Recorded in the spellings of Forten, Fortie, Fortey, and Forty, this very old surname is English and locational. It derives from the Olde English and Anglo-Saxon pre 7th century words 'forp eg' meaning 'an island (eg) in a fen'. The place name is found in the village names: Forty Green in the county of Essex, Forty in Wiltshire, and Forty Hill in Middlesex. Locational surnames are usually 'from' names. That is to say that they were given to people after they left their original homes, and moved elsewhere.It being the easiest form of identification to call 'strangers' by the name of th place from whence they came. Spelling being at best erratic and local accents very thick, often lead to the development of variant spellings. In this case the name development has included Thomas de la Fortheye of Worcester in 1325, John atte Fortheye of Berkshire, in 1297, and John de la Fortye also of Berkshire, in 1318. John Forten, aged only 14, was an early settler to the Virgina colony of New England in 1635. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Forteye. They was dated 1275 in the Pipe Rolls of the city Worcester. This was during the reign of King Edward 1st of England, 1272-1307. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop", often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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