The Dictionary of American Surnames describes this surname as being of English or French origins. This may well be true, certainly in its many forms it is recorded well recorded in England in charters from the earliest times, and in church registers from the 16th century. The name describes a former inhabitant of Denmark, and initially may not have been 'polite' given that both England and France were continually raided by 'the Danes', and ultimately settled by them. However spelt the surname is a derivative of the Medival Middle English and Ancient French 'danais' and the later 'denisc', which is often the same root as for instance, the personal and surname 'Dennis'. Both mean the same (although Dennis can derive from Dionysius) along with Dennish, Denns (North English and Scottish), Dennys, Dana, Dane, Dean, (English) Dana, Dan(ne), Danays, Danois, Daney (French), Danise, Danisi (Italian), Dahne, Dehne, (German), Deen (Flemish and Dutch), and no doubt other spellings as well! Early examples of the surname recordings include Johannis Dennys of Aberdeen in 1499, and Richard Dence of Cumberland in 1524. Church recordings include Robert Dana, who married Elsabeth Bullman at St Margarets Westminster, London, on November 8th 1550, and Antoine Danne of Bellville, Meurthe et Moselle, France on April 6th 1697. William Goodwin Dana who married Maria Petra Josefa del Carmen Carrillo at Santa Barbara on August 20th 1828, seems to have had fourteen children. The coat of arms most associated with the name has the distictive blazon of a black lion rampant regardant on a silver field. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Dence, which was dated 1327, the subsidy rolls of the county of Worcester, England, during the reign of King Edward 111 of England, 1327 - 1377. 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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