Tennyson Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Tennyson Meaning
as a name was borne by various early saints, including the 3rd century
bishop of Paris, the martyred St. Denis, who became the patron saint of
France. Dennis or Denney was a given
name in medieval England, as was a variant Tenney.
And Tenison was an early surname patronymic
form of Tenney. This later became Tennison

Tennyson Resources on

Tennyson Ancestry

was an early spelling.
The first record of the name was John Tenison in the Yorkshire
rolls of
1361. Yorkshire has been where most
Tennisons and Tennysons have been found in England.

The family of Thomas
Tenison, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1694 to 1715, however, has not
been traced
back to Yorkshire. They came from
Cambridgeshire instead. Thomas’s
grandfather Philip and father John were clergymen in Norfolk – Philip
Archdeacon of Norwich and John rector of Munderley and Topcroft. Thomas’s cousins Edward
and Thomas migrated to Ireland. But the
Archbishop’s line does not appear to have extended to that of Alfred,

Within Yorkshire, the Tennison and Tennyson names seem to have
originated in the south Holderness region of the East Riding. There were 16th century
references to the name at Ryehill and Hull.
Ralph and Elizabeth Tennison were recorded as recusants at
Ottringham in
1664. And there were Tennisons at
Preston and Hedon (forebears of the Poet Laureate) in the next century,
as well
as at Burstwick.

George Tennyson, the son of a Hedon apothecary, established
himself in the early 1800’s as a member of the Lincolnshire gentry. George had two sons, George and Charles, and,
when they were still young boys, he violated usual tradition by making
his younger
son Charles his heir and arranging for George to enter the ministry. Charles therefore inherited the family seat
at Beacons in Tealby, while George had to make do as the vicar of
Somersby. Resentment festered on both
sides of the family.

Tennyson published in 1850 a book of poems,
in memory of his youngest
and favorite son who had died abroad. It
had the misfortune to appear at the same time as his nephew Alfred

and suffered greatly by
comparison. Charles thoroughly
disapproved of Alfred’s poetry and the latter’s appointment as Poet
the same year and the subsequent
offer of a baronetcy
him outrage and chagrin.”

Charles rather pompously called himself
Tennyson d’Eyncourt. His son Edwin and
grandson Eustace distinguished themselves in the Royal Navy, Edwin
becoming an
Admiral and Eustace the Navy’s Director of Naval Construction. Eustace brought his family the much desired
baronetcy in 1930.

Compared to his brother Charles, George felt impoverished and this led
him to worry about money all his life.
He died in 1831, four years before his father, it was said, from
and depression. His son Alfred Tennyson,
however, had a reasonably protected childhood and began making his mark
as a
poet in the 1840’s. He was the first in
England to be raised to the peerage for his writing:

  • his son Hallam, the second Baron Tennyson,
    became Governor General of Australia in 1902
  • while his grandson Lionel, the
    third Baron Tennyson, was a cricketer who was briefly in 1921 the
    cricket captain.

Tennyson family story was recounted in Sir Charles Tennyson and Hope
1974 book The Tennysons.

Major Thomas Tenison, second
cousin to the
Archbishop, moved to Ireland after the Irish uprising and served as the
of Carrickfergus in 1645. His son
Richard was an Anglican bishop in Ireland.
A descendant Thomas Tenison built Kilronan castle in Roscommon
in the
1820’s and the family were large landowners there.
His brother Edward King Tenison who inherited
the estate was an early Irish photographer, Edward’s wife Louise a
noted travel

America. Two
Tennison brothers – John and Justinian – may
have been part of Thomas Gerrard’s early settlers in southern Maryland
when they arrived
around the year 1650. However, it is not
clear where these Tennisons came from. John’s
birth was indicated as Holland; whereas
there are no records for Justinian’s birth.

John married Elizabeth, an indentured servant,
but later divorced her.

Elizabeth from his home sometime around the year 1680.
Elizabeth was rewarded with one bed and
furniture, all wearing apparel and yearly for time to come 300 pounds
of meat,
three bushels of corn, and 100 pounds of tobacco during her natural
life. This quite possibly was the first
divorce on
American soil.”

They had lived in St.
Mary’s county and John died there in 1684; while his brother Justinian
died in
Charles county in 1699 (in the same year as did John’s son
Justinian). The lineage in America was
covered in Ralph
Smith’s three volume series
The Tennison Family of South Maryland
written in 1997-2000. There were family
lines by 1800 into Virginia
and into Rowan county, North Carolina.

Tennison of Rowan county was a seaman from 1780 to 1800 and made his
in Mississippi. His descendants were to
be found in Tennessee and later in Greene county, Arkansas. Archibald Tennison also lived in Tennessee,
but then moved to Washington county, Missouri.
His son William Tennyson was a
farmer there.

Another line via Joshua Tennison
went from Georgia to Texas, where the largest numbers of Tennisons and
live today. John
Tenison, a harness maker in Ohio, came to
Dallas after the Civil War. His son Edward
O. Tenison started out as a messenger boy for the City National Bank of
Dallas and
ended up as its President in 1902. The
township in Texas was named after the English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Select Tennyson Names

  • Thomas Tenison served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1694 until 1715. 
  • Alfred Lord Tennyson was the English Poet Laureate from 1850 to 1892.

Select Tennyson Numbers Today

  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 2,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 200 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)


Select Tennyson and Like Surnames

These are the names of some literary giants.  If you are interested in the name behind the literary figure, please click on the surname below.





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