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

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

Cornwall in southwestern England provides the original birthplace of the surname Penrose. As populations grew, people began to assume an extra name to avoid confusion and to further identify themselves. Unlike most Celtic peoples, who favored patronymic names, the Cornish predominantly used local surnames. This was due to the heavy political and cultural influence of the English upon the Cornish People at the time that surnames first came into use. Local surnames were derived from where a person lived, held land, or was born. While many Cornish surnames of this sort appear to be topographic surnames, which were given to people who resided near physical features such as hills, streams, churches, or types of trees, many are actually habitation surnames derived from lost or unrecorded place names. The name Penrose history began in the village of Penrose in the county of Cornwall.


Cornish surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The official court languages, which were Latin and French, were also influential on the spelling of a surname. Since the spelling of surnames was rarely consistent in medieval times, and scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings of their surname in the ancient chronicles. Moreover, a large number of foreign names were brought into England, which accelerated and accentuated the alterations to the spelling of various surnames. Lastly, spelling variations often resulted from the linguistic differences between the people of Cornwall and the rest of England. The Cornish spoke a unique Brythonic Celtic language which was first recorded in written documents during the 10th century. However, they became increasingly Anglicized, and Cornish became extinct as a spoken language in 1777, although it has been revived by Cornish patriots in the modern era. The name has been spelled Penrose, Penrows, Penrowes and others.

First found in Cornwall 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 Penrose research. Another 141 words(10 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Penrose History in all our PDF Extended History products.


More information is included under the topic Early Penrose Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the Penrose family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 45 words(3 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


A search of the immigration and passenger lists has shown a number of people bearing the name Penrose:

Penrose Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century

  • John Penrose settled in Maine in 1622
  • Priscilla Penrose, who landed in Maryland in 1671

Penrose Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century

  • Bartholomew Penrose, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1700
  • Christopher Penrose, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1717
  • Joe Penrose and his wife Elizabeth settled in Georgia in 1732
  • John Penrose, who landed in Savanna(h), Georgia in 1733

Penrose Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • William Penrose, who arrived in America in 1810
  • John, Thomas, and William Penrose all arrived in Philadelphia in 1855


  • Lionel Penrose (1898-1972), English geneticist
  • Sir Roger Penrose OM, FRS (b. 1931), English mathematical physicist and co-winner of the 1988 Wolf Prize in Physics
  • Jonathan Penrose (b. 1933), English chess grandmaster
  • Oliver Penrose (b. 1929), English mathematician
  • Sir Roland Penrose CBE (1900-1984), English artist, historian and poet
  • Mr. John Poole Penrose (d. 1912), aged 49, English Bedroom Steward from Southampton, Hampshire who worked aboard the RMS Titanic and died in the sinking
  • Professor Edith Penrose (1914-1996), American-born British economist


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  1. Hanks, Hodges, Mills and Room. The Oxford Names Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN 0-19-860561-7).
  2. Virkus, Frederick A. Ed. Immigrant Ancestors A List of 2,500 Immigrants to America Before 1750. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1964. Print.
  3. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  4. Mills, A.D. Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4).
  5. Foster, Joseph. Dictionary of Heraldry Feudal Coats of Arms and Pedigrees. London: Bracken Books, 1989. Print. (ISBN 1-85170-309-8).
  6. Elster, Robert J. International Who's Who. London: Europa/Routledge. Print.
  7. Dunkling, Leslie. Dictionary of Surnames. Toronto: Collins, 1998. Print. (ISBN 0004720598).
  8. Thirsk, Joan. The Agrarian History of England and Wales. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 7 Volumes. Print.
  9. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin . Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8).
  10. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  11. ...

The Penrose Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Penrose 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 26 March 2014 at 20:03.

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