This is an English locational surname recorded in such spelling forms as Farney, Farnie, Fairney, Fairnie, Farneye, and probably others. It probably originates either from the village of Fairnley, near Morpeth, in the county of Northumberland, or from one of the various villages called Farnley, found in several parts of the country, or possibly a now "lost" medieval village. The surname however spelt, derives from the pre- 7th century "fearn-legh" meaning "an enclosed area covered by fern". Residential surnames were amongst the first to be granted, it being one of the easiest forms of identification to call a person by a description of the place from whence he or she came. In the Middle Ages because of changing economic conditions and the effects of civil war and the many plagues, people moved around much more than is generally realised, and there seems little doubt that they often changed surnames. Not surprisingly given the low level of education and the "thick" local accents surname spellings vary considerably. In this case examples of the recordings taken from authentic surviving church registers include Thomas Farney, who married Mary Davey, at St Margarets church, Westminster, on October 21st 1635, whilst on December 21st 1830, David Farnie married Eliza Rees at St George's chapel, Hanover Square, London. The earliest example of the surname recording may be that of Jone Farneye, who married Edward Chaundler at the church of St Gergory's by St Pauls, city of London, on November 6th 1603.
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