Recorded in many spelling forms including Defraine, Frain, Frayn, Frayne, Freyn, Frean, Frame, with diminutives such as Franell, Frannell, Frenell as well as Franey, Frany, Freaney, Frenny, this is English surname, but arguably of French origins. If so it is topographical for someone who lived near a prominent ash tree, possibly one used as a parish boundary marker or even a meeting place of the local community, with a second possibility that it may have been a form of nickname for a stranger. In the first instance the derivation is from the pre 9th century Old French words "fraisne or fresne", meaning the ash (tree), themselves from the Roman (Latin) word "fraxinus", and the second from the word "frem" meaning strange or unknown. As the surname is widely recorded, it is possible that the word was introduced into England even before the famous Conquest of 1066. What is certain is that topographical surnames were amongst the earliest to be created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names. In this case early examples of the surname development since the 12th century include: Thomas del Freisne of Herefordshire in 1206, Peter de Frane of London in 1228, Richard del Frene of Staffordshire in 1271, Robert le Freyne of Buckingham in 1273, Cristina Frame of Worcestershire in 1275 and John del Freyn of the county of Somerset in the year 1280. Amongst the later church recordings are those of Judith Frannell at St Mary Whitechapel, Stepney, on October 14th 1612, and Thomas Frany at St Katherine by the Tower (of London), on October 5th 1617. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of William de Fraisn. This was dated 1156, in the "Pipe Rolls" of the county of Suffolk", during the reign of King Henry 11nd of England, 1154 - 1189.
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