Recorded as Tenant, Tenaunt and Tennant, this is an English status surname. It originally described a husbandman, the later description being a farmer, or one who held lands from an overlord. The derivation is from the pre 10th century Olde French word "tenant", introduced by the victorious Normans after the Invasion of 1066. The origination is from the word "tenir", meaning to hold, and the first known surname recording is from the early 14th century, as shown below. Early examples of the surname recording include: Johannes Tenant in the original Poll Tax register for the county of Yorkshire in 1379, whilst Philip Swalowe married Elizabeth Tennante at St.Dionis Backchurch, in the city of London, in 1553. An interesting recording from the early records of settlements in the West Indies and the New England colonies of the 17th century, is that of Mrs Mary Tennant. She is given as being a "widdow", and listed as the holder of twenty acres in the parish of St. Thomas, Barbados, on December 3rd 1679. Amongst the many examples of interesting namebearers was Sir James Tennant (1789 - 1854), a brigadier general who received thanks of parliament for his military services in India. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Tenand. This was dated 1332, in the Subsidy Rolls of Cumberland, during the reign of King Edward IIIrd of England. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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