This interesting and unusual surname is of early medieval English origin, and is a dialectal variant of Tennant, which is a status name for a farmer who held his land from an overlord by obligations of rent or service. The derivation of the name is from the Middle English, Old French "tenant", tenant, from the present participle of the Old French "tenir", to hold, Latin "tenere". This was the normal situation for landholders in the Middle Ages, since under the feudal system all land belonged ultimately to the king and use of it was granted in return for financial or military support. The surname is first recorded in the early half of the 14th Century (see below). Robert Tenaunt is noted in the 1332 Subsidy Rolls of Lancashire and Johannes Tenant is listed in the 1379 Poll Tax Returns of Yorkshire. Some dialects have caused the "d" and "t" to be interchangeable, for example Tenniel is a variant of Daniel, and Tenney is a diminutive of Denis. Recordings of the surname from English church Registers include: the christening of Martha, daughter of Roger Dennant, on May 28th 1676, at St. Luke's, Chelsea, London, and the marriage of Ann Dennant and Bryan Waudby on July 9th 1704, at Nafferton, Yorkshire. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Tenand, which was dated 1332, in the "Subsidy Rolls of Cumberland", during the reign of King Edward 111, known as "The Father of the Navy", 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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