A Researcher's Guide to the

Renslow Family History

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A Comment On the Origin of the Renslow Name, and an explanation of how Renslow and Rensley are different in origin

© 1999 David Eitzen

Raven comes from the Old Norse hrafn. The Raven was the Danes national emblem. Among the spoils taken by the Saxons was the famous banner of the Raven, said to have possessed the property of appearing before every battle flying like a living bird if the Danes were to be victorious...while in the contrary event if it hung down motionless. (taken from Asser written in A.D. 878)

Where this banner was flown became the name of a place, which obviously varied from site to site, and therefore the people around it took the place name closest to them as their surname. Ransley came from Raven's Lea...or as it would be converted to us, the field where the raven flew, Ravenshaw...the woods where it flew, etc....(Ravensdale, Ravenscliff, Ravenscroft, etc.. follow this trend). Ravenslawe (which disintegrated into Ranslaw...and undoubtedly further to the Renslows and Ranslows of Yorkshire) came from the Norse hrafn and the Old English hloew, which according to Harrison meant a burial mound/ hill. This makes Ravenslawe, the burial mound where the raven flew.

Harrison points out that on 2 occasions (in two other works) the names of Ranslaw and Ransley are confused with each other, which are probably Lowers' and Bardsley's works. This would make it incorrect, according to Harrison, for Ransley to be derived from Ravenslawe.

David Eitzen, Omaha, Nebraska, 1999


Surnames of the United Kingdom: a concise etymological dictionary, by Henry Harrison. Assisted by Gyda Pulling. Baltimore, MD: Reprinted for Clearfield Co. by Genealogical Pub. Co., 1992. 2 v. in 1.

A dictionary of English and Welsh surnames: with special American instances, by the late Charles Wareing Bardsley; revised for the press by his widow. London; New York: H. Frowde, 1901. xvi, 837 p.

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This page was last revised on April 2, 2005