Gurnet History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Gurnet came to England with the ancestors of the Gurnet family in the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Gurnet family lived in Gournay-en-Brai in the Siene-Maritime region of France.

Early Origins of the Gurnet family

The surname Gurnet 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 Gurnet family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Gurnet 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 Gurnet History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Gurnet 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 Gourney, Gurney, Gurnie, Gurnee, Gournie, Gournee, Gurnay, Gournay, Gurnard and many more.

Early Notables of the Gurnet 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 Gurnet Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Gurnet 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, 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 Gurnet or a variant listed above: Edward and John Gurney who settled in Cambridge Massachusetts in 1630; Etienne Gournet settled in Louisiana in 1757.



  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


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