Nanson History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Nanson history begins in Cornwall, a rugged coastal region in southwestern England. Quite distinct from Devon, the adjoining county, Cornwall had its own spoken language until the late 18th century. The Nanson history began here. The manner in which hereditary surnames arose is interesting. Local surnames were derived from where the original bearer lived, was born, or held land. Unlike most Celtic peoples, who favored patronymic names, the Cornish predominantly used local surnames. The Nanson family originally 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.

Early Origins of the Nanson family

The surname Nanson was first found in Cornwall where they held a family seat as Lords of the Manor of Nanfan.

"So early as the days of Henry VI. Trethewell [in the parish of St. Evall] was purchased by the family of Nanfan; who, during the preceding reign, were in a state of comparative obscurity, but were raised by the favour of the reigning monarch, as a reward for the services they rendered him in the foreign wars in which he was engaged. John Nanfan is the first gentleman, that, in the records of the Pipe Office, is distinguished with the appellation of Esquire. This was in the reign of Henry VI. when he was made sheriff of Cornwall, which appellation was not generally given to those who filled this office till the days of Henry VIII. Several of this family were sheriffs of this county in the fifteenth century. In the days of Henry VIII. this estate was carried in marriage by an heiress to Erisey." [1]

Early History of the Nanson family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Nanson research. Another 90 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Nanson History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Nanson Spelling Variations

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 Nanfan, Nanfant, Nantford and others.

Early Notables of the Nanson family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Nanson Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Nanson migration to the United States +

Research into the origins of individual families in North America has revealed records of the immigration of a number of people bearing the name Nanson or a variant listed above:

Nanson Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Mathew Nanson, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1811 [2]

Contemporary Notables of the name Nanson (post 1700) +

  • William Moore Bell Nanson (1880-1915), English rugby union player
  • Edward John Nanson (1850-1936), English mathematician who developed Nanson's Method


  1. ^ Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  2. ^ 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)


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