Duval Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Duval Surname Meaning

Duval is a French surname meaning “of the valley” and would describe someone residing there.  Duval and Duvall are the main spellings today.

The name crossed the Atlantic to French Canada as Duval. Normans brought the DuVal name to England. Huguenots brought DuVal also to America. But the spelling there became Duvall in one main line after a few generations.

Duval Surname Resources on The Internet

Duval and Duvall Surname Ancestry

  • from NW France (Normandy) and England
  • to Canada and America

There are some 35,000 Duvals in France today. The name has been highly concentrated in Normandy in NW France. Many were to be found at Alencon in Orne department. Georges Duval, the early 19th century French playwright, came from Valognes in Manche department.

England. Normans brought a version of the Duval name to England. The original family name may have been Valinscourt, reportedly descended from the Duke of Valors. This became in England de Val or de Wall or simply Wall over time. The Irish branch of the family, based at Dunmoylan castle in Limerick, assumed the Wall surname. One line here led to John Wall Du Val and to his grandson Charles Allen Du Val, a notable Victorian portrait painter.

Claude Du Vall, said to have come from a noble family in Normandy which had been stripped of its name and title, arrived in London in the early 1660’s. He pursued a short career as a “gentleman” highwayman before he was captured and executed in 1670.

At the time of the 1891 census there were fewer than 240 Duvals in England.

Canada. The earliest recorded Duval in French Canada was probably Jean Duval, a locksmith in Nova Scotia who had moved there from Normandy. He was implicated in a conspiracy to hand French Canada over to Spain and was hanged by the French in 1608.

Duvals from Normandy were also settlers in Quebec. Early marriages there showed:

  • Pierre and Romain Duval as husbands in the 1650’s, both sons of emigrants Pierre and Jeanne Duval
  • Jean Duval, a soldier who had arrived in the 1650’s and a husband at Contrecoeur in 1678
  • and Jean Duval, a husband in Quebec also in 1678. He was killed by Iroquois Indians twelve years later.

Pierre Thuot dit Duval arrived in Quebec just after 1700.

Not all of the Duvals in Canada were French. Edmund Hillyer Duval had come from London to St. John, New Brunswick in 1845 to teach and he established a British school there. But there were French roots in his past. Edmund’s great grandfather Pierre Duval had been a Huguenot weaver from Normandy who had moved to London in the 1730’s.

America. The Duval/Duvall lines in America stemmed primarily from two Huguenot immigrants, one into Maryland and the other into Virginia.

Maryland. Marin Duval, a Huguenot at his family estates in Normandy, became Mareen Duvall after his landing in Maryland in 1650. By the time of his death in 1699 he had become a considerable landowner there, owning several thousand acres in Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties. His primary home was the Middle Plantation in Anne Arundel.

Mareen was married three times and was the father of twelve children, most of them born in America. The main line of descent has been from his son Mareen. But there was also an older son John, initially left behind in France, who came to Maryland later, in 1678. This Captain John Duvall made his home at Wilson’s Grove plantation and had perhaps the most distinguished record in his lifetime.

Harry W. Newman’s 1952 book Mareen Duvall of Middle Plantation covered his descendants. Among his most notable Duvall descendants were:

  • Gabriel Duvall, a US Associate Supreme Court Justice from 1811 to 1835
  • Isaac Duval, a brigadier general in the Union army during the Civil War
  • Betty Duvall, a Confederate spy in the Civil War
  • and (much later) the actor Robert Duvall.

One Duvall line, through John Miles Duvall and his son Jacob, migrated in the late 1780’s from Maryland to Kentucky where they eventually settled in Grayson county. John Miles had married into a Catholic family and Catholics were not particularly welcome in Maryland at that time.

“Family legend has John Miles Duvall dying in Virginia by drowning in the Potomac river around 1787. He was supposedly taking his family, along with several other Catholic families, to Kentucky.”

Kentucky is the state with the largest numbers of Duvalls today.

Virginia. Daniel Duval, another Huguenot known in France as Chevalier Duval, fled Normandy for England from where he departed on the Nassau in 1701 for Virginia. His line was covered in Bessie Grabowski’s 1931 book The DuVal Family of Virginia. Among his descendants were:

  • William Pope Duval was the first civilian Governor of Florida, holding the post from 1822 to 1834.  Duval Street in Key West was named after him, as was Duval county in northern Florida.
  • and two of William’s sons participated in the failed Texas Revolution against Mexico in 1835. Burr was executed, but John survived to make a name for himself as “the father of Texas literature.” Another son Thomas became a prominent Texas judge. Their story was told in Roy Swift’s 1995 book Civilizers: The DuVals of Texas.

Other Sightings.  William Devol from Lincolnshire came to America in 1640 and settled in Rhode Island. He was said to have been of Huguenot origin. It looks like some of his descendants became Davall or Duvall:

  • the Davalls of Sag Harbor, Long Island included in their number Captain John Davall who was killed in Savannah, Georgia in 1801 by the accidental firing of a cannon during the July 4th celebrations.  
  • while George Duvall from Rhode Island settled in Shelter Island in the 1860’s. Ralph Duvall wrote a history of the island in 1932.

Dr. Jean Formy-Duval fled Revolutionary France for Haiti and ended up around 1795 in Columbus county, North Carolina. He was an early cotton planter there. His son John settled in Florida and fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War. Some descendants shortened their surname to Duval.

Canadian Duvals crossed the border into America. Included in their number were the descendants of early immigrant Pierre Thuot dit Duval – some of them migrating to Monroe county, Michigan near Detroit in the late 1700’s while Charles and Sarah Duval arrived in Wisconsin in 1873.

Duval Surname Miscellany

Duvals and Duvalls Today

000’s Duvals Duvalls Total
UK     1     1
America    4     8    12
Canada    11    11
Total    16     8    24

Claude Du Vall the Highwayman.  Claude Du Vall, the gentleman highwayman, was hanged at Tyburn in January 1670 and reportedly buried under the centre aisle of the church of St. Paul’s, Covent Garden.  A memorial at the church reads:

  • “Here lies DuVall: reader, if male thou art,
  • Look to thy purse; if female, to thy heart.
  • Much havoc has he made of both; for all
  • Men he made to stand, and women he made to fall
  • The second Conqueror of the Norman race,
  • Knights to his arm did yield, and ladies to his face.
  • Old Tyburn’s glory; England’s illustrious thief,
  • Du Vall, the ladies’ joy; Du Vall, the ladies’ grief.”

Pierre Thuot dit Duval in Quebec.  Edme Thuot was a master baker in the town of Tonnerre in Burgundy, about 120 miles southeast of Paris.  While he was undoubtedly a respected tradesman, it was a distinct social step upward when he married Marie Louise Duval, the daughter of a royal bailiff, in 1668.  From that time forward, he and his descendants were known as Thuot dit Duval (Thuot also known as Duval).

Their son Pierre decided to emigrate to New France shortly after 1700.  By 1709 he was in Montréal where he fathered an illegitimate child who was born early the following year.  By 1712 he was established in Montréal as a master baker and in that year married Marie Fournier.

Pierre and Marie moved between Montréal and Québec City several times, suggesting that his baking enterprise may have been more than just a single shop.  Between 1713 and 1725 they had ten children.  Pierre was able to sign his marriage record and all of his children’s baptism records, which some of his sons could not – a case of declining family literacy which was not unusual in French Canada at that time.

The Thuot dit Duval surname remained in place with his descendants in Quebec until the mid/late 19th century and then became Duval.

Reader Feedback – Pierre Thuot dit Duval.   I am a descendant of Pierre-Edme Thuot and Marie Louice Duval from Tonnerre in France who were born in the mid-1600’s. I was able to visit the church where they were baptized and married. Any info would be appreciated. I have lots of info from the 1600’s to 2023.

Jim Duval (jimduval@dccnet.com).

Early Duval Marriages in Quebec

Date Location Husband Wife
1656 Quebec Pierre Duval Marie Jamare
1659 Quebec Marin Duval Anne-Antoinette Durand
1661 Quebec Romain
Adrienne Leclerc
1678 Contrecoeur Jean Duval Marie Lamy
1678 Quebec Jean Duval Marie Lemaitre

Reader Feedback – The Mareen DuVall Line.  I am a DuVall, descended from Mareen DuVall, the immigrant. The DuVall family family history is so interesting and easy to trace because of our illustrious ancestors. We also have many notable relatives. It’s amazing to see how many descendants have come from one American immigrant, three wives, and twelve children.

Steven DuVall (sonicsteven66@gmail.com).

William Pope DuVal.  The scion of a well-to-do Richmond, Virginia family, William Pope DuVal migrated to the Kentucky frontier as a youth in 1800. Settling in Bardstown, DuVal read law, served in Congress, and fought in the War of 1812.

In 1822, largely because of the influence of his lifelong friend John C. Calhoun, President James Monroe appointed DuVal the first civil governor of the newly acquired territory of Florida.  During his twelve years there DuVal founded Tallahassee and oversaw Middle Florida’s development into one of the Old Southwest’s most prosperous slave-based economies.

After leaving the governor’s chair, he returned to Kentucky, lent his efforts to the cause of Texas independence from Mexico, and eventually returned to practice law and local politics in Florida.

Throughout his career DuVal cultivated the arts of oratory and story-telling – skills essential to success in the courtrooms and free-for-all politics of the American South.  Part frontiersman and part sophisticate, DuVal was at home in Kentucky, Florida, Texas, and Washington, D.C.  He delighted in telling tall tales, jests, and anecdotes that epitomized America’s expansive, democratic vistas.

Among those captivated by DuVal’s life and yarns were Washington Irving, who used DuVal’s tall tales as inspiration for his The Early Experiences of Ralph Ringwood, and James Kirke Paulding, whose Nimrod Wildfire shared DuVal’s brashness and bonhomie.

The Greenhows and Duvalls.  Two Greenhow women – mother and daughter – were closely connected in different ways with Duvalls from Maryland.

Rose Greenhow the mother was a Confederate spy in Washington DC at the time of the Civil War.  In April 1861 she passed on the information that Federal troops would be marching on Manassas in mid-July.

Her courier, a young woman named Betty Duvall, rode out of Washington by way of the Chain Bridge dressed as a country girl.  Meeting General Bonham at the Fairfax County Courthouse, Duvall advised him that she had an urgent message for General Beauregard.

“Upon my announcing that I would have it faithfully forwarded at once,” Bonham later recalled, “she took out her tucking comb and let fall the longest and most beautiful roll of hair I have ever seen. She took then from the back of her head, where it had been safely tied, a small package, not larger than a silver dollar, sewed up in silk.”

Rose Greenhow’s ending was tragic.  Suspected as a spy, she was imprisoned in Washington DC but later released. She traveled to London and published her memoirs. But on her return to America in 1864, her ship was pursued by a Union gunboat.  Fearing capture and re-imprisonment, Greenhow fled the grounded ship by rowboat. A wave capsized the rowboat and she was drowned.

Her youngest daughter Rose, or “Little Rose,” lived through the death of both her parents and her sister.  Growing up, she fell in love with a young West Pointer, Lieutenant William Penn Duvall, and they married in 1871.  He enjoyed a distinguished military career, ending up as a general. On the downside he was a severe disciplinarian, both in and out of the army, and as a result he and Rose ultimately divorced.

After the divorce Rose appeared on the stage for a time and then departed for France, retiring to the Sacred Hearts Convent there.

Mareen Duvall to Robert Duvall

  • Mareen Duvall (1625-1699) the emigrant to America
  • – Mareen Duvall the Elder (1662-1735) in Maryland
  • — Mareen Duvall the Younger (1687-1741) in Maryland
  • — Samual Duvall (1714-1783) in Maryland
  • —- William Duvall (1738-1815) in Maryland and Virginia
  • —– William Henry Duvall (1788-1873) in Virginia
  • —— Andrew Jackson Duvall (1829-1900) in Virginia
  • ——- Abraham Lincoln Duvall (1861-1928) in Virginia
  • ——– William Howard Duvall (1904-1984) the US Navy admiral, in Virginia and Maryland
  • ——— Robert Duvall (b. 1931) the actor, in Maryland and Virginia

Robert Duvall grew up primarily in Annapolis, Maryland, the site of the United States Naval Academy.  He recalled: “I was a Navy brat.  My father started at the Academy when he was 16, made captain at 39 and retired as a rear admiral.”  He has been married four times, but none of these marriages have produced children.

Duval Names

  • Claude Du Vall from Normandy was a famous highwayman in the roads around London in the 1660’s.
  • Mareen Duvall, a French Huguenot, arrived in Maryland in 1650 and was the forebear of most Duvalls in America.
  • William Duval was the first civilian Governor of Florida, from 1822 to 1834.
  • Robert Duvall is an Oscar-winning American actor.

Duval Numbers Today

  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 12,000 in America (most numerous in Kentucky)
  • 11,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Duval 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.


Written by Colin Shelley

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