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About the study
There are many sources that name John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (1340 - 1399) as one of the original recorded instances of the surname, and that it is just a variation of GAUNT. My own personal theory is that it is a surname in its own right, which on many occasions has been written down as GAUNT or GRANT.
Adalbert de GAND (1004 -1032), was the son of Arnulf of GAND, Count of Holland, and ancestor of Gilbert de Gant, Earl of Lincoln (c. 1126 - 1156), and an ancient lord of Hunmanby in Yorkshire. As the surname is so prevalent in the eastern counties of England, I think it's much more likely that it originated in the west of mainland Europe, before spreading through the eastern counties of England via Gilbert de Gant.
Historical occurrences of the name
The most illustrious Gants I have found so far include:
- Tetley Gant CMG, who was elected President of the Legislative Council of Tasmania in 1901. He was part of the prominent Gant family from Bradford in Yorkshire, and was also connected to the Tetley family of brewers.
- Frederick James Gant, a surgeon born in Hackney, Middlesex in 1825. The Gant Prize was founded at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in 1907 by the Foundation of Frederick James Gant. Awarded jointly from 2004 following the merger of the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine with University College London and Middlesex School of Medicine.
In 1851, approximately 0.0039% of the population of the United Kingdom used the surname. This reached a peak of 0.0045% in 1891, though the figures have been falling steadily since then.
There were approximately 1,092 instances of the surname on the 1881 census. According to the Office of National Statistics, there were 1,962 people with the surname GANT in England, Wales and the Isle of Man in 2002, and the name was ranked at number 3769.
Distribution of the name
In 1851, and before the mass migration to the bigger towns and cities, census statistics show that the vast majority of the Gant families in England and Wales were centred around the eastern English counties of Suffolk, Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and Essex. Even now, there are still large concentrations in these areas (Source: United Kingdom Electoral Register 2000).
Gants have been found all over the world, with a large number in Australia. The greatest concentration of the name by far is in the United States of America, where the 1880 census recorded a total of nearly 4,000 Gants. Gant immigration to the US was surprisingly low, as I have found no more than a hundred or so Gant immigrants from the United Kingdom and Europe, so I have yet to discover exactly how the name became so prevalent in the US.
I hold a large amount of worldwide data, and I'm also working to add Gant people to family trees, along with any photographs and interesting facts about their lives. The ultimate aim of course is to add ALL of them, but that could take quite some time!
Gant BMD registrations from 1837 - 1960 are available to search on The Guild website