The tregenza family

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The Genealogy of


Information concerning living or possibly living family members has been removed to inhibit identity theft.
by Paul Tregenza

May 2014 updated approximately annually on


SECTION 1 The Cornish family 3

The development of family names 4

The place called Tregenza 5

The meaning of the family name Tregenza 6

The meaning of the alias Tregensith 7

Creed parish 7

The earliest records of Tregenza 8

The spread of the family 9

No coats of arms 10

A brief history of Cornwall 10

Dates of the UK censuses 13

Genealogical sources 13

The format of the pages 14



I wish to thank all the many Tregenzas and relatives who have responded to my letters and especially to those who have become temporary genealogists to answer my enquiries. Also there are, around the world, several people, who are very active genealogists investigating their ancestry. I thank them for allowing me to include, in this book, their work on their Tregenza ancestors. I hope that I have acknowledged them, on the relevant pages.

In this book are included all those people, who have been discovered, who bear the surname either by birth or marriage. The rarity of the surname makes it very likely that all those persons bearing it have a common ancestor or come from the same farm. This family research is slowly working towards the aim of documenting all such people and linking them onto one family tree. People who have adopted the surname are also included in this book.
There are three main sections. The first gives the general background.
The second section is the family tree with all its branches. As it is so large it has been split into many pages.
Any Tregenza found during the research has been recorded and most of the records have been added to the main tree or made up into small isolated family trees. These are the Unconnected Families that make up the third section. Over the past few years further information as enabled several of these families to be connected to the main tree or to each other.

The family name
The Tregenza family is Cornish in origin as the old adage suggests:
Tre, Pol and Pen

True Cornishmen

Not Spanish
Although a Spanish origin has been suggest for the surname (family name) there is no evidence to support this or any good reason to propose it. The "Z" gives a suitable pronunciation as it is the way that a "S" is pronounced in the Cornish language and dialect. The landing of the Spanish at Mousehole in 1595 occurred over two hundred years before Tregenzas were found in that part of Cornwall.

Varied spellings in Cornwall
The spelling has varied but the pronunciation is always similar in the Cornish dialect. The ending has been "S" or "Z" with "OE", "O", "OW" or "A" and more rarely “ER” or “ON”. As the emphasis is always on the first two syllables the ending is hardly heard in normal Cornish pronunciation.

Varied spellings out of Cornwall
Outside Cornwall the name is often misspelt, most frequently one or both of the "E"s are replaced by "A". Branches of the family in North America and New Zealand have adopted these spellings TREGANZA and TRAGANZA.
"I will now explain the Treganza part. My grandfather JAMES who was born October 11 1841 in Cornwall came to this country in 1842 and went to Hazel Green, Wisconsin, mostly by covered wagon. It was there that a schoolmistress thought the name Treganza sounded better than Tregenza. As so often happened in the early west days, names were changed. It was on the trip to Cornwall in 1924 that my mother and I decided to go back to the original spelling."
JACK R TREGENZA (letter 1971)

Unconnected Family 20

Development of Family Names
Family names developed after the Normans (1066 onwards) began to introduce a regulated society. They had a sophisticated system of family names, hierarchy and heraldry that was unknown in the Celtic world and more complex than anything the Anglo-Saxons had. The use of surnames or family names required for contacts with the royal court, law, civil service and government gradually moved into the provinces and reached the peasants in outlying areas last. Most Cornish got family names in the 15th century.
The creation of family names occurred while the native tongue, Cornish, was spoken. The Celtic language of Cornish gradually faded and died after the invasion of the Anglo-Saxons (in 9th century) but due to the isolation of the county it continued to be spoken in some form until the 19th century, although all people also spoke English from the 18th century onwards. Place names and surnames became fixed while the language was in full popular use. Dolly Pentreath was reputed to be the last person to speak only the Cornish language fluently and she died in 1777. The people who now speak and write in the language have learnt the language that was resurrected and unified from the spoken and written remains of the language (see the dictionary by Morton Nance republished by Dyllansow Truran 1990).
Cornish family names have simple origins such as: 1. place where the owner lived or originated, 2. owner's father's first name, 3. the owner's occupation, 4. a feature of the person (often a nick-name). TRE (a farmstead), POL (a pool) and PEN (literally a head but used for a hill or headland) are common in place-names and family names but there are many others such as Andrewartha (an dre wartha = of the upper farmstead). Others are Angove (an gof = the blacksmith), Baragwanath (bara gwaeneth = wheaten bread), Cooch (coch = red for red-headed), Legassick (legas = eyes, legassek = prominent eyes) and Pascoe (pask = Easter for born at Easter). Johnson, Peters, Phillips etc.("s" or "son" indicating "son of") are less common in Cornwall. As several unrelated people may come from a particular farmstead, have red-hair, have a father called Peter etc. there is no necessity for all holders of a family name to be related though this is more likely with a rare name like Tregenza.

Tregenza family name
Tregenza must therefore be a family name from a place-name as TRE means farmstead. Tref (Tre or Dre in combination) means the group of dwellings and farm buildings typical of the Celtic countryside. These farmsteads consisted of several extended families, that are usually related, and who farmed co-operatively the surrounding area. In modern times these have reduced to one farm run by a small family or even a couple and many have disappeared as farms amalgamated. A few (especially those near the church) have however developed into villages and towns. Treneglos, Tresillian, Treliske and Treloyan are examples in Cornwall and Trefforest in Wales. Villages and towns are the usual settlement in England but they developed centuries later in the Celtic fringe (Cornwall, Wales and Scotland).`
In Celtic languages adjectives nearly always follow the noun and so GENZA is an adjective. A search for the origin of the family name TREGENZA can therefore look for the meaning in Cornish language and also for a place called Tregenza.

The place called Tregenza
No place now exists called Tregenza but there is extensive evidence of such a place. A search of manorial and other records provided the following information. Being official documents of the period they are of course written in the English language.

Lay Subsidies. Tregensith. Original lost and copier's notes state the corner had been torn away in the original.


Tregensyd in Caption of Seisin of the Duchy of Cornwall 1337 republished by DCRS editor P. L. Hull 1971 no. 16 page 149 "Tybesta - free tenant William de Sulgene, 3 acres of land Cornish, rent at Christmas, Easter and Nativity of St John the Baptist, 2s 3d. Michaelmas 2s 9d relief". A variant of this in 1331 reads "David de Sulgene - 3 acres Cornish in socage in Tregensyd and Tregasowan" (in appendix III). Records of Tybesta Manor.

(Tregasowan from Tref-a-jowan meaning farmstead of John)

Tregensaghe sold for £50 in the 38th year of the reign of Elizabeth.

A later document refers to “Treginsaghe” as “a steading with Tregenjohn”

Treginsage alias Tregenseth

(Alias indicates an alternative name for the same place showing that both names were being used at this time.) 1593 V 153

Tybesta court rolls. A rate of the poor made by John Harrison, March 15th. 9s 9d to Lord Chiney and others for Teganjohn, Tregenza plus Reens and Church Towne. A rate of the poor made by Thomas Hancock and Thomas Seecombe - assessors. Tybesta Court Rolls. £12 13s 4d to Hon the Lord Chiney and the holders Tregenjohn, Tregenza &c.

(This shows the variations of spelling and the move to modern spellings. Reens and Church Town are two farms near Tregenza).
Tibesta Manor in the Domesday Book (11 century)

It is described as follows:

The count has 1 manor which is called Tibesteu which Ralph the master of the horse held T.R.E. and it rendered geld for 1 hide. Nevertheless there are 3 hides. Thirty teams can plough these. Thereof the count has 1 hide and 3 ploughs in demesne and the villeins have 2 hides and 10 ploughs. There the count has 27 villeins and 20 bordars and 14 serfs and 14 beast and 4 swine and 160 sheep and 40 acres of woodland and of pasture 3 leagues in length and 1 in breadth. This renders £15 and 18 shillings and 4 d and when the count received it it rendered £12. Translated from the abbreviated Latin.


Tithe Apportionment Survey (= Parochial Survey) 4th June.

Tregonjohn: field 183, Outer Tregenza Meadow, 6 acres and 16 perches; field 184 Inner Tregenza Meadow 6 acres 1 rood 22 perches. Value of the whole farm of Tregonjohn (178 acres 1 rood 21 perches) £32 8s 2d. The tithe map is now held at the Cornish Record of Office Truro and shows these two fields named.

30th September the ownership of Tregonjohn farm changed from Rt Hon Viscount Clifden of Lanhydrock to Mr T H Williams. The present deeds date from this time and at present the farm belongs to the Duchy of Cornwall.


The farm was partitioned into two farms (Upper and Lower Tregonjohn). The farm buildings of Upper Tregonjohn were built in this year.


The tenant farmer of Upper Tregonjohn was unaware of the original names of the fields and called them "Entrance" to the north of the entrance track and "13 acre" to the south.

The new farm must be close to the site of the original Tregenza tenement. Not far from the farm buildings to the south there is a sheltering copse of trees on irregular ground.
Map references:

Upper Tregonjohn farmhouse SW94194772 (unnamed on map)

Entrance field SW94204780

13 Acre field SW94204770

Meaning of the family name
T F G Dexter in his book Cornish Names 1926 gives the most likely explanation of the meaning of the name. He suggests that it derives from Tre gensa meaning the first, front, foremost or prime farmstead. The adjective 'kensa' is an irregular form for first (in the same way that in English 'first' is irregular and not derived from 'one'). The change of 'k' (or hard 'c') to 'g' is an example of the typical and common mutation of consonants used in Celtic languages to make speaking smoother.
The farmstead Tregenza was on top of a gentle rise above the parish church; overlooking it, the valley and old Tregonjohn farm-stead. Also the Tregenza farm was listed first on many documents sometimes with Tregonjohn. Both could have given rise to the name meaning first or foremost. After the church and Churchtown farm it is generally list first in parish records.
Richard Blewett gave meanings for family names in a series of newspaper articles in the West Briton. "I have not found a place name and I have searched in vain for a clue to its meaning in any modern works on the Cornish language. But an 1870 book on Cornish surnames entitled Patronymica Cornu-Brittania was written by R. S. Charnock ..... I am offering his [Charnock's] interpretation of the surname Tregenza with some doubt from TREG-'N-SAIR = the dwelling of the woodman or carpenter." 7 January 1960 Blewett also says that Charnock’s book includes names never found in Cornwall and derivations that do not stand up to modern scholarship.

The full Cornish elements could be TREF (dwelling or farmstead), AN (of the), PREN (wood or timber) and SER (pronounced SAIR = artificier). It is not sure that Charnock considered that the word PREN was there or just assumed. If it was there originally it would be expected to follow the noun SER not precede it. AN commonly reduces to 'N and TREF to TRE. However there appears to be no reason for the appearance of the G !

The earliest documented spellings of place-names are usually the best guide to their meaning but in this case the name Tregenza appeared more or less with the same spelling.

The meaning of Tregensith
An investigation of the original name (alias) could be illuminating but unfortunately there are no expert interpretations of this place-name. A search through the Cornish-English dictionary gives only one suitable word, 'whensys' which mutates in combination to 'gensys'. It is the past participle of the verb 'whansa' meaning to covet or desire. Thus the place-name would mean 'desired-farmstead'. It is interesting but probably a coincidence that this guesswork gives a meaning so close to that of Tregenza (first or foremost farmstead).

Creed Parish
The farmstead Tregenza was situated in Creed parish. The parish lies in hilly country dissected by tributaries of the river Fal but away from the coast. It was difficult land to cross until the large bridge was built on the northern edge of the parish to allow the St Austell to Truro turnpike to cross the river Fal. The bridge and area were called Ponsmur (big bridge) in Cornish but the name that was retained derived from Norman French equivalent (Grand pont in modern French). The village that developed near the bridge is now called Grampound (Graundpount in 1375). All modern development has occurred in this village, which became so important that it had its own chapel in the 13th century (charter granted in 1332). The local manor of Tybesta (Tibesta in the Norman Doomsday book) in the Hundred of Powder was extremely powerful and caused the rise of Grampound leaving Creed to this day undeveloped and agricultural.
Creed church is attractively situated and old but not remarkable except for the traces of a "lan". This feature is typically Celtic and was a roughly circular area often marked by a low stone wall. It was built to show the extent of the sacred site. Its presence shows that the site is an old Christian site of the Celtic era despite the oldest structures of church being Norman (tower 1447). Nothing is known of the saint attributed to the church but it is presumed that St Crida (that became corrupted to Creed over the years) was a Celtic saint.
The economic activities of Cornwall other than agriculture were either to do with the sea (shipping, smuggling and fishing) and mineral extraction (copper, tin and china clay). Mining developed early in the history of Cornwall and it is probable that Tregenzas from Creed would have moved to the nearest developments in the parishes just to the north (St Stephen, St Ewe and St Mewan).

The earliest Tregenza records
It might be hoped that these would come from Creed or nearby and so confirm the connection of the family and place-name. The records however are not conclusive.
1470 Hilary Term

John Tregellest by his attorney brought an action against John Tregensowe late of St Laurence yeoman on a plea of trespass at Tregellest near Wolvedon. De Banco Rolls of Edward the Fourth. (A few years later this name reappears and may be a variant of Tregenza. St Laurence is near Bodmin and on the other side of Cornwall from Creed. Tregellest however is in the adjacent parish of Probus).

Cornwall Subsidies

1525 Richard Tregennow G6 Ewa (St Ewe)

1543 John Tregennow G8 Ewa (St Ewe)

1543 John Tregynsyth G3 Crede (Creed)

1543 Thomas Tregensyth W1 Probus

Mary Tregenza widow with inventory 1625 St Stephen in Brannel

Michael Tregenza husbandman with inventory 1625 St Stephen in Brannel

Charity, Susan and Nicholas mentioned in Michael's will

Poll Tax

1660 John Tregesa and wife St Stephen in Brannel

1660 Thomas Tregesam and Mary wife St Stephen in Brannel

1660 Olive Tregena St Stephen in Brannel

Protestation Returns

ca 1641 Thomas Tregenza St Stephen in Brannel

Assize Rolls page 208 extract Cornwall 25 Hen III to 6 Hen VI

“Prior of Bodmin gave half mark for licence of agreement with Silvester de Tregensan and Meliora his wife of a plea of the advowson of the church of St Madern”. The writing is difficult to read but the name is Tregensan or close to it. The date of this was not recorded but in or between the reigns of Henry III and VI so in the 13th – 15th centuries.

Cornwall Militia Lists Henry VIII probably 1538 (prior to 1540)

The Staymiery of Blakemoa wth the pyrsons names Seynt Ewa. The Staymer of Blakemoa. The names of the tynnrs inhityng wtyn the seid pysh.

Johes Tregennowe Jakke salet and byll”

The common family name Tregenna may account for some of these records. However it is interesting to find the alias Tregensyth being used as a surname. The family tree starts in St Stephen in Brannel and there are several early records from there. St Stephen is north of Creed, St Ewe to the east and Probus to the west.

Spread of the family
Records such as the marriages listed in Boyd's Index of Marriages show the spread of the family from the St Stephens area. In the second quarter of the 18th Century marriages appear at the head of the Fal estuary (Mylor, Veryan and Philleigh) and in the third quarter the St Erth area appears. In the fourth quarter Truro (the county capital town) records appear especially military ones. Later records appear in the industrial areas of Penryn/Falmouth, Camborne/Redruth, St Austell and also in Mousehole/Newlyn area.
In the 19th century the spread becomes much wider to England and English speaking parts of the world where there are mines such as USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The distribution of the surname still reflects these migrations around the world and even in Cornwall as is shown by Richard R Blewett in the West Briton newspaper (1958-1960).

West Cornwall (Penwith)


& Redruth

Lizard &


St Austell


St Just




St Keverne


St Austell


St Dennis








St Blazey











St Ives


















The Tregenzas discovered in telephone directories in 1974 showed this distribution:

Cornwall 50

England 38

Australia 39

Canada 6

New Zealand 3

South Africa 1

USA 27
Wales, Scotland, Eire, Northern Ireland, and Continental Europe 0
In the United Kingdom all telephone directories were searched while elsewhere only those of capitals and major towns were searched.

Coats of Arms
A search through various lists have failed to show any coats of arms. All the heraldic visitations to Cornwall failed to attribute arms to the Tregenza family.
The heraldic tradition is largely Norman and the family is clearly of Celtic origin not Anglo-Saxon or Norman. After the Saxon conquest of the Cornish (Celtic) princes in AD 814 and defeat of the later rebellions, the Saxon feudal hierarchy was imposed on the Cornish peasants who played little part in the upper echelons of this hierarchy and its political structures. A similar situation occurred under the later Norman rule.
Only a couple of landed families of the aristocracy of Cornwall bear Celtic family names (for example Vyvyan).

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