This surname of ancient origins is effectively Olde British dating back to the very beginnings of known history and probably pre-Roman. It derives from the earliest known name for a river 'ceint' which in its modern form is found as 'Kent', plus the later additive 'forda' - a shallow crossing place. It is recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book compiled by the clerks of William the Conqueror, as 'Chent', and as such was applied to various rivers and of course the county of Kent. The Somerset section of Domesday Book manages to lose the 't' and from this period on develops its own West Country spelling which was usually 'Kenn'. The villages of Kenn and Kennford lie to the south east of Exeter in Devon, and they are generally accepted as being the places from which the modern surnames Kenn, Ken(n)ford, Kenneford, Kenforth, Kinforth, etc have developed over the centuries. Quite why so many people left these villages in the late medieval period is unclear, but may have been the introduction of sheep farming, or plague. What is certain is that the further the name moved from its home base, the greater the variation in the spelling. Examples taken from random church recordings include Jone Keneforde, the daughter of Thomas (wife's name unknown) who was christened at Bodmin Parish Church, Cornwall on February 28th 1575, and John Kinforth of Hook, in Yorkshire, christened there on June 16th 1695. An ancient coat of arms of circa 1400 a.d. was granted in Somerset (Kenne) and has the blazon of a silver field charged with three crescents, indicating victory over the infidel. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Kynforth (also spelt Kynforthe), which was dated March 18th 1560, recorded at St Botolphs Church, Bishopgate, London, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as 'Good Queen Bess', 1558 - 1603. 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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