Surnames became common in England between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries when governments introduced personal taxation and are generally derived from four sources:
- Patronymic: the given (first) name of the father eg Williamson, or its abbreviated form Williams, meaning son of William, Richardson etc. Different forms of these hereditary names occur in many countries eg Mac (Gaelic), O' (Irish), Ming (Chinese) etc.
- Locative: local surnames derived from the place of residence of its owner eg Hill, Wood, Lane, Ashford etc.
- Descriptive: names derived from personal attributes such as Long, Short, Little, Good, Wise etc.
- Occupational: names derived from occupations eg Farmer, Miller, Cooper, Fletcher, Collier (a coal miner) etc.
Ennever and its variants don't fit naturally into any of these categories but are often attributed to being of early medieval English origin, derived from the female given names of Guinevere or Guenever or even Jen(n)ifer. These are predominantly Welsh or west country names while all the early history of the Ennevers points to our origins being in Kent or Essex, making a link to these names highly unlikely. It does seem possible that the name Ennever/Enever may even have Middle Eastern or Viking origins and this possibility was discussed in a 2011 newsletter.
According to the Dictionary of English & Welsh surnames by Bardsley, the Ennever group of names are probably a g-less pronunciation of the once popular Gwenever.
The Internet Surname Database reports in more detail on this derivation of the name:
This unusual surname is of early medieval English origin, and derives from the female given names Genever or Jen(n)ifer, Cornish forms of the medieval Welsh "Guenever" or "Guinevere", from the Old Welsh "Gwenhwyfar", a compound of the elements "gwen", fair, white, and "(g)wyf", smooth, yielding. The name in its original form was borne by the wife of King Arthur in the legends, and in Anglo-Norman it became "Guenievre". Gwenhevare occurs as a personal name in Shropshire in 1431, and is still used throughout England, though usually disguised under the forms Gonore, Ganor, Gaynor, Ginevra and Wannour, with Vanora being popular in Scotland. The surname deriving directly from the Cornish "Jenifer" first appears on record prior to the 14th Century (see below), and in 1332, one Henry Juneuyr was noted in the Subsidy Rolls of Sussex. The forms Ennever, Enver, Enefer, Enniver, Inevere and Innover, recorded in English Church Registers from the late 16th Century, result from the dialectal loss of the initial letter from Genever and Jen(n)ifer. On May 9th 1595, Elsabeth Enever, an infant, was christened at Shorne, Kent, and on June 21st 1623, Jacob Enever and Bettrice Pearson were married at St. Andrew by the Wardrobe, London. The marriage of William Enever to Mary Percifull took place at St. John the Baptist, Croydon, Surrey, on April 21st 1843. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Mabilla Jenever, which was dated 1296, in the "Subsidy Rolls of Sussex", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
© Copyright: Name Origin Research www.surnamedb.com 1980 - 2007
However, this explanation seems very unlikely to a number of Ennever/Enever researchers.
As many of you will know surnames became common in England between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries when governments introduced personal taxation and they are generally derived from the four sources shown above.
The bust of Nefertiti from the Ägyptisches Museum Berlin collection, presently in the Neues Museum.
Ennever and its variants don't fit naturally into any of these categories and as all the early history of the Ennevers points to our origins being in Kent or Essex while Guinevere, Guenever and even Jen(n)ifer are predominantly Welsh or west country names this makes a link to these names seem highly unlikely.
Almost all branches of the family, most with no obvious links for many generations, have had stories passed down that the family are of French descendancy and one of the earliest records in England of a name that may have been a variant of Ennever supports this version of the name's origins.
If you visit Egypt, however, you will find a hieroglyph or character 'nfr', pronounced 'nefer' as in Nefertiti and this will be one country where people don't say "what an unusual name"! The term nefer was very popular with the ancient Egyptians and it appears with a dozen different meanings in their literature and was incorporated into many personal names.
If we then look at possible variations of the name across Europe we will find Enevoldsen in Scandinavia (the 'sen' meaning son of), Enever from Cyprus, Enver from Turkey and Hennevere and even Enneveu in France. The very early reference is to a Raymond de Enevill and although its relevance may never be established this was a petition to the King dated 1306 in which Raymond, a merchant from Toulouse, was seeking payment of debts. This document can be found at the National Archives website and is written in French.
With so many similarities it seems likely that the name originated from medieval traders and this would also explain why the name first occurs in the port areas of south-east England. So, could the family have originally come from the Middle East?
Sources: Wikipedia, Egyptian Myths and The National Archives. I would like to thank Frankie Enever, Trevor Enever and Patricia Hill for their contributions.