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One of the great mysteries of Dennis genealogy is who exactly was Donnock Dennis, and where did he come from? His name has been misspelled many ways, so many that one must wonder what the true spelling is. His name has been shown as Tonath, Donnock, Dornick, Dannoch, Dunnock, and probably a few more. The book Dennis & Company attempts to shed some light on the origin of the Dennis family in America. Perry, the author of Dennis & Company, quotes from the genealogy DeJarnette and Allied Families in America in America (1699-1954): "The writer hesitates to disclose the identity of the persons who have offered the following information about our early ancestors." "John Dennis went from Poinotiers, France, to Scotland, where he married Mary Donnock. They were the parents of John Donnock Dennis who emigrated to the United States of America and settled on the eastern shore of Maryland and whose wife was Ann Teackle." Another source quoted by Perry, again unnamed, offers this information. "Early records of the present Northampton Co., VA, show settlement there in 1625 of John Dennis (m Barbara) (d 1652) with frequent mention there down to a 1649 land grant in Northumberland Co., VA. " "This John had sons --- John Jr., Justinian, and Donnock. Northumberland records have frequent mention of John, Jr., and Justinian (m Katherine ....1656)." "Justinian, son of Justinian, Jr., got land grants 1668-1672 in Charles Co., MD just across the line from St. Marys county." "Donnock (m Elice Nerhrilian - 1661) (d 1716) (See p. 125 Vol IV of Mackenzies Colonial Families) was the progenitor of the wide-spread Dennis family of the Eastern Shore of Maryland." This particular reference makes no attempt to state the origin of the family, however, the only Dennis listed as immigrating to Virginia was the aforementioned John Dennis, but the dates don't match up. This information, if true, maybe leads one to a different path for Dennis ancestry. If indeed this John Dennis were the father of John Donnock Dennis, and John Donnock Dennis migrated to America, then likely he is the John Dennis listed on the passenger list of the ship Merchants Hope, which left from London for Virginia July 31, 1635. This revelation would lead one to declare that my Dennis line were of French origin instead of Irish origin. However, citing another source, Old Somerset on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Donnock Dennis was "unmistakeably Irish" in origin. On page 441, reference is made to a 1672 power of attorney granted by Thomas Blake of Galloway, Ireland, to Donagh Dinis of Morumsco Creek, Somerset Co, MD to collect debts due said Blake. One thing is clear - no passenger or immigration lists have yet been found to show reference to Donnock Dennis in any of the various spellings of his name. So, where did he come from? Well, according to the book The Early Settlers of Maryland, Dornick Dennis immigrated to Maryland in 1668 along with his wife Ellis, his daughter Elizabeth, and his son William. Interestingly enough, Justinian and his family are shown as immigrating at approximately the same time. This perhaps could lend credence to the theory that John Dennis was Donnocks father. I am not making that claim at this point, but it is definitely food for thought.
Proven historical data on DonnockWhat do we know for sure about Donnock? Well, we can be certain that he was the "progenitor" of the Dennises of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Lineage has been documented from Donnock down to the 20th century by many researchers and historians. But what do historical documents say about the man? Let's examine what we have. We know that a "Tonath" Dennis was listed in a headright of William Roberts in Virginia in 1657. I quote this excerpt from the book Cavaliers and Pioneers: p. 356 "William Roberts, 600 ac. Northampton Co., 27 Nov 1657, p. 134, (197). Near Matchepungo, Ely. upon a devdt. of John Brown at Phillips Cr. and Sly. upon a branch parting it from land of Thomas Bell. Trans. of 12 pers: Richard Richards, Katherine Florra, Owen Adroune, Tonath Dennis, Lawrence Hogge (or Hegge), Jno. Williams, Elizabeth Hobson, Robert Atkins, Tho. Broadways, Alexander _____, David Connawin, Jno. Derrowe." We know that "Donock Dennis" married Elice Nebulian according to the records of Hungars Parrish, Virginia, on July 31, 1661 (see Virginia Vital Records p. 393-396 and Marriages Northampton County)., Virgina, 1660-1854) We know that he was listed as immigrating to Maryland in 1668 (see reference above). The Maryland Calendar of Wills shows his will probated 23rd March, 1716. According to this source, "Donnack Dennis" was a planter in Somerset Co., MD. To quote: "Dennis, Donnack, planter, Somerset Co., 16th Feb., 1716 23rd Mar., 1716 To wife _______, dwelling plantation, "Dennis' Purchase." 300 A., during life; at her decease to son Donnach and hrs., and personalty. " grandson William and hrs. (son of Donnack Dennis, Jr.), 100 A., part of "Dennis' Purchase." " grandson Theopolus (son of Donnach Dennis, Jr.), personalty. " grandson Donnack (son of John Dennis), 100 A. on Little- ton's Creek, s. side of Potomac R. " dau. Eleanor, wife of Jeremiah Morris, personalty. " son-in-law Hugh Porter, to dau. Margaret, to son Henry Hudson, 1s. each. Residue of estate to sons John and Donnack, equally. Ex. : son John. Test: John Dennis, Jr., Robt. Weer, Wm. Lane 14.278. Note-23rd Mar., 1716. Elizabeth Dennis, widow of testator, did revoke the within will, and fly to her thirds." This verifies some of his descendants and land he owned, and also that he must have remarried. Either that, or Elice was by now going under the name Elizabeth.