Gurnett History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The history of the Gurnett family name begins after the Norman Conquest of 1066. They lived in Gournay-en-Brai in the Siene-Maritime region of France.

Early Origins of the Gurnett family

The surname Gurnett 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]

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." [2]

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). " [3]

Early History of the Gurnett family

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

Gurnett Spelling Variations

Anglo-Norman names are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. When the Normans became the ruling people of England in the 11th century, they introduced a new language into a society where the main languages of Old and later Middle English had no definite spelling rules. These languages were more often spoken than written, so they blended freely with one another. Contributing to this mixing of tongues was the fact that medieval scribes spelled words according to sound, ensuring that a person's name would appear differently in nearly every document in which it was recorded. The name has been spelled Gourney, Gurney, Gurnie, Gurnee, Gournie, Gournee, Gurnay, Gournay, Gurnard and many more.

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


United States Gurnett migration to the United States +

For many English families, the political and religious disarray that plagued their homeland made the frontiers of the New World an attractive prospect. Thousands migrated, aboard cramped disease-ridden ships. They arrived sick, poor, and hungry, but were welcomed in many cases with far greater opportunity than at home in England. Many of these hardy settlers went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations in which they landed. Among early immigrants bearing the name Gurnett or a variant listed above were:

Gurnett Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • John Gurnett, who landed in Virginia in 1650 [4]
  • Thomas Gurnett, who arrived in Maryland in 1661 [4]
Gurnett Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • M. T. Gurnett, aged 30, who landed in America, in 1909
  • Michael T. Gurnett, aged 30, who immigrated to America, in 1910
  • Mrs. M. T. Gurnett, aged 24, who landed in America, in 1910
  • Thomas E. Gurnett, aged 2, who immigrated to the United States, in 1915
  • Ellen M. Gurnett, aged 28, who immigrated to the United States, in 1915

Australia Gurnett migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Gurnett Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Miss Elizabeth Gurnett who was convicted in London, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Burrell" on 31st December 1831, arriving in New South Wales [5]

Contemporary Notables of the name Gurnett (post 1700) +

  • Terry Gurnett (b. 1955), American Head coach of women's soccer at the University of Rochester
  • William James Gurnett (d. 1911), American politician, Member of California State Assembly 9th District, 1873-75 [6]
  • John W. Gurnett Jr. (d. 1971), American Democrat politician, Member of New York State Assembly from Schuyler County, 1923; Defeated, 1923; Chair of Schuyler County Democratic Party, 1927, 1955 [6]
  • John W. Gurnett Sr., American politician, Member of New York State Assembly from Schuyler County, 1905-06, 1911-13 [6]
  • Jim Gurnett, Canadian politician, member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta (1985 to 1986)
  • George Gurnett (1792-1861), English-born, Canadian journalist and politician
  • Jane Gurnett (b. 1956), British actress


  1. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  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. ^ 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)
  5. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 5th November 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/burrell
  6. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, February 1) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html


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