Fortnay History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms
- Origins Available:
Fortnay is a name of ancient Norman origin. It arrived in England with the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Fortnay family lived in Essex, in the town of Fordham. Ancient records reveal the name Fortnay is derived from the Old English ford, which means ford, and ham, which means homestead. Towns bearing this name also exist in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. Fordham Essex is arguably the most important of these towns, but all were held by Norman nobles in the 11th century.
Early Origins of the Fortnay family
The surname Fortnay was first found in Essex where they held a family seat as Lords of the Manor of Fordham. In the Domesday Book,  a survey of England undertaken for Duke William of Normandy in 1086 A.D. after his conquest of England at Hastings in 1066, there were three villages or manors named Fordham, one in Cambridgeshire, one in Norfolk and one in Essex, all were held by Norman nobles.
The one which was most influential and gave rise to the name Fordham was that of Fordham in Essex which was held by William de Warrene and others. In the survey of 1086 the village consisted of a Mill, 6 Beehives, and 25 goats. It was the Norman custom that the senior son should continue the main line name, but that the second son should adopt the name of the manor.
"A small Gilbertine priory was founded in the reign of Henry III., by Sir Robert de Fordham, [in Fordham, Cambridgeshire] as a cell to the great monastery of the same order at Sempringham, in Lincolnshire; but scarcely a vestige remains." 
John Fordun (d. 1384?), was the writer upon whom Walter Bower based the earlier part of his great work, the 'Scotichronicon.' Fordun wrote fifteen of the first twenty-three chapters of book. 
Early History of the Fortnay family
This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Fortnay research. Another 78 words (6 lines of text) covering the year 1388 is included under the topic Early Fortnay History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Fortnay Spelling Variations
Multitudes of spelling variations are a hallmark of Anglo Norman names. Most of these names evolved in the 11th and 12th century, in the time after the Normans introduced their own Norman French language into a country where Old and Middle English had no spelling rules and the languages of the court were French and Latin. To make matters worse, medieval scribes spelled words according to sound, so names frequently appeared differently in the various documents in which they were recorded. The name was spelled Fordham, Fordeham, Fordsham, Fordesham, Fordam and others.
Early Notables of the Fortnay family
More information is included under the topic Early Fortnay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Migration of the Fortnay family
Because of this political and religious unrest within English society, many people decided to immigrate to the colonies. Families left for Ireland, North America, and Australia in enormous numbers, travelling at high cost in extremely inhospitable conditions. The New World in particular was a desirable destination, but the long voyage caused many to arrive sick and starving. Those who made it, though, were welcomed by opportunities far greater than they had known at home in England. Many of these families went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Analysis of immigration records indicates that some of the first North American immigrants bore the name Fortnay or a variant listed above: Robert Fordham who settled in Massachusetts in 1635; Edward Fordham settled in Rappahannock Virginia in 1728; George Fordham settled in Pennsylvania in 1773.
- Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)
- Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
- Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print