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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Origins Available: French, Irish

Where did the Irish French family come from? What is the Irish French family crest and coat of arms? When did the French family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the French family history?

When the Anglo- Normans began to settle in Ireland, they brought the tradition of local surnames to an island which already had a Gaelic naming system of hereditary surnames established. Unlike the Irish, the Anglo- Normans had an affinity for local surnames. Local surnames, such as French, were formed from the names of a place or a geographical landmark where the person lived, held land, or was born. The earliest Anglo-Norman surnames of this type came from Normandy, but as the Normans moved, they created names that referred to where they actually resided. Therefore, English places were used for names when the Normans lived in England, and then Irish places after these particular Anglo- Normans had been settled in Ireland for some time. Originally, these place names were prefixed by "de," which means "from" in French. However, this type of prefix was eventually either made a part of the surname, if the place name began with a vowel, or it was eliminated entirely. The French family originally lived near an ash tree. The surname French was originally de Freynes and was originally derived from the word "fraxinus," which means an "ash tree." However, in some cases, the surname French is derived from residence in the country of France, a more obvious derivation. The name is sometimes spelled with a beginning of "Ff." This practice arose as many early records showed the capital "F" as "ff" in 16th and 17th centuries.


Medieval scribes and church officials spelt names simply the way they sounded, which explains the various name spelling variations of the name French that were encountered when researching that surname. The many spelling variations included: French, Frenche and others.

First found in Devon. They were descendants of Theophilus de France who accompanied William the Conqueror into England in 1066. Robert Fitz-Stephen de France accompanied Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, on his invasion of Ireland.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our French research. Another 171 words(12 lines of text) covering the years 1274, 1329, 1489, 1546, 1538, 1539, 1602, 1582, 1583, 1604, 1678, 1616, 1657, 1637, 1666, 1650, 1651, 1650, 1713 and 1693 are included under the topic Early French History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 245 words(18 lines of text) are included under the topic Early French Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


During the middle of the 19th century, Irish families often experienced extreme poverty and racial discrimination in their own homeland under English rule. Record numbers died of disease and starvation and many others, deciding against such a fate, boarded ships bound for North America. The largest influx of Irish settlers occurred with Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. Unfortunately, many of those Irish that arrived in Canada or the United States still experienced economic and racial discrimination. Although often maligned, these Irish people were essential to the rapid development of these countries because they provided the cheap labor required for the many canals, roads, railways, and other projects required for strong national infrastructures. Eventually the Irish went on to make contributions in the less backbreaking and more intellectual arenas of commerce, education, and the arts. Research early immigration and passenger lists revealed many early immigrants bearing the name French:

French Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century

  • Alice French who settled in Salem, Massachusetts in 1630
  • Thomas French, who landed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1631
  • Stephen French, who landed in Weymouth, Massachusetts in 1634
  • John French settled in St. Christopher in 1634
  • Elizabeth French settled in Boston Massachusetts in 1635

French Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century

  • Philip French, who landed in North Carolina in 1702
  • Thos French, who landed in Virginia in 1714
  • Benja French, who landed in Virginia in 1714
  • Phillip French, who arrived in Virginia in 1719
  • Katherine French, who landed in Virginia in 1723

French Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • Shepherd French, aged 45, arrived in New York, NY in 1803
  • Jacob French, who landed in New York, NY in 1834
  • William French, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1844
  • Austin French, who landed in Savanna(h), Georgia in 1846
  • A French, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1850


  • Marilyn French (1930-2009), American author of The Women's Room, regarded as one of the great feminist writers
  • Charles K. French (1860-1952), American actor
  • Charles "Charlie" Calvin French (1883-1962), American Major League Baseball player
  • Kenneth French (b. 1954), American economist
  • Ray French (1895-1978), American Major League shortstop
  • Brigadier-General Charles Augustus French (1888-1982), American Commanding Officer 68th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Brigade (1943-1945)
  • Field-Marshal John French (1852-1925), 1st Earl of Cyprus, English military leader, Commander of British Expeditionary Force in World War I
  • David French (1939-2010), Canadian playwright and editor
  • Corporal John Alexander French (1914-1942), Australian soldier awarded the Victoria Cross during WWII
  • Bruce French (b. 1959), English cricketer


  • Ancestors and Descendants of Frank Lusk Babbott, Jr., M.D. and His Wife Elizabeth Bassett French by Harriet M. Stryker-Rodda.
  • French and Related Family Genealogy: Treadway, Barrows, Ward, Lobdell, Howland, and Brewster by Mara Treadway French.

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Malo mori quam foedari
Motto Translation: I would rather die than be disgraced.


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  1. Read, Charles Anderson. The Cabinet of Irish Literature Selections from the Works of the Chief Poets, Orators and Prose Writers of Ireland 4 Volumes. London: Blackie and Son, 1884. Print.
  2. Tepper, Michael Ed & Elizabeth P. Bentley Transcriber. Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Philadelphia 1800-1819. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986. Print.
  3. Johnson, Daniel F. Irish Emigration to New England Through the Port of Saint John, New Brunswick Canada 1841-1849. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield, 1996. Print.
  4. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  5. Somerset Fry, Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry. A History of Ireland. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993. Print. (ISBN 1-56619-215-3).
  6. Woodham-Smith, Cecil. The Great Hunger Ireland 1845-1849. New York: Old Town Books, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0-88029-385-3).
  7. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  8. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  9. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  10. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  11. ...

The French Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The French Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 6 September 2014 at 08:49.

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