Where did we Fearnleys get our name?

or for that matter our Coat of Arms?

One suggestion, contributed by Ken Fearnley in NZ is below. Unfortunately, due to a computer crash Ken can't tell us where this came from. Personally I have my doubts about some this since surnames didn't come into general use until after the Norman conquest in 1066 and even then only slowly, see here and here.

In Anglo/Saxon times in England about the year at 380 A.D. emerging from the mists of time was the ancient posterity of Fearnley, and the distinguished history of this surname is closely interwoven into the majestic fabric of the ancient chronicles of England.

Many different spelling versions are found. Our name, Fearnley, occurred in many manuscripts and from time to time this surname included the spelling of Fernley, Fernlie Fernley, , and these variations in spelling frequently occurred, even between father and son. Frequently a person was born with one spelling, married with another, and died with another. Scribes and church officials spelled the name as it was told to them.

The family name is believed to be descended originally from the ancient Anglo/Saxon race. This founding race, a fair skinned people led by general/commanders Hingis and Horsa, settled in England from about the year 400 A.D. They came from Northern Germany, as far south and west as the Rhine Valley and settled first in Kent on the South East Coast. Gradually, they probed north and westward from Kent and during the next 400 years forced the ancient Britain's back into Wales and Cornwall to the West, and the won territories as far south as Lancashire and Yorkshire pushing the ancient Britain's into Cumbria and southern Scotland. The Angles, on the other hand occupied the East Coast, the South folk in Suffolk, the north folk in Norfolk. (could this be the Norfolk family heritage?) The Angles sometimes invaded as far north as Northumbria and the Scottish border, the Anglo-Saxon five century rule was an uncertain time, and the nation divided into five separate kingdoms, a high king being elected as supreme ruler, ,Alfred the Great emerged in the 9th century as the Saxon leader.

The family name Fearnley emerged as a notable English family name in the county of Lancashire where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated at Fernley, with Manor and estates in that Shire they later branch to Hetton in Northumberland, and Sutton come Lound in Northamptonshire, and at West Creting in Suffolk, but the main family stem remained in Lancashire. In North America, included amongst the first migrants the surname Fearnley or one of variable spelling of that family name was Thomas Fernley who settled in Virginia in 1623, James, John and Thomas Fernley all arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1860.

On the port of entry many settlers made their way West, joining the wagon trains to the prairies or to the West Coast. Many loyalists made their way north to Canada about 1790, and became known as the United Empire loyalists. They were granted lands along the banks of the St. Lawrence River and in the Niagara Peninsular. Contemporary nobles of the surname firmly, included many distinguished contributors John Fearnley, diplomat.

You can find Ken's original here.

How many other spellings are there? Mine is officially "Fearnley" but over the years I've had all the usual versions plus a few that were plainly typed as the result of a bad phone line!

At least two contributors* to the site and or/my genealogy research have suggested that the name originates from the Yorkshire place-names of Farnley:

There is Farnley on the outskirts of Leeds which has a Farnley Hall - ancient seat of the Fearnleys perhaps? There is also the hamlet of Farnley, close to Farnely Lake and also close to an Historic Hall - Farnley Hall perhaps, on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. These two seem to be possible candidates when you look at the mapped distribution of the Fearnley surname in 1881.

There is also a Farnley farm in what looks like an idylic spot on a hill overlooking a bend in the river Wear, and a group of houses (a hamlet?) close to Hadrians Wall though this is much too far off to be a likely origin.

(* Bob Fearnley, Vancouver Canada and Yvonne Fearnley, Winchester UK - thanks guys!)

You can see maps showing the distibution of the Fearnley name in 1881 and 1998 on this site here and you can generate maps showing the same data for your own surname here.

Any more thoughts or suggestions anyone?

The Family Crest

You can see the family crest here.

Email:    TOP   HOME