This unusual surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a topographical surname for someone who lived in a "ferny hollow". The derivation of the name is from the Olde English pre 7th Century "fearn", fern, with "hol(h)", a hollow, depression in the ground. The second element may also be the Olde English "hoh", a projecting ridge of land, and would have been given to one "resident by a hill spur overgrown with ferns". Topographical surnames were among the earliest to be created, since natural or man-made features in the landscape provided instantly recognisable forms of identification in the small communities of medieval Britain.It is possible that the name "Fernihough", or any of its modern variants, Fern(e)yhough, Fearnehough and Fernhough, may derive from a now "lost" location, thought to have been situated in Staffordshire near the border with Cheshire. Richard de la Fernyhalgh is recorded in Staffordshire (1383). Recordings of the surname from Staffordshire Church Registers include; William, son of Simon and Anne Fernihough, who was christened on September 6th 1618 at Norton in the Moors; and John Fernihough, who married Margaret Clowes on December 17th 1635 at Leek. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Adam de Fernyhough, which was dated 1332, in the "Subsidy Rolls of Staffordshire", during the reign of King Edward 111, "The Father of the Navy", 1327-1377. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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