Show ContentsFenn History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The origins of the Fenn name come from when the Anglo-Saxon tribes ruled over Britain. The name Fenn was originally derived from a family having 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 Fenn family

The surname Fenn 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 Fenn 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 Fenn family

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

Fenn Spelling Variations

Before English spelling was standardized a few hundred years ago, spelling variations of names were a common occurrence. Elements of Latin, French and other languages became incorporated into English through the Middle Ages, and name spellings changed even among the literate. The variations of the surname Fenn include Fenn, Fenne, Fennoy, Fann, Fan, Venn, Fen and others.

Early Notables of the Fenn family

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 1...
  • John Fenn (died May 1723), was an early 18th century English pirate who sailed with Captain Bartholomew Roberts

Fenn Ranking

In the United States, the name Fenn is the 5,624th most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [5]

United States Fenn migration to the United States +

A great wave of immigration to the New World was the result of the enormous political and religious disarray that struck England at that time. Families left for the New World in extremely large numbers. The long journey was the end of many immigrants and many more arrived sick and starving. Still, those who made it were rewarded with an opportunity far greater than they had known at home in England. These emigrant families went on to make significant contributions to these emerging colonies in which they settled. Some of the first North American settlers carried this name or one of its variants:

Fenn Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Richard Fenn, who landed in Virginia in 1623 [6]
  • Benjamin Fenn, who arrived in New Haven, Conn, in 1630 [6]
  • Richard Fenn immigrated to New England in 1635
  • Richard Fenn, aged 27, who arrived in New England in 1635 aboard the ship "Planter" [6]
  • Sam Fenn, who arrived in Virginia in 1637 [6]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Fenn Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Elinor Fenn, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1771 [6]
  • James Fenn, who landed in New York in 1796 [6]
Fenn Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Josefa Fenn, who landed in Puerto Rico in 1813 [6]
  • Henry Fenn, who arrived in Ohio in 1888 [6]

Australia Fenn migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Fenn Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Miss Doro Fenn, English nurse who was convicted in London, England for 14 years for theft, transported aboard the "Earl of Liverpool" in December 1830, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [7]
  • Charles Fenn, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Lord Goderich" in 1838 [8]

New Zealand Fenn migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Fenn Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • John Fenn, aged 22, a carpenter, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Waitangi" in 1874

Contemporary Notables of the name Fenn (post 1700) +

  • Forrest Fenn (1930-2020), American military pilot who hid a cache of gold and jewels in the Rocky Mountains of the United States
  • Brigadier-General Clarence Charles Fenn (1890-1971), American Judge-Advocate US Chine-Burma-India Theater of Operations (1942-1945) [9]
  • John Bennett Fenn (1917-2010), American research professor of analytical chemistry, recipient of a share of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2002
  • Sherilyn Fenn (b. 1965), American actress, best known for her role as Audrey Horne in "Twin Peaks"
  • John Fenn, American playwright and screenwriter
  • Harry Fenn (1845-1911), English-American landscape illustrator
  • Dan Fenn, American Democratic Party politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Mississippi, 1940 [10]
  • Converse G. Fenn, American Republican politician, Delegate to Republican National Convention from Maine, 1952, 1956, 1960 [10]
  • Charles G. Fenn, American politician, Prohibition Candidate for Connecticut State House of Representatives from Washington, 1910 [10]
  • Augustus H. Fenn, American Democratic Party politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Connecticut, 1884 [10]
  • ... (Another 27 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Royal Oak
  • Theodore Richard Playford Fenn (d. 1939), British Leading Seaman with the Royal Navy aboard the HMS Royal Oak (1939) when she was torpedoed by U-47 and sunk; he died in the sinking [11]

  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
  5. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  6. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  7. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 20th August 2021). Retrieved from
  8. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) LORD GODERICH 1838. Retrieved from
  9. Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2012, February 29) Clarence Fenn. Retrieved from
  10. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 26) . Retrieved from
  11. Ships hit by U-boats crew list HMS Royal Oak (08) - (Retrieved 2018 February, 9th) - retrieved from on Facebook