A Family Gathering of the descendants of Guillaime de Fecamp - The accompanying Knights, soldiers and monks of Fecamp of Normandy and descendants of O'Faodohagin of Ireland


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Our Origins

By: Pat Feagins and John Feagin

The ruins of William the Conqueror’s palace at Fecamp, France

One of the puzzling things about our surname is it's origin.  Working together with Pat Feagins, we have pieced together a likely scenario.  As you probably know, Normandy is on the coast of France and it was from there that William The Conqueror attacked England and fought Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.  With him came many monks, soldiers and knights.  William departed Normand from a place named Fecamp pictured above.

  The name Fecamp is pronounced “fay-kan” in French. Guillaime de Fecamp accompanied William the Conqueror to England in the Norman invasion as a knight in his service The Abbot of the Abbey at Fecamp sent several Knights to assist William, and more may have been named  “de Fecamp” which simply means of  Fecamp. Guilliame (William) de Fecamp is listed in the Domesday Book as a landowner in England after the invasion. It is a theory that the name de Fecamp was anglicized to Feakin(s)/ Feagin(s) in the ensuing centuries. Norman conquerors of Ireland lent their names to many Irish natives being forced to use English names. Feakins is a name that is today most prominent in County Essex, due East of London, and Essex is the departure point for the only recorded person with the name Feagin(s) leaving the British Isles for America (Nicholas Feagins, convict, on the ship Justitia,1740). Most Irish genealogists say that Fagan, Fegan, Fagin, etc. though long in use in Ireland, are not native Irish names.  The Gaelic name of O'Faodohagin is actually the Irish version of the Norman name.  This means that some of us are English, some are likely Scottish, and yes, many of us are Irish by virtue of having had ancestors living in Ireland for centuries and intermarrying with the Irish.

The probably routes our family members took was from Normandy, France (which was originally settled by the Vikings).  Several monks, soldiers or knights took on the surname de Fecamp since that is where they were from.  Pat Feagins has Domesday records that indicate there were de Fecamp (pronounced de Fay-Kan).  The Domesday records came about as a census done under orders of William The Conqueror for taxation purposes.  In our hypothesis, we believe that those family members that remained in England had their surnames anglicized to Fagin, Feagins, Feagin, Feakin, Feakins, Phagin and many other variations. FEAGINS is probably the root surname from England.

Those members who settled in Scotland and Ireland had de Fecamp changed to O'Faodohagin which means "Son of Pagan the Rustic".  To the Gaelic speakers our ancestors were pagans.  O'Faodohagin is not a true Gaelic surname but rather a descriptive one.  The prominent version of our surname in Ireland is FAGAN or FAGIN.  

The Jewish surname of Feigin coincidentally sprang up in Belarus, in what was Russia and is most common around Minsk.  It apparently has no connection with Western European versions except for sounding the same.  Jews with that name in Spain go back before the Inquisition, and could have migrated to Ireland and England, confusing things a bit more.  Feigin probably means "a fig seller".

Another Thought……

Since the old English word for a Craftsman practicing wood joinery for ships is a FEGAN, do you think it is imprudent speculation to think it possible that someone with the name of Fecamp, with the name anglicized, might have been the ones who built the ships used in William the Conqueror’s invasion fleet? Kept building boats after the 1066 date and established their own names as synonymous with boat building? I have a friend whose last name is Fay, and their entire family are boat builders (and by luck, own oil bearing land). FAYing wood is in the dictionary as wood jointery also, as in boats.

Interesting to ponder, anyway.


Pat Feagins

The following information comes from: The Columbia Encyclopedia: Sixth Edition.  2000.


(f käN´) (KEY), town (1990 pop. 21,143), Seine-Maritime dept., N France. A major port from the 12th to 17th cent., when Le Havre superseded it, Fécamp is now a resort on the English Channel with a casino, sports facilities, and a beach. The town also has shipyards, and food, textile, and machine-building industries. Fécamp dates back to Roman times. A monastery founded there c.660 became a pilgrimage site. Destroyed by Norsemen, it was rebuilt at the end of the 10th cent. and became the Benedictine Abbey of the Trinity. The abbey church, a magnificent example of 12th-century Norman architecture, has numerous additions from the 14th cent. Fécamp is famous for benedictine liqueur, which was first made by the monks in the 16th cent. and which is now made by a private company on the grounds of the old abbey.  


Immigration to America

There is the distinct possibility - not yet proven, that the FEAGIN(S) ancestors may have sailed for Barbados from England or Ireland in the mid-1600's.  Some family members are found there at that time.  Barbados was where trading in slaves and rum was the main business.  It is interesting that not one FEAGIN(S) family member that I have ever found, fought on the side of the North during the Civil War.  All were Southerners and Confederates.  Many owned plantations and slaves.  This would tend to confirm the possible Barbados slave trading connection.  

NOTE: This was sent to me by Mr. Goldman thus proving the above assumption in error:

I can list 4 Feagins men that were in the Union Army.
Pvt Daniel Feagins, 3rd Reg't, Iowa Cavalry Co. D
Pvt. Daniel F. Feagins 15th Reg't. Iowa Infantry Co I
Pvt. Leonard B. Feagins 33 Reg't Iowa Inf. Co A
Pvt. Granville Feagins, 15th Reg't Iowa Inf.  Co. G. He was killed at
Battle of Shiloh.

Most African-American members of the family have a surname of Feagin, Feagins, Feagan or some close variation.  It is likely that their African ancestors were purchased in Annapolis or Virginia by the immigrant European ancestors to work of the farms and plantations in Virginia.  The family stayed southern, settling in the Carolinas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and other Southern states until after the Civil War. 

The immigrant family member was probably Edward F___ (you supply version of surname), who came to America in the mid-1650's and lived in Virginia.  He may have had a brother named Daniel F___.  I cannot find a mention of children for Daniel.  If anyone else has more information or ideas on our joint heritage, please write the Webmaster!

The Fagan members mostly tended to be Northern.  I believe all members regardless of spelling are related at some point.

 I invite you to join in and contribute to the archives of our colorful family.  We have Jewish Fagin's, we have African-American Feagin(s).  We cover the spectrum of humanity.  All are welcome to contribute regardless of race, religion, or any other reason.  We must take pride in our diversity and our heritage.  We must honor those who came before us and learn from their triumphs and their mistakes.

Updated 15 March 2001