LARRANCE or LAWRENCE? That is the question!

The earliest ancestor that I have been able to pinpoint thus far would be John Lawrence, who died about 1711/12 in Northumberland Co. VA. He left no will, but his widow, Susannah, administered his estate, and there is a surviving inventory. The surname in this inventory appears to have been spelled LAURENCE. John and Susannah had a son named Edward, who got a grant for land in Northumberland Co. He did not sign this grant, but his surname is spelled LAWRENCE in the document. In 1738 Edward and his wife sold their land in Northumberland County, and the name appears to have been spelled both LAWRANCE and LAWRENCE in the deed.

After 1738, Edward lived in Prince William Co., Virginia, in that section which later became Fauquier Co. Edward made his will in Fauquier Co. in 1783 (probated 1786) and he signed his name LARRANCE.

Edward named four sons in his will: Edward (Jr.), Peter, Richard and John. All four appear to have used the spelling LARRANCE. Edward (Jr.) LARRANCE was a bondsman for a marriage in Shenandoah Co. Virginia in 1790. He died about 1817 in the same county, and I am not sure if he was still using LARRANCE when he died or not. Peter made a will in 1819 (probated 1826) in Culpepper Co. Virginia and he signed his name LARRANCE. There is no extant will for Richard, but papers pertaining to his estate in Barren Co. Kentucky spell the name LARRANCE and also, apparently, LAURANCE (and maybe even LAURENCE) all within the same document. Other documents for Richardís family indicate that his sons used the spelling LARRANCE (one son, Archibald, signed his will in 1849 in Barren Co. as LARRANCE). John died in 1800 in Randolph Co. North Carolina and both his will and his tombstone (an actual stone!) are written LARRANCE.

The grandchildren of Edward (Sr.) Larrance appear to have continued using LARRANCE, but many began using other spellings as well. For example, Jesse Larrance/Lawrence, a son of John Larrance who died 1800 in NC, signed an 1815 guardian bond as LARRENCE (this could be LARRANCE, given the difficulty in distinguishing between e and a in old handwriting), as did his brothers, Jonathan and Edward, who were security. An 1838 deed to his son spelled the name LARRANCE, as did an 1847 school district committee list. A license for an ordinary (tavern) in 1858 had LAWRENCE, as did his widowís petition for her yearís support in 1862. It is safe to assume that a majority of the great grandchildren of Edward (Sr.) Larrance were using the spelling LAWRENCE.

However, part of the family continues to use LARRANCE today, although they pronounce it "Lawrence," "Luh-rantz," and "Lair-untz." In 1997 I downloaded from the internet on-line phone directories a list of some 100 Larrance listings across the country. I have since contacted just about all of them, and I believe that every LARRANCE in the country today is a descendant of John Larrance who died 1800 in NC. There are a couple I have not been able to definitely place, but I think that is just due to a lack of sufficient information.

John Larrance named seven sons in his will dated 1800 in Randolph Co. NC:

Edward, William, Richard, Peter, Needham, Jonathan and Jesse.

Richard and Peter both married Quaker women and became Quakers themselves. I donít know if that is significant to the matter at hand, but it might be. Richard died in 1840 in Jefferson Co. Tennessee, leaving three sons: John, Jonathan and David. Jonathan remained in Jefferson County, and his descendants (many of whom are still in TN, though some are in Oregon and other states) still spell their name LARRANCE. John and David left TN and moved to Vermilion County, Illinois. John remained there, dying in 1837. His descendants are all over the country now, though many remain in Illinois, and they constitute the bulk of those living today with the surname LARRANCE. David kept on moving westward from Illinois, eventually settling in Missouri. I have contacted a number of his descendants, and interestingly enough, every one of them uses the spelling LAWRENCE.

Peter died in 1855 in Henry Co., Indiana and appears to have gone to the grave using LARRANCE. He had 21 children (9 of them sons) by three wives. While the vast majority of descendants use LAWRENCE, I have discovered descendants from two of the sons that use LARRANCE. These first of these was Jonathan LARRANCE, who died 1845 in Mercer Co., Illinois, and was a son of Peter by his first wife, Abigail Ha(y)dock. The second was a son by Peterís third wife, Sarah Hinshaw: Jesse LARRANCE, who died 1907 in Mahaska Co., Iowa.

October 1997, revised 1999 - Carol Lawrence Vidales, Raleigh, NC