DERIVATION of Name FOY(E): Possibilities
David Foy and Andrew Merkel
This page contains a few selections from the somewhat lengthy discussion between David Foy and the Markgraf von Leutershausen (Andrew Merkel). Their discussion has covered quite a long period of time and has extended over more than one forum. These messages were posted at GenForum, and reproduced here; both David and Drew have been kind enough to give permission to use these, provided, of course, that I point out that this is an exploration of the possible, NOT a final determination.

A list of David's original postings can be found here, while Drew's are here. From these two starting points, an interested researcher can follow the whole discussion.

I have done some editing.

[I think that the original post which started this whole discussion is to be found here. On the other hand, I think both David and Andrew have been thinking, researching and talking about these matters for a long time.]

Origin of Foy
Posted by: K Foy
Date: April 03, 2000 at 00:38:29

The surname Foy is an anglicised form of the Gaelic O Fiach.

The Gaelic word O Fiach means "raven" The O Fiach clan belonged originally to County Fermanagh. In Enniskillen as far back as 1482, according to the annals of the four masters.

This came from the Historical Research centre, (Family name history) But I have found Foys in England as early as 1300?? Any thoughts, anyone?


David Foy's long essay comes next in one sequence

Re: Origin of Foy
Posted by: Markgraf von Leutershausen
Date: July 12, 2000 at 11:08:33
In Reply to: Re: Origin of Foy by David Foy

David, I wish to point out just a small infraction you made in this posting. In Spanish, "Fe" means Faith, NOT Wisdom, so just to keep everything consistent, I must insert this "Errata" on your behalf.

Therefore Santa FE is Saint Faith.

Connected with this discussion..... we should not forget that it was due to the Spanish Moors or Musselmans occupying this area that Charles Martel and Francks came to this area to expel them at the request of Bishop Gregor of Tours.

It is indeed a difficulty, swinging back and forth between faith and wisdom. Perhaps we should just table this faith and wisdom derivation until there is clear evidence.


Re: Origin of Foy
Posted by: David Foy
Date: July 12, 2000 at 17:10:54
In Reply to: Re: Origin of Foy by Markgraf von Leutershausen

A wise decision. And thanks for the correction.


Re: Origin of Foy
Posted by: Andrew
Date: April 10, 2000 at 18:15:49
In Reply to: Origin of Foy by K Foy

I consider this theory, regardless of its so-called source, as totally inadequate. Fiach is most likely a Gaelicized version of Foy, rather than the other way around.

Anyone who has studied phonemic changes from one language group to another would find this theory quite difficult to stand up in a court of scholars. I would lean towards the French origin of the name of Foy. Most of these were French Hugenots. It is easy to see how they might not have felt quite at home in Catholic Ireland.


Protestant Ireland (was Origin of Foy)
Posted by: David Foy
Date: July 10, 2000 at 11:24:00
In Reply to: Re: Origin of Foy by Markgraf von Leutershausen

The answer to your question is that the first significant community of Protestants in Ireland was the Ulster Settlement, which was created by Cromwellian authorities (mid-1600s) and settled by dispossessed Scottish and English Protestants. Earlier English attempts to coerce Catholics to convert to Protestantism always failed.

The Reformation in Ireland was a very different experience from that of France and Germany. Ireland was not a well-known refuge for Huguenots, compared to the Netherlands, Switzerland, the Protestant Germany, or England.

It is of course possible that some Foys in Ireland descend from French people. That is only reasonable. However there is no reason to believe that the name Foy only ever arose in one place. It is clear to me it arose independently in both France (earlier) and in Ireland (Cromwellian era).


Re: Origin of Foy
Posted by: David Foy
Date: July 12, 2000 at 06:30:48
In Reply to: Re: Origin of Foy by Markgraf von Leutershausen

From what I remember reading, the "raven" translation is a sensible one, and for many years was accepted. I believe the ambiguity arises in considering variant spellings of the Gaelic word. The scholar I read most recently (at the library, not a book I can turn to at this moment and cite) was trying to reconcile the fact that some people with the Gaelic name anglicized it by transliteration to Fee, Fey, Fay, Foy, or -- the most accurate -- Fahey. Others anglicized it by translation, always to the name Hunter, never to Raven. Ravens are scavengers, by the way. And while it may be possible to say in some sense that all ravens are hunters, it is less possible to say that all hunters are ravens.

Were the Northumberland Foyes Irish, or German? I assume they have retained the final "e" on the name -- is that true? I've always associated the "Foye" spelling with English people.


Re: Origin of Foy
Posted by: Markgraf von Leutershausen
Date: July 12, 2000 at 09:02:17
In Reply to: Re: Origin of Foy by David Foy

Thanks for your comments. The Northumberland kin of mine were Foy in all the records I have found. Only in the late 1800's and e added by some of the line.

I have found also the adding of English middle names. But, inspite of this, I find fairly consistent marriages with German spouses: Snyder, Miller (Muller), Conrad, Long (Lang), Romberger, Hasenger, etc. ad nauseum. This is fairly substantial evidence, don't you agree. As you have German Foys in your line, as you indicated, I would like to explore any possible connections of my line to the region in which your Foys are found.

By the way, my last name, Merkel, is as German as you can get (not to mention all of the spouses). Germans, as a rule, tended to travel together and stick together and marry together (of course, exceptions happen) especially during the major waves.

May I ask, what are some of the surnames in your line of Foys associated with the spouses?


Andrew M. Merkel


Re: Foye and Fe
Posted by: David Foy
Date: July 10, 2000 at 09:43:33
In Reply to: Re: Origin of Foy by Markgraf von Leutershausen

About the Alsace-Lorraine "Foy" origin, I am extremely pleased with the information you have given here. I have always assumed the original "Foye" and "deFoye" must have been pronounced as you state (foyer), and it is very gratifying to hear from someone who has some knowledge of the matter.

Now I have a question for you.

I believe my German "Foy" ancestors, who immigrated to America in 1742 from Staudernheim (near Bad Kreutznach, Pfalz, on the Nahe), were probably originally French.

From their arrival in Pennsylvania in 1742 until about 1770, their name is always spelled Fe or Fey on church and government records. After that, the spelling Foy very quickly takes over. Pronunciation obviously changed as well. The name has been pronounced to rhyme with "Boy" since at least my great-grandfather's generation. He was born in 1849, and is remembered well by one of my father's aunts, who lived with him for ten years.

The earliest documentation about these people I have seen is in transcribed excerpts from the Staudernheim church records (Lutheren, ca 1610 onward), which suggest to me these Fes were in Staudernheim by 1650, possibly earlier. The individuals I found were a cabinetmaker and a cooper, not farmers, which suggests to me that their family may have been relatively recent arrivals.

The church record transcriptions I have seen always spell the family's name "Fey." No accent in the transcriptions, but I don't know about the originals. The men who immigrated in 1742 were literate and did write their names on American immigration records, as Fe. It can be seen very clearly on Strassburger's facsimiles, in clear Sutterlein. German friends tell me the accent is a dieresis (double-dot) and not an umlaut, and does not alter pronunciation. They also state that Fe would be pronounced to rhyme with "pie."

The origin of "" as "ij" is well established, so I can understand the change from Foye to Fuij (fo-yeh to foo-yeh), which happened in the Spanish Netherlands.
My question -- can you suggest how Foye (as in foyer) would become Fe (as in pie)? Is it likely that these Fes were originally French Protestants (Huguenots)? Or is it more likely that Fe was originally a German name?

Thank you very much for bringing your knowledge and expertise to this discussion.


Re: Foye and Fe
Posted by: Markgraf von Leutershausen
Date: July 12, 2000 at 16:17:33
In Reply to: Re: Foye and Fe by David Foy

Answer to your question:

[David Foy's-- can you suggest how Foye (as in foyer) would become Fe (as in pie)? Is it likely that these Fes were originally French Protestants (Huguenots)? Or is it more likely that Fe was originally a German name?]

Perhaps the better question.....,my dear friend, is how did Fe became Foy?

First, some clarifications:

1- The dieresis or dot-dot over a vowel as in is not a notation peculiar to German; it is quite normative to FRENCH so when explaining pronunciation of , I would proffer that it is best to consult a French expert rather than a German (perhaps).
2- Based upon your own citations of Wilhelm Fe and company, it is clear, that in the case of this family, Fe precedes what became Foy as in your Simon.

Based upon above, I will presuppose that the root Fe precedes Foy for the discussion of the German line.

Since there are several villages in France with the name (or part of the name) having Fe, and, because these villages are predominantly in the Alsace, Lorraine area, I am not going to immediately jump to the conclusion that the Fe line is French. Step-by-step, I should like to investigate the background of Fe. Punct Final!

French locations with Fe:

Fey-en-Haye (six miles NW of Nancy and 10 miles southwest of Metz)smack in the middle of LORRAINE or (German France).

Fey (5 mi SW of Metz)LORRAINE [Fey,FR65,FR]

Fey (10mi SW of Metz)LORRAINE [Fey,FR62,FR]

Fey (40 miles SW of Lyon) [Fey,FR36,FR]

Feydel (30 miles SE of Lyon)[ Feydel,FR48,FR]

Feyssaguet [Feyss aguet] [FR21, FR] (watch, or vantage point)140 miles West of Lyon

It is interesting to note that the Chateaux de Fey is located 35 miles SW of Troyes in Champagne. Chteau du Fe, located near Joigny (between Sens and Auxerre - 95 miles south of Paris) is a splendid property classified "monument historique" dating from the 17th century and is lovingly restored. The property stands on 100 acres overlooking the Yonne river valley with superb views over the countryside. Not far away are some of the wine areas of Burgundy, Champagne, and the Loire, with Paris only 1 1/2 hour's distance by car or train.

All of the above suggests that, dating from the 1600's someone named Fe had a pretty nice estate 1/3 of the way from Paris to Lyon. If there is a connection between the different geographical Fe locations cited above, it might mean that as late as the 1600's somebody named Fe who lived in the Chataux had his influence felt all the way to the borders of Lorraine encompassing Metz and Nancy and perhaps Alsace and as far south as Lyon on the South east and Conques on the Southwest. The primary land holdings encompassed are, of course, wine. bounded by the Rhone River and Saone and the Rhine tributary on the north and east.

It seems quite plausible then that anyone plying his trade in the Lorraine and Alsace areas, and perchance, also Champagne and Burgundy, might very well have moved his trade up the Rhine if he had some problems.

Many of my Merkel side of the family were barrel makers. Obviously, this trade was up the Rhine from Lorraine and into the Odenwald from Heidelberg to the North including the Pfalz (Neustadt). That these trades existed (Kufrei) or Coopers and Binders or Benders in this region in the 1500's and 1600's is easily documented.

Perhaps our Fe families were Franks who settled in France and were given some land for their service under the aegis of Charles Martel and descendants and amalgamated into France.

I throw the ball back to David Foy.


Re: Foye and Fe
Posted by: Markgraf von Leutershausen
Date: July 12, 2000 at 10:32:56
In Reply to: Re: Foye and Fe by David Foy

Hi Dave,

It seems that our back and forth is quite stimulating. Perhaps we can shake some of the myths which have been posted. I appreciate your integrity......willingness to stick out your neck, and also retreat from some hypotheses. I am the same way.

Are you aware that there is a Chteau du Fe in Burgundy (France)? Let's see if we can run this down. It may provide some insight.

I very much appreciate your reference to the Wilhelm Foy = Wilhelm Fe (Foy) arrived in 1742 and a brother (or nephew) arrived a few years later. Consult Strassburger, and Tepper (New World Immigrants -- the Staudernheim chapter), and look under the name Fey (actually Fe in the Strassberger facsimiles).

Since I have a clear trace to my William Foy of Northumberland (b. July 07, 1803 m. abt 1826 to a Jane Miller (b. April 29, 1809, PA), I wish to see if we connect with the Wilhelm Fe line.

Could you provide me the details of Wilhelm Fe line forward from 1742 as I do not have Strassburger or Tepper. Thanks AKA Andrew AKA Markgraf


Re: Foye and Fe
Posted by: David Foy
Date: July 12, 2000 at 10:59:20
In Reply to: Re: Foye and Fe by Markgraf von Leutershausen

I got the date wrong. In Strassburger, look for lists for the snow Molly, Oct 16 1741, not 1742. If you can, consult the original 1934 Pennsylvania German Society, Norristown, edition, three volumes, which includes facsimiles. I don't have any geneaological references for the Feys in the 1741-1800 period, unfortunately, other than my direct line: Wilhelm, Simon (Sr), Simon (Jr) b 1769, and only Simon Jr. onward is satisfactorily documented (yet). Of the numberous siblings and descendents I know nothing. That's why I'm haunting this forum.


Re: Foye and Fe
Posted by: Markgraf von Leutershausen
Date: July 10, 2000 at 17:15:59
In Reply to: Re: Foye and Fe by David Foy

Following up on your Alsace-Lorraine origin:

The problem with the Internet, is, that anything can be posted: legitmate research or ungrounded and unfounded statement of fact. [I agree, the two can sometimes do role reversals].

So, not as to proclaim anything at all, but rather to posit some food for thought (hopefully not garbage), let me begin.

I propose a few word studies to both qualify and/or eliminate some possibilities as well as to invite some others.

FOYE: Possible derivation 1: People of Fire

1. English: FIRE n. [ME, fyre; AS, fyr; akin to German Feuer; IE base *pewor, seen also in Greek Pur, fire (cf. pyre);

2. French: Feu [f](pronounciation is in between Boeufs and beurre in French).

[Markgraf NOTE: It is not beyond one's grasp to see the possible PHONETIC connection between [f] = fey = Foy, Fay, Fee, and Fahey. Hold this in obeyance for the time being). Also, note that Feu in French can also mean "deceased" or "late" [perhaps, in the sense of cremation or "fired" after death.

3. An interesting (sideline? or main point?) is the GERMAN FEUER [FEU-ER}. Seems to be some connection between the two languages on an etymological root basis. AH, HAH! The German pronunciation is [foyer] which is close to the french Feu.

NOW: let's go back into French for the word FOYER: [fwy] meaning AH, HAH! Fire-place;, hearth. Note that the meaning is slightly different from the current English word spelled the same meaning vestibule or hall.

The point of this exercise is to show a German-French connection of the word for fire and to show how the French Feu and FOYER are linked together in meaning.

It is also quite interesting to note that the English word foy (pronounced Foi) has a Middle Dutch spellings of foy, foou, voye: prob.
So, just in this brief instance of etymology, we see a connection between fire (FEU), a fire-place (FOYER) or reception place for visitors or travelers or voyagers, and the Feast (FOY) given for the voyager.

I do not think I am being too clever to lump these words together. They connect root-wise, context-wise, and somewhat, spelling-wise. They also transcend centuries.

Is it possible that FOY(E) is more derived from FIRE than FAITH (FOI)? Hummmmmmmmm, I wonder. Perhaps the Foy(e)s were people of FIRE. Protestants who were burned at the stake for their Faith.

I do not wish to argue the history of Saint Foy. I have no doubt her name was Saint Fides in the time of AD 200. Remember that she was put to the fire (on a griddle) for her faith.

Fire was the test of ones faith. So are the Foy[e]'s people of FIRE [FEU], people of FAITH (FOI) or people of FAITH by FIRE.

Or were they VOYAGERS (from Latin via) who evangelized during their journeys showing where they were either feasted for their faith or fired at the hearth for their beliefs. It seems the French had quite an interest in testing Saints by Fire (Saint Foy and Saint Jean d'Arc).

I remember that most nobility were given titles for their FEALTY in battle.......more later

One's mettle is tested by Fire (Feu, Fr. [f] taking on his cause, for I wish him to keep the faith (Foi), fan the fire I do not wish to minimize your research, which is admirable and scholarly, and I wish to apologize for the "Phooey" I inserted into my reply. It enlisted the same reaction from my twin brother whose middle name is Foye". He detested that appendage when we were having feuds. I will no longer say "Fie" to what you say. I do not wish to feud with you. I do not wish to claim any fiefdom to one possibility of derivation of the name Foy(e). I wish not to fan the flames of fire Feu


Re: Foye and Fe
Posted by: David Foy
Date: July 11, 2000 at 07:40:02
In Reply to: Re: Foye and Fe by Markgraf von Leutershausen

Very interesting and thought-provoking. Thank you.


Re: Foye and Fe
Posted by: Markgraf von Leutershausen
Date: July 11, 2000 at 12:44:42
In Reply to: Re: Foye and Fe by David Foy

CONCERNING the NORMAN DeFOYE nomenclature:
Word Study Continuation:

Eng: Fire < German: Feuer = French: Feu
Eng: Foyer (Hall)< French: Foyer (Fireplace)
Dutch: Foy < Feast for Voyager at Fireplace.

Feu SCOTTISH [fu][Scottish for fee; see FEE], in Scottish history and law, 1. a fee; feudal estate. 2. a renting of land paid for by the holder in grain or money rather than in military service, 3. the land so held.

Feuar Scottish[fu'er) a person who held a feu (fee) or feudal estate.

Now in the feudal days, it was the Feuar who would hold the feasting for the returning knights (voyagers). The one who had the estate had the large hearth (Foyer) for the Feasting (Foy) over the fire (Feu).

Those who would not serve as knights worked the land as fiefs in this fiefdom and paid a fee (Feu) to the Feuar.

Fee English(Fe)n. (ME, fee, feo, fief, payment; anglo-Fr, fee, fie (OFr. feu, fiu, fief); associated with ME. feo, feoh (
1. Originally, heritable land held from a feudal lord in return for service; fiedr; feudal benefice; also called feud. b) the right to hold such land.

What we see here, is that the Estate holder, the Feuar, would give a grant of land (Feud) as a reward or beneficience to one who served him in the military.

Feudalism: the feudal system; economic, political, and social organization of medieval Europe, in which land, worked by serfs attached to it, was held by vassals ( a feudal tenant)in exchange for military and other services given to overlords;

Now no Feuar was worth his salt if he did not have a Feud with a Foe. (perhaps a neighboring Feuar or even his tenant with whom he had an agreement to provide land for his military or other service.

Foe English: (Fo) n. [ME, fo, ifo; AS, fah, hostile, (ge) fah, enemy; akin to OHG, gefeh, at feud, hostile; for IE, base see Feud, an enemy; opponent.

Fehde German: f. Feud, quarrel

Feodal French f. Feudal


I am much more inclined from this word study to suggest that the Germanic or Alsace-Lorrainian Foyes were, as suggested by David Foy in his citation:

Available documentation points to the first French Foy in England as being a knight of Picardy, named deFoye, who took a fief in Yorkshire ca 1100-1110, about a century after the Conquest.

But, WAIT A MINUTE, let's examine this.

[FROM GUIBERT DE NOGENT in Histor. Occid. Croisades, IV, 115-263; MONOD, Le moine Guibert et son temps (Paris, 1905). ]

In the eleventh century the name of "Frank" was applied in a general manner to all the inhabitants of Western Europe, being a survival of the political unity established by the Carolingians for the benefit of the Franks. The Byzantine chroniclers never otherwise refer to the Westerns. Herv, a Norman adventurer in the service of the Byzantine emperors in the eleventh century, is called "Francopoulos" (Son of the Franks). It was therefore quite natural that this name of "Frank" should be used by the Orientals in referring to the crusaders, and it is evident that they called themselves by the same name. "Gesta Francorum" is the title of one of the chief accounts of the Crusades. Since the Crusades the word Frank remains in the east a synonym for Western, and to-day the term is still used in that sense. Moreover, the idea that the Franks were a people chosen by God arose soon after their conversion to Christianity, and finds expression many times in the traditions relative to Clovis, which Gregory of Tours transmits to us. We read in one of the prologues of the Salic Law: "Glory to Christ, who loves the Franks! May He preserve their kingdom! May He replenish their leaders with His grace, for this is the strong and brave nation which has richly covered with gold the bodies of the holy martyrs." With Charlemagne the Franks protected the Roman Church from the Lombard invasion, destroyed paganism among the Saxons, drove back the Mussulmans (Moors), and established their protectorate over the Holy Sepulchre. Hence the crusade was, for the men of the eleventh century, merely the crowning of that alliance between God and the Franks, and after the discourse of Urban II at Clermont, it was to the cry of "God wills it!" that all made haste to take the cross.

GUIBERT DE NOGENT in Histor. Occid. Croisades, IV, 115-263; MONOD, Le moine Guibert et son temps (Paris, 1905).

I WOULD SUGGEST, in conclusion, that historical evidence and etymology points strongly toward the deFOYES of PICARD as having been awarded land and title for their military service.......BUT, in 1100, who was doing the military service.......AHEM, the FRANKS, who were that Germanic tribe whose language dialect extends from Southern Hesse and south to the French Alps, West to France.

I suggest that the people who lived in Picardy, especially the deFoyes, were Franks, (a German tribe) called into service by the Bishop of Tours to rid the region of the Spanish Moors.... The saviors of France, from which France received its name, but who, in fact, not too many centuries later, were not really welcome much longer. Picardie , a district of France in the western part of Northeast France......bordering the English Channel near Calais and extending eastward towards the district of Champagne, less than 35 miles from the district of Lorraine.

Well, it seems then, that, these Foy(e)s could very well have been Franks who were rewarded for their military service by being permitted to be vassals to French Lords, who, not being totally relieved from military duty due to prior service, could easily have been sent on the Norman invasion of England. I mean, really, if the Foyes were truly French, there would be more of a record of their having been there. No monuments have been left to the Foyes. Why? Because they were outsiders to France....indeed, FRANKS, who were temporarily asked to serve on behalf of Rome by the Bishops, temporarily rewarded for their military duty as vassals in a hot zone for the next 1000 years.

FINAL DISCLAIMER......ALL of the ABOVE except the cited word studies and one historical account, are posited by me. They are suppositions. They are open for challenge and protest. PLEASE Argue. But, after it all, I will defend my thesis that Foy(e)s never were French at all.....Sure, they lived in France,,,,,,,,but they were not French.....they were FRANKS. Once a FRANK, always a FRANK.

[Any Frenchmen today worth his salt would detest his Country being called FRANKREICH or even France, because the FRANKS long over extended their incursion into France fighting the Mussleman. France, if it were to be known in public, still is trying to get the FRANKS out of FRANCE] All of the aforesaid encapsulated is pure bunk.

Finally, I am a Foye, (attested by my twin's middle name and my grandmother's maiden name) and I will be the first to admit that they are a strange, but principaled Bunch.


Re: Foye and Fe
Posted by: David Foy
Date: July 12, 2000 at 06:21:25
In Reply to: Re: Foye and Fe by Markgraf von Leutershausen

Quesion: were there "aboriginal" Foys (or Foyes) in the southern provinces at the time when southern Europeans were taking surnames?

I will only add a clarification: the deFoye who took his name to Yorkshire was not part of the Norman invasion of 1066. His arrival a century later was said to be part of the consolidation of Norman power.


Re: Foye and Fe
Posted by: Drew Merkel
Date: July 14, 2000 at 11:36:26
In Reply to: Re: Foye and Fe by David Foy


Could you tighten up your question? Aboriginal is not absolute due to man's migratory nature, but is relative. Southern Europe is a bit generic, and your time aspect is wide open. Thanks.


Re: Foye and Fe
Posted by: David Foy
Date: July 24, 2000 at 12:39:22
In Reply to: Re: Foye and Fe by Drew Merkel

It's not a tightenable question. But perhaps re-phrasable -- I have found the name deFoye, Foye, Foy, Fey, Fe et al documented with reasonable frequency in the North of France. It's by no means a common name anywhere (as opposed to, say, Smith), but not hard to find in the North. I haven't spent much time searching the South. If anyone has, does the name appear to have any roots (say, pre-1850) there?


Re: Origin of Foy
Posted by: Michael Foy
Date: April 04, 2000 at 14:45:06
In Reply to: Origin of Foy by K Foy

Foy is also of French origin meaning "faith". There was a medevial saint (Ste. Foy) whose shrine is still in Conque. During the Middle Ages it was a pilgrimage site.

The name in England is probably the result of the Norman invasion in 1066.


Re: Origin of Foy
Posted by: David Foy
Date: July 09, 2000 at 18:06:17
In Reply to: Re: Origin of Foy by Michael Foy
This is correct. Available documentation points to the first French Foy in England as being a knight of Picardy, named deFoye, who took a fief in Yorkshire ca 1100-1110, about a century after the Conquest.

The question of where Sainte-Foy (of Conques) got her name is interesting. I speculate it was from the allegory of Faith, Hope, and Charity, "Faith" being "Fides" in Latin, early on modified to Foy (then to "Fwa") as the French tongue took form.