Select Vance Surname Genealogy

The Vance surname in Scotland and Ireland and Scotland originated with the Norman name de Vaux.  It became Vance in Ireland and was brought to America as Vance.  Sometimes in America German surnames such as Wentz and Wantz were anglicized to Vance during the 18th century.

There was a separate English origin of Vance.  It was topgraphical, describing someone who lived by a fen or marsh (from the Old English fenn meaning "low-lying marshy area").  There were many early spelling variations - Fann, Vann, Vanne, Vanns, Vance and Venn.  The "v" sound was often regarded as the normal pronunciation for "f" in medieval dialects.

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Select Vance Ancestry

England.  The Vance surname has not been that common in England.   The numbers in the 1891 census were less than 300, with most of them in either Lancashire or London.  The best known Vance was the Victorian actor and pantomist Alfred Vance, known in later life as 'the great Vance.'  He was born in London, made his mark in London music halls, but died suddenly. 

"On Boxing Day 1888 at the Sun music hall in Knightsbridge, after he had given two songs and sung in the wig and robes of a judge three verses of a third, he fell down at the wing and was found to be dead from a heart attack."

Scotland.  The de Vaux family had come from Normandy and settled in Galloway on the southwest corner of Scotland in the mid 12th century.   Many generations later in 1384 Johannis de Vaus married an heiress and obtained the lands of Barnbarroch in Wigtonshire.  The family name became Vans in the 16th century.   Sir Patrick and his son Sir John Vans served as ambassadors to Denmark in the next century. 

Ireland.  The two main Vance outposts in Ireland were Donegal and county Tyrone.

Sir John Vans had been in great favor with King James VI of Scotland and was granted the Longcastle estate in county Donegal in the early 1600's.  His son John emigrated to America, as did Patrick Vance some time later.

The Rev. John Vance was the first to use the name of Vance instead of Vans.  He was a Presbyterian minister who had travelled to Ireland in 1660 to escape religious persecution at home.  Under the Act of Settlement he obtained a land grant in county Tyrone.  His son Dr. Lancelot was surgeon of a regiment and one of the defenders of Derry in the siege of 1689.   

America.  Most of the Vances in America have Scots Irish origins.  

Patrick Vance came to America from Donegal in the 1750's and settled in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania.  There he married twice and was to have fifteen children.  He moved with his family to the Blue Ridge mountains in Tennessee in the 1790's. 

Joseph Vance's forebears were Scots Irish immigrants who had come to Virginia at around the same time.  He himself had been born in Pennsylvania, but moved with his father, a Revolutionary War veteran, first to Kentucky and then to Ohio.  There he rose through the political ranks and became Governor of the state in 1836.

Three Vance brothers, also Scots Irish, came to Virginia sometime in the 1740's.  Later Vances moved to North Carolina and became active in politics and business there.

This line culminated in Zebulon (Zeb) Vance, one of the most influential Southern leaders of the Civil War and postbellum periods.  His father David had moved into a five room log house in the mountains of western North Carolina after the Revolutionary War was over and that was where Zeb Vance had been born in 1830.

Andrew Vance arrived in Pennsylvania from Tyrone sometime in the 1730ís.  His grandson Robert was a patriot of the Revolutionary War and an early pioneer of the Pittsburgh area.  It was thought likely that Colonel Cyrus Vance, born in Pennsylvania in 1807, was a descendant from Andrew.  From his line came Cyrus Vance, US Secretary of State.

Other Vances include the descendants of a number of German Wentz families who had immigrated into Pennsylvania in the 18th century. 

Canada.  Three Vance families who came to Canada were:
  • William Vance and his wife from Fermanagh who came to Durham county, Ontario in the 1820's
  • Charles and Elizabeth Vance who came from Ireland to farm at Dunham in Quebec proabably some time in the 1850's.  Their son Edward crossed the border in 1882 to settle in the Glendale district of what was then Montana territory.
  • and Vances from Wigtonshire in Scotland who settled in Oxford county, Ontario.  They included James Vance who arrived with his wife Susan.
Australia.  In the 1840ís George Grey, married to Isabella Vance, was an Irish contractor clearing the bush for settlement in the Ilawarra area south of Sydney.Included among those enlisted for the clearing workwere hisin-law Vances, William and Joseph, from Fermanagh.  They brought their families and settled there.

Select Vance Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Vance Names

Zeb Vance was Governor and Senator for North Carolina and one of the most influential Southern leaders of the Civil War and postbellum periods.
Alfred Vance, known as "the great Vance," was an English actor and pantomimist who made his mark in London Victorian music-halls.
Cyrus Vance was US Secretary of State under Jimmy Carter. 

Select Vances Today
  • 2,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in Ohio) 
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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