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Gannicott

By any standards this is a very rare and unusual surname. First found in English church records once in the city of London in 1744, then nothing until the year 1808 - thereafter it is recorded continuously in the county of Somerset (and occasionally in the adjoining county of Hampshire) as Gannicot and Gannicott. This lack of early recordings very strongly suggests that it was not originally an English surname. One of history's accepted facts - is that between 1580 and 1760 - not less than fifty thousand Huguenot protestants, mainly French, entered Britain as refugees from Catholic repression on the Continent. Many of these people were skilled artisans, particularly in textile design and production. They usually came first to the city of London, where they created the 'East End' as a manufacturing centre. Later as opportunities elsewhere presented themselves, some moved out to other textile areas, which in the late 18th century included the county of Somerset. Whilst a number of Huguenots retained their original names and spellings including the Courtaulds, Rothschilds, and in Cornwall the Lapennotiere's, the majority over time anglicised their name if only to assist amalgamation with their new neighbours. Some surnames were direct conversion with examples such as (Le) Blanc to White, Blois to Wood, and Carpentier to Carpenter - whilst others were more subtle, being phonetic to produce a 'sounds like' English spelling. At first glance Gannicot(t) is medieval English and locational from a hamlet or village of the same (or near) spelling, the suffix 'cot or cott' being pre 7th century Olde English for a cottage or row of cottages, and Gan or Jan a medieval form of Jon or John. However an examination of both modern gazetteers and the Medieval 'Lost' Village Lists shows no such place name or anything near to it. Furthermore as (almost) all European surnames were created between 1066 and 1450 - some nearly four hundred years of potential recordings appear to be 'missing' from this name. An examination of French dictionaries and records revealed the surname Geneciaux and Genicot, pronounced the same. This surname may be a diminutive of Genie, itself a nickname form of the popular first name Eugenie, although there are other explanations, with the suffix -aux or -ot meaning 'Little or related to'. Unfortunately our researches in England have not shown either spelling recorded, the nearest - indeed the only one to provide some comfort - is that of (Thomas) Ganicutt. With his wife Christabella, a very unEnglish first name, they were witnesses at the christening of their son John, at the church of St George in the East, Stepney, city of London, on September 2nd 1744. St George was an emigre church, as was the nearby St Dunstans. However after that single example, we appear to have a recording silence until 1808. On October 2nd of that year William Gannicott, was a christening witness at North Petherton, Somerset. Thereafter Somerset and particularly the county town of Taunton, became the 'home' of the surname. So the main questions remain only partly answered. Is it English or French origin? Where were recordings (anywhere) between 1744 and back to say 1500? Why no other known recordings in England between 1744 and 1808? To make French research much more difficult, - during the Revolution between 1789 and 1792, most church registers some dating back five hundred years were seized by the revolutionaries as 'instruments of the secret police' - and publicly burnt.