Show ContentsFortney History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Fortney was carried to England in the enormous movement of people that followed the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Fortney family lived in Essex, in the town of Fordham. Ancient records reveal the name Fortney 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 Fortney family

The surname Fortney was first found in Essex where they held a family seat as Lords of the Manor of Fordham. In the Domesday Book, [1] 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." [2]

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. [3]

Early History of the Fortney family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Fortney research. Another 78 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 138 and 1388 are included under the topic Early Fortney History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Fortney 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 Fortney family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Fortney Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Fortney Ranking

In the United States, the name Fortney is the 4,940th most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [4]

United States Fortney migration to the United States +

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, traveling 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 Fortney or a variant listed above:

Fortney Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Jean Henri Fortney, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1727 [5]
  • Francois Fortney, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1737 [5]
  • David Fortney, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1739 [5]
  • Jean Fortney, aged 56, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1742 [5]
  • Samuel Fortney, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1742 [5]

Contemporary Notables of the name Fortney (post 1700) +

  • Ernest Francis Fortney (1915-1987), American professional NBA basketball player who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Youngstown Bears from 1938 to 1947
  • Michael E. Fortney, American Brigadier General in the United States Air Force, Director of Operations and Nuclear Support of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency
  • Valerie Fortney, Canadian radio and television journalist, known for her work on the CBC Radio show Basic Black and for CBC Newsworld
  • Fortney Hillman "Pete" Stark Jr. (1931-2020), American businessman and politician, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from California (1973-2013)
  • Fortney Hillman Stark Jr. (b. 1931), American Democratic Party politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from California, 1972 (alternate), 1988, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008; U.S. Representative from California, 1973-2008 [6]

  1. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)
  2. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  3. Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  4. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  5. 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)
  6. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, December 1) . Retrieved from on Facebook