The surname of FORT was a locational name 'the dweller at the forthey' the islet in the ford. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. The name was originally derived from the Latin FORTIS meaning brave and strong. It was borne by an obscure saint whose culture was popular during the Middle Ages in south and south western France. The name was brought into England in the wake of the Norman Invasion of 1086. The bulk of European surnames in countries such as England and France were formed in the 13th and 14th centuries. The process started earlier and continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the 11th century people did not have surnames, whereas by the 15th century they did. Early records of the name mention Adam de la Fortheye, 1273, County Oxford. Richer atte Forty, County Huntingdonshire, ibid. Sir Julius Benedict, the eminent musician (1804-85) married for his second wife Mary Comber Fortey. Habitation names were originally acquired by the original bearer of the name, who, having lived by, at or near a place, would then take that name as a form of identification for himself and his family. When people lived close to the soil as they did in the Middle Ages, they were acutely conscious of every local variation in landscape and countryside. Every field or plot of land was identified in normal conversation by a descriptive term. If a man lived on or near a hill or mountain, or by a river or stream, forests and trees, he might receive the word as a family name. Almost every town, city or village early times, has served to name many families. The origin of badges and emblems, are traced to the earliest times, although, Heraldry, in fact, cannot be traced later than the 12th century, or at furthest the 11th century. At first armorial bearings were probably like surnames and assumed by each warrior at his free will and pleasure, his object being to distinguish himself from others. It has long been a matter of doubt when bearing Coats of Arms first became hereditary. It is known that in the reign of Henry V (1413-1422), a proclamation was issued, prohibiting the use of heraldic ensigns to all who could not show an original and valid right, except those 'who had borne arms at Agincourt'. The College of Arms (founded in 1483) is the Royal corporation of heralds who record proved pedigrees and grant armorial bearings.
The name has numerous variant spellings which include FORTE, LEFORT, FORTI, FORTET and FORTES, to name but a few.
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