Updated January 29, 2005

A brief note on the origins of the Fort family or clan.

  1. There is no mention or trace of the name Fort before the reign of George II.
  2. The name was originally Lefort or LeFort - all names such as Fortt, Ffort, are probably variations of the same name. [But not Fortes, Forte, Fortis +c which are variations of Fortescue]
  3. The original LeFort was a native of Brittany, where the name was spelt Liforti (or LiForti). It is not difficult to imagine the origin of the name - the strong man at the village fair who beats steel bars - or the village backsmith "with strong and sinewy hands" - compare some of our English names - Longfellow, Strongbow, +c, +c. Brittany was colonized by the 1st wave of Celts to sweep over Europe; driven from Northern England, they finally settled in Brittany and to this day this Celtic influence is persistent. Probably the original Liforti was a Celt!
  4. During the struggle, in France, between the Catholics and the Huguenots, the Liforti became strong supporters of the latter - the name became more frequently spelt LeFort, and in the final showdown after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes when the Huguenots began their final migration to other countries, the family of LeFort came to England. It is difficult to give a date - the flight of the Huguenots in small or large parties covers nearly 100 years, but as far as I can find out, somewhere between 1650 and 1687, a large convoy sailed for the Port of Bristol and amongst the large boon of Huguenot fugitives was the family of LeFort.
    This family (which must have been quite a large one) after a short time split up; some members took ship to America - to the then French colonies of Louisiana. More about this branch later.
    Some of the others went North, to the borders of Wales + England, where there are one or two families of our name to this day.
    One member at least stayed in Bristol or Bath.
    One, two, or three went to somerset or Witshire and here is where we come in. There is a tradition that an anscestor of ours settled in Salisbury + prospered in trade there, but this brings my tale to about the year 1695 or 1700 and there is a gap between that time and Geroge Monkhouse Fort which I have never filled.
  5. As regards the name, the prefix Le, was gradually dropped by various members of the family. As far as I know, no member of the original family who sailed to Bristol retain its original for of LeFort, although the name in this form is not very common in France and French speaking communities.
    It is interesting to note the persistence of the names George and Henry. George was generally given to the eldest son, following the custom of the times as a sort of private loyalty to the reigning sovereign, but Henry goes back to Henri of Navare, the champion of the Huguenots.
  6. The American contingent settled in Louisiana. When the French colonies were sold to the then United States - the family spread into Alabama + other Southern States , where they prospered and multiplied exceedingly - probably their number far exceeds that of the Englsih contingent. I note your own growing family - there must me something in the Climate of N. America!!
    Like our branch, they soon dropped the prefix Le and are now Forts.
  7. When I started my little genealogical study, one of my objects was to trind out what sort of people our ancestors were.
    Very few of them were distinguished in the ordinary sense of the word. Only one has a small space given him in any Biography - Major LeFort - the favourite of Peter the Great of Russia who gave him the job of training the Russian army. Major LeFort was a Huguenot who fled to Switzerland.
    For the rest - plain, honest, hard working bourgeois - Burghers, of the so called upper middle class - professional men like you + me, any quantity of divines and missionaries all of the Protestant persuasion [Here I may unwittingly be treading on your toes!] solicitors and barristers by the score, farmers, very few doctors (your uncle Charles and I are the only medical men of our generation) of the American contingent, one was a governor of a State (?Dakota) who in the 1st selection of the late Presdient Roosevelt was for a brief period in the running.
  8. John Fort - an author - he wrote quite interesting stories of the Southern States.

Comments? Questions? Answers?
(819) 647-3416

Respectfully yours,
Ted Fort
8 Twelfth Line
Bristol, Quebec, Canada J0X 1G0

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