Jennings Surname Genealogy

Jennings is a patronymic surname, deriving from the
early medieval names of Janyn and Jenyn which themselves came from the
diminutive “little John” of John.
It was a Captain Jennens who was said to have had the honor of bringing
the body of Richard the Lionheart back to England in 1200.  Early
spellings of the surname were Walter
Jannes and Richard Janyns, both being recorded in the subsidy rolls of
Worcestershire in

Jennings Resources on

Jennings Ancestry

One theory is that the Jennings came from Yorkshire and that they were
originally Saxons before the Conquest; while some have given Jennings a Danish origin.
Whether these orgins were true or
not, the Jennings name had become quite widespread in England by the
16th century.  It could be found in Yorkshire, Derbyshire,
Warwickshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey, and Somerset in the west

One of Henry VIII”s favorites was a Robert Jennings of Shettle in
Derbyshire.  He presented Robert with a sword and belt in 1545
which have been preserved by his descendants.

A Jennings family had inherited the Sandridge estate in Hertfordshire
from the Rowlatts in the 1570’s.  John Jennings, knighted in 1603,
died a lunatic in 1609.  But his son Sir John Jennings was High
Sheriff for
Hertfordshire and the MP for St. Albans.  And his granddaughter
Sarah married the Duke of Marlborough and, through her close friendship
with Queen Anne, was one of the most influential persons of her

Then there the British admiral Sir John Jennings, descended from a
Shropshire family that had suffered for its adherence to the Royalist
cause during the Civil War.  He was at the capture of Gibraltar in
1704 and was knighted for his gallant conduct at that time.

Another John Jennings had been a quartermaster under Cromwell and
owned nearly all of the land on which Birmingham now stands.  He
established the iron works there which were the basis of the city’s
later wealth.  One of his grandsons was William Jennens or Jennings who
left a huge unclaimed fortune on his death in 1798.

Ireland.  Jennings is an
Irish surname of Anglo-Norman origin, from MacSheoinin or MacJonin
meaning “son of little Sean.” They were a subset of the Burke sept
which settled in Mayo and Galway.
These Jennings tended to be strongly attached to the Catholic
faith.  John Jennings of Ballymurphy forfeited his Irish estates
in 1633 rather than change his Catholic religion.  A descendant of
was the Sir Patrick Jennings who became Premier of New South Wales in

Jennings from
Dr. Theobald Jennings who left his native Ireland In 1738 at the time
of the
Penal laws to practice as a physician for SW France:

  • his
    Charles Edward Jennings – better known as Kilmaine, his homeland in
    county Mayo – was one of the greatest Irish soldiers to serve France in
    the 18th century.  He was committed both to the cause of Irish
    independence and to that of the French Revolution.
  • Kilmaine’s
    cousin John Jennings, a doctor back in Ireland, died young
    from a fever he contracted while
    attending a patient in his native Galway.  His death
    occasioned the lament known as Doctúir Jennings.

America.   Many early
Jennings came to New England.

New England.
Early settlers included
Nicholas Jennings who arrived in 1634 on the Francis from Ipswich.  He
settled first in Hartford and later in New Haven and Saybrook where he
suffered various misadventures.  Joshua Jennings, believed to
have been
his brother, was one of the first settlers of Fairfield, Connecticut
in the early 1650’s.

In 1677 Stephen Jennings of Hatfield,
Massachusetts achieved legendary
status for his daring rescue expedition in tracking an Indian raiding
party that had kidnapped his wife and daughters and taken them to
Canada.  He was able to arrange for their
ransom and negotiate their safe return to Massachusetts.  After
this escapade he moved his family to Brookfield.  The farm that he
established there was to remain with the Jennings family into the 20th

Elsewhere.  John
Jennings was an early settler in Southampton, Long Island.
When the British ordered his descendant Israel Jennings to swear
allegiance to the Crown or to give up his home, he elected to
relinquish his property.  He migrated to Kentucky and then to
Ohio.  He was the maternal great-grandfather of William Jennings
Bryan, the Great Commoner.

Another Jennings of this line had moved to New Jersey by the time of
the Revolutionary War.  Dr. Jacob Jennings was a surgeon and
officer from Hunterdon county at that time.  According to Jennings
lore, he was one of those wounded with Washington at Trenton.  He
recovered and later became a pastor in Readington.  His sons
west to Ohio and Indiana.  Jonathan Jennings was the first
Governor of Indiana in 1816.

William Jennings of uncertain origins was to
be found in Virginia – first in Hanover county and then in Nottoway
county – in
the mid/late 1700’s.
  Later Jennings in America were as
likely to be
of Irish origin as of English origin. There were also some German
who became Jennings in America.

Richard Jennings, born in 1600, first appeared
in Bermuda records when he was involved in 1622 in the salvaging of a
shipwreck.  He prospered there.  When he died in 1669 he divided his
considerable land holdings and eleven slaves to his sons Richard and
John who
built upon this wealth, in large part through smuggling.

A Rev. Henry Jennings,
following Richard Jennings, came to Bermuda in 1635.
He was probably the forebear of Captain
Henry Jennings, the Jamaican-based pirate.

Canada.  A
Jennings Quaker family from Vermont crossed
the border into Canada and settled in Norwich township in SW Ontario in
early 1800’s.  Solomon Jennings, a farmer
there, was the father of a remarkable woman – Emily Stowe nee Jennings.  She was the first female public school
principal in Ontario, the first Canadian woman to openly practice
medicine, and
a founding member of the Canadian Women’s Suffrage Association.

South Africa.  A Jennings family was among the 1820 Settlers to
the Eastern CapeThe
young James, who grew
up near Grahamstown, later moved to Transvaal and became a famous
hunter.  He would make expeditions with his
sons into
Matabeleland and even as far away as the Zambezi valley.

.  George and Margaret
Jennings departed West
Cork for New Zealand in 1875.  They made
their home in Otara, a small community near Invercargill on South
Island.  Their descendants celebrated the
of their arrival there in 1977.  Gregg
Jennings’ 1985 book
The Jennings Family: West Cork to New Worlds covered the family history.

Jennings Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Jennings Names

Henry Jennings was a
successful pirate who operated out of Jamaica against the Spanish in
the early 18th century.
Sir Patrick Jennings was an
Irish-Australian politician who became Premier of New South Wales in
Pat Jennings was a Northern
Ireland footballer who played for his country as goalkeeper no fewer
than 119 times between 1964 and 1986.
Waylon Jennings, born in Texas,
was a popular country music singer of the 1970’s and 80’s.
Peter Jennings of ABC was one
of the “Big Three” news anchors who dominated the American TV network
news from the early 1980’s to the early 2000’s.  He was born in
Toronto, Canada.

Select Jennings Today

  • 26,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Edinburgh)
  • 32,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 17,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



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