Image: Annis Coat

The true origins and meaning of the surname ANNIS (and it's variations) may never be fully uncovered from the dimness of antiquity. There are as many theories to the origins of the name as there are derivations, and so I will not attempt to set forth all of the documented facts about this unusual surname, but rather put forth a foundation.

The surname Annis may be found in many different cultures and nations including, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, and Greece, although the meaning of the name varies among these countries. The name is a simple one in it's spelling, but it is invariably pronounced incorrectly by those not familiar with it. This has often caused amazement, and consternation, by those of us who are so proud of it's uniqueness and simplicity.

The earliest surviving English records of the name Annis, and it's subsequent changes and derivations, are found in the midland shires of Nottingham, Worchester, Leicester, and Huntingdon during the 11th century A.D. The Annis families residing there at that time held both large and small estates, and are recorded in the two large volumes of the Domesday survey known as the Domesday Book. The name is invariably spelled ANNYS, as the "Y" is the Old English equivalent of "I". "The Domesday" was a unique survey of holdings and property that was undertaken by order of William the Conqueror in 1086, and it lists the names of every manor, its assessments, and the number and social station of it's tenants. There is ample evidence that these Annis families in England were of Saxon origin, and that many of them lost their lands and titles upon the Norman invasion of England.

The Annis Family crest and coat of arms exists and can be found in Burke's General Armory. "This is evidence that the Annis family was, at one time in the distant past, given a grant to bear arms, which placed him as a member of the squire class, or better, and showed the world that he was a free man. It is a very old grant" *. According to Burke's, the coat of arms that belongs to the ANNESS, ANNISS, ANNES, and ANNIS family is as follows. It also should be known that Coats of Arms do not belong to everyone just because they happen to have the same surname. They belong or belonged to individuals who applied to a Herald's Office and were granted a design for their use and their use only. This is a common misconception in Heraldry.


"GULES" of red, denotes military fortitude and magnanimity
"MULLET" is a star of five points and denotes some divine quality bestowed from above, whereby men shine in virtue, learning work and piety, like stars on the earth
"ARGENT" white or silver, signifies peace and sincerity
"CHIEF" which occupies the whole of the top and one third of the total surface surface area of the shield of arms, signifies dominion and authority and has often been granted as a special reward for prudence and wisdom, as well as successful command in war
"OR" yellow or gold, denotes generosity and elevation of mind

The crest belonging to the above amorial coat is a "MASCLE OR" which is a hollow diamond of gold or yellow. There is no motto associated with the crest or coat of arms.

The name Annis is believed to be a variant of the name Annison and of baptismal origins signifying the "son of Anne". The middle English form, "Agnes", in which the "G" is silent, means "pure", and is derived from Saint Agnes, a popular saint with the Saxons of England during the 12th century.
Although there are many variations in spelling in the early marriage and baptismal records of that time, we must remember that literacy was not wide spread or consistent, which resulted in a
"spell it like it sounds"approach to record keeping. There is a wide variety of authorities who have given their interpretation of the origins of the name Annis, but nothing conclusive may be derived from any of them.

In early Colonial America the spelling of the name by record keepers hardly improved. There are at least 13 variants of the name in Essex County, Massachusetts records alone. Annise, Anice, Anniss, Anic, Annas, Annes, Anes to name just a few.
Many members of the family continued spelling the name the way that they found it in the records, but the two notable variants in this county and Canada have been Annes and Annas.

The Irish roots of the name are also rather vague, but there are plausible explanations for "Cormac" Annis' Irish origins found in the book "Pioneer Irish in New England". The author states on page 62: "Cormac, alias Charles Annis of Newbury, Mass., was married at that place to Sarah Chase on May 15, 1666. He lived at Topsfield for fifty years, had eight children whose births were recorded there between 1667 and 1681, and he died there on December 19, 1717. From the fact that he was christened Cormac his nationality may be safely assumed, but in any event there is an entry in the marriage register to the effect that the bridegroom was born in Ennis-Killen, Ulster County, Ireland in 1638."
Needless to say, the registrar intended to say Enniskillen, Fermanaugh County, Province of Ulster, Ireland. Cormac is the Irish name corresponding to the English - Charles, and, as shown by O'Hart the surname originally was McGinnis, and thus anglised - Magennis, Guiness, Ennis, Innis and Annis.

We are also fortunate to have the following correspondence from the late Janet Annis Leedy of Indiana. Janet was a long time Annis Family researcher, who is mentioned in Verle Annis' genealogy, and had accomplished extensive research in Enniskillen, Ireland. She brings to the table an interesting and substantial theory on the origins of the name.

"Dear Mr. Michael James Annis,
I am Janet Rosemary (Annis) Leedy, now living in Indiana. I am recorded on the micro-film "James W. Annis and his Descendants" by Arthur A. and Walter R. Annis. In fact, I contributed to that record, as well as to "The Annis Genealogy" by Verle L. Annis. (You will find my name on pages 79 and 80.)
I have researched in Enniskillen for several years and could find no Annis nor Ennis families in County Fermanagh. Peader Livingstone of Broomfield Parochical House, Castleblayney, Ireland (County Monaghan) wrote extensive published histories (700 pages each) of County Monaghan and County Fermanagh from BC to 1980. I corresponded with this elderly gentleman who insisted no Annis nor Ennis family name was recorded on ANY pre 1700 record in County Fermanagh. He wrote that it was common for a young man to say he was born in an English stronghold (as Enniskillen was at that time) when he entered an English controlled colony such as the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It would have been foolhardy to portray ones self as an enemy. Not only that, Cromwell forced ship loads of young Irish soldiers to be shipped to the colonies so they wouldn't continue to cause trouble.
When I visited Enniskillen in 1980, I was surprised to hear the residents refer to their town as "Ah-ness-killen." No wonder an English official would write Annis instead of Ennis.
After years of trying to find the Irish connections of Cormac in Enniskillen, I decided to take a different path. I decided if people of Cormac's time in Essex County considered him to be Irish, so should I. So, I researched the family name of Ennis in Ireland in 1600's and I had success! I researched in the National Library in Dublin after I did my homework in the USA. (July 1998)
"Supplement to Irish Families" by Edward MacLysaght gives a lengthy history of the Ennis family, including records from the 1500's and 1600's. The family in the 1600's were in County Kildare and parts of County Meath and County Offaly that border Kildare. The family has been in Eire at the time of St. Patrick and before. The earliest spelling of the name was "Enos," sometimes prefixed with Mac or O. The name is found in Dublin City guilds of 1500-1600. In 1642, three Ennis families were dispossessed and one was found to be a Royalist soldier.
A newer source of information is Ida Grehan's book "The Dictionary of Irish Family Names" published in 1997 by Roberts Rinehart Publishers, Dublin. She repeats MacLysaght in a briefer form and adds later Ennis names.
While in Ireland, I copied Ennis names from several phone books. There are no Annis names. Recently, I have written to six of these names trying to locate an Ennis Family History, if one exists. I commend you for actively promoting the research of the Annis Family. I will be delighted to help in any way I can.
Sincerely, Janet R. (Annis) Leedy"

In the folklore concerning fairies, elves, and other denizens of the ether world of antiquity comes the tale of an ancient Hag named Black Annis who resided in the Midlands. According to legend the many Hags inhabited the British Isles, seemed to personify winter, and were survivors of the oldest goddesses. Some of them turned, like winter into spring, from hideously ugly old women into beautiful young maidens, while others like Black Annis were cannibalistic. In all fairness, these negative tales of the "Old Ones" were circulated by the newly arrived Christians who were competing for the souls of the pagan Celts. Black Annis was later used by English parents as way to frighten misbehaving children. "Mind yourselves, or Black Annis will be around to collect you!"

Perhaps one of the earliest examples of the name can be found in the History of Christian Names, by Charlotte M. Yonge, Volume I, page 221. Here will be found a reference to a maiden from Thessalonica by the name of Anysia. The Normans may have learned this name from the Crusades, or from Sicilian Greeks. This name is found in various forms as Annys, Anisia, Annice, or Annesin older pedigrees. In the Michigan Federal census records for 1900-1920, during my research, I found many Annis head of households living in Detroit that were born in Greece. This lends credence to the theory that the name Annis has at least a parallel evolution in that country.

* From the book "Annis Annals 1638-1931"

Copyright 2022 Annis Family Association


The Annis Family in the US and Canada

Last Will and Testament of Charles Cormac Annis

Annis Annals 1638-1931