishop Milton Wright was a dedicated genealogist who boasted that he could trace his ancestry back eleven generations to “his great-grandfather’s great grandfather,” Sir John Wright, Lord of Kelvedon Hall in Essex County, England, born 1485, died 1551. And the Bishop had cause to be proud. In the days before the Internet and the massive online collections of family records that are available to us in the twenty-first century, genealogical research depended on notes kept in a family Bible, hints from family letters and oral traditions, and correspondence with far-away clerics and government officials who often had better things to do than answer a query about a long-dead parishioner or citizen. For Milton to trace his family back through four centuries and across two continents was a singular accomplishment in his day. 

Today we know a great deal more about the Wright lineage and ancestry; more than the Bishop could ever have imagined. Because the Internet provides a way for far-flung people to instantly share information, genealogical and biographical information accumulates quickly. In Milton’s day there was a trickle of information, today there is a flood. The problem becomes not whether we can find information about an ancestor, but whether we can trust it. The river of digital information that flows around us is full of tall tales, half-truths, and downright lies. All information must be carefully winnowed to separate the facts from the fictions. Consequently, genealogy today is not just a quest but a science. Family histories evolve as new information is examined and proven, sometimes replacing older and less reliable traditions. We don’t just know more than Bishop Milton Wright, we tell the story of the Wright Family differently than he would have told it.

Wright Beginnings, circa 1050

The Wright family descended from the Normans who settled in Normandy in northern France before 1000 C.E. These peoples were Saxon Vikings that had originally come from northern Germany and the Jutland peninsula – "Norman" was Old French for "Norse men." After settling in France, these Saxons  invaded  the British Isles and set up small kingdoms such as Sussex, Wessex, and Essex. These medieval kingdoms united in 924 and called themselves "England."

In 1066, the English throne passed to Harold Godwinson of Wessex who became King Harold II. William, Duke of Normandy claimed that the throne had been promised to him and gathered an army to invade England. This army was equipped in part by John Wryta of Bayeux, a renowned armorer and skilled craftsman in metal and wood. The army also included John's sons – John, Richard, William, Henry, and Thomas Wryta. William defeated Harold and became King William I (better remembered as William the Conqueror). For their part in the conquest, the Wrtya brothers were given lands in the old Saxon kingdoms of Norfolk, Essex and Sussex which, under Norman rule, became English counties.

We don't know which of the Wryta brothers was the ancestor of Wilbur and Orville Wright. We do know however, that the Wright clan prospered in England. The surname morphed from Wryta to Wryte to Wrighte and finally Wright as the family grew and spread out over the British Isles. But hundreds of years later, the Wrights of Essex County were certain that they were Norman in origin and had descended from the Wryta family of Bayeux.

First in Line, circa 1200

The first person we can say with any certainty was a direct ancestor of the Wright brothers was John Wrighte, who was born in Lincoln in Lincolnshire County, England in 1221. He did not stay in northern England for long, however -- the records show he died in Nazeing in Essex County. With the exception of his son Robert William and his grandson John I., who spent time in northern England, most of his progeny resided in Essex and London County towns and villages such as Upminster, Dagenham, White Notely, and Kelvedon Hatch. They were members of the upper (Norman) class; many wore the titles of  Lord, Lady, Sir, and even Countess. Two of them served as clerics in the Catholic Church -- there was no Church of England or any other Protestant sect at this time.

  • John Wrighte of Lincoln, Lincolnshire County (b. 1221, d. 1266) married (?) and sired at least one child, Robert William.
  • Robert William Wrighte was born and died in Nazeing, Essex County (b. 1243, d. ?) married (?) and sired at least one child, John I.
  • Lord John I. Wrighte, I of Stapleford, Nottinghamshire County (b. 1267, d. 1307) married Lady Dorothy Whitebread (b. 1273, d. 1307) and had at least two children, John Christopher and Thomas.
  • Lord John Christopher Whitebread-Wrighte of White Notley, Essex County, (b. 1303, d. 1399) married Lady Dorothy Jean Bauer (b. 1306, d. ?) and sired at least two children, Christopher and Thomas.
  • Lord Christopher Wright of White Notley, Essex County (b. 1375, d. 1399) married Lady Maude Countess Francis and sired at least one child, Thomas.
  • Lord Thomas Wright of Essex County (b. 1396, d.1429) married Lady Mary Agnes Hunt (b 1400, d. ?) and sired three children, Henry, Thomas, and Agnes.
  • Reverend Henry Wright of Upminster, Essex County (b. 1424, d. ?) married Anna Whitbread (b. 1426, d. ?) in 1448 and the couple had six children – John, William, Richard, Henry, Thomas, and Katherine.
  • Reverend Sir John Wright of Dagenham, Essex County (b. circa 1450, d. 1509) married Agnes Kelvedon circa 1480. They had several children, one of which was called John.

Landed Gentry, circa 1500

Reverend Sir John Wright's son, John Wright, apparently did King Henry VIII a solid, supporting his request to the Pope to have his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled. Then when the Pope refused, he supported the King when Henry broke from Rome and installed himself as the head of the new protestant Church of England. As a result, Henry knighted John, gave him a title, and generally made life sweet for him. John was able to build a huge manor house, Kelvedon Hall, near Kelvedon Hatch in Essex County and purchased over 2000 acres nearby to create a large estate. His sons and grandsons were part the landed English gentry, heavily involved in politics, and very protestant.

  • Sir John Wright, Lord of Kelvedon Hall, Essex County (b. 1485, d. 1551), married Olive Hubbard of Dagenham, Essex County (b. 1488, d. 1560) in 1508. John and Olive had seven children – John the Elder, Katherine, Robert, Alice, John the Myddle, John the Younger, and Elizabeth.

  • John (the Myddle) Wright of Kelvedon Hall, Essex County (b. 1522, d. 1558) married Alice Rucke of Kelvedon Hatch, Essex County (b. 1518, d. 1560) in 1541. They had six children – Dorothy, John, Mary, Olive, Agnes, and Robert
  • Lord John Wright of Wrightsbridge, Essex County (b. 1548, d. 1624) married Elizabeth Linsell (b. 1548, d. before 1589) in 1568. She bore him five children – John, Samuel, Jane, Nathaniel, and Elizabeth – then died sometime before 1589. He married again in 1589 to Bennett Greene of London (b. 1554, d. about 1593) who bore three more children -- Lawrence, Bennett, and William.
  • John Wright, Esq. of Wrightsbridge, Essex County (b. 1569, d. 1640) married Martha Castell (b.1569, d. 1610) in 1594. They had fours sons together – John, Nathaniel, Samuel, and Robert. Martha died in 1610 and John remarried in 1618 to a widow, Fortune Blount (nee Garraway, b. ?, d. 1640). She bore him one child, James.

A Nation of Saints, circa 1650

Both John Wright, Esq. and his son Samuel were Puritans at a time when things were tough for Puritans in England. Puritanism was a quest for further reform in the Church of England. It began shortly after Elizabeth I came to the English throne in 1558 and was tolerated from many years, then openly despised and repressed when Charles I became king in 1625. Puritans began to flee England and Samuel joined what became known as the "Great Migration." He sailed to America with 20,000 other like-minded souls who hoped to establish a "nation of saints" in the New World. Samuel settled in Springfield, Massachusetts and the Wright family remained in that general area of New England until after the American Revolution.

  • Deacon Samuel Wright of Wrightsbridge, Essex County (b.  1606, d.  1665) married Margaret Stratton (b. circa 1604, d. 1681) in 1625. While still in England, they had four children – Samuel Jr., Margaret, Hester (or Esther), and Lydia. About 1636, they sailed to America where they had four more – James, Judah, Mary and Helped.
  • James Wright of Springfield Massachusetts (b. 1639, d. 1725) married Abigail Jess (b. 1645, d. 1709) in 1662 and they had nine children – Abigail, Helped, James, Lydia, Samuel, Preserved, Jonathan, Hester, and Nathaniel.
  • Samuel Wright of Northampton, Massachusetts (b. 1674, d. 1734) married Rebecca Sykes (b. 1678, d. 1761) in 1697 and they had eight children – James, Lydia, Samuel, Preserved, Nathaniel, Ebenezer, Esther, and Benoni.
  • Benoni Wright of Lebanon, Connecticut (b. 1719, d. 1761) married Elizabeth Smith (b.1719, d. 1785) and had five children – Samuel, Theodora, Dan, Esther, and Benoni.

On to Ohio, circa 1800

The American Revolutionary War opened up regions to the west of the American colonies to settlement and development. Benoni's son Dan, a soldier in the Revolution, decided to take advantage of this turn of events and moved his family to the Northwest Territory, where his sons and grandsons pioneered the new states of Ohio and Indiana.

  • Dan Wright Sr. of Lebanon, Connecticut (b. 1757, d. 1832), who married Sarah Freeman (b. 1762, d. 1848) in 1785 and had six children – Asahel, Porter, Dan Jr., Sally (or Sarah), Elizabeth, and Samuel.
  • Dan Wright Jr. of Thetford, Vermont (b. 1790, d. 1861), who married Catherine Reeder (b. 1800, d. 1866) in 1818 and had five children – Samuel Smith, Harvey, Milton, William, and Sarah.
  • Bishop Milton Wright of Rush County, Indiana (b. 1828, d. 1917) married Susan Koerner (b. 1831, d. 1889) in 1859. They had five children – Reuchlin, Lorin, Wilbur, Orville, and Katharine. Susan also gave birth to twins, Otis and Ida, who died in infancy.

For more biographical information about any of these Wright ancestors, click on their name. If you would like to read the complete history of the Wright family so far as it is known, we have collected these biographies into a printer-friendly PDF file, A Genealogical History of the Wright Family.


The known Wright family lineage, from John Wryta (circa 1050 CE) to Wilbur, Orville and their siblings.
More Sources

The Dayton and Montgomery County Library -- If you'd like to know more about the Wright family, or research other branches of the family tree, you will find extensive genealogical data here.

Ohio, Home of the Wright Brothers is a genealogical chronicle of the Wrights and four other families, all ancestors of the Wright brothers. It traces these families as they settle Ohio and Indiana. painting Wilbur and Orville as the sons of pioneers and revolutionaries who built an energetic, forward-looking civilization founded on technology and democracy.

Ohio, Home of the Wright Brothers is the history of the Wright family in America, particularly their settlement of Ohio. Click the cover to read sample chapters.

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