This noble French surname is possibly more famous in the United States of America than in its homeland. Recorded in many spellings including Fay, Lafay, Lafaye, Lafee, and Lafayette, the origin is from the Lyonais region of France. The surname is residential and describes a person who lived by "La hetrie", or the beech tree. In ancient times this must have been specific to a particular beech, probably one where the village elders or or perhaps the chiefs of the region gathered for council or court hearings. The most famous spelling of the name is Lafayette or "Little beech tree", although the "little" is a diminutive of Lafay, to mean "son of Lafay". The Marquis de Lafayette (1757 - 1934) was one of the heroes of the American War of Independance 1772 - 1782. He joined the struggling American forces in 1777, and with a group of other French officers lead many successful raids upon the British armies. He is commemorated throughout the continent, and it has been claimed that without his support the rebellion would have failed. The surname was one of the first ever recorded, although in England. It was introduced there by the Norman invaders of 1066. Early recordings include Richard de Faye of Hereford in 1242, whilst later in France, Marie Layayette, married Joseph Paul Gilbert, at St. Laurent-des-Bains, Ardeche, on September 6th 1757. The first recording anywhere in the world is believed to be that of Ralph de Faia, in the 1194 Pipe Rolls of the county of Sussex, England.
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