The Clan/Sept History
When the Anglo- Normans began to settle in Ireland, they brought the tradition
of local surnames to an island which already had a Gaelic naming system of
hereditary surnames established. Unlike the Irish, the Anglo- Normans had an
affinity for local surnames. Local surnames, such as french, were formed from
the names of a place or a geographical landmark where the person lived, held
land, or was born. The earliest Anglo-Norman surnames of this type came from
Normandy, but as the Normans moved, they created names that referred to where
they actually resided. Therefore, English places were used for names when the
Normans lived in England, and then Irish places after these particular Anglo-
Normans had been settled in Ireland for some time. Originally, these place names
were prefixed by "de," which means "from" in French. However, this type of
prefix was eventually either made a part of the surname, if the place name began
with a vowel, or it was eliminated entirely. The french family originally lived
near an ash tree. The surname french was originally de Freynes and was
originally derived from the word "fraxinus," which means an "ash tree." However,
in some cases, the surname french is derived from residence in the country of
France, a more obvious derivation. The name is sometimes spelled with a
beginning of "Ff." This practice arose as many early records showed the capital
"F" as "ff" in 16th and 17th centuries.
Medieval scribes and church officials spelled the names as they sounded, so a
name was often spelled many different ways during the lifetime of a single
person. The investigation of the origin of the name french revealed many
spelling variations including French, Frenche and others.
First found in Devon. They were descendants of Theophilus de France who
accompanied William the Conqueror into England in 1066. Robert Fitz-Stephen de
France accompanied Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, on his invasion of Ireland.
Ireland experienced a dramatic decrease in its population during the 19th
century. This was in a great measure, a response to England's imperialistic
policies. Hunger and disease took the lives of many Irish people and many more
chose to leave their homeland to escape the horrific conditions. North America
with its promise of work, freedom, and land was an extremely popular destination
for Irish Families. For those families that survived the journey, all three of
these things were often attained through much hard work and perseverance.
Research into early immigration and passenger lists revealed many immigrants
bearing the name french: Alice French who settled in Salem, Massachusetts in
1630; along with Dorcas; Elizabeth French settled in Boston Massachusetts in
1635; along with Francis.
Motto Translated: I would rather die than be disgraced.
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