Show ContentsFene History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Fene has a long Anglo-Saxon heritage. The name comes from when a family lived near a marsh or swamp. Another name for wetlands is fen, in the Old English fenn, from which this name is derived. [1] There are two place-names that may serve as sources for the name as well: Fen, in Lincolnshire, and Venn, in Devon.

Early Origins of the Fene family

The surname Fene was first found in Devon, where the family held a family seat from early times. The origins of the name make it likely that several branches of the Fene family emerged independently in different areas during the Middle Ages. The earliest known bearer of the name was Godwin de la Fenna, who was recorded in the Pipe Rolls of 1176. [2]

From this first record, records of the family were scattered. Thomas attefenne was a Templar Knight in Warwickshire in 1185, Ralph de Fenne was listed in the Pipe Rolls of Lincolnshire in 1190, Herveus del Fen was listed in Suffolk in 1190, John atte Venne was listed in the Subsidy Rolls of Somerset in 1327, and Walter en la Fenne was listed in the Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire in 1340. [2]

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 has two listings: Isabella ate Fenne, Oxfordshire; and Robert de la Fenne, Somerset. [3] In Norfolk, John atte Fen was Bailiff of Yarmouth in 1377 and Thomas Fenn, was similarly bailiff of Yarmouth. [4]

The Close Rolls, like many early rolls listed entries in the relation to the year of the king's reign where the first number is the year, followed by the king's name. By example, John atte Fene, Close Rolls, 14 Edward III, denoted the entry was made in the fourteenth year of Edward III's reign. From this example, the reader can better understand the entries: Walter atte Fenne, Close Rolls, 1 Edward II; Thomas de Fenne, Close Rolls, 2 Edward I; and Roger atte Fenne, Somerset, 1 Edward III. [3]

Early History of the Fene family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Fene research. Another 169 words (12 lines of text) covering the years 1176, 1185, 1190, 1199, 1297, 1580, 1594, 1619, 1657, 1586, 1650, 1639, 1637, 1615, 1987, 1691, 1740, 1687, 1586, 1650, 1641, 1650 and 1723 are included under the topic Early Fene History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Fene Spelling Variations

Spelling variations in names were a common occurrence before English spelling was standardized a few hundred years ago. In the Middle Ages, even the literate spelled their names differently as the English language incorporated elements of French, Latin, and other European languages. Many variations of the name Fene have been found, including Fenn, Fenne, Fennoy, Fann, Fan, Venn, Fen and others.

Early Notables of the Fene family (pre 1700)

Notables of this surname at this time include: John Venn (1586-1650), English regicide, second son of Simon Venn of Lydiard St. Lawrence, Somerset; Sir Richard Venn or Fenn (died 1639), an English merchant and politician, Lord Mayor of London in 1637; and John Fenn (d. December 1615), an English Roman Catholic priest, writer and Catholic martyr, beatified in 1987. Richard Venn (1691-1740), was an English divine, born at Holbeton, Devonshire, the eldest...
Another 70 words (5 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Fene Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Fene family

Families began migrating abroad in enormous numbers because of the political and religious discontent in England. Often faced with persecution and starvation in England, the possibilities of the New World attracted many English people. Although the ocean trips took many lives, those who did get to North America were instrumental in building the necessary groundwork for what would become for new powerful nations. Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America bore the name Fene, or a variant listed above: Richard Fenn, who settled in Virginia in 1623; Richard Fenn, who immigrated to New England in 1635; Charles Fann, who came to Maryland in 1663; Joshua Fenn, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1682.



  1. Smith, Eldson Coles, New Dictionary of American Family Names New York: Harper & Row, 1956. Print
  2. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  3. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  4. Rye, Walter, A History of Norfolk. London: Elliot Stock, 62, Paternoster Row, 1885. Print


Houseofnames.com on Facebook