Dean Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Dean Meaning
surname is locational in origin, describing someone who lived in a dene or “valley.” Dene was
recorded in various places in the
1086 Domesday Book. It is generally
rendered today as Dean. The surname
progression has been from Dene (sometimes atte Dene) to Deane and from Deane to Dean.
The Deane spelling has persisted mainly in

Dean Resources on

Dean Ancestry

earliest Dean seems to have been Robert de Dene, a “pincema” or
official in
charge of the wine and beverage to King Edward the Confessor. His descendants, known as Denn or Denne, were landowners in Kent
and Sussex. Their line seems to have
died out by the 1600’s.

West Country.
early Deans came from the west country and in particular from
Gloucestershire. Sir William de Dene
who lived at St. Briavels in the early 14th century was the first of
the family
of Dene of Dene in the Forest of Dean. Later
numbers probably included:

  • Henry
    Dene, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland and
    Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VII.
  • Sir
    Richard Deane, the Lord Mayor of
    London in 1628
  • and
    the regicide and Sea
    General Richard Deane who died in a fight with the Dutch fleet in 1653.

There were also Deanes in and around Taunton
in Somerset. Among their numbers were
Deane, the ancestor of the Deanes in Limerick, and John and Walter
Deane, early
emigrants to Taunton, Massachusetts.
Other Deanes were to be found in the Brent Knoll area of
Somerset. The Deanes of Oxenwood in Wiltshire came
originally from NW Hampshire.

Elsewhere. Some of the early
Dean sightings may have
been in SE and SW England. But the Dean
name spread across England. By the 19th
century in fact larger numbers were in the northwest, from Staffordshire through Cheshire to Lancashire:

  • John
    Deane was
    born of yeoman stock near Northwich in Cheshire around the year 1495. He spent most of his working life in London,
    rector at Smithfield, but returned in 1557 to found Witton Grammar
    School. It functions today as Sir John
  • one
    Dean family in Audley, Staffordshire dates back to 1604.
    Nathaniel Dean, a surgeon, was born at
    Eccleshall in Staffordshire in 1762 and died at his Brook
    home there in 1823.
  • while the ancient parish of Deane lay within the
    present boundaries of Salford
    in Lancashire and that town had the largest number of Deans in England
    in the 1881 census.

Ireland. Matthew Deane from Somerset
came to Ireland
with Cromwell in 1649 and stayed. He was
Sheriff of Cork in 1664 and made his home at Dromore.
In 1775 his descendant Sir Robert Deane,
created Baron Muskerry, secured through marriage Springfield castle in

Deane family in Cork was
notable in
Cork for their eminence as architects and for their contribution to the
cultural life of the city. The father of this brood was Alexander
Deane, a
builder. His sons Thomas, Alexander, and
Kearns Deane all became architects.
Thomas was knighted for his work in 1830, as was his son Thomas
and his
grandson Thomas.

English Deane lines in Ireland were:

  • the
    Deanes of Galway – one of the twelve
    tribes of Galway – who supposedly originated from Bristol in England
    and first
    appeared in Galway in 1438.
  • and
    the Deane family of Crumlin in Dublin, started
    in the 1650’s by Joseph Deane, nephew to the regicide Richard Deane. A later Joseph Deane of this line was Chief
    Baron of the Exchequer in Ireland in 1714.

in Donegal and Tipperary were
more likely to be of Gaelic origin, those in Ulster of Scots origin. The largest number of Deanes in Ireland,
according to Griffith’s Valuation in the mid-19th century, was in fact
in Mayo,
followed by Cork, Tipperary, and Donegal.
The Scottish Deans appeared in Antrim and Derry.

The name Den
appeared in Aberdeen and Dean in Ayrshire (where there is a Dean
Castle). But a more common surname form
came to be
Deans, meaning instead “son or servant of the dean.”
It seemed to have appeared first on the
Scottish Borders and then spread across the Lowlands and to Aberdeen. Some Deans migrated to Ulster

. The spelling in America
tended initially to
be Deane. Early New England arrivals

  • Stephen Deane who came to Plymouth on the Fortune
    in 1621. He built
    the first corn mill in the colony. He
    and his wife Elizabeth had three daughters, but no sons.
  • John and Walter Deane
    from Somerset who arrived in 1635 and settled in Taunton, Massachusetts. They did leave successors, mainly in
    Connecticut. Silas Deane, the merchant and
    diplomat at the time of the Revolutionary War, was a descendant.
  • while Thomas
    Deane arrived in Massachusetts from Wiltshire in 1664.
    He was a merchant in Boston but returned to
    England in 1676.

18th century Deans of New London, Connecticut were descendants of
Abraham Dains
who had arrived there in 1664 via Casco in Maine

and Scots Irish Deans came to America in the 18th century.

They included Roger
Dean who had arrived from Ulster in the 1770’s to fight on the British
side. But once in America he changed
sides and fought with the Americans.
After the War he was granted land in Kentucky and moved there. There was a
family reunion
in 1785 after his son Daniel, back in Ireland,
in search of him in America and found him.
Daniel moved to Ohio in 1804.

Another line began with Benjamin Dean who
came to Virginia around 1780 and, like Daniel, moved to Ohio. Other Irish Deans were to be found in
Allegheny county in southern Pennsylvania.
Matthew Dean lived in the Canoe valley and many of his family
massacred in an attack by Indians in 1780.
Matthew’s great grandson was Judge John Dean of Williamsburg.

Some of the Deans coming to Canada were Loyalists from America. Dean was a common name in the early 1800’s in
the border area of Canada between Niagara and Kingston.
John Dean from New Jersey came with his
family in 1801 and settled in Lincoln county, Ontario.
His sons fought on the Canadian side in the
War of 1812. Another Dean, George Dean
from Pennsylvania, was an American deserter during that war who made
his home in
York county, Ontario.

New Zealand. William and John Deans,
brothers from Ayrshire
in Scotland, were one of the first settlers in Canterbury SI, arriving
there in
1843. They became sheep farmers. William was drowned at sea in 1851. John married the next year but died at his
home at Riccarton Bush in 1854. His
widow Jane Deans remained to bring up their child, later writing the
story of
her life in Letters to My Grandchildren.


Dean Miscellany

From Deane to Dean.  The main
spelling was Deane up to and including the 17th century.
Then in the next century the “e” got taken
out and the spelling became Dean.  Now
Dean predominates.  The table today shows
the approximate numbers of Deans and Deanes today.

Numbers (000’s) Dean Deane Total
UK    39     5    44
America    35     2    37
Elsewhere    24     5    29
Total    98    12   110

Sir Alured de Denn.  Sir Alured de Denn of Denn Hill in Kent was said to have been a person of great
learning.  He was a Seneschal, an official who governed of the
operations of the Priory Christ Church of Canterbury, and was the
of Kent
in 1234.   He was also appointed by
Henry III to enforce the law on Romney Marsh, the flat expanse of land
by the
coast that lay between Folkestone and Dungeness.

Alured had three leopard
heads caboshed (i.e., three leopard “faces”) on his seal.

The Deanes of Oxenwood.  John and Thomas Deane were the sons of John Deane who had
leased the Oxenwood estate in Wiltshire sometime in the 1630’s.  The family had been a long-standing one in
nearby NW Hampshire, but not apparently one of any great significance.

the elder had been too young to fight in the Civil War, but got drawn
into a
local insurrection at the time of the Protectorate. He
found himself condemned
to death and was only able to obtain a reprieve at great expense.
released on bail in 1656 and, on a certificate of his penitence,
allowed to
redeem his estate.  He fared better during the
Restoration and he
became prominent in local affairs and an MP in 1678. He
died in 1695.  His heir James
sold Oxenwood in 1701.

Thomas, his younger
brother, emigrated to America in 1664 and settled in Boston.  There he succeeded so well as a merchant that
he converted a younger son’s portion into a large fortune.
He returned to London in 1676 a rich man.

The Deane Architects of Cork.  David Deane
was a builder and his son Alexander, also a builder, had married
Sharpe.  Unusually for the times
Elizabeth was active in her husband’s business.
On Alexander’s sudden death in 1806 she was thus able to take
over the
running of the firm.  However, she had
her problems.  There was a flaw in her husband’s will
which prevented her from acquiring the properties that he owned in Cork
city.  In the end, it required a private
Act of Parliament for her to gain the leases of the properties.

eldest son Thomas was at her side by this
time.  He had started working at the firm
in 1806 at the age of just fourteen.  In 1811 he designed his
first building, the Cork Commercial Buildings on South Mall, and he was
on his
way.  He soon rose to public
eminence.  He was mayor of Cork in 1815,
1830 and 1851, and was knighted in 1830.

Two other sons – Alexander (known as “Sandy
Bull”) and Kearns – were also architects.
Sadly both died young, from TB.

Deans in NW England in 1881.  The three NW counties of Staffordshire, Cheshire, and Lancashire accounted
for almost 40% of the Deans in England in the 1881 census.  The
following were the main Dean numbers by town in these counties in that

Town County Numbers
Salford Lancashire    218
Manchester Lancashire    213
Stoke Staffordshire    206
Macclesfield Cheshire    149
Burnley Lancashire    131
Stockport Cheshire    129
Audley Staffordshire    120

The Dean Family Reunion.  While the Revolutionary War was raging and Roger Dean was
fighting for the American cause, he had lost track of his family back
in Ulster
and they of him.  As partial payment for
his military service, Roger received lands near Mount Sterling in
Kentucky.  So he walked over the Blue
Ridge and homesteaded there, eventually beginning a household with a
postmistress named Rebecca.

Roger’s son Daniel, reared fatherless in Ulster,
had a growing curiosity about his father’s fate.  So
at age 18 and near penniless, he boldly
boarded a ship bound for the port of Philadelphia.
Once there, he worked for his keep and
searched high and low to locate his lost father.  He
wandered through Pennsylvania, Maryland
and Virginia seeking clues.  Eventually
he learned that his father was alive and living on Kentucky’s frontier. Once at Mount Sterling, Daniel quickly found
his errant father and learned that he and Rebecca had begun a second

his travels Daniel had met Jenny Steele of Steele’ Tavern in Virginia.  They eventually married and relocated near
Mount Sterling where Daniel built a mill, a house for the couple, and
for his sister and mother whom he had brought from Ireland to Kentucky

The Deans, however, were alarmed to see the infusion of
slave-owners into
Kentucky.  As Covenanter Presbyterians,
they abhorred the “peculiar institution” as inhumane and intolerable.
Daniel therefore saved their earnings and in 1804 purchased a
tract in the new free state of Ohio.  Daniel Dean and his party departed for Ohio while his
father Roger remained behind in Kentucky where he died in 1815.

The Dean Family Farm in Ohio is now a historic site
on the National Register of Historic Places.  Daniel died there in
1743.  No fewer than 36 of his 110
served in the Union Army during the Civil War, according to records
read out at an
1880 Dean family picnic and reported in The
Xenia Gazette

James Dean’s Ancestry.  James Dean’s
ancestry goes back to John W. Dean who was born in Mercer county,
Kentucky in
1813 from parents who had probably arrived there from Virginia.  John moved to Indiana around 1840 and died at
Fairmount in unfortunate circumstances in 1890.

Dean of Fairmount met with
a peculiar accident on Saturday afternoon.
He was sitting in a chair at home when he accidentally became
dizzy and
fell forward to the floor.  A cut on his
head and a few bruises resulted.  He was
unconscious when he was picked up and remained so until Tuesday when he
died.  He was a well-known man in the

line from John went to Calvin, Charles Desco and then to Winton
Dean, the father of James Dean. Winton
Dean was born in Fairmount like his forebears.
He was a farmer who later became a dental technician.  James grew up in Fairmount and at the age of
18 joined his father in Los Angeles where he had settled.


Dean Names

  • Sir James Deane was an Elizabethan
    merchant adventurer who traded to India, China and the Spice Islands. 
  • Silas Deane was an American merchant, politician, and diplomat at the time of the Revolutionary War. 
  • Dizzy Dean was a baseball pitcher in the
    1930’s, best known for leading the 1934 Gashouse Gang St. Louis Cardinals. 
  • James Dean was an American actor who
    became a cultural icon of the 1950’s after his performance in Rebel Without a Cause and his subsequent death in a car crash. 
  • Christopher Dean was the English ice
    dancer who won a gold medal with his partner Jayne Torvill at the 1984 Winter Olympics

Select Dean Numbers Today

  • 44,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 42,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 29,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Dean and Like Surnames

These names are locational, describing someone who lived in those medieval times by the side of a bank, or by a barn or a lane or a shaw (which means a wood) or a wood and so forth.  Both the oak tree and the ash tree have in fact provided locational surnames – Oakes and Nash (from atten Ash).  Here are some of these locational surnames that you can check out.




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