This surname, of Old Norse-Viking pre 8th century origins, is a locational name from Furness a district on the south coast of Cumberland, but formerly in Lancashire. The area is recorded as "Fuththernessa", in the register of the Priory of Hexham in 1150, and as "Furnesio", in the 1155 charter of the county palatine of Lancashire. The placename itself is composed of the Old Norse personal name "Futh", plus "rump", the name of the peninsula, formerly of an island opposite the southern part of this district, and the second element "nes", the word for a headland. The various spellings of the surname include Farnish, Furnish, Furness, Furnice, Furniss, Furnass and Furnas. The surname first appears in records in the late 12th Century (see below), and early examples include Anselm de Furnes in the Pipe Rolls of Westmoreland in 1198, whilst the Hundred Rolls of Lincolnshire in 1273 record Reyner de Furneys as being a land owner in the county. Michael de Fournes was listed in the Furness Coucher Book of 1378, and John Fornace is recorded in the Friary Rolls of Yorkshire in the year 1505. The first recorded spelling of the family name anywhere in the world is believed to be that of Michael de Furneis, which was dated 1171, this was in the Pipe Rolls of the county of Lancashire, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154-1189. 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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