Select Vance Surname Genealogy

Here are some Vance stories and accounts over the years:

Vance Surname Origins

According to the antiquarian Sir James Dalrymple: "The ancient surname of Vans in the later charters, called DeVallibus, is the same with the name Vaux in England and is one of the first surnames that appeared there after the Conquest." 

In Scottish heraldry it was recorded that: "Few of the ancient names of Scotland can trace their origin to so distinguished a foreign source as that of Vans, or more properly Vaus or DeVaux." 

The Gazetteer of Scotland
stated: "In the twelfth century the Anglo-Norman family of DeVallibus or DeVaux obtained a grant of the manors of Golyn and Dirleton and parts of Fenton;" and later: “The home of the family at Dirleton in East Lothian was transferred to Barnborroch (or Kirkinner) in Wigtonshire."

Vaus/Vans in Scotland

The Vans in Scotland were originally de Vaux and then Vaus.  The first in Scotland was said to have been Phillip de Vaux in the 1150’s. 

Johannis de Vaus obtained the lands of Barnbarroch in Wigtonshire in 1384 and the line from him has been more readily traceable.  DNA testing has suggested that this Barnbarroch Vaus line was not only a family in its own right, but also a branch of a Scottish superfamily to which belonged large groups of Elliotts, Glendennings, Littles, and McClains. 

Later Vaus/Vans of this line were:

  • Robert Vaus (died in the 1460’s)
  • Blaise Vaus (died in 1482)
  • Patrick Vaus (died in 1528)
  • John Vaus (died in battle in 1547)
  • Sir Patrick Vaus (died in 1597)
  • Sir Patrick Vans (died in 1642)
  • and Sir John Vans (died in 1673).  
Sir John Vans succeeded his father as the Ambassador to Denmark.  He was in great favor with the King and, as a consequence, received the grant to the estates of Longcastle in county Donegal in Ireland.

Patrick Vance in America

Patrick Vance came to America from Donegal in the 1750’s and settled in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania.  Per the 1768 tax list Patrick had a three hundred acre farm and owned four horses, six cows and twelve sheep. 

Patrick married twice.  The first time was to Sarah Taylor with whom he had six children.  Sarah sadly died soon after the birth of their sixth child.  In 1778 Patrick married again, to Elizabeth Houston by whom he was to have an additional nine children.  

Patrick’s home in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, a large and impressive two-story structure, still exists and presently serves as the corporate headquarters for a quarry company. 

In the mid-1790’s Patrick and his family moved south to the sparsely settled area of North Carolina west of the Blue Ridge Mountains (now Jefferson county, Tennessee).  There he purchased 640 acres, established a farm, and lived until his death in 1803.

Vances in Virginia

The Rev. James Vance, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Norfolk, Virginia, said the following: 

"The traditional three brothers came from the north of Ireland and settled in the valley of Virginia.  One went thence to North Carolina and from him the North Carolina Vances are descended (among whom was the Senator Zebulon B. Vance).  Another brother went to Tennessee and from him my family is descended."  

The Rev. Hugh Vance was pastor of the Tuscarora and Back Creek Presbyterian churches in Virginia from 1771 until his death twenty years later.

Cyrus Vance's Ancestry

The Vance family of Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State under Jimmy Carter, may have been initially Scots Irish, from the immigrant Andrew Vance.  The more confirmed line is from Colonel Cyrus Vance who had been born in Washington county, Pennsylvania in the early 1800’s.  He migrated to Clarksburg, West Virginia in the 1830’s and was later mayor of the town. 

Clarksburg was where Cyrus Vance was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1917 in an old family mansion (now demolished) at the corner of Pike and Sixth Street.  Vance came under the wing of his cousin John Davis, a noted Clarksburg attorney and Democratic Presidential candidate in 1924.

Reader Feedback - James Vance to Canada

The James Vance who came from Wigtonshire in Scotland and settled in Oxford county, Ontario in Scotland was one of five brothers: David, Robert, George, James and Joseph.  We have a family record that says that four came initially.  It appears that a fifth came later - maybe that was James?  Joseph was my great great grandfather and he arrived around 1836. 

Christine Goodnough (

Wentz/Vance in America

The Wentz surname is German, a pet form of Werner or, in the east, Wenceslaw.  The name change from Wentz to Vance in America often came about as a result of the census taker writing down the name that the census taker heard rather than the name that was said, particularly as the German “W” sounds “V” in America. 

Examples have been: 
  • Johann Diel Handle Wentz, a German immigrant who married Elizabeth Casner in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania in 1750.  He became Vance during his lifetime.  
  • and John Philip Wentz, a German immigrant who lived and died (in 1795) in York county, Pennsylvania.  His descendants became Vance in the early 1800's.

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