The Fay Family: The Fay Name

The Normans & the French-Irish, and French-English Connection
---Robert W. Fay
Purpose in Writing
Historical Context: the Norman Connection
Norman Conquest
Legal Definitions and Abbreviations
Arms and Crest: Official Description

During the years that I have been working on the Fay's, there has always been somewhat of an open question as to the French (Norman) connection and as to the relationship of the English Fays to the Irish Fays. Mary Fay Nelson recently discussed the contention that John Fay of Marlboro was a Huguenot and remarked that that was ultimately disproved.

My purpose in posting this is:

1. To suggest that there are two completely separate FAY lines. They are:

   A. A FAY line that originated in ancient Ireland as O'Fataigh, and was subsequently Anglicized to Fay, Fahy, Fahey and Fahie, and probably also includes O'Fahy, O'Feay, O'Fay and other similiar variants. Please see Pat Traynor's discussion, posted January 21, 2000 and forwarded to this mailing list, for more complete information on this FAY line.

   B. A FAY line which originated in Normandy as De Fay, Du Fay, and De La Fay, and was subsequently Anglicized to FAY. Members of this FAY line settled in England and Ireland subsequent to the Norman Conquest. There are many recorded Norman charters both in France, and in England following the conquest.

2. To suggest that the Norman Fay's adopted the surname Fay as a Norman place name, perhaps associated with a nearby beech or oak forest.

3. To suggest that the Norman Fay's are not of French (if there is such a thing) blood but more probably of Scandinavian blood, or perhaps Frankish blood, for several reasons:

   a. Because the Norman, English and Norman-Irish Fays were landed and therefore were related or in some other fashion closely associated with the ruling class, which was Scandinavian beginning with Rollo (Rolf) in 911, and before that Frankish, ending with Charles the Simple in 911 both in Normandy; and beginning with William the Conqueror in 1066 in England and Ireland.

   b. Because in the late Dave Fay's website, Dave makes the statement regarding John Erni Remick, a genealogist "John Erni Remick has found conections to William the Conqueror in France, but no bridge between France and Wales, or England has yet been established." But clearly, in the following account William De Fay of Hampshire, England is one and the same William De Fay of Barrentin, Roumare, St Jean-du-Cardanett and St Agnes, Normandy. And it would seem likely that further research into the other early English and Irish De Fay's mentioned in this reference were from Normandy as well.

   c. If the De Fays are related to William the Conqueror, and since William the Conqueror is directly related to both the Scandinvian Kings and the Old English Kings, it would make sense for the De Fay's to be found in the parts of England ruled by William as well as the parts ruled by the Danish.

Historical Context: The Norman Connection

Now, while I do not suggest that I know the answer to the French connection, I have found an extensive reference that provides the historical context into which several Fay French, or more properly Norman connections could easily be postulated. This is not a primary source although many primary sources are cited.

I didn't know anything, and still know very little, about the Norman conquest or feudal and pre-feudal Europe before I started this research, so I had to learn a little about that as well. Here is a very brief summary. It is a start, but it hardly explores even on a cursory level this particular facet of Fay history, and I hope there are others as well who will further investigate this reference and other appropriate materials and find the answer to this perplexing question. I hope individuals that are interested can post their results here as they become available.

For further information and details on the Normans in Ireland, please see:

The History of Ireland: The Normans in Ireland (1169-1535)
Cruithni: Normans

There is an excellent article by Paul McCotter: The Anglo-Norman Surnames of Ireland (part 1). Among other things, Paul includes a survey of the history and societal impact of the Norman invasion. Unfortunately, Fay (Fahy etc.) is not among the names included on this site, but it is well worth viewing.
[Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI]

To look at a primary source, see Medieval Sourcebook: Gerald of Wales: The Norman Conquest of Ireland (12th Century).
In 1066 Duke William of Normandy, France invaded and conquered England. My references say there was a small population of Normans in England before the Norman Conquest, but by 1087 there were 200,000 Normans, and 1,500,000 English. Following the conquest, the now King William the Conqueror had to repay the many Norman barons who supplied him with money, men and material for the Conquest which he did by awarding English Baronies. 92% of the land in England went to Norman hands following the Conquest. It would make sense for the Norman names to show up on the records of real estate transactions. It's also helpful to know that Normandy had been ruled by Scandanavians since Rollo in 911, and some "Normans" were actually of Scandanavian descent. Under Scandanavian rule, the abbeys in Normandy had been allowed to fall into disrepair, and the Normans during the later stages of Scandanvian rule gave tracts of land to the abbeys for rebuilding the religious institutions. It's also helpful to know that many Normans, beginning with King William and extending in the Barons and other nobility, preferred to spend their time in Normandy, and were only in England the minimum time needed to govern their territories. The office of Sherriff was elevated under Norman rule and had a variety of duties including fiscal and administrative duties to the Duchy. The Sheriff was most prominent because he dispensed justice in all cases in a shire except for the most important cases which were advanced to the Kings Court.The "Marches" are a series of military roads constructed in ancient times to allow the easy movement of troops.[1][2][3][4]

I know that some will take issue, properly, with my little one paragraph summary of the Normans and Conquest, but this is a long posting even without it, and the only intent is to provide a little context and detail for the main posting.
From Blacks Law Dictionary, by Publishers Editorial Staff, West Publishing, St Paul, MN, 1990.
In old English law, an attorney.
...In old English law, a deed or other written instrument under seal; a conveyance, covenant, or contract.
The act of investing with any dignity or possession; also the instrument or deed by which a person is invested with possession.
A reversion of property to the state in consequence of a want of any individual competent to inherit.
Escheat at feudal law was the right of the lord of a fee to re-enter the same when it became vacant by the extinction of the blood of a tenant. This extinction might either be "per defectum sanguinis" or else "per delictum tenentis", where the course of descent was broken by the corruption of the blood of the tenant. As the fee might be holden to the crown or to some inferior lord, the escheat was not always to the crown............
In English law, a title of dignity next above a gentleman, and below knight. Also a title of office given to sheriffs, serjeants, and barristers at law, justices of the peace and others.
Inter Alios:
Between other persons; between those who are strangers to a matter in question.
Inquisition post mortem:
Probably refers to:"Inquisitio post mortem", an inquisition after death. An inquest of office held, during the continuance of military tenures, upon the death of every one of the Kings tenant's to inquire of what lands he died seised, who was his heir, and of what age, in order to entitle the king to his marriage, wardship, relief, primer seisin, or other advantages, as the circunstances of the case might turn out.
In old European law, a title of office and dignity, derived from the Middle Ages, answering to that of steward or high steward in England. Seneschals were originally the lieutenants of the Dukes and other great feudatories of the kingdom, and sometimes had the dispensing of justice and high military commands.
....The completion of the feudal investigation by which the tenant was admitted into the feud, and performed the rights of homage and fealty.
"Primer seisin":
In old English law, the right which the king had, when any of his tenants died seised of a knights fee, to receive of the heir, provided he were of full age, one whole years profits of the lands, if they were in immediate pssession; and half a years profits, if the lands were in reversion, expectant on an estate for life.
....The status of legally owning and possessing real estate. See "seisin"
Abbreviation of "sine prole", "without issue".....
Tail, estate in:
An estate of inheritance, which instead of descending to heirs generally, goes to the heirs of the donee's body, which means his lawful issue, his children, and through them to his grandchildren in a direct line, so long as his posterity endures in a regular order and course of descent, and upon the death of the first owner without isue, the estate determines.
"Tail Male":
When certain lands are given to a person and the male heirs of his or her body. The female heirs are not capable of inheriting it.
From "Irish Pedigrees; or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation" by John O'Hart, 1923, Murphy & McCarty, 86 Walker Street, New York.

Arms: Vert a dexter arm issuant from the sinister side of the shield, and a sinister arm from the dexter, vested or cuffed ar. the hands ppr. grasping a sword erect of the third, pommel and hilt of the second, the blade thrust through a dragons head couped of the last.
Crest: A dragons head couped or.
Motto: Toujours fidele.

The De Fays, or De La Fays are of frequent mention in the old Norman Charters, and even at the present day, the family has many representatives amongst the Gallic Nobility.

The Viscounts De Latour Maubourg (from whom sprung the Princes D'Auvergne) are stated "to have assumed their sirnames from the Lordship of Fay in Picardy, of which they have been possessed at least as early as the year 1000;" while the Counts Mauleveru, the Counts De La-Grange, the Viscounts De La Faye De Bourbonais and Du Fai de Sauvernay, as well as the Irish Branch now under consideration,appear to have assumed theirs from the Fief of Fay, now in the Parish of St. Honorine-Du-Fay, in Normandy, which was possessed by the family at an equally remote period.

Du Conge suggests that the local name "Fay" signified anciently, a Beech or Oak-wood; and that the Abbey of Silly, which was situate in the great forest of St Andre-en-Goufferin, near Fallaise, is styled indifferently in ancient documents "De Silva," "De Bosco", and De Faya". To this abbey in 1202, Garinus, Lord of Bello-Altairi, granted certain lands "heretofore held by W. D. Mandeville, Earl of Essex, of Robert De Fay, father of the said Garinus, as of his Fief of Bello Altari."

To the neighboring Abbey of St Andre-en-Goufferin, Burgundian Du Fay, Lady of Harrier, made grants of lands; as did in 1225 Nicote, sister of Raoul Du Fay, which the latter confirmed as "dependant on his Fief of Fay, in the parish of St Honorine-Du-Fay," while Helie Du Fay made a similiar confirmation to the same Abbey, of lands in his Fay-du-Pre', in the parish of Villy.

The first of the name Fay we meet in England is Radulphus or Ralph De Fay, or De La Fay, to whom Henry the II in 1154 granted the extensive Manor of Bromely, in Surrey. He held until the 19th of Henry II, when taking part with Prince Henry against his father, he was disseized, and Bromely was granted to Baldwin De Bethune. Afterwards it was again escheated when King John by charter, dated at Poiou, 4th December 1199, granted it to Ralph De Fay, the son, who, with many members of his family was then engaged in that monarchs service in France.

This Ralph married Beatrix, sister and co heir of Stephen De Turnham, Seneschal of Poictou, and dying in 1222, left by her who remained with Hugh De Plaiz -John De Fay, his heir, on whose death s.p. in 1241, the Manor of Bromeley passed to his sister, Maud, who married first, William De Clere, and secondly, William De Braiose; and Phillipa, who married William De Neville.

In 1215 King John commands De Podio, Seneschal of Angoule'me, "That you without delay cause to be seized into our hands, the land which belonged to William De Mastad, which came to our beloved and faithful William De Fay, in right of his wife, daughter, and heir of the said William De Mastad." In 1215, the said William De Fay, and Ralph, his brother had a grant of land in Hampshire, heretofore the estate of Robert De Mandville. In the same year King John granted to the said William De Fay, the lands of Barrentin, Roumare, St Jean-du-Cardonett, and St Agnes, in Normandy, a grant which was subsequently confirmed by Phillip Augustus.

In 1225, William De Fay, electing to remain in Normandy, his lands at Polehampton, Hampshire, were confiscated.

In 1208, King John confirms to "Peter De Fay, our Burgess of Rochelle, the reasonable gift made him by Ralph De Fay, of the office of 'Baker and Pasturer' of Rochelle, and of the Hundred Shillings rent in the 'Minages" of Rochelle, and in the Forty Schillings out of the house in Rochelle, wherein Elias gasket formerly had an exchange."

The first mention of the name which we have discovered in Ireland is in 1219, when Richard De Fay, Knight of De Lacy, Lord of Meath, was sent by the latter on a mission to the King.

About this time, Richard De Fay was seized of Mayneston, in Herefordshire, which is held of the Lord John Monmouth, by ancient enfeoffment. In 1220, Richard and Walter De Fay witness charters of the De Monmouth family, of which House, we may here observe, was Rosa De Monmouth, the first wife of Hugh De Lacy, the "Conqueror" of Meath.

In 1281, the King notifies that Richard De Fay, remaining in Ireland, by the kings License, had attorned before him, Geoffreys Te Ireys, and Richard Pickeyleigh. (Pickeyleigh adjoins Maynestown in all pleas and plaints in England).

In 1289, Theobald Le Verdon, Lord of the Western moiety of Meath, had a suit with Richard De Fay, concerning the lands of Tyrlicken, or Tyrkillen, in that county. During the course of the proceedings it was expressly stated, "that De Fay was then abroad in the Kings wars."

In 1290, George De Fay was seized of premises in Kilmer, Donore, and Glackmore, in the Liberty of Trim, in right of his wife Isabella, daughter of Richard Fitz John, the fifth Baron of Delvin. In 1339, Walter Fitz George De Fay had a suit with his grandmother, Eglantine, widow of Lord Delvin, concerning the above lands, which she also claimed as daughter and heir of William Deweswell, of Deweswelltown, co. Dublin and Kilmer, co. Meath.

Shortly after this, John Engelande (a Trustee) conveyed to Richard Fitz George De Fay, the estate of Comerstown, in the Barony of Fore, and of Mayestown, in the Barony of Moyashell, in "Tale Male"; with remainder to Roger De Fay-which Roger De Fay succeeded; and dying before 1380 was siezed, inter alios, of Comerstown, Ballindinam, and Bartanstown. [II} In 1384, his son, John Fitz Roger Fay of Dernegaran was plaintiff in a suit at Trim against George Fitz Walter Fay and Phillip Tuite, for having unlawfully dissiezed him of the above lands, and a verdict was given in his favour; whereupon the said George Fitz Walter appealed, on the grounds that the Jury who tried the case had not been fairly impaneled, "and by reason that Thomas Chamber, the Sheriff, had taken to wife Anne Dardis, cousin of said John Fay." thereupon a new Jury was ordered to be impanelled by the Keeper of the Kings Pleas, which confirmed the verdict of the first-mitigating, however, the damages against George Fitz Walter Fay, "by reason of his minority."

In 1465, the Crown having raised some question as to the title of James Fay (son and heir of John Fitz Roger) to the Comerstown estate, he proved it (under the conveyance made by John Englande above cited) in a Parliment held in Trim in that year, in Drogheda in 1468, and in Dublin in 1469. He complains bitterly at being harrassed by this inquiry "that his lands were situate on the Marches, and that he had great trouble defending them against his own and the Kings enemies." This James, it is presumed, was the father of George Fay, who died in 1514, seized of Comerstown and Dernegara, as appears from an Inquisition post mortem, taken at Duleek in that year; and from whom th Pedigree is carried down to the present day, as follows:

1. George Fay of Dernegara, in Westmeath, born in 1435, died May 1514, leaving Gerald, his son, then aged 40; and married as appears from an Inquisition post mortem, taken at Ratoah.

2. Gerald Fay of Dernegara, who was engaged in the Rebellion of "Silken Thomas;" and dying in 1548, was succeeded by his son:

3. Gerald Fay of Dernegara, then aged 40, and married to Joan Fitzgerald by whom he had George, James of Comerstown, and Christopher. He was Sheriff of West Meath in 1565, and died in 1576.

4. George of Dernegara, son of Gerald, died vita Patris,leaving by Mary Fitzgerald, his wife, four sons- 1. Gerald, 2. George, 3. Redmond (all of whom died s.p.), and 4. Meyler.

5. Meyler, of Comerstown:son of George; married Margery Nugent, by whom he had an only son Edward; and dying Nov. 1627, was buried in the Abbey of Multifarnham.

6. Edward, of Garlandstown House and Dernegara: son of Meyler; married Eliza, daughter of Theobald Nugent, Esq., of New Haggard (by Mary, daughter of Nugent, of Carlanstown, ancestor of the extinct Earl Nugent). By this lady, Edward has six sons- 1. Garret, who left issue, Anne, who married Nicholas brother of the celebrated Father Aloyius Stafford, who was killed at Aughrim; and Captain George Fay, who had the benefit of the Articles of Limerick, and thereby saved the Garlandstown estate, which descended to his daughters and co-heiresses (Mrs Kenedy and Mrs. Lessac); 2. Meyler, died s.p.; 3. Stephan, a priest died s.p.; 4. Anthony, died s.p.; and 6. Thomas.

Edward Fay, taking a very active part in the troubles of 1641, had his estate confiscated by Cromwell.

On the Restoration, this settlement is recited in the Decree dated March 1663, restoring a portion of the property to Richard Nugent as trustee for the four surviving sons of Edward Fay, viz: 1. Garret, of whom presently; 2. Meyler of Comerstown, who died s.p. in 1688; 3. Stephan, a priest who died in 1687; Thomas of Togher, of whom hereafter.

The eldest son, Garret, resided at the Castle of Dernegaragh, and, dying in April 1687, left: 1. Mary, married to Luke Cashell, gent. of Sturrock, in Louth, and of Down, in Westmeath; 2. Anne, [III] who married first, Nicholas Stafford, and, secondly, Nicholas Read, Esq., of Dunbyne; 3. George Fay, of Garlandstown, a Captain of Foot in the service of King James II, who having been included in the Articles of Limerick, saved the estate, which in 1730 was in possession of his daughters and co-heirs, Mrs. Kenedy and Mrs. Lessac.

Edward Fay d. in March 1685, and the male line of the family was continued by his youngest son.[IV]

7. Thomas Fay, of Dernegara, who married (in 1660), Anne, sister of ------Blake, Esq., of Castletown, by whom he had three sons- 1. Martin; 2. John Mo'r; 3. Thomas Mo'r; and a daughter Frances, who married Owen Johnson, Esq., alias MacShane, son of Colonel John O'Neil of the Fews, and Lettice, daughter of Lord Blayney. From this marriage descended the Johnsons of Warrenstown, in Meath, and Sir W. G. Johnson, Baronet, of Twickenham. Thomas Fay having been attainted in 1691, settled in Damaelstown in Meath.

8. Martin, of Damaelstown and Carboggy: son of Thomas; married in 1709 Catherine, daughter of -------Malone, of Possextown (by Anne, daughter of Thomas Plunkett, Esq., of Possexstown and Gibstown); and dying in 1765 left issue- 1. Thomas, 2. Patrick, #. John. The eldest son,

9. Thomas, of Annsbrokk, and Mayo House, county of Meath, and of Drumherk, co. Cavan died January 31st, 1796, aged 86; leaving by his wife Katherine, daughter of Mr. Thomas Murray, two sons- 1.Patrick, who's issue is extinct in Ireland; and 2. John.

1. John, of Ballyhaise, who married, first in 1789, Miss O'Dowd, by whom he had one son, Thomas (of whom hereafter); and secondly, in 1797, Miss Brady, by whom he had James of Moyne Hall, and Patrick. James fay of Moyne hall died in 1863, leaving two sons-John of Moyne Hall who was High Sheriff of Cavin, in 1874; and Thomas, A.B., of Dublin and Heath Lodge. John of Ballyhaise died January 31st, 1836, aged 76. 11. Thomas Fay of Faybrook, co. Cavan, born 1794, and who died 1880, married Mary Herbert [V], only daughter of Patrick MacCabe, Esq., of Ballybay, and by her had four sons- 1. Patrick MacCabe Fay, Chevalier of the Legion of Honour; and 2. Thomas-Francis, of Trim; and 3. James-Henry Fay, J.P., of Faybrook, High Sheriff for co. Cavan in 1881; 4. Charles-Joseph Fay, who was High Sheriff for the co. Cavan; all living in 1887. Also three daughters- 1. Marianne-Frances, wife of Philip Smith, J.P., Arina, co.Cavan, and Colmanstown House, co. Galway; 2. Eleanore Gertrude (died in 1875), wife of John MacCarrick, Esq., of Cloonany House, county Sligo; 3. Margaretta S. Clare, widow of Francis O'Farrell, Esq., of Dublin.


[I]. Fay:For further information respecting this family, see Manning and Bray's Surrey; De Roque's:An Ancient Maisons de la Normandy-Article: "Du Fay"; Calendar of Close Rolls, in the Tower of London; MS. Pedigrees, in Trinity College, Dublin; etc..

There was a branch of this family seated in the county Kildare, which for many generations occupied the position of political agents and confidential trustees to the Earls of Kildare. The head of this family, Nicholas Fay of Ballinure, was specially exempted from pardon for life or estate by Cromwell. Another branch of the family was seated in Trumroe, in Westmeath, which was very similiarly favored. Both these families appear to have recovered some part of their estates at the Restoration; as George Fay of Castlepollard whose will is dated in the same year, and preserved in the Registry of Deeds Office leaves a conditional bequest to his brother Michael "in case I (the Testator) should herafter enjoy my estate of Tromroy;" a condition of hope not unusual in the Jacobite Wills of the period.

This George was the brother of the gallant Geoffrey Fay, Captain in Sir Neil O'Neil's Regiment of Horse, who gave the name to "Fay's Ford", on the Boyne, and who was popularily said to be be the last man (aided by his brother) who opposed the passing of the Williamite Army. Jeffrey was killed at the Battle of Assanno, in Italy in 1714. See letter preserved in the Archives of Franciscian Convent, Merchants Quay, Dublin.

[II]. Bartanstown: On the 17th of May, 1680, Garret Fay of Dernegara, filed a Bill in Chancery against his youngest brother Thomas, for having entered into possesion of Comerstown, Ballindrian, and Bartanstown. The latter was thereupon bailed in the sum of L1,000 by Richard Barnewall, Darby Dunn, Michael Hall, and Nicholas Barnewall, all of the city of Dublin. From his grandson and namesake, Thomas Fay of Annsbrook and Mayo House, county of Meath, who settled in Cavan in 1780, descend the Fays of Faybrook and Moyne Hall in that county.

[III]. Anne: By her second husband (Mr. Read of Dunboyne) Anna Fay (whose will was proved in 1735) left issue two co-heirs, of whom Jane m. Andrew Palles, of Mount Palles co. Cavan, ancestor of the Right Hon. the Chief Baron Palles, of Dublin, living in 1887.

[IV]. Son: Edward Fay had daughters of whom Mary m. Oliver Nugent of Mabestown, who died in 1682, leaving Henry Nugent, who married Eleanore Burrowes of Stradone House, co. Cavan.

[V]. This Mary Herbert MacCabe became sole heir of her father, whose maother was the daughter and heiress of Mr. Peter McMahon of Recane, county Monaghan, by Ellinor his wife, daughter of "The O'Duffy of Clontibret," by Mary, his wife, daughter of "The MacKenna of Trough" commonly called 'The Major" who was killed March 1689, defending the Fort of Drumbanagher, near Glaslough, for King James II. Mr. MacMahon of Rekane was nephew of Hugh MacMahon, Archbishop of Armagh (whose nephews, Bernard and Ross MacMahon, succeeded him in the primatial chair), and a grandson of Colla Dhu MacMahon, titular Lord of Darty, by Aileen, daughter of "The O'Reilly"-styled by Earl of Cavan, and niece of the great Owen Roe O'Neil. Colla Dhu was great-grandson of Sir Brian (MacHugh Oge) MacMahon, Lord of Darty, by Lady Mary O'Neil, daughter of Hugh, Earl of Tyrone-the unfortunate chief whose "Flight" gave facilities for the "Plantation of Ulster." See No. 127 in the "MacMahone" of Darty pedigree, Vol L.
[1] The Norman Conquest: Its Setting and Impact, by Dorothy Whitelock, David Douglas, Charles Lemmon, Frank Barlow, intro by CT Chevallier, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1966
[2] The Normans, The Men Who Made The English Speaking World, by Timothy Baker, McMillan Company, New York, 1966.
[3] William the Conqueror, David C Douglas, University of California Press, 1964.
[4] The Conquest of England, by John Richard Green, Harper & Brothers, New York. Undated (Preface dated 1883).
[5] Blacks Law Dictionary, by Publishers Editorial Staff, West Publishing, St Paul, MN, 1990
[6] Irish Pedigrees; or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation, by John O'Hart, 1923, Murphy and McCarthy, 86 Walker Street, New York.
I hope this provides a few clues for some.

Robert W. Fay ([email protected])

Sunday, 30 January 2000
Copyright 2001 Robert W Fay, all rights reserved