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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Where did the English Penn family come from? What is the English Penn family crest and coat of arms? When did the Penn family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Penn family history?

The ancestry of the name Penn dates from the ancient Anglo-Saxon culture of Britain. It comes from when the family lived near an area that was referred to as the Penn. The surname Penn is a toponymic surname which described where the original bearer held land. In this case the surname was originally derived from the Old English words penn, meaning an area that housed stray animals and penn which referred to a hill.


Spelling variations in names were a common occurrence before English spelling was standardized a few hundred years ago. In the Middle Ages, even the literate spelled their names differently as the English language incorporated elements of French, Latin, and other European languages. Many variations of the name Penn have been found, including Penn, Pen, Penner and others.

First found in Buckingham where they held a family seat from early times and their first records appeared on the early census rolls taken by the early Kings of Britain to determine the rate of taxation of their subjects.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Penn research. Another 189 words(14 lines of text) covering the years 1621, 1670, 1327, 1644, 1718, 1621, 1670, 1644, 1718, 1674, 1696, 1681 and 1720 are included under the topic Early Penn History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 149 words(11 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Penn Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the Penn family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 41 words(3 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


Families began migrating abroad in enormous numbers because of the political and religious discontent in England. Often faced with persecution and starvation in England, the possibilities of the New World attracted many English people. Although the ocean trips took many lives, those who did get to North America were instrumental in building the necessary groundwork for what would become for new powerful nations. Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America bore the name Penn, or a variant listed above:

Penn Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century

  • Robert Penn settled in Virginia in 1620
  • Robert Penn, who arrived in Virginia in 1620
  • Christian Penn settled in Plymouth in 1621
  • Christian Penn, who arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1623
  • Francis Penn, aged 22, arrived in St Christopher in 1635

Penn Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • Joseph Penn, who landed in Texas in 1830


  • Sean Justin Penn (b. 1960), Academy Award-winning American film actor and director
  • Michael Penn (b. 1958), American singer and songwriter and the brother of actors Sean Penn and Chris Penn
  • Irving Penn (1917-2009), American photographer known for his portraiture and fashion photography
  • Arthur Penn (1922-2010), American filmmaker best known as the director of "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967)
  • John Penn (1741-1788), American signer of Declaration of Independence
  • Christopher Shannon "Chris" Penn (1965-2006), American film and television actor known for his roles in such films as Reservoir Dogs, Footloose and True Romance. He is the brother of Sean and Michael Penn
  • John Penn (1729-1795), American Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Pennsylvania from 1763 to 1776
  • William Penn (1644-1718), founder and "Absolute Proprietor" of the Province of Pennsylvania (the future U.S. state of Pennsylvania)
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Eric Penn GCVO, OBE, MC, Comptroller of the Lord Chamberlain's Office (19641981)


  • The Storm Gathering: the Penn Family and the American Revolution by Lorett Treese.
  • The Penn Ancestors of Corine Penn Christian: Descendant of Abram Penn, 2nd of the Penn Family of Virginia by Mary Christian.

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Dum clarum rectum teneam
Motto Translation: May I keep the line of right as well as of glory.


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  1. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  2. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  3. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  4. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  5. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X).
  6. Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 Edited by Samuel Eliot Morrison 2 Volumes. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968. Print.
  7. Burke, Sir Bernard. Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry: Including American Families with British Ancestry. (2 Volumes). London: Burke Publishing, 1939. Print.
  8. Ingram, Rev. James. Translator Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 1823. Print.
  9. MacAulay, Thomas Babington. History of England from the Accession of James the Second 4 volumes. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1879. Print.
  10. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  11. ...

The Penn Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Penn Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 14 August 2014 at 10:25.

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