Last name: Gentry
This very unusual surname has long been a source of puzzlement to researchers, and it is not recorded in any of the usual dictionaries of surnames. It is almost certainly French in origin, like the surname 'Gentle' deriving from the old French 'gentil', a word introduced by the Normans after the 1066 invasion, and meaning 'high born'. It has been recorded at various times as Jentry, Jendry, Gentery, Gentry, Gentiry and Guntrey, and in France as Gentil, Gentreau, and Gentric, the latter being very close in both spelling and pronunciation to the English forms. Although unproven it may be that there are some 16th century Huguenot introductions. Early examples of the name suggest that it was descriptive and not a nickname, Nicholas and William 'Gentilman', who are so recorded in the 1273 Hundred Rolls of Bedford, presumably being land owners or at least land holders, suggest that this is a correct description. John le Gentil recorded in the 1242 rolls of Warwick, was recorded for non payment of fines, so perhaps in his case it was a cynical nickname, or perhaps he was a 'gentle soul' who just forgot. As Gentry and Jentry the surname is well recorded in London from the mid 17th century. Whether this is a dialectal change applying initially only to London is uncertain. The church registers give examples which include Richard Jendry, who married Mary Hassaway (certainly a transposed spelling) at St James Church, Dukes Place, on April 16th 1666, John Gentry, a witness at St Peters Church, Cornhill, on February 29th 1684, and John Guntrey, a witness at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on March 15th 1689. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Osbert le Gentil, which was dated 1202 a.d., in the pipe rolls of Hampshire, during the reign of King John, known as 'Lackland', 1199 - 1216. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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