Denis History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Denis is a name of ancient Norman origin. It arrived in England with the Norman Conquest of 1066. Denis is a name that comes from the medieval given name, Dennis, which comes from the Greek name Dionysios, which means a follower of the god Dionysius. [1] [2]

There is also evidence that some of the family originated in Normandy: "Richard, Fulco, Geoffry, Roger, Hugh, Matthew, Robert Daneis of Normandy, 1180-98 (Magni Rotuli Scaccarii Normanniae.)" [3]

Early Origins of the Denis family

The surname Denis was first found in Lancashire. Conjecturally, the name came to us from Normandy, from the patron saint of France, St. Denis. [1] He was Bishop of Parisii (Paris), but was martyred in the Decian persecution of Christians, shortly after 250 AD. Apparently, after he was beheaded by a sword, he picked it up and walked ten kilometers (six miles), preaching a sermon the entire way. After the Norman Conquest of England at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D., the family were granted extensive lands in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Northumberland, Devon and Cornwall.

Early rolls listed the name as a forename and surname as was typical of the times. Early Lincolnshire records show: Dionisius de Chotum; Dionisia; and Denis de Sixlea in the Pipe Rolls of 1176. Other early entries include: Deonisia in the Curia Regis Rolls for Yorkshire in 1212; Denise in the Feet of Fines for Essex in 1321; Deonis in the Subsidy Rolls for Somerset in 1327; Dionis ate Brome in the Subsidy Rolls for Surrey in 1332; Denes; and Walter Denys in the Assize Rolls for Staffordshire in 1272. [4]

The manor of Lesnewth in Cornwall belonged to the Dennis family in the reign of Charles I., "but it is now the property of E. J. Glynn, Esq. in whose family it has been vested nearly a century." [5]

In Devon, the Abbey of Ashburton and the adjacent lands were granted to Sir Thomas Dennis, and descended in his family in the 13th century. [6]

"Dennis is an ancient name in Devonshire. In the reign of Henry II. an influential family of Le Deneis resided at Pancrasweek, in the hundred of Black Torrington, and from them sprang the knightly family of Dennis, of Blagdon and Manaton, and the families of Dennis of Holcomb - Buraell, Colliscombe, etc., in the 16th and 17th centuries (W. A. and W.). Dennis was a Bideford name in the 16th and 17th centuries, Anthony Dennis, of Orleigh, being mayor in the reign of James I., whilst Robert Dennis was a Bideford alderman somewhere about this period." [7]

Early History of the Denis family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Denis research. Another 99 words (7 lines of text) covering the years 1273, 1379, 1500, 1546, 1498, 1477, 1561, 1507, 1554, 1592, 1555, 1591, 1609, 1606, 1660, 1616, 1692, 1660, 1679, 1628, 1693, 1656, 1657, 1734 and 1700 are included under the topic Early Denis History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Denis Spelling Variations

Anglo-Norman names tend to be marked by an enormous number of spelling variations. This is largely due to the fact that Old and Middle English lacked any spelling rules when Norman French was introduced in the 11th century. The languages of the English courts at that time were French and Latin. These various languages mixed quite freely in the evolving social milieu. The final element of this mix is that medieval scribes spelled words according to their sounds rather than any definite rules, so a name was often spelled in as many different ways as the number of documents it appeared in. The name was spelled Dennis, Denis, Dennys, Dennyss, Denys, Denniss and many more.

Early Notables of the Denis family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Sir Thomas Denys (d.1498) of Holcombe Burnell; and his son, Sir Thomas Denys (c.1477-1561), English politician and landholder of estates in Devon at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, nine-time Sheriff of Devon between 1507 and 1554, and Member of Parliament for Devon; and his son, Sir Robert Dennis (died 1592) of Holcombe Burnell, Member of Parliament for Devon in 1555 and served as Sheriff of Devon, he founded Livery Dole...
Another 77 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Denis Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Denis World Ranking

In the United States, the name Denis is the 5,199th most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [8] However, in Canada, the name Denis is ranked the 422nd most popular surname with an estimated 11,053 people with that name. [9] And in Quebec, Canada, the name Denis is the 179th popular surname. [10] France ranks Denis as 56th with 39,671 people. [11]

Ireland Migration of the Denis family to Ireland

Some of the Denis family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 43 words (3 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Denis migration to the United States +

Because of the political and religious discontent in England, families began to migrate abroad in enormous numbers. Faced with persecution and starvation at home, the open frontiers and generally less oppressive social environment of the New World seemed tantalizing indeed to many English people. The trip was difficult, and not all made it unscathed, but many of those who did get to Canada and the United States made important contributions to the young nations in which they settled. Some of the first North American settlers with Denis name or one of its variants:

Denis Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Timothy Denis, who landed in Virginia in 1714 [12]
  • Milan Denis, who landed in Louisiana in 1718-1724 [12]
  • Antoine Denis, who landed in Louisiana in 1718-1724 [12]
  • Jacques Denis, aged 40, who arrived in Louisiana in 1719 [12]
Denis Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Donovan Denis, aged 61, who arrived in New York in 1812 [12]
  • C Denis, who landed in North America in 1832-1849 [12]
  • Pedro Denis, who arrived in Puerto Rico in 1837 [12]
  • A Denis, aged 24, who landed in New Orleans, La in 1838 [12]
  • John Jacob Denis, who landed in Indiana in 1852 [12]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Denis migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Denis Settlers in Canada in the 17th Century
  • Mr. Antoine Denis, French settler travelling to Canada for work arriving on 11th April 1642 [13]
  • Pierre Denis, son of Simon and Jeanne, who married Catherine Le Neuf, daughter of Jacques and Marguerite, in Quebec on 23rd August 1655 [14]
  • Charles Denis, son of Simon and Jeanne, who married Catherine De Lustelneau, daughter of Charles and Charlotte, in Quebec on 11th October 1668 [14]
  • Louis Denis, son of Pierre and Antoinette, who married Catherine Isambert, daughter of François and Anne, in Quebec on 9th September 1673 [14]
  • Paul Denis, son of Simon and Françoise, who married Louise-Madeleine Depeiras, daughter of Jean and Denyse, in Quebec on 18th January 1678 [14]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Denis Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Charles Denis, son of Charles and Catherine, who married Marie-Charlotte Chrétien, daughter of Jean and Geneviève, in L'Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec on 18th March 1700 [14]
  • Louis Denis, son of Pierre and Catherine, who married Marie-Louise Chartier, daughter of René-Louis and Marie-Madeleine, in Quebec on 20th July 1709 [14]
  • Charles-Paul Denis, son of Paul and Louise-Madeleine, who married Marie-Josephte Prat, daughter of Louis and Jeanne-Angélique, in Quebec on 17th October 1713 [14]
  • Charles Denis, son of Pierre and Marie, who married Marie-Madeleine Pichet, daughter of Jean and Geneviève, in Saint-Laurent-de-l'Île-d'Orléans, Quebec on 20th November 1719 [14]
  • Guillaume-Emmanuel Denis, son of Paul and Louise-Madeleine, who married Marie-Josephte Des Bergères, daughter of Raymond and Cécile, in Quebec on 22nd September 1722 [14]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Denis migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Denis Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Keefe Denis, (b. 1798), aged 40, Irish coachman who was convicted in Cork, Ireland for 7 years for stealing, transported aboard the "Clyde" on 11th May 1838, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [15]
  • Mr. Denis Caulfield, (b. 1812), aged 27, British soldier who was convicted in Guyana (British Guiana) for 14 years for mutiny, transported aboard the "Barossa" on 8th December 1839, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [16]

New Zealand Denis migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Denis Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. W. Denis, British settler travelling from Gravesend aboard the ship "Queen Bee" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand on 10th January 1872 [17]

Contemporary Notables of the name Denis (post 1700) +

  • Sergio Denis (1949-2020), Argentine singer-songwriter and occasional actor
  • Sir Peter Denis (d. 1778), British vice-admiral, son of a Protestant minister expelled from France [18]
  • Jonathan Brian Denis QC (b. 1975), Canadian politician, Solicitor General, Attorney General, and Minister of Justice for the province of Alberta
  • Armand Denis (1896-1971), Belgian-born documentary film-maker
  • Azellus Denis PC, QC (1907-1991), Canadian politician from Saint-Norbert, Quebec
  • Claire Denis (b. 1948), French film director and writer
  • Edgar Denis (b. 1968), former Paraguayan footballer
  • Marcel Denis (1923-2002), French-speaking Belgian comics creator
  • Marc Denis (b. 1977), former Canadian professional NHL ice hockey goaltender
  • Maurice Denis (1870-1943), French painter and writer

  1. ^ Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. ^ Charnock, Richard, Stephen, Ludus Patronymicus of The Etymology of Curious Surnames. London: Trubner & Co., 60 Paternoster Row, 1868. Print.
  3. ^ 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)
  4. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  5. ^ Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  6. ^ Worth, R.N., A History of Devonshire London: Elliot Stock, 62, Paternoster Row, E.G., 1895. Digital
  7. ^ Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  13. ^ Debien, Gabriel. Liste Des Engagés Pour Le Canada Au XVIIe Siècle. Vol. 6, Laval University, 1952. (Retreived 24th May 2018). Retrieved from
  14. ^ Internoscia, Arthur E., and Claire Chevrier. Dictionnaire National des Canadiens Français 1608-1760. Vol. 1, Institut Drouin, 1958.
  15. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 24th February 2021). Retrieved from
  16. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 24th September 2020). Retrieved from
  17. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from
  18. ^ Wikisource contributors. "Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900." Wikisource . Wikisource , 4 Jun. 2018. Web. 30 June 2020 on Facebook
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