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Our 2,766 members have registered
2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

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About the study

Welcome to the Grenfell One-Name Study the purpose of which is to further interest in the Grenfell family name and its variants. The study really began in the 1980's when Alison Stephen in Victoria, Australia and Arthur Coomb in Cornwall, England were independently researching the family. Alison registered the Grenfell name No. 1238 - with the Guild in 1997 and after meeting in Truro in 1998 they decided to collaborate and pool their resources.
 In September 2002 the Grenfell Family History website was launched

Variant names

In early records the name was often spelt Grenfield, Greenfield, Grinfield, Grinfill, Grinfield. Since the latter half of the 19th century there has been little variance from Grenfell in Cornwall although in other parts of the UK Granfell appears. At least two Grenfell families have since changed their surname to back Granville, and this name together with Grenville appears several times as a forename e.g. John Granville Grenfell. In the 1881 census returns for England, Scotland and Wales the name of Grenfell appears 499 times and Granville 431.

Name origin

The name Grenfell is a likely to be a variant of Granville which is a locative surname derived from Grainville-la-Teinturiere in Northern France. It is probable that the first men from Grainville arrived in Britain during the latter part of the 11th century.
The earliest reference to the family in Cornwall appears in the 1588 Easter Book of St Just in Penwith, a parish in the far west of the county, when amongst the residents of the tenement of Truthwell there is a Marga (widow), John Grainfield and Martin Glandfield.
How the family arrived at St Just is a matter of speculation but some historians, notably the late Dr AL Rowse, believe that the family were descended from the land owning Grenville family from the Manors of Stowe and Penheale in North Cornwall.
Of the surviving St Just records, the earliest baptism entered is that in 1632 of Ann daughter of Hercules Grenfield, who married Jane Busvargus in 1631, although there are earlier burial and marriage entries. Other 17th century records appear in the Cornish parishes of Madron, Paul, St Ives and Zennor.

Historical occurrences of the name

The study website contains biographies and obituaries of a number of notable family members among whom are:

An early recipient of the Victoria Cross in the 1914-1918 war.
British, Brazilian and US admirals.
English and Welsh Members of Parliament.
A Field Marshall.
3 Peers.
A Great War poet.
Doctor, Missionary and Explorer.
Colonel in the American Civil War.
and many others.


Name frequency

In the 1881 census there were 578 Grenfells recorded which represented 0.00223% of the population or 1 in 44,931.

An Office for National Statistics database for the year 2002 recorded 750 Grenfells equal to 0.00138% of the population, a frequency of 1 in 72,533. This shows a considerable reduction as a percentage of the population as a whole. The name was ranked =8835.

Distribution of the name

In the study distribution records show that in both the 1841 and 1861 census over 85% of the Grenfell name and variants were living in Cornwall. However, as the tin and copper mining industries collapsed in the 19th century many Grenfell families emigrated, mainly to Australia and North and South America, and also moved to other mining areas of England, Scotland and particularly Wales, and to the business and banking centres in London. In 1881 the census showed 53% remained in Cornwall with the next highest areas, Wales and London with 7%.


The website currently contains details of 10 family lines totalling over 3500 people from 1247 families, more than 1400 of whom carry the Grenfell (and variants) name.

The site also contains transcriptions of mainly Cornish parish baptism, marriage and burial records also Digger and Pioneer records from Victoria, Australia and other overseas data, Non-conformist records and Monumental Inscriptions. Military records, migration details, documents including Wills and miscellaneous press and book references are also contained on the site. In addition there are photographs of parish churches associated with the family and links to many other points of reference.



A GRENFELL DNA Project was recently started in September 2015 with Family Tree DNA.
If you are a male with the name GRENFELL or its variants please join the project details of which can be found at Grenfell DNA Project