Towrnay History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Towrnay was brought to England in the great wave of migration following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Towrnay family lived in Shropshire. Their name, however, is a reference to Tournay-Sur-Dive, Normandy, the family's place of residence prior to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.

Another source claims the name was derived from Tornai in Normandy. [1]

Early Origins of the Towrnay family

The surname Towrnay was first found in Shropshire where they were Lords of the manor of Kinnersley and other lands in that shire, which the Domesday Book in 1086 shows as being an under tenant of Earl Roger. They were originally castellans of the castle at Exmes for the Counts of Exmes, the Montgomerys. The Tournay estates were originally at Tournay-Sur-Dive at Orne in the arrondisement of Argentan in Normandy.

Walter de Torni held Tornai, Normandy it 1165, by Castle Guard. "Upon the redistribution of the conquered province of Mercia, when Earl Roger de Montgomery entered Shropshire to possess and rule, Gerard de Tornai, one of his followers, received as the meed of service, eighteen valuable Saxon manors, of which the largest was Sutton.

"Gerard was one of those western magnates who, upon the accession of Rufus, rebelled against him. At any rate, De Tornai's career in Shropshire terminated, about 1088, in a total and absolute forfeiture. The disinherited Baron had a daughter, Sibil, wife of Hamo Peverel, who by special favour acquired a succession to the forfeited estate, under a title from the first ambiguous."- History and Antiquities of Shropshire.

Goisfrid de Tornai held a fief in Lincoln 1086 [2] and William de Tornai was Viscount of Lincoln before 1130 (Pipe Rolls).

Simon of Tournay (fl. 1184-1200), was an early English schoolman, said to have been a native of Cornwall. His name was spelt many ways including Thurnai, Thurvay and in Latin as Thurnaius. "Whether he received that name because he was a native of Tournay, or because he subsequently held a canonry in the cathedral there, is uncertain. " [3]

John de Thorney, Lord of Figheldean in Wiltshire, was summoned in 1324 to attend the great Council at Westminster: Simon Thorney, in 1316, was Lord of Holcombe in Somersetshire; and William de Thorney one of the "Servientes" performing military service due from the Bishop of Worcester in 1310.-Palgrave's Parliamentary Writs.

In Devonshire, Hugh de Tournay, in 1212, bestowed part of his manor of Molland on St. Nicholas' Priory, Exeter (v. Cartulary). In 1264, Roger de Tournay, being in attendance on Henry III. during his visit at Hurstmonceux Castle in Sussex, was accidentally killed by a bowshot while he was hunting in the park. William de Tornei witnesses Henry I.'s charter to Thetford Priory. (Cleverland3)

Early History of the Towrnay family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Towrnay research. Another 202 words (14 lines of text) covering the years 1664 and 1681 are included under the topic Early Towrnay History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Towrnay Spelling Variations

Norman surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are largely due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The introduction of Norman French to England, as well as the official court languages of Latin and French, also had pronounced influences on the spelling of surnames. Since medieval scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings. The name has been spelled Tournay, Tornay, Tornai, Tourney and others.

Early Notables of the Towrnay family (pre 1700)

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

Ireland Migration of the Towrnay family to Ireland

Some of the Towrnay family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. More information about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Towrnay family

Many English families emigrated to North American colonies in order to escape the political chaos in Britain at this time. Unfortunately, many English families made the trip to the New World under extremely harsh conditions. Overcrowding on the ships caused the majority of the immigrants to arrive diseased, famished, and destitute from the long journey across the stormy Atlantic. Despite these hardships, many of the families prospered and went on to make invaluable contributions to the development of the cultures of the United States and Canada. Early North American immigration records have revealed a number of people bearing the name Towrnay or a variant listed above: Louis Tourny arrived in Philadelphia in 1858; James Torney arrived in Philadelphia in 1835; Patrick Tornnay arrived in Philadelphia in 1865.



  1. ^ Cleveland, Dutchess of The Battle Abbey Roll with some Account of the Norman Lineages. London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1889. Print. Volume 3 of 3
  2. ^ Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)
  3. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print


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