71 – Jarvis or Jervis or Gervis or ?

As you’ve seen, there are a variety of spellings for Jarvis.

Jarvis, Jarvais, Jervis, Jervais, Gervis, Gervaise, Gervace, Jarvice, etc.

Can we come up with the definitive form? Did Elizabeth use only Jarvis, or could she have used any of these other spellings?

Jarvis is the “Root” spelling

One of Celia’s studies included English births 1600-1670 from the website FamilySearch. She searched for various spellings, adding a wildcard * to find sub-variations.

Her chart below shows the mind-boggling results, 25,000 births for Jarvis, Jarvais, Jervis, Garvis, Gervis, Gervais, Jarvice, Gervace, Gervice, etc.

The prevalent form is Jarv*s* (52%), followed by Jerv*s* (24%) and Gerv*s* (12%).

So Jarvis must be the “root” name.

Gervaise is the “Root” spelling

The Jarvis surname:

1) Usually derived from the given name Gervaise – an English form of Gervasius, comprised of the Germanic elements “geri,” meaning spear and “vase,” of unknown meaning.

2) One who came from Jervaulx (pronounced Jarvis) in Northern Yorkshire, the site of a Cistercian monastery and named for the river Ure and “vaulx,” meaning valley.

Jervis is a variation of the first meaning, and Gervis, Gervase , and Jarvie are variations of the second origin.

About.com, from FamilyTreeDNA

So the correct form is Gervaise. Or does this mean it’s Gervasius? Or Jervaulx? Or ? Hmmmm.

Jarvis is a mispronunciation of Jervis

Here’s a tweet from Notes and Queries, the Twitter of the 19th century. This 1872 tweet claims that people “not of the family” incorrectly pronounce Jervis as Jarvis.

Notes and Queries – February 3, 1872

So Jervis is the proper form, and Jarvis is a mispronunciation.

But the Tweeter didn’t leave it at that, and went on to associate Gervasius, Gervays, Jervys, and Gervase. Oh woe. What to do?

Louise Longworth’s family name is Jervis

Wait. Mark Jarvis is a Y DNA match with Eric Jervis, Louise Jervis Longworth’s cousin. Their family has been in England and kept the Jervis name for generations.

Louise added her two cents:

I wonder at what point the name changed from Jervis to Jarvis – possibly on Elizabeth’s arrival at her destination port ?  It could simply be down to her accent –  because of course the official would spell it as he heard it.

Louise Jervis Longworth – October 2018

Jervis must be the proper form.

Let’s settle this

Celia asked me to analyze Elizabeth’s early citations in Pennsylvania.

It was a good exercise.  I looked at 35 citations from 1684 through 1714.  And the winner is….  Jervis.  I knew there were a lot of different spellings, but I wouldn’t have guessed that Jervis would dominate.  

It seems like after 1714 the citations change more to Jarvis, though still with many variations.

Here’s an interesting sidebar.  I found three citations containing Joseph Jervis’ own signature, in 1688, 1725, and 1731.  And all three are signed Joseph Jervis. 

So Joseph himself will settle our dilemma.

His name was Joseph Jervis. And I’m going to say that his mother’s name was Elizabeth Jervis.

Nibbles Extra Credit

Brentford High Street Project

Celia Cotton hosts a website – Brentford High Street Project.

Check out http://bhsproject.co.uk

Celia’s grandparents were born in Brentford. Their family and earlier relatives lived on High Street, but she wasn’t sure exactly where.

Brentford is a town about 8 miles west of London city center, now a suburb.

I’ve always liked a puzzle and here was the ideal one: to try and piece together a picture of the whole High Street from around 1841 (first census) up to 1940 (the date of the latest street index I copied at Chiswick Library). The dates covered 100 years, which seemed a reasonable target. And so the Brentford High Street Project was born in 2003.

Celia Cotton – bhsproject.co.uk

It’s become a hugely successful collaboration of people whose own families were associated with Brentford High Street.

For American readers, High Street is the British equivalent of our Main Street. Every English town has a High Street. It’s the market street, the main street of town, the community center.

Not Brentford

And now, Celia is beginning to add the great family studies she’s done on Jervis and Jarvis and others to the website. The link is from the home page at the bottom – “Not Brentford”.

On the “Not Brentford” page, you’ll see the link to “Jarvis and Jervis” and also to the “Aquilegia photos” on her allotment.

Allotments are small pieces of land that are rented to local people so that they can grow their own fruit, vegetables, and flowers.

Celia’s Aquilegias (Columbine)


3 thoughts on “71 – Jarvis or Jervis or Gervis or ?

  1. Brenda Teply May 6, 2020 / 11:29 am

    Mark, I think, after all this research, you should legally change your last name to Jervis.


    • Mark Jarvis May 6, 2020 / 12:25 pm

      Thanks Brenda. And if I didn’t like Jervis, I’d have plenty of other choices.

      But once I got to America, I’d have to change it back to Jarvis.


  2. Louise Jervis Longworth May 14, 2020 / 1:01 pm

    A belated comment I know but – my family would almost have apoplexy if addressed as ‘Jarvis’ – radio announcers would insist on pronounced the name that way when reading the cast list, and I have even been corrected about how to pronounce my own surname ! So many variations to choose from. My favourite version is ‘ Gervaise.’ Probably due to ‘my childhood belief that I was French ! Desperate to learn French from the age of about nine, and madly envious when an older friend of 11 started to learn French at school. In desperation asked her to teach me everything she was learning !! I still remember the first word she taught me – ‘ manger’ !


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