Family history and 
one name study 
Glenister name origins
Many theories

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There have been numerous suggestions as to the origin of the name Glenister.

Choose between these suggestions:

  • Norman-French
  • Scottish
Possibly Norman-French
This theory from John Glenister of Luton, Bedfordshire has suggested an origin based on Norman-French.

Although the name Glenister does indeed have a Gaelic ring to it, there are few scots who recognise the name as having a scottish origin. The mentions of the name found in the Cambridge in the 13th century and the preponderance of the name around the Herts-Bucks-Middx area suggest an origin closer to the South. There was very little movement of population prior to the industrial revolution, and it is difficult to conceive of a scot in the earlier post norman times (when surnames first came into common use) travelling down to settle in the South.

The name may be derived from the old french verb "glener" meaning "to glean" which is to used to describe the action of collecting from the fields the crops and straw which remain after the harvest. The suffix "-ist" means the art or skill, as in "chemist" or "agriculturalist". Many surnames have Norman-French origins (eg Fletcher from "fleche" meaning "arrow"), since this was the language of the first Plantagenets who ruled England.

It is probable that our Glenister ancestors were sons of the soil - like most of the population in Norman England.

Perhaps Scottish
It is often said that the Glenister family originates from Scotland, but so far there has been no concrete evidence. This snippet from Tony Glenister provides a credible link which is worthy of further investigation.

There are two parts to the link. First, from "The surnames of Scotland" by George Black, published by New York Public Library, which notes:

Glenorchy, from Glenorchy in Lorn, Arygllshire. John de Glenurchwar taken at the Battle of Dunbar, also mentioned as John Gleniarchwar and one year later as John Glenurhard, liberated to serve the king of England abroad.

Second, from "Kings Edward I's knights" published by the Harleian Society, which notes:

Sir John de Glennirthwar a Scottish knight captured at Dunbar - the constable of Berkhamsted Castle is to receive him and guard him - 16 May 1296.

These two mentions provide a very early link between what could be an original form of the name, and Berkhamsted, which still has the remains of a castle, and which seems to be the area richest in Glenisters, particularly from the mid 1700s onwards. It will be very interesting to try to trace what became of Sir John after his release and the subsequent 500 years!

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Last modified 2021 Mar 01 12:00:00