Durant Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Durant Meaning
The names Durant, Durrant and Durand are of French origin and come from the Old French durant, meaning “enduring.” The words could describe someone who is steadfast or else possibly obstinate.
Durand is more common in France and French Quebec, Durrant in England, and Durant in America. The names first came to England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. They were also names of later French Huguenot refugees.

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Durant/Durand Ancestry

Guillaume Durand, a 13th century liturgical writer, came from a noble family in Languedoc. Today there are some 90,000 Durands in France, mainly in the south of the country, and a smaller number of 3,000 Durants in northern France and French-speaking Belgium.

Durants left Normandy for England at the time of the Norman Conquest. More Durands departed later in the 16th century and later, either Huguenot refugees or emigrants to French Quebec. Marie Durand was one Huguenot left behind who suffered in the hands of the authorities.

England. Durants are believed to have crossed the Channel from France to England and settled in Cornwall as early as the 11th century. Certainly the name has been long-established there. Durants were recorded at Leigh in the 1300’s and at Pensinams in the 1400’s.

Richard Durant who died in 1632 was twice mayor of Bodmin and was recorded on his tombstone at St. Petroc’s as having two wives and nineteen children. One of his sons, John, was a Puritan preacher who was deprived of his living after the Restoration. And many have heard the  story of Dorothy Durant, the ghost of Botathen.

Among the Huguenot refugees to England were:

  • a Durant family which arrived in England from France around the year 1570 and settled in Maldon, Essex. Descendant George Durant departed for America in the 1650’s.  
  • John Durant who came to North Tawton in Devon sometime in the early 1700’s and engaged in the wool trade. The business thrived until the wool trade took a downturn at the time of the Napoleonic wars.
  • and a Durand family which fled their home in Montpelier in 1685 and initially settled in Holland. They later made the move to England. In 1795 Daniel Francois Durand was appointed Dean of St. Peter Port in Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

East Anglia. Durrant is primarily an East Anglian name, with most sightings in Norfolk and Suffolk. The Durrants of Scottow in NE Norfolk claimed descent from an earlier Derbyshire family. They had established themselves at Scottow House in the late 16th century and, after Thomas Durrant was High Sheriff of Norfolk in 1784, became baronets.

There were Durrants in the coastal town of Lowestoft in Suffolk by the 17th century. One family were merchants and brewers. Dorothy Durrant testified in the Lowestoft witch trial of 1662. The Durrant name appeared in Stowmarket, Walton, Bucklesham, and Ixworth parish records in Suffolk from the early 18th century.

Elsewhere.  The Rev. Robert Durant was rector at Hagley in Worcestershire in the late 1600’s. From his respectable family came
less-than-respectable descendants.

George Durant got rich, it is believed, from the slave trade and bought with the proceeds the entire village of Tong on Shropshire’s eastern border in 1764. Both he and his son George were noted for their wanton lifestyles and illicit affairs. The children of son George and his mistress Mary Bradbury took the name of St. George and emigrated to New Zealand.


Canada
. There were French soldiers and settlers in what was then called New France as early as the 1650’s. The King even encouraged young women to emigrate through his “fille du roi” program. Their numbers included Francoise Durand who married Jacques Beaudauin in New France in 1671.

A Parisian family by the name of Durand was in Quebec City in 1661 and others of that name followed in the next decade. Jean Durand from Doeul-sur-le-Mignon in SW France was an enlistee, accepting service in New France for a three year period.
He arrived in 1657 and decided to stay, marrying a local Huron woman. His line was documented in Joseph Durand’s 1954 book Jean Durand et Sa Posterite. Son Louis Durand, born in Quebec in 1670, was an early explorer of this new land, venturing as far away as Minnesota.

Francis Durant, born in Quebec of French parents in 1780, migrated to Dundas county in Ontario with his four sons to farm in the early 1830’s.


America
. Early Durant arrivals were French Huguenots from France and from England.

Huguenots. George Durant, a descendant of Huguenot immigrants into England, was to be found in Middleton, Connecticut by the 1650’s. Edward Durant of this family was a prominent landowner in Newton, Massachusetts in the next century. The line was covered in Rev. William Durant’s 1895 book A History of the Descendants of George and Elizabeth Durant.  

Dr. John Durand from La Rochelle arrived in America sometime in the 1690’s and settled in Derby, Connecticut. Descendants included Asher Brown Durand, one of the founder members of the Hudson river school of painting. The family history was covered in Alvy Ray Smith’s 2003 book Dr. John Durand of Derby, Connecticut and His Family.  

Henry DuRant came to South Carolina sometime in the late 1600’s. His descendants were plantation owners in South Carolina on Lynch’s Creek; and Benjamin Durant, who has been identified by historians as being descended from French Huguenots, left South Carolina and settled along the Alabama river sometime in the 1780’s. His family intermarried with local Creek and Choctaw Indians, with one line founding Durant Town in Oklahoma.

New England.  There were two prominent later Durants from early New England settlers:

  • one line from George Durant descended to Thomas C. Durant, a prominent financier and railroad promoter of the mid-19th century. He lost much, however, in the 1873 panic. His son William West Durant helped promote the Adirondacks
    Mountains in upstate New York for tourism.  
  • while another line began with Edward Durant, born in Boston in 1725. Billy Durant was born there in 1861, but at the age of ten moved with his family to Flint, Michigan where he was to make his mark as one of the pioneers of the American automobile industry.

Will Durant, the co-author with his wife of The Story of Civilization, was born near Boston in 1885. He was the son of French-Canadian
parents who had been part of the 19th century Quebec emigration to the United States. Other
Quebec Durand families settled in Minnesota and Wisconsin.


Louisiana.  The Durand name was to be found in Louisiana, Durand being one of the family names of Acadians forced into exile in Louisiana in 1755.

But the best-known Durand of that region was Charles Durand. He had arrived from France in 1820 and established one of the Louisiana’s largest sugar cane plantations at St. Martinville. His home was the setting for the famous story handed down about his daughters’ spider wedding.

 


Durant Miscellany

Durands, Durants and Durrants Today

Numbers (000’s) Durands Durants Durrants
France   90    2
Belgium    1
UK    1    2    9
Canada    9    2    1
USA    2    3
Elsewhere    1    1
Total  102   11   11

Marie Durand, The Huguenot Girl Who Refused to Abjure.  In 1730 in southern France, a young girl by the name of Marie Durand was brought before the authorities charged with the Huguenot heresy. She was just fourteen years of age, bright, attractive, and marriageable. She was asked to abjure (recant, deny) the Huguenot faith and say: “J’abjure.”  She would not comply.  She was put in a tower by the sea, together with thirty other Huguenot women.

For thirty eight years this treatment continued.  And instead of the hated word “J’abjure,” she – together with her fellow martyrs – scratched on the wall of the prison tower the single word “Resistez,” resist!  The word is still to be seen and gaped at by tourists on the stone wall at Aigues-Mortes.

Dorothy Durant, Ghost of Botathen.  The story of Dorothy Durant, the ghost of Botathen (a small hamlet on the Cornish/Devon border), first appeared in the journal of the Rev. John Ruddall, the curate at Launceston, in 1665.  It became a favorite of writers on the supernatural ever since.

Ruddall’s help had been sought by a Mr. Bligh whose son was experiencing a haunting that was affecting him both mentally and physically.  Every morning on his way to his tutors, the boy would pass by fields and meet the ghost of Dorothy Durant who had died about three years earlier.

Both the Reverend and Mr. Bligh went along with the boy one morning and also observed the specter. They well knew this woman during her lifetime and had been present at her burial.  The minister described the apparition as having a pale and stony face, misty hair, and eyes fixed firm on something far away.  One arm was outstretched and her other hand was on her girdle. She glided past the spot where they stood without looking at them.

Ruddall sought permission from the bishop to exorcise the spirit.  Two days later he went back to the spot wearing an inscribed ring and carrying a rowan stick.  He marked a circle and a pentacle on the grass.  The next day at sunrise he redrew his circle and the ghost entered it willingly.  He performed the exorcism and the spirit glided off westward and was never seen again.

Dorothy Durrant and the Lowestoft Witch Trial.  William Durrant had married Dorothy Fox in 1654 and they were to have eight children.  The first of them – William born in 1655 – was the infant whom Dorothy claimed had been stricken by Amy Denny’s diabolical machinations when he was two.  The second whom Dorothy claimed was “bewitched” was Elizabeth. She was a daughter from William’s first marriage, Dorothy being her stepmother. According to Dorothy’s testimony, Elizabeth died at Lowestoft in March 1659.

Amy Denny was tried and hanged as a witch three years later. 

John Durant’s Murder on Lynch’s Creek.  John Durant had a large plantation of slaves on Lynch’s Creek which he willed to John Ashmore, his nephew. One night in 1842 the uncle was drunk.  John Ashmore was said to have tied a silk handkerchief round his neck and strangled him in order to take possession of the property.  He also took liberties with the female slaves.

Three brothers of the deceased – Alex, Davy, and Dr. Durant – believed John Ashmore had murdered their brother and they sued him for the property.

Durant Town, Oklahoma.  Durant Town, the capital of Choctaw Nation in Indian Territory, was located just north of the Texas border. The Durants, after whom the town was named, had married into the Choctaws of Mississippi.  In the 1830’s, they were removed from their homelands and forced to ply a “Trail of Tears” westward. Pierre Durant and his four sons all made this journey.  On their arrival at the Choctaw Nation, they claimed property in and around present-day Durant.

Pierre’s grandson Dixon is recognized as the founder of Durant.  The town had originally been named Durant Station in 1872 when an old boxcar had been placed along the tracks of the Union Pacific Railway.  Though small, Durant boasted a Main Street stretching nearly three electrically-lit blocks, several hotels, a bank, a cotton gin, a flour mill, and a post office.

Charles Durand and the Spider Wedding.  Charles Larroque’s Memories of St. Martinville contained the following on Charles Durand and his extravagances:

“Oak and Pine Alley was planted by the slaves of Charles Jerome Durand around 1829.  The three-mile alley leading from the Bayou Teche to Durand’s house was a veritable landmark, leaving no doubt as to the social position of the property owner.  Like the sugarcane he planted, Durand’s imagination knew no bounds.  The plantation family was awakened each morning to servants spraying perfumes with promenades in gold-ornamental carriages rivaling even those of Versailles.

In 1850, on the occasion of the simultaneous weddings of his two daughters, Durand’s slaves decorated the arboreal alley in a manner befitting his most eccentric nature.  Prolific web-spinning spiders were brought in (some say from the nearby Atchafalaya Basin, others say from as far away as China) and were released in the trees to go about their arachnidan business.  Then slaves went to their task of coating the dewy, billowing webs with gold and silver dust blown from bellows.  And under this splendidly shimmering canopy proceeded the ethereal promenade of the wedding party and its two thousand guests.”

Durand in fact ordered a large shipment of spiders from China and he sent couriers to California to fetch hundreds of pounds of silver and gold dust.  Shortly before the wedding day, the spiders
were released, and spun countless, delicate webs bridging the limbs and Spanish mosses of the oak and pine trees that led up to the mansion.   Legend has it that servants placed elegant carpets beneath the trees, leading to an open-air altar at the far end of the alley.  The wedding was known locally and even to this day simply as “the spider wedding.”

The wedding was probably Charles Durand’s last hurrah.  He had lost much of his wealth after the Civil War. His slaves were freed, his home was damaged, his sugar mill was seized, and he died five years later in 1870.

 


Durant Names
  • George Durant was an early settler in the Carolinas and has
    sometimes been called the father of North Carolina. 
  • Billy Durant was a leading pioneer of the American automobile industry, a co-founder of both Chevrolet and General Motors.   
  • William J. Durant was an American writer, best known for his mammoth The Story of Civilization, co-written with his wife Ariel between 1935 and 1975.
Durant/Durrant/Durand Numbers Today
  • 12,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 5,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 14,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
Durant and Like Surnames.

These are French-originated names, French Canadian surnames that were brought by French settlers to what was then New France.  Many are found in Louisiana after the Acadian exodus from the Canadian maritime provinces in the 18th century.  Here are some of the French surnames that you can check out.

BernardDurantLandryTrudeau
BlanchardDuvalMartinVincent

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