What's In A Name? A Look At The Jarvis Family

The Jarvis family name dates back to Norman times and derives from the Norman personal name Gervase, which in itself came from the Germanic element Gari which meant “spear”. The name was originally borne by a saint who was martyred under the Roman Emperor Domitian.

The first Jarvis to arrive in Britain came with the Norman Conquest from France. As a child I was told that my family came from the iceni tribe of Queen Boudica but that can not be proven. If you search around the world, you’ll find that the Jarvis family is concentrated in England, lesser so in Ireland and after that Canada - primarily due to the mass migration to the new world in the early 20th Century. Based on 1880 census data, if you were a Jarvis, you had a 35% chance of being a farmer.

The names Jervis, Jervois, Jervoise, Gervase, Gergais, Gervis, Jarvis and Gervais are all derivatives of Jarvis, but Jarvis is a distinctly British name and anyone named Jarvis is likely to have originated from Britain at some time in their past. It is also occasionally used as a christian name. Jarvis Cocker, the singer of the band Pulp, is probably the most famous person with that honour.

Jarvis Cocker.  Yeah..not a Jarvis

Jarvis Cocker: Not really a proper Jarvis

Today, there are about 3 million Jarvis’s walking this planet although they are still primarily concentrated in Britain. In 1820 the United States had 129 Jarvis families in New York state, where they were primarily concentrated. By 1920, there were 650 Jarvis families living in the United States, primarily concentrated in states of New York and Michigan - common immigration states. In the 1891 British census, the vast concentration of Jarvis’s was in London, with 2,103 families.

The most famous Jarvis wasn’t even a real Jarvis - the butler Edwin Jarvis in the movie Iron Man played by James D’Arcy. The billionaire Mark Zuckerberg controls his home using an application called Jarvis - something that I personally find rather belittling. Jarvis was a common name for the servant, of course.

Jarvis. From the movie Iron Man

There has been one serial killer named Jarvis. Bill Jarvis became the Hollow Creek Killer in 1973, targetting adolescent boys. He had 3 or more victims, all abducted from the street while they walked home from school. He would hold them captive then torture and abuse them over a long period of time before killing them. Nice.

If you search google for famous Jarvis’s, the only people you get are actors that I have never heard of - fame today seems to be linked to the movie business. There’s even a Jarvis Island, although it’s uninhabited, but it was the subject of a documentary film made in 2010 called Under A Jarvis Moon.

Jarvis Island From Space

Jarvis Island is uninhabited but used to be occupied by feral cats brought in by colonists. The cats were eradicated in 1990.

The Jarvis Island Flag

Jarvis Island is right in the middle of the map. It’s so small you can’t see it - 1 ¾ square miles of coral.

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