Finnis History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Finnis was brought to England in the great wave of migration following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Finnis family lived in Fiennes, in the region of Pas-de-Calais, Normandy. [1]

Early Origins of the Finnis family

The surname Finnis was first found in Kent where they held a family seat as Lords of the Manor, Lords of the Cinque Ports, and Constables of Dover Castle. They are said to be descended from Conon de Fiennes, the Earl of Boulogne, of the county of Boulounais in Normandy. [2]

John de Fiennes accompanied William, Duke of Normandy in his conquest of England at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D. In England, William was the 1st Baron de Fiennes (circa 1160-1241). The family also remained in France where Robert de Fiennes was constable of France from 1350 to 1370.

Early History of the Finnis family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Finnis research. Another 80 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1496, 1450, 1405, 1472, 1534, 1557, 1613, 1582, 1662, 1602, 1674, 1625, 1660, 1608, 1669, 1595, 1557, 1539, 1594 and 1541 are included under the topic Early Finnis History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Finnis Spelling Variations

Norman surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are largely due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The introduction of Norman French to England, as well as the official court languages of Latin and French, also had pronounced influences on the spelling of surnames. Since medieval scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings. The name has been spelled Finnes, Fienne, Fiennes and others.

Early Notables of the Finnis family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was James Fiennes Lord Say (or Saye) and Sele (d. 1450), the second son of Sir William de Fiennes (d. 1405) and Elizabeth, daughter of William Batisford, a great Sussex heiress. Thomas Fiennes, 8th Baron Dacre (1472-1534), an English peer and soldier; and Richard Fiennes, 7th Baron Dacre 'of the South' (c. 1557-1613) born at Herstmonceux Castle, Sussex, England, English peer. William Fiennes, 1st Viscount Saye and Sele (1582-1662), was an English nobleman and politician, who helped establish a company for the settlement of the Providence Island colony and later established the New England...
Another 128 words (9 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Finnis Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


New Zealand Finnis 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:

Finnis Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • George E. Finnis, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "African" in 1860

Contemporary Notables of the name Finnis (post 1700) +

  • John Mitchell Finnis (b. 1940), Australian legal philosopher, jurist and scholar, Professor of Law & Legal Philosophy at Oxford University (1989-2010)
  • Finnis Dawson McCleery (1927-2002), United States Army soldier and a recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Vietnam War


The Finnis Motto +

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: Fortem posce animum
Motto Translation: Wish for a strong mind.


  1. ^ The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X)
  2. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.


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