This surname TENNIS was an English surname, familiar to County Yorkshire, and originally derived from a medieval given name, a diminutive of Dennis. The variation in initial seems to have arisen by the Germanic personal names that came into England with the initial P, which were often confused. The name is also spelt TENNEY, TENNYSON and TENNESON. The earliest of the name on record appears to be Richard TENYCONE of Yorkshire, who was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Surnames as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th Century. The employment in the use of a second name was a custom that was first introduced from the Normans. They themselves had not long before adopted them. It became, in course of time, a mark of gentler blood, and it was deemed a disgrace for gentlemen to have but one single name, as the meaner sort had. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the flowing and draped garment worn over the armour. A notable member of the name was Alfred, Ist Baron TENNYSON (1809-92) the English poet, born in Somersby rectory, Lincolnshire, the fourth son of the rector. His eldest brothers Frederick and Charles, also wrote poetry. He was educated at Louth Grammar School, and in 1827 went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became a member of an ardent group of young men. He became poet laureate in 1850. His last poem was a sixteen line lyric written in 1889 while crossing from Lymington on the Isle of Wight 'Crossing the Bar'. This name was taken to America in 1638 by Thomas TENNEY, a member of a party led by the Rev. Ezekiel Rogers from Rowley, Yorkshire. They founded Rowley, Mass. and most probably all modern American families with this name are descended from him.
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