The Denny family has a long history in Clayton, New York, and an equally long history in Quebec (various towns around Montreal), where they settled in what was then New France, almost 200 years prior to Canadian independence. Bournezeau, in the Vendee region of France was the original home of the family before their 1659 arrival in North America.
You won't find the surname "Denny" on any documents or church records prior to 1850, as it was an American creation, their way of assimilating into the culture of their new home. Denny was derived from what is known as a "dit" (pronounced dee) name, that is an extension of (or alias attached to) the original surname. In our case, the name is Veronneau dit Denis. Sometimes spelled with one "n" as in the 1801 church index below, although the double n seems to be the standard.
These "dit" names are most commonly used in France (and New France), derived from first names or locations, and are typically meant to distinguish a certain branch of a family. When Pierre Veronneau dit Denis brought his family to Clayton, he condensed his name down to a very American-sounding Peter Denny. It's interesting to note that in most of the church records from St. Mary's in Clayton, Denny was spelled in the french style Denis as the priest encouraged the residents to hold on to their French roots. I can still hear my grandmother, Geneva, say "I'm a Frenchman, baby!" with a little laugh at the end, in a way that only she could.
Today, a mention of the name Denny around Clayton often brings back memories of my great grandfather, Sam Denny, who rose to local fame as a river guide, artist and carver of wooden duck decoys that remain a desired collectable to this day. In fact, Sam has a full room in the Thousand Islands Museum dedicated to his work.
Denny/Veronneau Family Generations
3 May 1847 - 15 September 1915
Coteau-du-Lac, Canada & Clayton, New York
29 June 1810 - September 1887
Les Cedres & Coteau-du-Lac, Canada & Clayton, New York
31 July 1765 - ?
Terrebonne & Les Cedres, Canada
27 Jul 1738 - 14 Jun 1801
Les Cedres, Canada
27 June 1707 - a. 1763
a. 1643 - 30 October 1730
Bournezeau, France & Boucherville, Canada
a. 1610 - ?