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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016

Cornwall, one of the original six "Celtic nations" is the homeland to the surname Nance. A revival of the Cornish language which began in the 9th century AD has begun. No doubt this was the language spoken by distant forebears of the Nance family. Though surnames became common during medieval times, English people were formerly known only by a single name. The way in which hereditary surnames were adopted in medieval England is fascinating. Many Cornish surnames 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. The name Nance is a local type of surname and the Nance family lived in the village of Nanfan, in Cornwall. Members of the family were involved in the blacksmith trade and prior to the 18th century often went by the occupational name Trengove, from the Cornish words tren meaning strong, and angove, meaning smith. Many used the name Trengoff of Nance.


The surname Nance was first found in Cornwall where they held a family seat from early times. The family name Nance first appeared on the early census rolls taken by the early Kings of Britain to determine the rate of taxation of their subjects.

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 Nance, Trengove, Trengoff, Trengrove and others.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Nance research. Another 167 words (12 lines of text) covering the years 1720, 1521, 1561, 1553, 1547 and 1547 are included under the topic Early Nance History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 79 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Nance Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the Nance family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 69 words (5 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


An inquiry into the early roots of North American families reveals a number of immigrants bearing the name Nance or a variant listed above:

Nance Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Alice Nance and her husband settled in Virginia in 1639
  • Richard Nance, who landed in Virginia in 1639

Nance Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Nancy Nance arrived in Philadelphia in 1820

Nance Settlers in United States in the 20th Century

  • Allen Nance, aged 52, who emigrated to the United States, in 1905
  • Dana Nance, aged 7, who emigrated to the United States, in 1912
  • Florence K. Nance, aged 37, who landed in America, in 1912
  • Harold Arthur Nance, aged 24, who emigrated to the United States from London, England, in 1913
  • Edgar J Nance, aged 1, who landed in America from London, England, in 1913

Nance Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • Jemima Nance arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Royal Admiral" in 1838
  • J. Nance arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Constance" in 1849
  • John Nance, aged 24, arrived in South Australia in 1849 aboard the ship "Constance"
  • Thomas Nance, aged 20, a miner, arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Nile"


  • James Solomon "Big Jim" Nance (1942-1992), American collegiate and professional football fullback with the Boston Patriots, posthumously inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2009
  • Ray Willis Nance (1913-1976), American jazz trumpeter, violinist and singer, best known for his work with band leader Duke Ellington
  • John J. Nance (b. 1946), American pilot, aviation safety expert, and author
  • Joseph Milton Nance (1913-1997), American historian
  • Walter E Nance (b. 1933), American medical geneticist
  • Robert Morton Nance (1873-1959), English leading authority on the Cornish language, nautical archaeologist, joint founder of the Old Cornwall Society
  • Marvin John "Jack" Nance (1943-1996), American actor, best known for his roles in Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks


  • The History and Genealogy of the Nances by D. Nance.
  • Lyle, Murrell, Nancy, Morton Genealogy by Gladys Elizabeth Odil Bracy.

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  11. ...

The Nance Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Nance 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 4 April 2016 at 07:11.

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