The following material is from pages 39 to 42 of the Book Genealogy of the Descendants of Thomas French who came to America from Nether Heyford, Northamptonshire, England … compiled, written and published by Howard Barclay French, and printed privately in 1909. This book is available as a free full download From Google Books.
UNDER variously spelled surnames the French family appeared in England soon after the Norman conquest. The first of the line recorded was with William the Conqueror at the battle of Hastings, October 14, 1066, when Harold, King of the Anglo-Saxons, was defeated after an all-day struggle. Of 60,000 valiant soldiers, William lost more than 15,000. Yorkshire records of 1100 frequently show the name French. Others located in the beginning chiefly in the southeastern counties, but later appeared in the west and north as far as Scotland. They were very early in Ireland, and one branch of the family trace their descent directly from Rollo, Duke of Normandy. In England, before the close of the thirteenth century, the French family had become extensive, prosperous and influential.
Old records present curious facts. The will of Adam Frensch, of Gloucester, provided for his burial in church, beside his first wife, Maud. His clothing was to be sold for the benefit of his soul. To his widow, Alice, he left lands, but in case of her remarriage they were to be sold, one half the proceeds for her benefit, the other half for the good of the soul of Maud. In York the name was spelled Francais ; in Berks, Ffrensh ; in Middlesex, Frenssh; in Somerset, Frensce; in Surrey, Frensche; in Northampton, Fran- ceis and Fraunceys; in Wiltshire, French. Two centuries later it. is generally found, in Northampton, ffrench, after the manner adopted by the direct ancestors of that branch of the family whose descendants are recorded in this genealogy.
[A note on chirography: reading and interpreting the handwriting of the seventeenth and early eighteenth Centuries is rendered more difficult by now disused forms of several of the letters, and by the many signs, abbreviations and contractions that were then is common use. The most common contraction was the use of “y” for “th”, at the beginning of a word, with the remainder of the word raised, [as exponents are in Mathematics]. Ye for “the”, yt for that, yn for then. Not all word processing programs allow for raised letters, the foregoing examples do not have the raised letters following the “y”. Capitalization is also interesting, Capital V for U, Capital I and J were often alike; and the nearest printable approximation of the ancient form of Capital F is ff. So when the early handwritten texts were put into print, many words such as ye, yt, yn were left as contractions to show the “flavor” of the original text. Writers have commented on the “Quaint way Thomas French wrote his surname, “ffrench”, but he was just writing his name ffrench or French with the accepted Capital F of the time. For a more extensive discussion of Chirography, see pages viii and ix, of the Introduction, in “Oyster Bay Town Records, Vol. I—1653-1690” 1916, available for free download from Google Books.]
Thomas French, founder of the New Jersey branch of the French family, resided, in 1680. the year of his migration to America, in Nether Heyford, a parish in the hundred of Newbottle Grove, county of Northampton, seven miles south by west from the city of Northampton, England This parish is very 'ancient, the church of S. S. Peter and Paul having been erected in the early part, of the thirteenth century. The first patron was Roger de Heyford, in 1216. The register that has been preserved begins in 1558, showing the French family parishioners as far back as 1560. [P 40] The church is a splendidly preserved specimen of Norman architecture. There is a chime of four bells; round the tenor is the inscription: "THOMAS MORGAN GAVE ME, TO THE CHURCH OF HEYFORD FRANK AND FREE." The donor was a descendant of Francis Morgan, who, about the middle of the sixteenth century, for a time filled an honorable place upon the local bench. The Morgan family for more than two centuries were active and influential in the affairs of Nether Heyford parish. In the church a marble tablet perpetuates the memory of Judge Morgan. There are other notable memorials, one to a baronet who died in 1467 ; another beautifully illustrates Faith and Hope. In this parish was born Dr. John Preston, the patriarch of the Puritans, whom the Duke of Buckingham vainly sought to use in the service of the king, James I. Many members of the French family also attended services in the ancient church of St. Michael; at Bugbrook, about a mile and a half from Nether Heyford, and which was built early in the thirteenth century. Its register likewise begins in 1558. Accompanying illustrations, from photographs taken in 1895, show exterior view of the church at Nether Heyford, interior view, the Village Green and the church at Bugbrook. The church at Heyford has been under the care of one noted family of ministers for the past one hundred years, grandfather, father and son. The latter, Rev. H. H. Crawley, examined the parish register for the purposes of this book and in a recent letter says :
"The Heyford Register, the earliest begins in 1558, is a very interesting one. I begsn to search from that date to 1774 and find that there are about 70 entries of baptisms, marriages and burials of the name and they are evidently members of one family. Then are at least 60 entries of the name between 1558 and 1680; the other entries of the name are evidently • members of the family who did not leave the old country and I should say there are collateral branches of your family still living in or near Heyford. Your family in old days evidently • held a responsible position in the parish, for members of the name appear as guardians in the seventeenth century. The earliest record I can find is 1560. A part of Heyford formerly had a right of baptism, burial, etc.. in Bugbrook. There is an aisle in Bugbrook church which is still called Heyford aisle, just as there is a Heyford aisle in the church at Stowe IX Churches."
P 41 In the earliest days of the Society of Friends a little meeting house was set up at Bugbrook. There as at Heyford and elsewhere the members continued to outwardly conform, registering births and baptisms at the church, but it seems they often drew the line at burials and thus incurred at times severe criticism. From the Bugbrook parish register of 1668 the following curious note is taken: " About this time that untoward generation of Quakers began to bury theirs distinctly by themselves in their gardens and orchards in several places of the towne, all which bnrialls, there being no notice given of them to the minister or parish clerks, are here omitted, nor have their names inserted in this church register, tho there was a considerable mortality among them, as also those of several other sort of phanaticks, who having forsaken the church, would not be buried in the church yard, but in their orchards or backside of their houses."
Thomas ffrench, father of Thomas ffrench, the progenitor of the New Jersey branch of the French family, like his ancestors of many generations, lived at Nether Heyford, where he was known as an influential and useful citizen. He married, first, Sara , by whom he had the following children : Patience, b. 1637. Thomas, b. 1639. Sara, b. 1643. Elizabeth, b. 1645. Mary, b. 1648. John, b. io~51. By his second wife, Martha , he had: Robert, b. 1657. Martha, b. 1660. Thomas ffrench, senior, was buried May 5th' 1673. Sara ffrench, his wife, was buried Feb. 9th" 1653. The will of Thomas ffrench, as may be noted, is a quaint and characteristic document of the times. It shows the thoughtful regard of a loving parent in distributing his estate carefully and making special provision for those of tender years. WILL OF THOMAS FRENCH, 1673 In the Name of God Amen the Nine and twentyth day of Aprill in the five and twentyth yeare of the raigne of our Soveraigne Lord darles the second of England Scotland. F f rance and and Ireland King Defender of the faith Anno Dom 1673 I Thomas ffrench the Elder of Nether Heyford in the County of Northton being weak in body but of good and perfect Memory thanks be to Almightie God. And Knowing the uncertaintie of this life on earth, do make this my last Will and testarm in manner and forme following And first being penitent and sorry for my sins past most humbly desireing forgivnesse for the same I give tnd Comitt my sonle to Almightie God my Saviour and Redeemer in whom and by the meritts of Jesus Christ I trnst and believe assuredly to be saved and to have full remission and forgivenesse of all my sins And my body to the earth from whence it was taken to be buryed in such decent and Christian manner as to my Executor hereafter named shal be thought meet and convenient revoking and annulling by these p'sents all and every Will and Wills testam and testaments heretofore by me made and declared and this to be taken for my last Will and testament and none other I will that all those debts and duties w" in right or conscience I owe to any manner of person or persons whatsoever shal be well and truely contented and paid or ordained to be paid within convenient time after my decease by my Executors hereafter named Item I give and bequeath to Thomas ffrench my eldest sone the sume of twelve pence I give and bequeath to John ffrench my second sone two shillings- and six pence I give and bequeath to Patience ffrench my eldest daughter two shillings and six pence I give and bequeath to Elisabeth ffrench my second daughter two shillings and . six pence I give and bequeath to Mary ffrench my third daughter two shillings and six pence all wich said legacies I will shal be payd by my Executors within six months after my decease All the rest of my goods cattell and chattels whatsoever I give and bequeath to Martha my loveing wife and to my sone Robert ffrench and my daughter Martha ffrench whom I make joint Executors of this, my last Will and Testam I do nominate and appoint my welbeloved ffreinds Thomas Kirton and William Steffe both of Hayford aforesaid overseers of this my last Will and Testam and do give them twelvepence apeece In wittnes whereof I the said Thomas ffrench have hereunto sett my hand and seale the day and yeare first above written Thomas ffrench [SEAL] Published signed and sealed in the presence of William Stif Thomas Kirton X His MarkAlice Kirton, X, Her Mark John Darby Proved 16" August 1673