The name Hance, sometimes spelled Hans, is both a forename and a surname and has origins that have almost passed out of memory. It is an excellent name, rolls off the tongue, has a soft, but masculine sound to it and is a name long used in the province of Ulster.
Some modern genealogist and family historians are at a loss when they come upon this name in records, often and humorously, assuming it is a form of the German and Dutch name Hans. While Hans is a form of John for the Dutch and Germans, this is not the origin Hance in Ulster. In Ulster, Hance is both an anglicised and pet form of the Gaelic name Aonghus. Hance reflects how this Gaelic name is pronounced in the Gaelic of the southern Hebrides and Argyll, and even the Gaelic of Ayrshire and Gallowayshire as even those parts of the Scottish Lowlands were Gaelic speaking in times past. The name Aonghus is old even by Gaelic standards of use, and comes from the pan Celtic Oino-Gustus, or 'one choice.'
Aonghus is the origin and root of several anglicised surnames, such a MacGuinness, MacInnes, Magennis, etc. In Scotland Mac Aonghus is also anglicised as Machans. The GH in Aonghus is not pronounced, so the name actually said as if it were spelled, Aon’us and from which it is pretty easy to see how ‘Hance’ developed.
The House of Hamilton was particularly fond of the name Hance. There have been many Hance Hamiltons throughout history; some notable examples are Sir Hance Hamilton of Hamiltonsbawn in Armagh, a great man of letters and law from the 1600s that could argue cases in Irish Gaelic, Lallans, and English. A relative of his was Captain Hance Hamilton who led a fleet containing 140 Ulster settlers to the Colonies in 1729, and his son, Colonel Hance Hamilton, who became a frontier legend as an Indian fighter par excellence and served as sheriff of what was then York county in the Pennsylvania Colony. His grandson was Hance Hamilton McCain, a veteran of the Revolutionary War and a frontiersman of note (he located the excellent water that would later be used by the famous Jack Daniel’s Distillery).