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2,405 study surnames with us
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About the study

The Fernyhough one-name study developed out of tracing my family tree and finding difficulty in differentiating one John from another. Having started collecting all references as an aid to the process of elimination, it seemed logical to continue throughout the years. There was the added interest in the several intermarriages with the Loverock family.

Variant names

The variants and pronunciation of Fernyhough are wide ranging. The study includes Fearneyhough, Fearnyhough, Fearnyough, Fernehough, Ferneyhough, Fernihough, Fernyhough and many deviants which involve vowel changes. Ferney and Fearney and variants are gradually being added to the database, as my 3x great grandfather’s will was for John Fernyhough also known as John Ferney.

Name origin

The accepted meaning of the name is of someone who lived at or near a fern covered hill or cliff. The actual location is in Staffordshire in either the Leek or Endon parish.

Historical occurrences of the name

There are many historical references to the name including:

  • 1315 John Fernyhough of Fernyhough, a small estate in Staffordshire.
  • 1327 and 1332 Adam de Fernihaugh, assessed for tax at Endon (Subsidy Roll).
  • 1349 William son of Adam del Fernyhalgh of Cheteldon (Assizes).
  • 1621 The will of William Fernihough of Fernihough was proved. He bequeathed Fernyhough to his daughter Ellen, who was married in 1603 to John Unwin of Clough House. They had no children. The will was contested in Chancery as the property had been entailed in the male line. Ellen gave up her rights and the property was still with the Fernyhough family until at least 1705.
  • 1621 and 1629 John Fernyhough elected mayor of Newcastle under Lyme.
  • 1742 Thomas Fernyhough died having been town cryer at Leek for many years.
  • 1844 Thomas Fernyhough died, having been Governor of the Military Knights of Windsor. In 1828 he wrote a book about the military exploits of the four Fernyhough brothers of Staffordshire. He was a keen genealogist and worked for many Staffordshire families, using his grace and favour residence in Windsor Castle as a convenient locality for researching in national archives. He assisted William Salt in his famous historical collection, which later became the nucleus for the William Salt Library in Stafford.
  • 1938 Eric Fernihough was killed in Hungary while attempting to improve on his own world speed records for motorcycle and motorcycle with sidecar.
  • 1993 Ernest Fernyhough died having been personal private secretary to Harold Wilson 1967-7.
  • Living - Bryan Fernyhough, composer and professor of music.
  • Living - Rowland Fernyhough, show jumper and trainer.

Name frequency

The Office of National Statistics database contains a list of surnames in use in England, Wales and the Isle of Man in September 2002. The numbers for the variants are Fernyhough 501, Ferneyhough 482, Fearnehough 271, Fernihough 238, Fearnyough 27 and Fearneyhough 14. In the LDS transcription of the 1881 census, the numbers are Fernyhough 235, Ferneyhough 219, Fearnehough 83, Fernihough 144, Fearnyough 2, Fearneyhough 0. An independent transcription of the 1881 census shows 9 instances of the name, mostly springing from a family which was for many years in Kings Bromley, Staffordshire. Between 1881 and 2002 there have been 33 births, 31 deaths and 26 marriages recorded with this spelling. Maybe, even in recent years, the spelling has not been consistent within the same family.

Distribution of the name

Including every possible variant and mistranscription in the 1881 census, there were 401 instances in Staffordshire, 125 in South Lancashire, 95 in the West Riding of Yorkshire (mostly in the Sheffield area), 84 in Cheshire, 34 in Derbyshire, 21 in Nottinghamshire, 17 in Worcestershire, 12 in Leicestershire, 11 in Montgomery, 11 in Warwickshire and 10 in Middlesex with a few scattered elsewhere.


As many as possible of all the variants and misspellings have been recorded from the General Register Office for England and Wales, including military and overseas records, since 1837. This data, also including Ferney, can be found on the Guild Web Site

Probate entries have been recorded from the dioceses of Lichfield and Chester and from the Prerogative Court of Canterbury since records began until 1858, when the probate records for England and Wales were centralised. From 1858 to 1950 the database now includes Ferney.

There is an ever growing collection of records from various sources including censuses from 1841 to 1901 and parish registers. Many trees have been developed from submissions by and in cooperation with other researchers.


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