Vingoe! A History of the Name


With a name like Vingoe the biggest puzzle is where does the name come from. People researching the family tree have debated the issue via letters and e-mails and places put forward as being the likely source have ranged from Scandinavia to Spain. But I believe that the name Vingoe is Celtic and what's more I think it started right here in Cornwall.

Charles Henderson, a highly respected Cornish historian, tells us in his addendum to the Rev. Doble's leaflet on St Euny, Redruth,  that the preface Tre in a name meant the homestead of a tribe.  He states that at Redruth there were six such tribes Wirgey, Leigh, Ruffe, Fula, Weath and Vyngey. All of these names with the TRE prefix are still to be found as place names in and around Redruth today. According to Frank Mitchell in his "Annals of an Ancient Cornish Town" these six places were probably the earliest lower settlements in the area." the first or earliest homesteads were on top of Carn Brea hill and even today you can wander amongst the remains of these Neolithic settlements from as early as 3,000 to 4,000 B.C.

Just when the people descended from the hill and started to settle in the lower lands is not known, however, the site occupied by the Vingey tribe is the site of an ancient well with special powers and when St Euny came to Cornwall this is where he choose to build his church. The saints are believed to have dated from around 400 AD and this would mean that the lowlands had been settled before this date. 

The first record of a person having the name Trevingey is recorded in another book "Old Cornish Bridges and Streams which Henderson wrote in conjunction with H. Coates:-

"Reswythen Bridge near Redruth Church, was undermined by tinners so long ago as 1301. At an Eyre (visitation of the King's Justices to Launceston to which Juries were sent from the Hundreds) in 1301 the Jury of Penwith made answer "that the bridge of Reswythen had been ruined by the tinworks (minaria) of Ralph Wenna of Redruth and John de Treveyngy, tinners, who had undermined it."  

Mitchell tells us that:-

 "This bridge is believed to have been at the bottom of the hill near Blowing House and the matter was one of the earliest accounts of the working for tin in the district."

 This is close to or even on the land that carries the name of Trevingey today. 

In a 1586 work titled "Remaines of a Greater Worke Concerning Britaine" William Camden wrote:

“About the yeare of our Lord 1000... surnames began to be taken up in France, and in England about the time of the Conquest, or else a very little before, under King Edward the Confessor, who was all Frenchified... but the French and we termed them Surnames, not because they are the names of the sire, or the father, but because they are super added to Christian names as the Spanish called them Renombres, as Renames.”

At first the use of hereditary surnames was confined to those of titled rank but slowly it started to spread to others, mainly in the larger communities. In the small communities which most people lived in a first name plus  a nickname, would have been enough to distinguish who was who. The nickname would usually take a simple form such as William An Gwin, which in Cornish translates to William the white smith (a worker in tin). It might also, on the other hand, have referred to his complexion or hair coloring. Later this became shortened to William Angwin and then even later may have been anglicized to  William White.

When a person was referred to by others outside their hamlet. then the place name was included as above with John de Treveyngy, but even as late as 1465 during the reign of Edward IV surnames were still not universal. There was a problem with identifying asylum seekers & foreign workers ( it seems nothing changes) and a law was passed requiring incomers to adopt surnames in order to make them easier to quantify for taxation and military service. Early Lay Subsidy Rolls, Tithings and Muster Rolls list their nationality, occupation or allegiance to a foreign king if applicable.

“They shall take unto them a Surname, either of some Town, or some Color, as Black or Brown, or some Art or Science, as Smyth or Carpenter, or some Office, as Cooke or Butler.”

In Cornwall people from Brittany were registered on the Muster Rolls in the 16th Century as being "of Bretton". In many cases this later became the family name Briton in the early parish registers. Other more obvious nationality names in this early period are Jermyn & Frank 

By the early 16th century, surnames seem to have become the norm. The muster roll for Redruth in 1500 records the following:-

"Reginald Trevingy doth horse and harness Perkin Jenkin.

and in 1524 the Redruth Subsidy Roll records:-

John Trevingy  Goods Worth £4.

In the Muster roll for 1535 we have the following record:-

John Trevyngy - Sword and Bill.

Although the spelling were sometimes different due to the recorders whim when writing them, the use of Trevingy as an hereditary surname had been firmly adopted in the Redruth area. However, the family had begun to spread out and in 1569 a Nichol Vyngow appears on the Muster Roll for the Parish of Sennen in the far west of Cornwall. 

"Nichol Vyngow  a Bill & 6 Arrows."

Was there a link between the two names?

Names were a bit of a moveable feast and many did not settle down for a century or so, and Mathews in his book "A history of St Ives" records that  in 1594/95 the Record for the Borough of St Ives showed the following entry:

"To Jenkin Trevingy and Phillip for whachinge of Henry Poter and his son in the stoles 2s. and for making of their metimus 6d."  

and in 1603 we have the following:

Nichol Vyngow  a Bill & 6 Arrows.

"Jenken Trevingy the 18 of Mch for pavente stone one shillinge and 6 pence"

Mathews, goes on to state that:-  

"the name Trevingy and Vingoe occurs frequently  in the St Ives Borough Accounts  between 1500 -1609. These two names would appear to be synonimous"

The Vingoe version seems to have taken over as I can find no further references to Trevingey as a family name following the death of a Geoffrey Trevingy whose will was published in1609. 

When I first started researching the family tree, I used the Mormon Churches web Site where millions of details are stored from all over the world. I had 




has only been in common use for the past 400 years, and that of a middle name for even less, having started in the middle of the eighteenth century.  


A Cornish researcher Hugh Wallis has developed a web site for finding Middle Names. He says that whilst researching it he came across nearly 11,000 different middle names (some of which are obvious transcription errors for each other) appearing in over 61,000 of the christening/birth/adult baptism and marriage records on the Mormon Church IGI for Cornwall alone. At first these tended to be a means of telling which branch of a family you came from by using the mothers maiden name.