Jenner Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Jenner Surname Meaning
The root of Jenner was the French engigneor or engineer.  At the time of the Norman Conquest the name described the men who dug the military siege trenches and worked the catapults and siege machines.  Most Jenners were to be found in southeast England in East Sussex and across the border into Kent.  The story goes that there were “engineers” who had come over with William the Conqueror but had become disgruntled for their lack of reward.  So they refused to integrate into the newly conquered country and stayed in the East Sussex area where they had landed.

Jenner Surname Resources on

Jenner Surname Ancestry

England.  Jenner has been a relatively common name in Sussex and Kent and was also to be found in the west country, in Gloucestershire..

Sussex  The name in Sussex was to be found in coastal towns such as Hastings and Brighton and in wealden villages such as Withyham, Worth, Ticehurst, and Wadhurst.  Thomas Jenner from Mayfield was a judge who rose to become Baron of the Exchequer and a Justice of the Common Pleas in the 1680’s.  Two Jenner brothers from Rotherfield founded the Jenner brewery in London.

Kent  A Jenner family originally from Brede in East Sussex were cutlers in Cranbrook in Kent in the 1600’s.  Other Jenners were stone cutters in the quarries near Tunbridge Wells.  And Jenners were country gentry in Chislehurst, Kent from the 1750’s and possibly earlier. 

The Kent town of Chatham on the Medway could boast to be the birthplace in 1810 of Charles Jenner, the founder of Jenners of Edinburgh, and in 1815 of Sir William Jenner, Queen Victoria’s doctor.  Less famous was George Jenner, born there in 1814, who became a shoemaker.

Gloucestershire.  The most renowned Jenner was not from Sussex or Kent.  Edward Jenner was born in Berkeley, Gloucestershire in 1749, the son of the local vicar, and he spent most of his career as a doctor in his native town.

In 1796 he carried out his now famous experiment on eight-year-old James Phipps.  He was testing the theory, drawn from the folklore of the countryside, that milkmaids who suffered the mild disease of cowpox never contracted smallpox, one of the greatest killers of the period.  Jenner subsequently proved that Phipps, after having been inoculated with cowpox, would be immune to smallpox.

There had been an earlier outbreak of smallpox in the Dorset village of Yetminster where, curiously, a cluster of Jenners (originally Ginners) was to be found.  This village was proficient in the leather and glove trade and Henry Jenner and his son Harry brought that skill with them when they emigrated to America in 1864.

The first Jenner in America was probably Richard Jenner who was brought to New Jersey sometime in the 1640’s by Hannah, his widowed mother.  

“Richard Jenner, a gentleman of considerable property and an officer in the British army, who, dying in a foreign expedition, left a widow and three sons in London.” 

Another report has him dying during the passage to America.

This family, traced in Carl Mitton’s 1990 booklet The Jenner Family, lived in Woodbury, Connecticut for a considerable period of time.  A Jenner Bible handed down marked succeeding generations.  One line led to Chautauqua county in western New York. Another line led to Kentucky and Indiana and Bill Jenner, the Indiana Senator and anti-communist crusader of the 1950’s.

The Jenners in America today number less than a thousand.  They may be either of English or German origin. Henry Jenner came from Sussex in the 1840’s and settled in upstate New York.  Another Jenner family traces its roots back to Wuerttenberg in Germany.  Jenner here may have come from the South German Janner after Januarius (the first month of the year).

Canada.  John Jenner from Sussex had joined the British army in 1841 and they sent him to Canada.  He decided to stay on his release in 1852 and made his home in New Brunswick where he was married four times.

William Jenner, born there in 1923, was a tree surgeon who settled in New York.  His son Bruce Jenner, the man who won an Olympic gold medal, became a woman, Caitlyn Jenner, in 2015.

Australia.  Isaac Jenner from Sussex settled in Brisbane, Queensland in the 1880’s. He was a landscape painter.  Although his contribution to art in Brisbane was considerable, his claim to be the founder of art in the colony was somewhat exaggerated.


Jenner Surname Miscellany

Jenner Brewers from Sussex.  Robert and Henry Jenner from Rotherfield in Sussex founded Jenner’s brewery in south London in 1787.  Based in Southwark, this family-owned brewery came to be known in Victorian times as the theater brewers.

The Victorian proprietors were Robert Jenner, followed by his son Albert Jenner, and then by his son Harold Jenner in the early 1900’s.  The brewery premises on Southwark Bridge Road had gotten rather dated by that time.  Harold devoted himself to his music.  He was the organist at St. John’s Presbyterian church in Kensington for 21 years and conductor of the Kensington Choral Society for 18 years.

In 1938 Anthony Jenner sold the business to Woodhead’s and after the war joined Harveys, the Sussex brewers in Lewes, as their head brewer. His son Miles now carries on the family tradition as Harveys’ head brewer.

The Jenners of Chislehurst and St. Columb Major.  A tomb within the iron railings of St. Nicholas church, Chislehurst contains the following inscription:

“Sacred to the memory of Robert Jenner esq. who departed this life on December 2, 1810, aged 67 years.  Also to the memory of Ann, his widow, who departed this life on August 24, 1827, aged 78 years.

Sacred also to the memory of the Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert Jenner Fust, second son of Robert Jenner esq, aforesaid Dean of the Arches and Judge of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.  He died on February 20, 1852, aged 74 years.  Also to the memory of Elizabeth, wife of Sir Herbert Jenner, who died on July 29, 1828, aged 44 years.”

Profession apart, Sir Herbert was said to have lived for cricket.  He was also reputed to have been the second best real tennis player in England in his time.  However, in his later years he became so infirm that he had to be carried in and out of court by two footmen.

Sir Herbert’s son Henry was one of the two curates to the rector of St. Columb Major in Cornwall. His son Henry, born there in 1848, became a great authority on Celtic languages, was a senior bard of the Cornish Gorsedd, and did much to promote the revival of Cornish as a living language.  Another branch of the Chislehurst Jenners made their home at Wenvoe castle in Glamorgan.

Isaac Jenner, Marine Painter.  Isaac Jenner, the son of a Brighton blacksmith, joined the Royal Navy in 1855 at 18, and sailed the seas for a decade.  He then returned to Brighton, learned to paint, and found work as a landscape and marine painter.  His most popular subjects were the Sussex and Cornish coasts and large historical seascapes.  In 1883, after having experienced difficulties with picture dealers, he decided to emigrate and set off with his large family for Brisbane in Queensland.

There he made a living by selling paintings, holding art unions and by teaching. However, he soon found Brisbane lacking in sufficient taste and civilized pursuits for him, while he felt his own talents went unrecognized.  So he removed himself to the outer suburb of Taringa where he lived and worked for the last twelve years of his life.

Bill Jenner of Crawford County, Indiana.  Bill Jenner was born in 1908 to Woody and Jane Jenner in a two-room smokehouse in the small town of Marengo in the hills of south Indiana. As a youngster he would sit around the potbellied stove in the Jenner general store and listen to his father, the Republican chairman of Crawford county, spin tales of the Republican heroes of yesteryear.

Bill started his political life in Indiana during the Depression years.  He became a US Senator in 1946 and earned a reputation as an anti-communist crusader, second only to Joseph McCarthy.

The Jenners in Marengo date back to the 1840’s when Stephen Jenner arrived there with his family from Kentucky.  His brother
Ezra joined him later.  Their father Samuel was a native of Vermont who had fought in the War of 1812.  The line before that went back to Woodbury, Connecticut.

John Jenner and His Four Wives.  John Jenner, born in Sussex in 1817,  had enlisted in the British army in 1841 and left the service in Halifax, Nova Scotia in July 1852.  He moved to New Brunswick where he married four times:

  • he married Mary Ann Greaves in St. John, New Brunswick in February 1853.  However, she died just over a year later, in August 1854.
  • his second marriage happened quite quickly, in November 1854, to Elizabeth Fowler.  This marriage lasted thirteen years and produced two sons, Thomas and John.  But then she died in April 1867.
  • the third wife was Sophia Lafurgey, whom he married in October 1867 in Sussex, New Brunswick.  One son Frederick resulted before her death seven years later in 1874.
  • while wife number four, Elizabeth Mills, married in March 1875, produced three children – Caroline, Hedley and Alfred.  She was thirty four years younger than John when they married and she outlived him by sixty one years.  John died in 1893 at the age of 76 and she in 1954 at the age 0f 103.

The next generation of Jenners remained in New Brunswick, with the exception of John who was ordained as a Baptist minister and was stationed at different times in Nova Scotia and Massachusetts.

The line from John extended:

  • to William Jenner who moved to New York and  fought with the US army during World War Two (earning the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his valor during D-Day)
  • and then to Bruce Jenner, the Olympic gold medalist in 1976 who became Caitlyn Jenner in 2015.

Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and the Kardashians.  Bruce Jenner came from an East Coast athletics background on both his father’s and grandfather’s side.   As he told a sports magazine interviewer:   “By the time I turned two, I’d already developed a big chest, wide shoulders, and boundless energy.”  He won a gold medal in the decathlon in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

But he is better known now as a California TV celebrity. In 1991 he married Kris Kardashian, the divorced wife of lawyer Robert Kardashian.  Since the 2007 debut of the TV reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, he has appeared as the step-father to the four Kardashian siblings – Kourtney, Kim, Khloe and Rob.  In 2015 he announced that he had become a woman, Caitlyn Jenner.


Jenner Names
  • Edward Jenner was the celebrated English scientist credited in the early 19th century with devising a vaccine for smallpox. 
  • Charles Jenner who had moved from the south to Edinburgh started a drapery store on Princes Street in the 1830’s.  Now known as Jenners, it is probably the best known of Edinburgh’s shops. 
  • Sir William Jenner was the physician who discovered the difference between typhus and typhoid.  He was also Queen Victoria’s doctor. 
  • Henry Jenner was a Celtic scholar who published the Cornish language handbook in 1904 which helped in its revival as a language. 
  • Bruce Jenner was the American track athlete who won the 1976 Olympic decathlon Gold Medal.  He has since made his name in American reality TV and become a woman known as Caitlyn Jenner.
  • Terry Jenner played as a spin bowler for the Australian cricket team in the 1970’s and later acted as a mentor for that great spin bowler Shane Warne.

Jenner Numbers Today
  • 6,000 in the UK (most numerous in Kent)
  • 800 in America (most numerous in California).
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia) 


Jenner and Like Surnames

Some surnames have come from SE England, in particular the counties of Kent, Surrey and Sussex.  These are some of the noteworthy surnames that you can check out.




Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply