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2,405 study surnames with us
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About the study

As a boy growing up in Langley, B.C., Canada, I heard stories from my paternal grandfather, John "€œAlf"€ Alfred Penzer (1895 -1961), about a possible Penzer family connection to Enville, Staffordshire. He could not directly trace our family to that English village, but, in a visit there in 1956, he found several Penzers listed in church baptismal, marriage, and burial records at Saint Mary Church at Enville. Obviously, as a boy, he must have been told stories about a possible Penzer connection to Enville.

Also, as I was growing up in Langley, there was another Penzer family residing there with English roots, which piqued my curiosity even more.

The Penzer One-Name Study commenced in 1998, when my career was winding down and I consequently had more time to research Penzers, particularly online. Like many one-name studies, it grew out of an attempt to trace my own direct ancestry, partly by learning which Penzers were NOT my direct ancestors in order to figure out which ones were. The name was registered with the Guild of One-Name Studies in 2009.

Variant names

Early variants of Penzer in England, such as Pensore, Pensor, Penzar, and Penzor have all disappeared, having been supplanted by Penzer.

Name origin

The Penzer surname in England originated among the Penson family of Enville, Staffordshire in the 18th century. The first known use of the Penzer surname occurred in 1714, when John Penson (1677 -€“ 1729) of Enville, using Penzer as his surname, married Mary Caldwelt (died 1741) at Boningale, Shropshire. The couple then baptized their six children (two sons and four daughters) at Enville using the Penson surname, and the couple'€™s burial records show Penson as their surname.

This couple'€™s two sons, who had been baptized as Pensons, chose to marry using different surnames. Their elder son, John Penson (1715 -€“ 1762), used Pensore as his surname when he married Theodosia Bradley (1720 -€“ 1797) at West Bromwich, Staffordshire in 1743. Their younger son, Thomas Penson (1724 -€“ 1808), used Pensor as his surname when he married Ann Perry (1733 -€“ 1814) at Claverley, Shropshire in 1770.

John Penson / Pensore (1715 -€“ 1762) and his wife, Theodosia Bradley, had six children (three sons and three daughters), all of whom were baptized as Pensons at Enville. But their oldest son, John Penson (1743 -€“ 1805), married as a Penzer at Enville in 1767. Their second son, Thomas Penson (1747 -€“ 1830), married as a Penzer at Pedmore, Worcestershire in 1774, but returned to reside at Enville about 1779. Their youngest son, Edward Penson (1757 -€“ 1826), married as a Penzer at Wolverhampton, Staffordshire in 1784, but returned immediately to reside at Enville. These three brothers (John, Thomas, and Edward) had a total of 21 children, all of whom were baptized as Penzers, and these three brothers were buried as Penzers.

Thomas Penson / Pensor (1724 -€“ 1808), born at Enville, and his wife, Ann Perry (1733 -€“ 1814), had six children all of whom were born at Claverley and baptized with the Pensor surname. But these six Pensors shifted from using Pensor to occasionally using Penzar and ultimately Penzer as their surname in their later years, suggesting that they were in contact with their Penzer relatives at Enville and decided for reasons unknown to also adopt the Penzer surname.

The Penzer surname also developed separately and independently in several countries in continental Europe. For example, U.S. Census data show that Penzers in the United States were descended not only from the Penzers of England, but also from Penzers originating in Austria, Poland, Russia, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Croatia, and Italy. They were a mix of Christians and Jews.

Historical occurrences of the name

There are few Penzers of note. Perhaps, the most famous Penzer was Norman Mosley Penzer (1892 -€“ 1960), an Orientalist and Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, who authored 'The Harem: Inside the Grand Seraglio of the Turkish Sultans' published by J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, 1936. His father, the Reverend Seymour Penzer (1857 -€“ 1918), was ordained in the Established Church (Church of England) and finished his career in charge of the Chapel Royal, Brighton, Sussex.

Joseph Penzer (1833 -€“ 1905) was born at Alvechurch, Worcestershire, England and died at Yarrandale, New South Wales, Australia. He served as a Member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from 1887 to 1889.

Name frequency

I have compiled a spreadsheet showing the frequency of "€œEnglish"€ Penzers every 10 years beginning with 1771, about the time that the Penzer surname came in to steady use in Enville, Staffordshire and nearby Claverley, Shropshire.


According to the ONS Database, there were 227 "€œEnglish"€ Penzers residing in England and Wales as of September 2002. This made Penzer the 19,645th most common surname in England and Wales.

A rough estimate of the number of Penzers residing in the United States in 2009 was about 100, most of whom are descended from Continental European Penzers.

Distribution of the name

In 1911, there were 225 "€œEnglish"€ Penzers in the world, with 128 of the 225 total located in Birmingham, Warwickshire and its industrial suburbs in western Warwickshire, southern Staffordshire (e.g., Wolverhampton), and northern Worcestershire (e.g., Kidderminster):
Warwickshire (62), Staffordshire (38), and Worcestershire (28).

There were an additional 19 Penzers in the Manchester area in 1911: Cheshire (9) and Lancashire (10).

Cornwall had seven Penzers in 1911, as did Yorkshire.

Other English counties with Penzers in 1911 were: Middlesex (5), Northamptonshire (3), Sussex (3), Gloucestershire (1), Lincolnshire (1), Shropshire (1), and Suffolk (1).

Further afield, there were 12 "€œEnglish"€ Penzers in Canada (all in British Columbia) in 1911, 11 Penzers in Australia, 10 Penzers in the United States (all in Virginia), six Penzers in New Zealand, six Penzers in Wales, and four Penzers in Scotland.

Figuring out how many non-English Penzers there were in the world in 1911 is much more difficult. A quick look at the 1910 U.S. Census shows that there were 36 Penzers in the United States, with 10 of English origin and 26 of non-English origin, including those either born in, or with ancestors from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany, Russia, and Italy.


All of the Penzer birth, marriage, and death (BMD) entries from the General Register Offices for England and Wales (1837 -€“ 2005) and Scotland have been recorded. The available BMD entries for Australia, New Zealand, and British Columbia, Canada have also been recorded.

All of the Penzer census entries for England and Wales (1841 to 1911), Scotland (to 1901), Canada (to 1911), and the United States (to 1930) have also been tabulated.

All of the Penzer baptisms and marriages in the IGI have been recorded, as have Penzer burials available in the parish records at

All of the "€œEnglish"€ Penzers have been assigned their appropriate places in the Penzer family tree.