Different origins of the Vance nameAround the world today the surname "Vance" is found mainly in English-speaking countries like Australia, the UK and Ireland, Canada, and the United States. The global spread of the Vance surname from the 1600s through to modern times has been documented through maps in our blog in a post from October 2013.
The paper document trails of these Vance family lines suggest that their family name came from one of two main origins:
1. The Wentz/Wantz origins
2. The de Vaux/Vans originsThe majority of the Vances today, these families are either Irish or trace their surname to immigrants from Ireland, where "Vance" has been a Protestant name in Ulster since the 1600s. The generally accepted origin of Vance in Ireland is from Scotland where the name was Vaus or Vans. In 1860, a Scottish genealogist named William Balbirnie published a book that tied the Irish Vances back to a Rev. John Vans/Vance who lived in Kilmacrenan in county Donegal in Ireland from about 1617 onward, and connected him to a Vans family of minor nobility in Barnbarroch, Scotland. The Vans of Barnbarroch have ties to the Vaux family of Dirleton near Edinburgh and from there back to the medieval de Vaux family who came over to England from Normandy with William the Conqueror around 1066.
3. Other possible originsModern DNA testing has identified at least 9 different genetic origins (within the timeframe that surnames have been in common use) for the Vance families who have been tested so far. While certainly some of those groups may still have derived their last names from the same origin, it is also very possible that some origins of the Vance name remain unknown.
There is a town in Belgium named Vance and a local family of minor nobility named "de Vance" who lived there at least from the 11th through the 17th century. However, the family name seems to have died out after that and no modern Vances trace their ancestry to this area.
Other towns in France have similar names, like Vancé in Sarthe and Vence on the Mediterranean, but these have different origins and no families with those names or anything similar to "Vance" are known to have come from those areas.
The Irish author John O'Hart proposed that the "Vance" name was derived from the Gaelic O'Uain, meaning lamb, but no evidence for this origin has been found.
Edward MacLysaght's book The Surnames of Ireland, a major reference work on Irish surnames, agrees that "Vance" first appeared in Ireland in the 17th century but says it came from Old English fenn meaning dweller by a fen (marsh) - an interesting idea, but then why did "Vance" only originate in Ireland and not also in England? Mr. MacLysaght includes William Balbirnie's book in his bibliography but it is still unknown why he proposed this completely different theory (and offered no supporting evidence). As far as is known today there is still no evidence of this origin from Old English.
Do you have other family stories for how your Vance ancestors got their last name? Post them here - you may add another piece to this complicated puzzle!