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The Fenton Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: HONOUR CARRIES ON

Let me share with you the intriguing history of your family, the Fentons. The lands of Fenton, located near Dirleton in East Lothian, Scotland, hold significance in the story of your lineage. The name Fenton was relatively common in the Old English-speaking regions of Britain, with multiple occurrences in England. Its meaning can be interpreted as ‘farmstead on marshy ground.’ In Scotland, the surname emerged when a knightly landowner adopted the name of his primary seat, de Fenton, becoming the progenitor from whom all Fentons descended. During the reign of King David I (1124-1153), the powerful Anglo-Norman De-vaux family held the lands of Fenton. It is likely that it was from this family that the first Fenton with the surname arose.

The earliest documented Fenton is Gregory de Fenton, who appears in records from 1189 to 1199. The family held a certain level of importance, as John of Fenton served as sheriff of Forfar in the Angus region from around 1240 to 1271. However, the most significant figure in the Fenton lineage appears to be Sir William Fenton, the son of John. He held the title of Lord of Beaufort, situated in Inverness-shire, and played an active role between 1280 and 1314. William’s connection to Inverness arose from his marriage to Cecilia Bisset, the co-heiress of William Bisset, Lord of Lovat, although the details of this union remain unclear. He held sufficient stature to serve as one of the auditors gathered at Berwick, deliberating the competing claims of Robert the Bruce and John de Balliol. In 1416, Hugh Fraser married Janet, William de Fenton’s sister, and it was likely during this time that the Inverness lands passed out of the family’s possession. The Fentons also owned extensive estates in Airlie, Angus, and their impressive castle at Baikie, situated on an island between two lochs.

Subsequently, the Airlie lands passed to the Glamis family, and the Fenton ancestral seat underwent a thorough reconstruction in the sixteenth century, resulting in the grand structure that stands to this day. The line of Fenton in the lowlands eventually ended with a female heiress who married into the Whitelaw family of that Ilk. Sir Thomas Erskine, the first Earl of Kellie, earned the titles of Viscount Fenton and Baron Dirleton from James VI due to his role in rescuing the king from the Gowrie conspirators. These titles are still held by the Earl of Mar and Kellie, the current chief of Clan Erskine.

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Family Crest Motto: HONOUR CARRIES ON

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