Gurnee History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Gurnee is one of the many names that the Normans brought with them when they conquered England in 1066. The Gurnee family lived in Gournay-en-Brai in the Siene-Maritime region of France.

Early Origins of the Gurnee family

The surname Gurnee was first found in Norfolk where they held a family seat as Lords of the manor of Bray, and were granted the lands by William the Conqueror for their assistance at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D.

It is claimed that this ancient race was one of the first Vikings to settle in Normandy, and became Lords of Gournay, which became a town, Gournai-n-Brai, in the arrondisement of Newfchatel. There were two Hughs of Gournays at the Battle of Hastings, father and son, and their son Gerard de Gournay married Edith the daughter of Gundrada, the daughter of William the Conqueror. [1]

Another source differs with the spellings and origin of the name. "Hugo de Gournay, Lord of Gournay, in Normandy, who bore, for arms, pure sable, was one of the barons who commanded at the battle of Mortimer, against the French in 1054. Subsequently, coming over to England with Duke William, he participated in the victory of Hastings, and was rewarded with the manorial grants in Essex, which he held at the period of the General Survey. His son, Gerard de Gournay, Baron of Gournay, in Normandy, and Baron of Yarmouth in England, greatly increased his power and influence, by marrying the Conqueror's granddaughter, Editha, dau. of William de Warren, Earl of Surrey." [2]

Farrington-Gurney in Somerset was the site of an ancient family seat. "This place takes the adjunct to its name from the Gournays, its ancient possessors, of whom Sir Thomas de Gournay was concerned in the murder of Edward II. at Berkeley Castle, for which his estates were confiscated." [3]

To underline the long and steeped history of the family we include this early entry. Sir Matthew Gourney (1310?-1406), was an English soldier, "fourth son of Thomas Gourney, one of the murderers of Edward II, who was afterwards banished from England, and in the parliament held at the end of 1330 was condemned during his absence. Next year he was arrested at Burgos in Spain, but escaped, only, however, to be recaptured at the end of 1332 at Naples; he died in 1333 while on his way back to England as a prisoner. Mathew Gourney was born at Stoke-under-Hamden in Somersetshire about 1310. He became a distinguished soldier of fortune. Froissart terms him a 'moult vaillans chevalier.' He was first mentioned as being at the battle of the Sluys (1340). " [4]

Early History of the Gurnee family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Gurnee research. Another 200 words (14 lines of text) covering the years 1665, 1655, 1721, 1719, 1779, 1721, 1777, 1770, 1896, 1641, 1565, 1645, 1622, 1626, 1641, 1688, 1741, 1655, 1721, 1683 and 1685 are included under the topic Early Gurnee History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Gurnee Spelling Variations

Anglo-Norman names tend to be marked by an enormous number of spelling variations. This is largely due to the fact that Old and Middle English lacked any spelling rules when Norman French was introduced in the 11th century. The languages of the English courts at that time were French and Latin. These various languages mixed quite freely in the evolving social milieu. The final element of this mix is that medieval scribes spelled words according to their sounds rather than any definite rules, so a name was often spelled in as many different ways as the number of documents it appeared in. The name was spelled Gourney, Gurney, Gurnie, Gurnee, Gournie, Gournee, Gurnay, Gournay, Gurnard and many more.

Early Notables of the Gurnee family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Marie de Gournay (1565-1645), a French writer, who wrote a novel and a number of other literary compositions, including two protofeminist works, The Equality of Men and Women (1622) and The Ladies' Grievance (Les femmes et Grief des dames, 1626); Sir Thomas de Gournay; and Sir...
Another 53 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Gurnee Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Gurnee family

Because of the political and religious discontent in England, families began to migrate abroad in enormous numbers. Faced with persecution and starvation at home, the open frontiers and generally less oppressive social environment of the New World seemed tantalizing indeed to many English people. The trip was difficult, and not all made it unscathed, but many of those who did get to Canada and the United States made important contributions to the young nations in which they settled. Some of the first North American settlers with Gurnee name or one of its variants: Edward and John Gurney who settled in Cambridge Massachusetts in 1630; Etienne Gournet settled in Louisiana in 1757.


Contemporary Notables of the name Gurnee (post 1700) +

  • Walter S. Gurnee (1813-1903), American politician, Mayor of Chicago, Illinois, 1851-53 [5]
  • Emory W. Gurnee, American politician, Member of New York State Assembly from Wayne County 1st District, 1874, 1876 [5]
  • Charles P. Gurnee, American politician, Member of New Jersey State House of Assembly from Passaic County, 1871 [5]
  • Abraham Gurnee, American politician, Member of New York State Assembly from Rockland County, 1817-19, 1820-21, 1825-26; Member of New York State Senate Southern District, 1821-22 [5]


  1. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. ^ Burke, John Bernard, The Roll of Battle Abbey. London: Edward Churton, 26, Holles Street, 1848, Print.
  3. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  4. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  5. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, February 1) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html


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