Spencer History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancestors of the Spencer family migrated to England following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The surname Spencer is for a butler or steward. The surname Spencer was originally derived from the Old French word despensier, of the same meaning. [1]

Early Origins of the Spencer family

The surname Spencer was first found in Leicestershire where "in the eighteenth year of William the Conqueror lived Robertus Dispensator, otherwise called Le Despencer, because he was steward to the king. In the reign of Henry I. there were a William le Despencer and a Thurston Dispencer, but these last were only successors in office, or actual descendants of Robert is not known, and the like uncertainty prevails as to subsequent bearers of the name. " [2]

Another source provides a similar history with slightly different spellings: "Robert le Despencer, of the Conqueror's time derived his name from his office of steward to the king, and appears, from the numerous lordships he possessed, to have been a person of great eminence. His descendants - the two Despencers - the ill-fated favourites of the Second Edward, are too well known to require more than a mere mention here. The heir-general of the family is Mary Frances Elizabeth, Baroness Le Despencer. Of the younger branches the chief are the Spencere of Wormleighton, represented by the Duke of Marlborough, and the Spencers of Althorp, by Earl Spencer." [3]

"The Spencers so famous in English history appear to have derived from Odard, a Baron of Chester, who with Nigel, Baron of Halton and Constable of Chester, and other brothers, came with Earl Hugh Lupus, being probably of the house of Avranches. This may be inferred from the ancient arms, which were preserved by the Warburtons, descendants of Odard." [4]

The name is "absent or rare in the north and south of England. Most numerous in the midlands, especially Warwickshire, and afterwards in Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, and Notts." [5]

At this time, some of the family held a family seat at Loughborough. "The noble family of Despenser, anciently possessors of the manor, obtained the grant of a market and fairs for the town." [6]

Later, a branch of the family was found at Yarnton, or Yarington in Oxfordshire. "The church is ancient, with a tower built in 1612, by Sir Thomas Spencer. He also erected the aisle in which he is interred, as a sepulchral chapel for his family, who resided in the old manor-house near the church, the remains of which are now occupied as a farmhouse. In a recess in the aisle is an altar-tomb, with recumbent effigies of Sir William Spencer and his lady; and the churchyard contains a cross embellished with figures in full length, now much mutilated." [6]

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 included John le Spencer, Southamptonshire; and Henry le Spenser, Cambridgeshire and later the Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379 included: Thomas Spenser; and Agnes Spenser. [7]

Early History of the Spencer family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Spencer research. Another 144 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 1259, 1265, 1262, 1326, 1326, 1342, 1402, 1593, 1661, 1621, 1629, 1661, 1570, 1627, 1591, 1636, 1594, 1656, 1621, 1648, 1620, 1643, 1617, 1684, 1601, 1671, 1630 and 1693 are included under the topic Early Spencer History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Spencer Spelling Variations

Before the advent of the printing press and the first dictionaries, the English language was not standardized. Sound was what guided spelling in the Middle Ages, so one person's name was often recorded under several variations during a single lifetime. Spelling variations were common, even among the names of the most literate people. Known variations of the Spencer family name include Spencer, Spenser, Spensor and others.

Early Notables of the Spencer family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Hugh le Despenser (d. 1265), Justiciary of England; Hugh le Despenser the Elder, Earl of Winchester (1262-1326), the son of Hugh le Despenser; Hugh le Despenser the Younger, (d. 1326), Baron, son of Hugh le Despenser the Elder; Philip Le Despencer, 1st Baron le Despenser (1342-1402), son and heir of Sir Philip le Despenser of Goxhill, son of Sir Philip Le Despencer; Richard Spencer (1593-1661), an English politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1621 to 1629 and in 1661, he supported the Royalist cause in the English Civil War; Robert...
Another 110 words (8 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Spencer Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Spencer World Ranking

In the United States, the name Spencer is the 163rd most popular surname with an estimated 141,759 people with that name. [8] However, in Canada, the name Spencer is ranked the 337th most popular surname with an estimated 13,489 people with that name. [9] And in Australia, the name Spencer is the 184th popular surname with an estimated 17,416 people with that name. [10] New Zealand ranks Spencer as 270th with 2,249 people. [11] The United Kingdom ranks Spencer as 136th with 37,225 people. [12]


United States Spencer migration to the United States +

To escape the political and religious chaos of this era, thousands of English families began to migrate to the New World in search of land and freedom from religious and political persecution. The passage was expensive and the ships were dark, crowded, and unsafe; however, those who made the voyage safely were encountered opportunities that were not available to them in their homeland. Many of the families that reached the New World at this time went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations of the United States and Canada. Research into various historical records has revealed some of first members of the Spencer family to immigrate North America:

Spencer Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Thomas Spencer, who settled in Virginia in 1623
  • Kathren Spencer, who landed in Virginia in 1623 [13]
  • William Spencer, who settled in Cambridge Massachusetts in 1630
  • Thomas Spencer, who settled in Maine in 1630
  • Gerard Spencer, who landed in New England in 1632 [13]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Spencer Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Mary Hilles Spencer, who arrived in Virginia in 1701 [13]
  • William Spencer, who landed in Virginia in 1701 [13]
  • Mottrom Spencer, who arrived in Virginia in 1703 [13]
  • Eliza Spencer, who landed in Virginia in 1711 [13]
  • Peter Spencer, who landed in Virginia in 1714 [13]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Spencer Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • James Spencer, who arrived in America in 1807 [13]
  • John Spencer, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1808 [13]
  • Henry Spencer, aged 26, who arrived in New York in 1812 [13]
  • Houghton Spencer, aged 34, who landed in Connecticut in 1812 [13]
  • Benjamin Spencer, aged 39, who landed in West Indies in 1812 [13]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Spencer Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Richard Oliver Spencer, who arrived in Michigan in 1904 [13]

Canada Spencer migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Spencer Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Mathew Spencer, who settled in Bay de Verde, Newfoundland, in 1709 [14]
  • William Spencer, who settled in Newfoundland in 1730 [14]
  • Edward Spencer, who arrived in Quebec in 1784
  • Mr. Andrew Spencer U.E. who settled in Sophiasburgh & Ameliasburgh [Prince Edward County], Ontario c. 1784 [15]
  • Mr. Jeremiah Spencer U.E. who settled in Canada c. 1784 [15]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Spencer Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • William Spencer, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1824
  • Caleb Spencer, who landed in Canada in 1831
  • Chester Spencer, who arrived in Canada in 1832
  • William Spencer, who arrived in Canada in 1832
  • John Spencer, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1834
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Spencer migration to Australia +

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

Spencer Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Miss Ann Catherine Spencer, (b. 1785), aged 15, British Convict who was convicted in London, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Earl Cornwallis" in August 1800, arriving in New South Wales, Australia, she died in 1862 [16]
  • Mr. Jonathan Spencer, (John Smith), (b. 1781), aged 22, British convict who was convicted in Rutland, East Midlands, England for life for stealing, transported aboard the "Calcutta" in February 1803, arriving in New South Wales, Australia, he died in 1804 [17]
  • Joseph Spencer, English convict from Lancaster, who was transported aboard the "Albion" on May 29, 1828, settling in New South Wales, Australia [18]
  • Mr. Daniel Spencer, British convict who was convicted in Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England for life, transported aboard the "Bussorah Merchant" on 1st October 1829, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [19]
  • Mr. James Spencer, British convict who was convicted in Kent, England for life, transported aboard the "Bussorah Merchant" on 1st October 1829, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [19]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Spencer 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:

Spencer Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • J Spencer, who landed in Bluff Harbour, New Zealand in 1824
  • J Spencer, who landed in Old Bluff, New Zealand in 1834
  • J Spencer, who landed in Taranaki, New Zealand in 1840
  • S Spencer, who landed in Taranaki, New Zealand in 1840
  • Abel Spencer, aged 27, who arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Oriental" in 1840
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

West Indies Spencer migration to West Indies +

The British first settled the British West Indies around 1604. They made many attempts but failed in some to establish settlements on the Islands including Saint Lucia and Grenada. By 1627 they had managed to establish settlements on St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Barbados, but by 1641 the Spanish had moved in and destroyed some of these including those at Providence Island. The British continued to expand the settlements including setting the First Federation in the British West Indies by 1674; some of the islands include Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Belize then known as British Honduras. By the 1960's many of the islands became independent after the West Indies Federation which existed from 1958 to 1962 failed due to internal political conflicts. After this a number of Eastern Caribbean islands formed a free association. [20]
Spencer Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • Peter and John Spencer, who settled in Barbados in 1635
  • Mr. James Spencer, (b. 1610), aged 25, British settler travelling from Gravesend, England aboard the ship "Falcon" arriving in Barbados in 1636 [21]
  • Mr. John Spencer, (b. 1616), aged 19, British settler travelling aboard the ship "Expedition" arriving in Barbados in 1636 [22]
  • Mr. Peter Spencer, (b. 1620), aged 15, British settler travelling aboard the ship "Expedition" arriving in Barbados in 1636 [22]

Contemporary Notables of the name Spencer (post 1700) +

  • Diana Spencer (1961-1997), Princess of Wales, the first wife of Charles, the Prince of Wales, her eldest son is the heir apparent of Elizabeth II
  • William Allen "Bill" Spencer (1936-2020), American skier who competed in the 1964 and 1968 Winter Olympics and was on the United States Biathlon Team
  • Andre Devell Spencer (b. 1964), American professional basketball player who played from 1987 to 2002
  • Vaino Hassan Spencer (1920-2016), American jurist, the first African-American woman appointed to a judgeship in California
  • Daryl Dean Spencer (1928-2017), American Major League Baseball player who played from 1952 to 1963
  • John Spencer (1946-2005), American Emmy Award winning actor, best known for his role as White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry on the NBC political drama series The West Wing
  • Octavia Lenora Spencer (b. 1972), American Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe Award winning actress
  • Percy LeBaron Spencer (1894-1970), American engineer and inventor of the microwave oven
  • Joel Spencer (b. 1946), American mathematician
  • Emerson Lane "Bud" Spencer (1906-1985), American athlete, winner of gold medal in 4x400 m relay at the 1928 Summer Olympics
  • ... (Another 27 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Empress of Ireland
  • Mr. Charles Herbert Spencer, British Bell Boy from United Kingdom who worked aboard the Empress of Ireland and survived the sinking [23]
HMS Cornwall
  • Stanley Henry Spencer (d. 1942), British Telegraphist aboard the HMS Cornwall when she was struck by air bombers and sunk; he died in the sinking [24]
HMS Hood
  • Mr. Arthur Spencer (b. 1909), English Mechanician 2nd Class serving for the Royal Navy from Hunslet, Leeds, Yorkshire, England, who sailed into battle and died in the sinking [25]
HMS Prince of Wales
  • Mr. Standford Spencer, British Petty Officer, who sailed into battle on the HMS Prince of Wales and died in the sinking [26]
HMS Repulse
  • Mr. Frederick George Spencer, British Ordinary Seaman, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and survived the sinking, also sailed aboard the HMS Exeter [27]
HMS Royal Oak
  • William Harry Spencer (1921-1939), British Boy 1st Class with the Royal Navy aboard the HMS Royal Oak when she was torpedoed by U-47 and sunk; he died in the sinking [28]
  • Harry Spencer (1922-1939), British Boy 1st Class with the Royal Navy aboard the HMS Royal Oak when she was torpedoed by U-47 and sunk; he died in the sinking [28]
  • Cecil James Spencer (1922-1939), British Boy 1st Class with the Royal Navy aboard the HMS Royal Oak when she was torpedoed by U-47 and sunk; he died in the sinking [28]
  • Arthur Kenneth Spencer (1921-1939), British Seaman with the Royal Navy aboard the HMS Royal Oak when she was torpedoed by U-47 and sunk; he died in the sinking [28]
RMS Titanic
  • Mr. William Augustus Spencer (d. 1912), aged 57, American First Class passenger from New York City, New York who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and died in the sinking [29]
  • Mrs. Marie Eugenie Spencer, aged 45, American First Class passenger from New York City, New York who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and survived the sinking escaping in life boat 6 [29]
SS Caribou
  • Mr. James Spencer, British crew member was travelling aboard the railway ferry "SS Caribou" when it was struck by a German submarine torpedo on 14th October 1942, the most significant sinking in Canadian waters at that time, he survived the sinking
  • Mr. Earl Spencer, British crew member was travelling aboard the railway ferry "SS Caribou" when it was struck by a German submarine torpedo on 14th October 1942, the most significant sinking in Canadian waters at that time, he survived the sinking


The Spencer Motto +

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: Dieu defend le droit
Motto Translation: God defends the right.


  1. ^ Smith, Eldson Coles, New Dictionary of American Family Names New York: Harper & Row, 1956. Print
  2. ^ Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  3. ^ Burke, John Bernard, The Roll of Battle Abbey. London: Edward Churton, 26, Holles Street, 1848, Print.
  4. ^ 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)
  5. ^ Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  6. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  7. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  8. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  9. ^ https://forebears.io/surnames/
  10. ^ https://forebears.io/australia/surnames
  11. ^ https://forebears.io/new-zealand/surnames
  12. ^ https://www.surnamemap.eu/unitedkingdom/surnames_ranking.php?p=10
  13. ^ 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)
  14. ^ Seary E.R., Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland, Montreal: McGill's-Queen's Universtity Press 1998 ISBN 0-7735-1782-0
  15. ^ Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X
  16. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 13th August 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/earl-cornwallis
  17. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 25th November 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/calcutta
  18. ^ State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2014, November 24) Albion voyage to New South Wales, Australia in 1828 with 192 passengers. Retrieved from http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/albion/1828
  19. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 10th November 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/bussorah-merchant
  20. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_West_Indies
  21. ^ Pilgrim Ship Lists Early 1600's retrieved 28th September 2021. (Retrieved from https://www.packrat-pro.com/ships/shiplist.htm)
  22. ^ Pilgrim Ship Lists Early 1600's retrieved 29th September 2021. (Retrieved from https://www.packrat-pro.com/ships/shiplist.htm)
  23. ^ Commemoration Empress of Ireland 2014. (Retrieved 2014, June 17) . Retrieved from http://www.empress2014.ca/seclangen/listepsc1.html
  24. ^ Force Z Survivors Crew List HMS Cornwall (Retrieved 2018, February 13th) - Retrieved from https://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listcornwallcrew.html#A
  25. ^ H.M.S. Hood Association-Battle Cruiser Hood: Crew Information - H.M.S. Hood Rolls of Honour, Men Lost in the Sinking of H.M.S. Hood, 24th May 1941. (Retrieved 2016, July 15) . Retrieved from http://www.hmshood.com/crew/memorial/roh_24may41.htm
  26. ^ HMS Prince of Wales Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listprincecrew.html
  27. ^ HMS Repulse Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listrepulsecrew.html
  28. ^ Ships hit by U-boats crew list HMS Royal Oak (08) - (Retrieved 2018 February, 9th) - retrieved from https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/crews/ship68.html
  29. ^ Titanic Passenger List - Titanic Facts. (Retrieved 2016, July 13) . Retrieved from http://www.titanicfacts.net/titanic-passenger-list.html


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