Vance Surname Genealogy

The Vance surname
in Scotland and Ireland originated with the Norman
name de Vaux. It became Vance in Ireland and was brought to
America as Vance. Sometimes in America German surnames such as
Wentz and
Wantz were anglicized to Vance
during the 18th century.
There was a separate English origin of Vance. It was
describing someone who
lived by a fen or marsh (from the Old English fenn meaning “low-lying marshy
area”). There were many early spelling variations – Fann, Vann,
Vanne, Vanns,
Vance and Venn. The “v” sound was often
regarded as the normal pronunciation for “f” in medieval dialects.

Vance Resources on

Vance Ancestry

The Vance surname has not been that common in England. The
numbers in the 1891 census were less than 300, with most of them in
either Lancashire
or London. The best known Vance was the Victorian actor and
pantomimist Alfred Vance, known in later life as ‘the great Vance.’
He was born
in London, made his mark in London music halls, but died

“On Boxing Day 1888 at the Sun
music hall in Knightsbridge, after he had given two songs and sung in
the wig and robes of a judge three verses of a third, he fell down at
the wing and was found to be dead from a heart attack.”

ScotlandThe de Vaux family had come from Normandy and settled in Galloway on the southwest corner of Scotland in the mid 12th century. Many generations later in 1384 Johannis de Vaus married an heiress and obtained the lands of Barnbarroch in Wigtonshire. The family name became Vans in the 16th century. Sir Patrick and his son Sir John Vans served as ambassadors to Denmark in the century.

Ireland.  The two main Vance outposts in Ireland were Donegal and county Tyrone.  Sir John Vans had been in great favor with King James VI of Scotland and was granted the Longcastle estate in county Donegal in the early 1600’s. His son John emigrated to America, as did Patrick Vance some years later. 

The Rev. John Vance was the first to use the name of Vance instead of Vans. He was a Presbyterian minister who had travelled to Ireland in 1660 to escape religious persecution at home. Under the Act of Settlement he obtained a land grant in county Tyrone. His son Dr. Lancelot was surgeon of a regiment and one of the defenders of Derry in the siege of 1689.

America. Most of the Vances in America have Scots Irish origins.

Patrick Vance came to America from Donegal in the 1750’s and settled in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania. There he married twice and was
to have fifteen children. He moved with his
family to the Blue Ridge mountains in Tennessee in the

Joseph Vance’s forebears were Scots Irish immigrants who had come
to Virginia at around the same time. He himself had been born in
Pennsylvania, but moved with his father, a Revolutionary War veteran,
first to Kentucky and then to Ohio. There he rose through the
political ranks and became Governor of the state in 1836.

Three Vance brothers, also Scots Irish, came to Virginia sometime in
1740’s. Later Vances moved to North Carolina and became active in
politics and business there.

This line culminated in Zebulon (Zeb) Vance, one
of the most influential Southern leaders of the Civil War and
postbellum periods. His father David had moved into a five room
log house in the mountains of western North Carolina after the
Revolutionary War was over and that was where Zeb Vance had been born
in 1830.

Andrew Vance arrived in Pennsylvania from Tyrone sometime
in the 1730’s. His grandson Robert was a
patriot of the Revolutionary War and an early pioneer of the Pittsburgh
area. It was thought likely that Colonel
Cyrus Vance,
born in Pennsylvania in 1807, was a descendant from Andrew. From his line came Cyrus Vance, US Secretary of State

Other Vances include the descendants of a number of German Wentz
who had immigrated into Pennsylvania in the 18th

Canada. Three Vance
families who
came to Canada were:

  • William Vance and his wife from Fermanagh who came to Durham
    county, Ontario in the 1820’s
  • Charles and Elizabeth Vance who came from Ireland to farm at
    Dunham in
    Quebec proabably some time in the 1850’s. Their son Edward
    crossed the
    border in 1882 to settle in the Glendale district of what was then
    Montana territory.
  • and Vances from Wigtonshire in Scotland who settled in Oxford
    county, Ontario. They included James Vance who arrived with
    his wife Susan.

In the 1840’s George Grey, married to Isabella
Vance, was an Irish contractor clearing the bush for settlement in the
Ilawarra area
south of Sydney.Included among those enlisted for the clearing work were
his in-law
Vances, William and Joseph, from Fermanagh.
They brought their families and settled there

Vance Miscellany

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

Vance Names

Zeb Vance was Governor and Senator for North Carolina and
one of the most influential Southern leaders of the Civil War and
postbellum periods.
Alfred Vance, known as “the
great Vance,” was an English actor
and pantomimist who made his mark in London Victorian music-halls.
was US Secretary of State under Jimmy Carter.

Select Vances Today

  • 2,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in Ohio)
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



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