Explore the Family Name Spence

The meaning of Spence

English and Scottish: nickname for a servant employed in the pantry of a great house or monastery, from Middle English spense, spence ‘pantry, larder, storeroom’ (Old French despense, from a Late Latin derivative of dispendere, past participle dispensus ‘to weigh out or dispense’). Compare Spencer.

Dictionary of American Family Names, 2nd edition, © Oxford University Press, 2022.

How common is the last name Spence in the United States?

According to data extrapolated from the Decennial U.S. Census, the popularity of the surname Spence has witnessed a slight decline in rank from 928 in 2000 to 964 in 2010, an approximate drop by 3.88%. Despite this fall in ranking, the actual count of individuals with the Spence surname increased by 4.92% from 34,435 in 2000 to 36,129 in 2010. Concurrently, the proportion per 100k people decreased slightly by 4.0%, indicating that while the total number of people named Spence rose, their share in the overall population saw a marginal decrease.

Proportion per 100k12.7612.25-4%

Race and Ethnicity of people with the last name Spence

In terms of ethnic identity, the Decennial U.S. Census data shows a dynamic shift between 2000 and 2010. The percentage of people with the surname Spence who identified as Asian/Pacific Islander, Two or more races, Hispanic, and Black increased by 32.61%, 22.41%, 50.83%, and 10.52% respectively. In contrast, there was a decrease in the proportion of White and American Indian and Alaskan Native identities by 4.62% and 5.17% respectively. However, it is significant to note that despite the decrease, in 2010, the majority (72.23%) of those identifying with the Spence surname were of White ethnicity. It's also worth mentioning that some data (if any) was suppressed for privacy reasons.

Two or More Races1.74%2.13%22.41%
Asian/Pacific Islander0.46%0.61%32.61%
American Indian and Alaskan Native0.58%0.55%-5.17%

Spence ancestry composition

23andMe computes an ancestry breakdown for each customer. People may have ancestry from just one population or they may have ancestry from several populations. The most commonly-observed ancestry found in people with the surname Spence is British & Irish, which comprises 55.7% of all ancestry found in people with the surname. The next two most common ancestries are French & German (20.6%) and Nigerian (3.9%). Additional ancestries include Eastern European, Scandinavian, Italian, Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean, and Spanish & Portuguese.

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British & Irish55.7%
French & German20.6%

Possible origins of the surname Spence

Your DNA provides clues about where your recent ancestors may have lived. Having many distant relatives in the same location suggests that you may all share common ancestry there. Locations with many distant relatives can also be places where people have migrated recently, such as large cities. If a large number of individuals who share your surname have distant relatives in a specific area, it could indicate a connection between your surname and that location, stemming from either recent ancestral ties or migration.

Based on 23andMe data, people with last name Spence have recent ancestry locations all within United Kingdom.

RECENT ANCESTRY LocationPercentage
Greater London, United Kingdom87.00%
Glasgow City, United Kingdom86.70%
Merseyside, United Kingdom86.70%
Greater Manchester, United Kingdom86.60%
West Midlands, United Kingdom86.50%

What Spence haplogroups can tell you

Haplogroups are genetic population groups that share a common ancestor on either your paternal or maternal line. These paternal and maternal haplogroups shed light on your genetic ancestry and help tell the story of your family.

The top paternal haplogroup of people with the surname Spence is I-Z58, which is predominantly found among people with European ancestry. Haplogroup I-Z58 is descended from haplogroup I-M170. Other common haplogroups include R-M405 and R-CTS241, which are predominantly found among people with European and European ancestry. Other surnames with similar common haplogroups are: White, Smith, Taylor, Thompson, Allen, Walker, Richardson, Wilson, Brown, Green.

The most common maternal haplogroups of people with Spence surname are: H1, T2b, H. These most commonly trace back to individuals of European ancestry.

spencePaternal Haplogroup Origins I-M170
Paternal Haplo Image

Your paternal lineage may be linked to Alexander Hamilton

Early in the morning on July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr (then Vice President of the United States) and Alexander Hamilton (founder of the U.S. Treasury) dueled on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. This marked the culmination of a bitter personal and political rivalry between the two men. Alexander Hamilton died as a result of the duel, but his intellectual legacy survives in the founding documents of the nation he helped build. A piece of his genetic legacy survives as well: in the 21st century, genealogists documented the paternal haplogroups of dozens of Hamilton's living descendants and concluded that the Founding Father's paternal haplogroup was a branch of I-DF29.

Your maternal lineage may be linked to Marie Antoinette

Because it is so dominant in the general European population, haplogroup H also appears quite frequently in the continent's royal houses. Marie Antoinette, an Austrian Hapsburg who married into the French royal family, inherited the haplogroup from her maternal ancestors. So did Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, whose recorded genealogy traces his female line to Bavaria. Scientists also discovered that famed 16th century astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus traced his maternal lineages to haplogroup H.

Maternal Haplo Image

What do people with the surname Spence have in common?

Spoiler alert: it's complicated. People with the same last name are usually no more genetically similar than a randomly sampled group of people from the same population. That said, people with the same surname are more likely to have similar ancestries than randomly sampled individuals. The reason is the tendency of people with similar cultural or geographical backgrounds to preferentially mate with one another. That's why people who share a surname may be more likely to share traits and tendencies in common than people within the general population. Check out the percentages below to see the prevalences of tastes, habits, and traits of people with your surname compared with prevalences among 23andMe users.



Chocolate Ice Cream

Prefers chocolate flavored ice cream over other flavors.

"Spence" Surname 42.0%

23andMe Users 41.3%




When sounds made by others, like the sound of chewing or yawning, provoke strong emotional reactions in an individual.

"Spence" Surname 31.2%

23andMe Users 27.9%



Sugary Drink

Drinks one or more sugary drinks per day.

"Spence" Surname 22.1%

23andMe Users 21.1%




A severe headache characterized by intense pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and often accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

"Spence" Surname 21.1%

23andMe Users 16.4%

Are health conditions linked to the last name Spence?

The short answer is that, if there is an association between surname and health, it's usually more about your ancestry than your name. Individuals with a given surname are no more genetically similar than the general population but often have similar ancestries. The populations of people associated with those shared ancestries often have sets of genetic variations, also known as alleles, in common. Some of those alleles are associated with a greater likelihood of developing certain diseases.

Disease variant frequency by ancestry

Disease allele frequencies in populations associated with the surname Spence are shown below. Important Note: not everyone with a disease allele will develop these health condition

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Y402H variant

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss among older adults. The disease results in damage to the central part of the retina (the macula), impairing vision needed for reading, driving, or even recognizing faces. The 23andMe Health + Ancestry DNA test includes the two most common variants associated with an increased risk of developing the condition: the Y402H variant in the CFH gene and the A69S variant in the ARMS2 gene. Learn more about Age-Related Macular Degeneration

British & Irish 62.1%

23andMe Users 57.2%