Some help would be appreciated with this aspect of the surname. Independent work on the origin of a surname is a daunting task. Being only a beginner historian and genealogist I lack a lot of information related to the movement of cultures and languages in medieval Europe. If anyone has additional information about the origin of the surname please share it via e-mail through the link at the bottom of this page.

        To date, research has consisted of searches at the public library which yielded little information. An attempt was made to consider most spelling variations, but some were most likely overlooked and should be looked at again. The College of Arms4 in London, England indicated that all of their 700 odd volumes of armorial bearings could be searched for the surname Pinney and a detailed report could be delivered. The charges for this service are prohibitive at this point. Queries have also been made at all of the known message boards and listservs5 specific to the Pinney name. The British surname mailing list6 with rootsweb has been pursued for information about the surname with no results.

        The origin of the surname in its present form along with other equally important spellings seems to lie in medieval English culture37. The descendants of Pinneys around the world have been tied to ancestors from England. The instances that stand out are first of all one Humphrey Pinney who appears to have immigrated to the British Colonies in North America in the 1600s. Humphrey was born ca. 1598-99 in Broadway, Somerset, England. He was in Massachusetts  in 1634 when he was married to Mary Hull. Humphrey is said to be an ancestor of a large majority of the Pinneys in the United States today. William Pinney, Humphrey's grandfather, is the earliest Pinney that has been researched in this line. William died ca. 1596 in Broadway, Somerset, England18. Another Pinney, Azariah Pinney, was arrested in England and sentenced to banishment because of his involvement in the Monmouth Rebellion. This Pinney immigrated to Nevis in the Caribbean and was a wealthy land owner and sugar cane grower. He returned with some of his family to England at the end of his career, but definitely influenced the region for some time to come38. There are Pinneys in Australia who no doubt have similar stories of immigration in the midst of hardship or crime.

        Earlier information about Pinney as a surname is conjecture at this point. The following ideas are merely stories at this point. One unverified source indicated that Pinneys had come along with "William the Conqueror & the name was then Pyn de la Pyn (or Pynne) which came down to Pynne, Pinny, Pinne, Piney & rarely Phinney & then in the 1600s to Pinney3." A pursuit has been started to research books on William I and see if there is any mention of such a name. No specific reference has been found of a Pinney involved with the Norman conquest. Most genealogical data from that event relates only to royalty and William I.

        Another reference2 was brought up regarding a Pinney who earned the right to bear arms on the battlefield at Acre1 with Richard the Lionhearted in 1191 but this has not yet been pursued.

        Repetition bolsters the credibility of one story of the Pinney name originating in Devonshire around a hamlet named Pinhay. This account of the origin seems quite plausible and has shown up in multiple sources. The only geographical reference that I have been able to find of Pinhay is Pinhay Bay and Farm near Lyme Regis on the coast of Devon in England, but there are written references to one Sir John Raleigh giving the lands of Pinhay and Pinhay Wode (now written as PinneyWood Farm NorthEast of Axminster) near Axminster (also in Devon) to Walter Pinhay10. This information was dated 1406. At some point during the middle ages the desire for surnames in England developed and it was quite common to take the name of one's place of origin. Pinhay, in that exact spelling (as well as Pynhay) has at one point clearly been a surname and is still a geographical location. It is merely an assumption that the place name preceded the taking of Pinhay as a surname, but considering this, Pinhay near Axminster must be a truly ancient place. Another possible corroboration of this is found in a book called, "Surnames are the Fossils of Speech47." In this book the surname Pinney is suggested to have originated from one of two sources, one being an Old English personal name "Pinnae" and as a derivative of an Old English word pynd-haeg, meaning "a poundfold or enclosure." This is from the involved analysis of a linquist with skills that are beyond my knowledge, but it would make sense that a small hamlet or area might adopt  the word for an enclosure or compound depending on the activities and livelihood of the residents.

        One Pinney from the United Kingdom mentioned that in her own family research, she has learned that the Pinney surname originated with people that lived at Pinn Hill in Devon, but has no corroborating information48.

        Any further leads on the origin of the surname would be greatly appreciated. Even hearsay and stories are welcome, as they often lead to concrete research.





1 Acre (kre, ker) also Akko (-ko, ko)
A port of northern Israel on the Bay of Haifa. During the Crusades it changed hands many times between Christians and Muslims. Acre was ceded to the Arabs in the United Nations partition of Palestine in 1948 but was captured by Israel shortly thereafter. Population, 37,7001.

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