Duval Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Duval Meaning
is a French surname meaning “of the valley” and would
describe someone who would be residing there.
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 Resources on

Duval Ancestry

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
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

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

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

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

Pierre Thuot dit
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

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,
iniitially 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 nost distinguiished record in his

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
  • 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 descandents were:

  • William
    Pope Duval
    who was the first civilian Governor of
    Florida, holding the post from 1822 to 1834.
  • and two of William’s sons who 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
    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

Jean Formy-Duval fled
Revolutionary France for Haiti and ended up around 1795 in Columbus
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

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 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

lies DuVall: reader, if male thou art,
to thy purse; if female, to thy heart.
havoc has he made of both; for all
made to stand, and women he made to fall
second Conqueror of the Norman race,
to his arm did yield, and ladies to
his face.
Tyburn’s glory; England’s illustrious thief,

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
the following year.  By 1712 he was
established in Montréal as a master baker and in that year married

Pierre and
Marie moved
between Montréal and Québec City several times, suggesting that his
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 –
case of declining family literacy which was
not unusual in French Canada at that time.

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

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

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.

1822, largely because of the
influence of his lifelong friend John C. Calhoun, President James
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.

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.

his career DuVal cultivated the arts of oratory and story-telling –
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,

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.

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.

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

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
not larger than a silver dollar, sewed up in silk.”

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.

youngest daughter
Rose, or “Little Rose,” lived through the death of both her parents and
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.

the divorce Rose appeared
on the stage for a time and then departed for France, retiring to the
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.



Select 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.

Select 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)


Select 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.


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