Comparison of Various Theories as to
Yancey surname Origin
- An Analysis -

see also these links:
Name Variations
"Ancey" Names
Yancey Origins
Early Yanceys
Early Yancey Characteristics

Common Surname Origin Myths
"They changed our name at Ellis Island"
The Three Brothers Story
The Indian Princess Story
Other Common Family Myths


Yanceys descend from a WELSH Family ( such as the  NANNEY of WALES)

PROS:  The theory that the Yanceys descend from the Nanney family of Wales is prevalent among the majority of the branches of the Yancey family - and mention of it can be traced back to as early as 1805.

There is a clear similarity between the Nanney coat of arms in Wales and more than one coat of arms that appeared to have been passed down through the Yancey family in America. (though the originals don't seem to be extant).

Welsh immigration in the late 1600's and 1700's of Virginia was not uncommon.

Many researchers have a hard time accepting the possibility that the name was corrupted/changed from Nanney to Yancey.

Though it would not seem natural that the Nanney name would corrupt into Yancey.  There is nothing saying that a member of the Nanney family couldn't have intentionally changed his name to a very different spelling.

Note that some branches of the Nanney family lived in England - and lost some of their Welsh  identity (for example using names that were standard English names versus traditional Welsh names).  Note that though the Nanney family does descend from a Royal family of Wales - that should not be interpreted to mean that all members of the Nanney family In the British Isles were wealthy and aristocratic.  Due to the law of primogeniture - there were various Nanneys that ended up being among the middle class.

NOTE: In 2013 various members of the Yancey family had their Y-DNA tested as well as various members of the Nanney family - and the test results showed that the two families were in two completely different haplogroups - and do NOT have common paternal descent. It should however, be noted that some sort of connection between the Yanceys and Nanneys could still possibly exist - just not a direct paternal genetic one.

Nanney-Yancey History

Nanney Web Site
Welsh connections
Shepard Letter
Welsh Linguistics vs Yancey
Hughes Family correlations



Yanceys descend from a FRENCH family PROS:

Many of the early families that the Yanceys intermarried with were French (Dumas, Mullins, Maupin)

Some versions of the Yancey Coat of Arms have a French Motto associated with it.

Various names that end in "ANCEY" are French.

The tradition that the Yancyes were French - seem to exist mainly  in those families where there was an early Yancey who intermarried with a French woman (and thus the children were half French) but among other branches of the family you don't see this French tradition.

Though the very earliest Yanceys did indeed intermarry with various French families such as Dumas, Mullins and others - there is no real indication that the Yanceys themselves were French or that they belonged to any French entity (such as the French town of Manakintown - very close to where the earliest Yanceys lived.)

Other Comment:

There is one family (totally unrelated to the Yanceys who trace back to early Virginia) who do have a French connection.  Their name was originally Jantzi/Yantzi and became corrupted into Yancey here in America.  Their seems to be no reason to believe their is any connection. Names, customs, religion, culture all seem to be totally different than our Yancey Family of Virginia. They were Anabaptists - related to the Amish. Click here for family history.  Additional Info

It has been noted  that the use of French or Latin in Mottos on Coat of Arms - was not uncommon among the English and Welch

characteristics of early Yanceys

Elsdon Smith in his book "American Surnames" (1969) implies that the Yancey name is somehow associated with the name "Langlois" or that it was a name used by Englishman living in France.  No researcher since (it seems) has found any evidence to support this claim.


Yanceys descend from an ENGLISH family PROS:

The lifestysle, culture, names and religion of the early Yanceys of Virginia seem to mirror those of the British Isles (England,Wales, maybe Scotland).

Rev Robert Yancey - an early minister of the Protestant Episcopal Church - traveled to England in 1768 to be ordained by the Bishop of London

Yanceys were among the carefully selected vestry of the Church of England in America
The majority of the families the earliest Yanceys associated with and married into - were ENGLISH

Names like JAUNCEY/JANCEY/CHAUNCEY/CHANCEY  - are English names that could easily have corrupted into Yancey in America.


There really aren't many Cons - this is clearly a possibility though the most dominant family tradition among the family is that we descend from the Nanney family of Wales.  (though it should be noted there were members of the Nanneys in England)


characteristics of early Yanceys


Yanceys descend from a DUTCH  Family PROS:
In one name origin book published in the mid 1900's - the author gives the possibility that the name is Dutch - a corruption from Jantje or Janse ("Little John").

The early Yanceys do not seem to  have had any connection with Dutch families or culture.
This seems like someone's stab in the dark as to the family origin simply based on similar pronunciation.

Yanceys descend from an IRISH family PROS:
The Kavanaugh family was a Irish family that intermarried with the very earliest Yanceys in America.

Various large American databases such as census/immigration databases include a few entries recorded under surname Yancey or Yancy - many of which are recorded as being Irish . 

Though the name may be recorded in these databases "Yancey" or 'Yancy" - in virtually all cases it seems their is no proof it was actually such- and it seems in most (if not all) cases that the name has been been mis-transcribed.  In many cases the Irish name of Tansey has been mis-transcribed as Yansey and Yancey.

In recent decades - some "name origin" publications began recording that the name was Native American. I don't know any publications earlier than about 1990 that made this claim. Most of these "name origin" compilations are not based on any serious research.

This seems to be someone's misinterpretation of the statement that the name Yancey - "is native to America" - meaning that the name Yancey does not exist on the records of Europe (since it appears the name was changed upon immigration to America.)  But there seems NO indication the Yanceys have a paternal descent from Native American Indians.
Yanceys descend from an AUSTRIAN/  HUNGARIAN family PROS:
There actually is a Thomas Yanchey son of Benedict Yanchey, who came from the Austria/Hungary region of Europe in the late 1800's and settled in Pennsylvania. His descendants settled on the surname spelling of Y-A-N-C-Y. **

There seems to be no connection whatsoever between this family and the Yanceys of Virginia.


Yanceys descend from a family of SLAVIC ancestry PROS:
There actually is a Victor S. Yancy who was born in CzechoSlavakia in 1877 and later came to the US where he died and left descendants.

There is also a Canadian family by surname YANCIE who trace back to CzechoSlavakia.
click here for more details.

Another apparent Slavik family is that of  one Mirko Yanci who came to the United States from Yugoslavia about 1915. 

There seems to be no connection whatsoever between these families and the Yanceys of Virginia. **


Yanceys descend from a SWEDISH family PROS:
In the late 1800's one Yancey family wrote in their Bible that the name was originally Yantis - and that the name was of Swedish origin.

This seems pretty unbelievable. Nothing to support this. The Swedish immigration to America was later.
Yanceys descend from a GERMAN family PROS:
There are various names of a Germanic ancestry that have similar spellings as Yancey
Yance, Yonce, Jenne, Yaney, Yanney

besides similar spellings - nothing substantive to really indicate a  Germanic connection

Name Variations
Yanceys descend from a SCOTTISH family PROS:
Various families that the Yancey's intermarried with - such as Crawford and Leighton are Scottish in origin.

There has never been a family tradition passed down n the family that Yanceys were Scottish

Family associations

More info on the Carwfords

Yanceys descend from a DANISH family PROS:
In the mid 1800's one Peter Jensen/Yensen came to America from Denmark and settled in Missouri.  Some of his descendants started using the corrupted spelling "Yancey". **

CONS:  There seems to be no connection whatsoever to this family and the  Yanceys of early Virginia.

Jensen/Yensen Family


Yanceys descend from a POLISH family PROS:
It seems there may actually be an isolated Polish American Yancey family **

CONS:  There seems to be no connection whatsoever to this family and the  Yanceys of early Virginia.

Polish Yancey Family


Yanceys descend from a SPANISH familyThere actually are Spanish families by sunrame YANZI - who descend from a family apparently originating from the Spanish town of Yanzi.  There are numerous families by the name of YANZI in Argentina - where certain members of the family migrated early  on.
Yancey was corrupted from the word "YANKEE" CON:
Seems to be nothing more than a "stab in the dark" from a popular word related to early America.   Nothing substantive to support this.


Yancey is a corrupted form of the name  "de Hancey" PROS: one Alexander K Yancey (1807-1882) stated that he had been told that the name was originally "de Hancey" and became corrupted into the current form of Yancey. See this report.

CONS:  The "de Hancey" reference by A K Yancey seems to be the only recorded reference to this supposed connection. One wonders, if this was true, why this story wouldn't have existed in other branches of the family.  Though not common - there indeed was a "de Hancey" family of France.  Though one should also consider the possibility that the name A K Yancey was referring to was actually Jauncey or Chauncey.

Information provided by various online or mail order companies CONS:  Various mail order companies like (Halberts) and on line companies like "Hall of Names" and others  - make money off of selling report, coats of arms, and other material representing certain family names. Such companies are organizations of very questionable repute - and the material that they provide seems to be devoid of any real research.  Often what they will do is find a coat of arms or other family information about one name - and then find numerous names that have spelling even remotely similar - and then simply based on that - claim that the information applies to all of the names grouped together. When the Halberts company was pushed into divulging what they gave as the Yancey coat of arms - they admitted it actually came form a family called "Yacenou".

There is little serious value in the material that these companies provide.

Most "name origin" books/compilations seem to be just about as worthless.




Some other interesting Yancey connections follow

Yancys in Central America The name "Ana Yancy/Yansi" is a common First and Middle name in various Central American countries. It's use traces its origins back to an Indian princess by that name who became the "Indian bride" of the famous Spanish explorer "Balboa"  see:  
Yancys in Liberia Africa SEE:
African American Yanceys SEE:

Other Links of interest

Hughes Family of Wales
Families Associated with Early Yanceys Families Associated with the Early Yanceys of America


**  It is often stated that all Yanceys descend from the early Yanceys of the Hanover County area of Virginia - Charles Yancey of 1704 being the first documented member of the family,.  Technically speaking there are rare exceptions to this statement - as indicated in various items above.  However the evidence indicates that a very high percentage (probably above 98% ) of WHITE Yanceys/Yancys today do indeed descend from the Yanceys of  colonial Virginia.  (African American Yanceys having (in most cases) different and often ambiguous lines of descent)