Show ContentsFortnum History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Fortnum was brought to England by the Normans when they conquered the country in 1066. The ancestors of the Fortnum family lived in Essex, in the town of Fordham. Ancient records reveal the name Fortnum 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 Fortnum family

The surname Fortnum 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 Fortnum family

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

Fortnum Spelling Variations

The English language only became standardized in the last few centuries. For that reason, spelling variations are common among many Anglo-Norman names. The shape of the English language was frequently changed with the introduction of elements of Norman French, Latin, and other European languages; even the spelling of literate people's names were subsequently modified. Fortnum has been recorded under many different variations, including Fordham, Fordeham, Fordsham, Fordesham, Fordam and others.

Early Notables of the Fortnum family (pre 1700)

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

United States Fortnum migration to the United States +

To escape the uncertainty of the political and religious uncertainty found in England, many English families boarded ships at great expense to sail for the colonies held by Britain. The passages were expensive, though, and the boats were unsafe, overcrowded, and ridden with disease. Those who were hardy and lucky enough to make the passage intact were rewarded with land, opportunity, and social environment less prone to religious and political persecution. Many of these families went on to be important contributors to the young nations of Canada and the United States where they settled. Fortnums were some of the first of the immigrants to arrive in North America:

Fortnum Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Winifred F. Fortnum, aged 23, originally from London, England, arrived in New York in 1914 aboard the ship "Baltic" from Liverpool, England [4]

Contemporary Notables of the name Fortnum (post 1700) +

  • Margaret Emily Noel "Peggy" Fortnum (1919-2016), English illustrator, famous for her pen-and-ink drawings of Paddington Bear
  • William Fortnum, English co-founder of Fortnum & Mason, a department store situated in central London in 1707
  • Rebecca Fortnum (b. 1963), British artist, writer, and a scholar from London

  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. "New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924," database, FamilySearch ( : 6 December 2014), Winifred F. Fortnum, 07 Mar 1914; citing departure port Liverpool, arrival port New York, ship name Baltic, NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.). on Facebook