Show ContentsRafen History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancestors of the Rafen family arrived in England following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The name Rafen came from the Old English given name Raven. This name is a variation of the Old English word Hroefn, which indicated the large black bird we now call the raven, and was sometimes used as a nickname for someone with very dark hair.

"Among the spoil taken by the Saxons was the famous banner of the Raven, said to have been woven in one day by the sisters of Inguar and Ubba, and to have possessed the property of appearing before every battle flying like a living bird if the Danes were to be victorious; while in the contrary event it hung down motionless." [1]

Early Origins of the Rafen family

The surname Rafen was first found in Leicestershire where the Domesday Book of 1086 "presents us with a tenant in chief called Raven-a true Scandinavian, doubtless. Rafn still exists in Denmark as a personal name, and is borne as a surname." [2]

Continuing from the aforementioned Domesday Book reference, researchers found the History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham referencing the name as a forename: Raven de Slinghawe, 1155. In the source, Hodgson's Northumberland, researchers found Gospatric filius Raven, 1177, William Raven, 1190 and Raven de Riding, 1233.

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 listed Henry Raven, Cambridgeshire. [3]

Early History of the Rafen family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Rafen research. Another 85 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 108 and 1086 are included under the topic Early Rafen History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Rafen 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 Raven, Ravens and others.

Early Notables of the Rafen family (pre 1700)

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

Migration of the Rafen 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 Rafen or a variant listed above: Peter Raven, who settled in Virginia in 1648; Mary Raven, who settled in Barbados in 1664; John and Jane Raven, and their four daughters, who settled in Maryland in 1672.

  1. Harrison, Henry, Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary Baltimore: Geneological Publishing Company, 2013. Print
  2. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  3. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6) on Facebook