Select Dean Surname Genealogy

The Dean surname is locational in origin, describing someone who lived in a dene or “valley.”  Dene was recorded in various places in the 1086 Domesday Book.  It is generally rendered today as Dean.  The surname progression has been from Dene (sometimes atte Dene) to Deane and from Deane to Dean.  The Deane spelling has persisted mainly in Ireland.

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Select Dean Ancestry

England.  The earliest Dean seems to have been Robert de Dene, a “pincema” or official in charge of the wine and beverage to King Edward the Confessor.  His descendants, known as Denn or Denne, were landowners in Kent and Sussex.  Their line seems to have died out by the 1600’s.

West Country
Several early Deans came from the west country and in particular from Gloucestershire.   Sir William de Dene who lived at St. Briavels in the early 14th century was the first of the family of Dene of Dene in the Forest of Dean.  Later numbers probably included:
  • Henry Dene, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland and Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VII.
  • Sir Richard Deane, the Lord Mayor of London in 1628   
  • and the regicide and Sea General Richard Deane who died in a fight with the Dutch fleet in 1653.
There were also Deanes in and around Taunton in Somerset.  Among their numbers were Moses Deane, the ancestor of the Deanes in Limerick, and John and Walter Deane, early emigrants to Taunton, Massachusetts.  Other Deanes were to be found in the Brent Knoll area of Somerset.  The Deanes of Oxenwood in Wiltshire came originally from NW Hampshire. 

Elsewhere.  Some of the early Dean sightings may have been in SE and SW England.  But the Dean name spread across England.  By the 19th century in fact larger numbers were in the northwest, from Staffordshire through Cheshire to Lancashire:
  • John Deane was born of yeoman stock near Northwich in Cheshire around the year 1495.  He spent most of his working life in London, as rector at Smithfield, but returned in 1557 to found Witton Grammar School.  It functions today as Sir John Deane’s College.
  • one Dean family in Audley, Staffordshire dates back to 1604.  Nathaniel Dean, a surgeon, was born at Eccleshall in Staffordshire in 1762 and died at his Brook House home there in 1823. 
  • while the ancient parish of Deane lay within the present boundaries of Salford in Lancashire and that town had the largest number of Deans in England in the 1881 census.  
Ireland.  Matthew Deane from Somerset came to Ireland with Cromwell in 1649 and stayed.  He was Sheriff of Cork in 1664 and made his home at Dromore.  In 1775 his descendant Sir Robert Deane, created Baron Muskerry, secured through marriage Springfield castle in Limerick.

Another Deane family in Cork was notable in Cork for their eminence as architects and for their contribution to the cultural life of the city. The father of this brood was Alexander Deane, a builder.  His sons Thomas, Alexander, and Kearns Deane all became architects.  Thomas was knighted for his work in 1830, as was his son Thomas and his grandson Thomas.

Other English Deane lines in Ireland were:
  • the Deanes of Galway – one of the twelve tribes of Galway – who supposedly originated from Bristol in England and first appeared in Galway in 1438.
  • and the Deane family of Crumlin in Dublin, started in the 1650’s by Joseph Deane, nephew to the regicide Richard Deane.  A later Joseph Deane of this line was Chief Baron of the Exchequer in Ireland in 1714.
Deanes in Donegal and Tipperary were more likely to be of Gaelic origin, those in Ulster of Scots origin.  The largest number of Deanes in Ireland, according to Griffith’s Valuation in the mid-19th century, was in fact in Mayo, followed by Cork, Tipperary, and Donegal.  The Scottish Deans appeared in Antrim and Derry.

  The name Den appeared in Aberdeen and Dean in Ayrshire (where there is a Dean Castle).  But a more common surname form came to be Deans, meaning instead “son or servant of the dean.”  It seemed to have appeared first on the Scottish Borders and then spread across the Lowlands and to Aberdeen.  Some Deans migrated to Ulster

.  The spelling in America tended initially to be Deane.  Early New England arrivals were:
  • Stephen Deane who came to Plymouth on the Fortune in 1621.  He built the first corn mill in the colony.  He and his wife Elizabeth had three daughters, but no sons.
  • John and Walter Deane from Somerset who arrived in 1635 and settled in Taunton, Massachusetts. They did leave successors, mainly in Connecticut.  Silas Deane, the merchant and diplomat at the time of the Revolutionary War, was a descendant.
  • while Thomas Deane arrived in Massachusetts from Wiltshire in 1664.  He was a merchant in Boston but returned to England in 1676.
The 18th century Deans of New London, Connecticut were descendants of Abraham Dains who had arrived there in 1664 via Casco in Maine.

Irish and Scots Irish Deans came to America in the 18th century.

They included Roger Dean who had arrived from Ulster in the 1770’s to fight on the British side.  But once in America he changed sides and fought with the Americans.   After the War he was granted land in Kentucky and moved there.  There was a family reunion in 1785 after his son Daniel, back in Ireland, went in search of him in America and found him.  Daniel moved to Ohio in 1804.

Another line began with Benjamin Dean who came to Virginia around 1780 and, like Daniel, moved to Ohio. Other Irish Deans were to be found in Allegheny county in southern Pennsylvania.  Matthew Dean lived in the Canoe valley and many of his family were massacred in an attack by Indians in 1780.  Matthew’s great grandson was Judge John Dean of Williamsburg.

.  Some of the Deans coming to Canada were Loyalists from America.  Dean was a common name in the early 1800’s in the border area of Canada between Niagara and Kingston.  John Dean from New Jersey came with his family in 1801 and settled in Lincoln county, Ontario.  His sons fought on the Canadian side in the War of 1812.  Another Dean, George Dean from Pennsylvania, was an American deserter during that war who made his home in York county, Ontario.

New Zealand
.  William and John Deans, brothers from Ayrshire in Scotland, were one of the first settlers in Canterbury SI, arriving there in 1843.  They became sheep farmers.  William was drowned at sea in 1851. John married the next year but died at his home at Riccarton Bush in 1854.  His widow Jane Deans remained to bring up their child, later writing the story of her life in Letters to My Grandchildren

Select Dean Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Dean Names

Sir James Deane was an Elizabethan merchant adventurer who traded to India, China and the Spice Islands.
Silas Deane
was an American merchant, politician, and diplomat at the time of the Revolutionary War.
Dizzy Dean
was a baseball pitcher in the 1930’s, best known for leading the 1934 Gashouse Gang St. Louis Cardinals.
James Dean
was an American actor who became a cultural icon of the 1950’s after his performance in Rebel Without a Cause and his subsequent death in a car crash.
Christopher Dean
was the English ice dancer who won a gold medal with his partner Jayne Torvill at the 1984 Winter Olympics

Select Deans Today
  • 44,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 42,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 29,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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