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Spencer Family History
Recorded in several forms including Spence, Spencer, the rare patronymic Spencers, and the aphetic Spender, this is an English surname but one of French origins. It is perhaps surprisingly occupational and originally described a despencier or despendour, a man who was in charge of purchasing and distribution of all food and provisions within a royal or noble household or a monastery. This was a position of great importance, and usually only lesser in status to the Steward. The derivation is from the Old French pre 8th century word despense, meaning to weigh, and the word was probably introduced into England by the Norman French after the Conquest of 1066.
Spencer (Variants: Spenser)
An English occupational name from Middle English spenser(e), spencer(e) meaning ‘household steward, butler, almoner’ deriving from Anglo-Norman French espenser or Old French despensier, for someone who dispensed provisions or money. Similarly, for Middle English spense ‘larder’, someone employed in the pantry of a great house or monastery.
There is some dispute about the origins of the Spencer family, some sources dispute that they are descended from William the Conqueror’s steward, Robert Despencer.
Early bearers of the surname include: Robert le Despenser’, 1204 in Curia Regis Rolls (Shrops); Ralph le Spenser, 1275 in Hundred Rolls (Suffolk); Thomas Spencer, 1524 in IGI (Altham, Lancs); Thomas Spencer, 1558 in IGI (Rotherham, WR Yorks).
Robert Spencer (died 1627) was said to be the wealthiest man in England.
Joseph Spencer, an English convict was transported aboard the "Albion" on 29 May 1828, settling in New South Wales, Australia.
In 1891, the surname had a total of 29,200 occurrences in England and Wales and a further 291 in Scotland. In 1881, the surname was rarely occurring in the north and south of England. Although it was most prevalent in Lancashire and West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire was also recorded as a top county with 1,302 occurrences.
In 1881, the most common Spencer occupation in the UK was Farmer. Farmer, Agricultural Labourer and Labourer were the top 3 reported jobs worked by Spencer. A less common occupation for the Spencer family was Coal Miner.
Diana Spencer (1961-1997), Princess of Wales, the first wife of Charles, the Prince of Wales. She was celebrated for her charity work to raise awareness and support those affected by mental illness, cancer and HIV/AIDS. She was also the president for the London children’s hospital - Great Ormond Street Hospital. Her eldest son, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge is the heir apparent of Elizabeth II.
1881, 1891 Census
1881 Census in Nottinghamshire
Dictionary of American Family Homes, P Hanks OUP 2003
Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890
The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, P.Hanks, Coats, McClure OUP 2016
1860 Lower, Mark A Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, London: J.R Smith. Public Domain
1857 Arthur, William An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain
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