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The NANCE Family Coat of Arms

This graphic of the Nance Family Crest, Arms, and Motto, was contributed by Michael Nance (Thanks, Michael!).

This image, along with another version in which there is only a cross, and no bird or circles, is reproduced in "The Nance Memorial". Its author, G. W. Nance, obtained one or both of them (it is not clear which) from an Andrew Nance, of Belfast, Ireland, who corresponded with G. W. in 1879. This Andrew X. Nance reported that:

"My Uncle William spent much time and money in looking up his ancestry. He found the "Coat of Arms" of the family, the motto of which is the same as that of Queen Elizabeth, and indicates that royal blood of France flows in our veins; and that the Nances appear to have been an aristocratic, noble family; and that the same was a territorial name".

In "The Nance Memorial", G. W. Nance added: 

"There are two ways of spelling the motto on this coat of arms. Cousin Joanna prefers the one generally used, while Queen Elizabeth and the original owner used the other form. The meaning is the same, 'always the same'.

The name of the original owner is not known, nor is his nationality, whether English or French. The origin and history of the larger "coat of arms" is also unknown".

(With all due respect to old G. W., I must take issue with his spelling advice. As far as I am aware, the Latin word idem, "same", is always spelled in that fashion. By the way, that is the same word which, abbreviated as "Id.", is used in writing to refer to the same source cited immediately previously. If anyone with a good background in Latin wants to shoot me down on this, though, have at it).

In "The Nance Memorial", another, different, motto appears with the reproductions: "Per Mare Per Terras". This, I believe, is Latin for "By Sea, By Land".

Is it for real? -- In "The History and Genealogy of the Nances" by D.[avidson] Nance, there is a reference to a "History of St. Ives" written by one John Hobson Mathews, a descendant of a Margery Nance, and a statement apparently based on that history that, "The Coat of Arms belonging to Margery Nance's family is described as 'Argent, a crop humette sable'."

I consulted a number of on-line heraldry resources, including glossaries of terms used in the "blazon", which is the textual description of the elements of a coat of arms (such as, "argent, a crop humette sable"). According to these sources, "Argent" means the color white, and "sable" the color black. "Humette" (more commonly spelled 'Humettee' or 'Humettey') means that the object which appears in the coat of arms against the background (this object is generally referred to as the "charge") is "couped" or cut off, so that its extremities do not reach all the way to the edge.

However, I was unable to find any reference to a "crop" as an item that would constitute the "charge" in a coat of arms. I believe that this is a typographical error. It is, I think, most likely that the word was "cross", written with the now-obsolete form of the letter "s" called the "leading s".  This type of "s", which was similar to a lower-case cursive "f" but with the lower loop clockwise rather than counter-clockwise, was used as the first (or "leading")  "s"  in words in which there were two adjacent letters "s".  In the word "cross", it would look like: .

The blazon "Argent, a cross humettee sable" would then be a description of a black cross, its extremities not reaching the edge, on a white background. This is somewhat similar to the larger figure reproduced in "The Nance Memorial", although it lacks the additional details (the bird, and the four circles), and the color in the reproduction here would not be correct. The smaller figure in "The Nance Memorial", however, is exactly what this blazon describes.

Of course, the fact that the blazon described in the "History of St. Ives" seems to match the image supplied by Andrew X. Nance does not prove that this is actually a coat of arms which was granted in proper form hundreds of years ago, in the era in which these "arms" had great significance and could not simply be "adopted" but had to be granted by higher authority. Another possibility which cannot be discounted, is that this design is one generated by an imaginative 18th- or 19th-century family historian, which was then seen by both the author of the "History of St. Ives", and Andrew X. Nance's uncle, and taken as authentic.

Do I think that these are actually the Crest, Arms and Motto of historic Nance family members? I don't know. My inclination is to be skeptical, until there is more authority supporting it. The only sources are the Andrew X. Nance of Belfast, Ireland who provided the information to George W. Nance in 1879, and (apparently) the "History of St. Ives". However, it was that same Andrew Nance who was the source of the "two brothers, Andrew and Clement" theory, which I am quite skeptical about -- but that's another story. Also, the presence of two mottos suggests that something is confused here. Anyway, if there are any of you out there with more of an interest in Heraldry than I, and if you have more information, please let me know!

NOTE: Michael Nance has kindly provided me with the following transcription of a document in his possession relating to the Nance Arms, which is from the records of M. L. "Pete" Nance, the author of the "Nance Register":


My fellow Kin:

This Nance genealogy of Cornwall represents all official Nans and Nance records and documents found since our first effort of our Cornish research which began early in 1967. Some recent discoveries tend to discredit certain old family traditions as published in certain Cornish History books which is the basis for some of my earlier conclusions that were expressed in past news letters. Therefore, I take this means to revise portions found to be in error in speculative correspondence with you during the years 1967, 1968 and 1969.

What I feel to be among our better late discoveries pertains to the Nance Family Arms. "I, Robert Cooke Esquire, Clarencieux, principal herald of arms for service to their Prince or country in peace or warre, do grant a coat of arms applied unto John Nance of the County of Cornwall. I find in the records of my office, armes belonging to that name and family, that is to say______ silver, a playne crosse humete sables, and for that I find no creast. I have given into him for his creast upon his healme an unicorn's head ermine ensuante out of a crowne horned mayned and bearded, gold mantle gule doubled silver as appeareth in the margin." Signed, February 5th. 1572 by Robert Cooke, Clarencieux, Roy Darmes.

Records show in several of the Burke's Books of Heraldry that this same arms without crest was awarded to Alexander Trengove, alias Nans. This listing does not tell of services rendered to the crown, but shows him to have been knighted 1485 in the first year of his realm. Excepts from Cornish History say that at the conclusion of the War of Roses at the Battle of Bosworth where the forces of the House of Lancaster under Henry Tudor were victorious over the House of York, after which Henry Tudor became the new King of England and was proclaimed King Henry VII of England. He immediately knighted a number of his Cornish followers on the field of Bosworth. Thus it would appear that this is the start of the history of the Nance arms. Official records found concerning Sir Alexander Nans states him to be Sir Alexander Nans of Trengove in Illogan, and not Alexander Trengove, alias Nans, as quoted in Burke's.

The above document was worded by Robert Cooke, Esquire, principal Herald, and indicates that the original arms was given to one of the name of Nance with the name Trengove not mentioned at all. Therefore, I can only conclude that published accounts of the Trengove, alias Nans, do not agree with the official records concerning when and who actually used the alias Trengove. The above John Nance, 1572, is the grandson of Sir Alexander Nans of Trengove in Illogan, and the only son of Henry Trengove Nance in Illogan. The records do not show the use of the Trengove alias until 1525 during the generation of the children of Alexander Nans. He appears to have had at least four sons. Richard and Nicholas Nans continued to live in the tin mining districts of Menenge and Hundred of Kirrier. The other two sons, Ralph and Henry Trengove, used the name Nans alias, held lands in the tin districts, but officially resided in Illogan Parish at the two Nans estates of Trengove and Nans. Sons of these two Trengoves, alias Nans of Illogan, namely John Richard Trengove, son of Ralph, and John Nance, son of Henry, were the sole survivors of the Alexander Nans branch, and it is at their generation level that the use of the alias was dropped. One assumed the single surname of Nance, and the other assumed the single surname of Trengove. This should explain that this alias was officially in use during one generation only, and not throughout the history of the Nance family of Cornwall as given by various published books of England and Cornwall.


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