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Les origines
Les Raybe d’Urfé

The family  d’Urfé

La famille d'Urfé avant la Bastie.
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La famille d'Urfé
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This page contains the writings and research of David Durfee which he gathered from a trip to France.  This is reproduced on this family web page with the permission of David Durfee.  As a fellow Descendant of Thomas Durfee I thank David for his genealogy research and the privilege to share this information.

PREFACE by David Durfee

What follows was taken directly from a book I stumbled onto a few years back in the genealogy section of the New York Public Library, the citation information for the book being included at the bottom of the first page below. The book should still be there. The pages were so brittle that the librarian would not allow them to be photocopied. I was, however, permitted to photograph them at my desk with my camera and I was lucky to have barely enough film in my camera to photograph the following pages.

As I recall, the balance of the book was primarily comprised of genealogy records and listings. The following transcription has been taken from the photographs just as it appeared, and I have proofread very, very carefully. I believe that all spellings and punctuation are exactly as was shown in my original source. Contact me if you want a copy of the coat of arms (black and white). special attention to the story of Hirmatride and Isambert...and be kind to wolves.

There is a castle in France that I visited in summer of 1997 that is linked to the Durfee name. There are photos and a story of my travels that may be of interest to you.


David Durfee


Contact David via Email




The significance and origin of surnames has always been a matter of great interest, and doubly so is the origin of a name to those who bear it.

Names indicate locality, occupations, station in life, nationality, and are often the only survivals of ancient titles, or all that is left to indicate some obsolete custom. In themselves, by their significance in some old forgotten dialect, they illumine some obscure page of history.

The name Durfee is unique. Very ancient in its origin it has to-day its only representatives in America.

Previous to the year 1628 it was unknown in England, and ceased to be recorded in 1723.

A careful search of all available printed English records fails to show the name of Durfee in any, with the exception of those that refer to Thomas D'Urfey, or Durfee, the English dramatist, who was born in 1653 and died in 1723. These English records are of three classes:

1st. The various polls of names connected with army and navy from the earliest times, and with civil government positions; lists of titled personages from highest title to the minor gentry; also various court records and proceedings, especially wills and probate.

2d. Parish registers of births, marriages, and deaths.

*taken from The Descendants of Thomas Durfee of Portsmouth, R.I., Vol. I & II, by Wm. F. Reed, 1902 (N.Y. Pub. Lib. No. 255985)

3d. Lists which have been made from the first two and possibly other sources by historians and students of names. A number of such lists have been printed from the time of the Domesday Book down to the most recent researches. Probably one of the most complete of these books is a record of native English, Scotch, and Irish names, combined with those derived from French and German or other foreign surnames.

The English parish lists, including all of the parishes of London and Canterbury, and about one hundred records of other families have been searched.

If the name of Durfee did not appear in London and Canterbury parish records for a period of 350 years, it is safe to assume that the name is not general in Great Britain. Aside from Thomas Durfee, the dramatist, 1653-1723, already mentioned, the following are the only similitudes to the name of Durfee found in printed English records available for inspection:

Parish of St. Martin's in the Fields: April 21, 1556, Isod Urfu baptized. May 27, 1554, Margeria Urfu buried. August 25, 1555, Jaanes Peart and Agnete Urfue married. September 9, 1556, Antomus Urfue buried. June 11, 1553, Luthretimus Dudley and Elizah Urfue married.

Record of York Wills: January 12, 1558, Thomas Dursay (also written Durfay). January 11, 1562, Robert Durssa (or Dursay). May 10, 1605, James Dursey. October 1, 1593, John Dursey.

It will here be noted that the will of Thomas Dursay, of 1558, is the only one where spelling is possibly Durfay, and that the later wills are all Dursey, showing that the f was really the long s, and the name is not Durfee, but more probably our modern Dorsey.

On August 20, 1683, William Dorfe, mariner, was witness to a marriage of Thomas Cliffe and Margariet Harvey, of Deal, at Boston, Lincolnshire, England (see Canterbury marriage licenses). As a search for this name of Durfee has included a conscientious search for all words which sound like Durfee, or of which Durfee might be a variant, without any greater success, it is safe to assume that the name is unique in itself, and the fact that at the time Thomas Durfee, of Portsmouth, R.I., arrived in America, at the age of 17, there was residing in England a family named Durfee, who also used the only variation of Durfee, Durfey, which was used by this Thomas Durfee, would indicate that there was some close connection between the two families.

Thomas D'Urfey, the dramatist, of England, born 1653, and died 1723, spelled his name with the D', but Huguenot writers, at about 1680-90, spelled it Durfee.

Sometime before 1628, the exact year not being known, a French refugee named d'Urfe', fled from Rochelle, France, to England, bringing with him a son.

This son grew up and married Frances Marmion, of Huntingdonshire, and Thomas D'Urfey was born of this marriage in 1653.

In the year 1647 one Loerin d'Urfey was assisted at Dover by the Huguenot Church to go on his way.

The record is to be found in the publications of the London Huguenot Society.

Thomas Durfey, the English dramatist, was born in 1653, at Exeter, Eng., and it was from Exeter, Eng., and its vicinity, that many of the first settlers of Rhode Island came.

Thomas Durfee, the ancestor of the Durfee family in America, was born in 1643, just 10 years before the English dramatist of the same name, and came to America in 1660, when his English namesake was but 7 years old.

The absolute identity of name, christian name, and spelling of surname, together with the fact that young Durfee, the emigrant, came directly to a colony where Exeter people lived, that he was well received, and that his children married into the Earle and Freeborn families, shows that he was not entirely without credentials of some sort.

Between 1680 and 1690 Thomas Durfee, the English dramatist, wrote a short satirical poem on New England customs, indicating that the dramatist had visited New England, and, not satisfied with conditions here, had returned to England. This poem may be found in Vol. IX of the N. E. Genealogical Register, and is quite interesting reading.

If Thomas Durfee, the dramatist, visited New England, it adds to the evidence of some relationship existing between the two Thomas Durfees.

To what extent this evidence is decisive, or weighs, each must decide for himself; but the fact remains that in Exeter, England, in the family of a French refugee, is the only record where we find the name of Durfee absolutely identical with our own.

We know that from 1660 to 1901 the name has been spelled Durfee without variation, except occasionally Durfey or Durffee (or Durphey), but always in a way not affecting the pronunciation, and there is no reason why it should have changed more suddenly in England to an unrecognizable form.

Two other facts give weight to the Huguenot origin of the name:

1st. A Mrs. Lathrop, moving from Norwich, Conn., to Providence, R.I., probably about 1830, told Walter C. Durfee, now 85 years of age, then a young lad, that her father's name was Durfey, and that they were of Huguenot descent. It is probable that this Mrs. Lathrop's father was a direct descendant of Thomas Durfee, of Portsmouth, R.I., through (grand) sons who moved to Connecticut, and that the tradition was understood in that branch of the family moving into a colony more given to aristocratic ideas than among those who remained in the Quaker surroundings of Portsmouth, R.I.

2d. General de Lafayette visited the Hon. Thomas Durfee at Fall River, Mass., and took a great interest in him, sending him, after he returned to France, a gift of two French greyhounds.

There appears a reason for this which is not entirely explained by the well-known patriotism and personal worth of the Hon. Thomas Durfee, in the fact that one of Lafayette's aides, Rochefoucauld, was the bearer of the French d'Urfe arms and titles.

This all leads to the origin of the d'Urfe name and family in France.  


The Descendants of Thomas Durfee of Portsmouth, R.I.
William Field Reed
January 1, 1900




Thomas D'Urfey, the English dramatist, claimed to be nephew of Honore' d'Urfe', a noted French poet, who lived 1565- 1625, and he is also stated to have been a nephew of a minister of the Court of France. It is, however, probable that he was a grandnephew, rather than nephew, as we use the term.

The fact is interesting, however, as we have a fine biographical record of Honore' d'Urfe', which gives authorita- tively a history of the d'Urfe' family in France.

In part, the biographer is so lost in the glories of the d'Urfe' family that much of his book is given up to history and leaves little room for biography.

This biography takes much of its history from a book called "Origin des Urfe," by M. Augusta J. Barnard, custodian of the historical documents of France, and from a d'Urfe genealogy, written about the year 1300, by Anne d'Urfe, count of Forez.

The d'Urfe family goes back to a record of about 590, A.D. Its founder was Henry, Duke of Bavaria, and its name of d'Urfe originates in a tradition attached to his family.

The tradition is evidently "folk-lore," and that it has become definitely attached to a certain family is evidence of the ancient origin of the family itself.

The name d'Urfe, as will be seen later, is but the French variation of Wlph, the early German form of Wolf and Guelph, both famous families in Europe. Judith Wlph married Louis I, of France (Ludwig I, of Germany), son of Charlemagne.

Charlotte M. Yonge's History of Germany gives the Wlph tradition in connection with Ludwig I, who married Judith; but perhaps a more interesting one to those of the Durfee name will be found in a direct translation from the biography of Honore' d'Urfe', a book in the Boston Public Library, as follows:

"If we can believe the legends collected by some historians, the house of d'Urfe would be not only one of the most honored families of France; it would be also one of the most ancient.

"Andre Duchesne tells us in his history of Burgundy that towards the year 610, under the reign of the King of Orleans, Theodoric, grandson of Sigebirt and Brunhaut, a Wlphe, was patrician of Trans-Jurane, Burgundy.

"Now, this name of Wlph later became d'Urfe, undergoing successive modifications, of which history kept the record. About the middle of the 12th century, Wlph, the Valiant, changed it to d'Ulphe, or d'Ulphen, or d'Ulpheur. It was only at the end of the 16th century that Peter the II wrote it with the spelling that has not since varied. (Peter II died 1508, this should be end of 15th century.)

"The alterations which this name has undergone are easily explained. They come principally from the uncertainty of Latin translations that have been made of them in titles and charters. According to this same Duchesne, the house of d'Urfe' takes its origin from the Count Wlphe, whom the chroniclers of Low Countrie call the Duke of Baviere, and whose daughter Judith became the wife of Louis Debonnaire. It is from this Duke, or Count, that Conrad, Count of Paris, and Bozon, King of Burgoyne, descend.

"The d'Urfe's trace back their origin as far as this royal family. They quote with pride a Wlph surname, 'the Robust,' who added to the brilliancy of his nobility the glory of having fought bravely against the Turks at the siege of Antioch, 1098. As a reward for his brave action, Wlph received for himself and for his posterity, from the assembly of Christian Princes, the coat of arms blazoned 'de vair' au chef Gules, which has since been that of the house of d'Urfe.

* * * * * * * *

"According to a charter in the 'Proofs of the History of the Counts of Forez,' this family was already established at the end of the 11th century in the province, of which it became one of the greatest glories.

* * * * * * * *

"According to a genealogy written by the orders of Anne d'Urfe and annotated by his hand, Hirmatride, wife of Isambert Wlphe, who lived at the end of the 8th century, having given birth at once to twelve children, feared in her ignorance that her husband would accuse her of infidelity. On this account, keeping one of them, she ordered one of her servants to throw the others into the river. Isambert, who was hunting, meeting the servant, asked him what he was carrying and what he was doing in that place. The latter, frightened, replied that he was carrying a batch of wolf cubs which a wolf which he was caring for at his house had just brought forth, and that he wished to drown part of them. The servant having showed him the eleven new-born babies, Isambert suspected the fear of his wife, of whose fidelity he was certain. He had these eleven children brought up with care, unknown to Hirmatride, and six years after he had them all dressed alike and presented them to his wife, asking her if she recognized these Wlphes, which signifies in German, wolves. Hirmatride, at the sight of these children, threw herself at the knees of her husband asking pardon. The latter hastened to praise her and told her that she had been pardoned long ago.

* * * * * * * *

"In the year 1127, Wlphe, surnamed the brave, accom- panied Louis the fat in the journey that the king made into Auvergne to calm the troubles excited by the Count of Cleremont. On returning from this expedition, Wlph stopped at Montbrison (in Forez, near Lyons), where he was so taken with the beauty and virtues of a cousin of Guy I, Count of Forez, named Airnie, that he asked her in marriage and obtained the consent of her parents.

"Wlph established himself in the country of his wife and had a castle, which he called by his name, built on a high hill, and to give to this name an appearance less German, he curtailed the W and accented the last syllable. Wlph, the Valiant, was thus the first Lord d'Ulphe'.

"The patronymic name of Wlph appears to have been Raimbe' or Reybi, which one often finds in charters with some variations in spelling.

"The family of d'Urfe' was not long in obtaining in the province where it was established all the consideration that courage, virtue, and noble employment of authority can give. But its glory increased principally when the Count de Forez passed to the house of Borbon. Gurchard d'Ulfhe became the friend and confident of Louis II, Duke of Borbon and Count of Forez, who named him Captain of Roannais, and then bailiff of all the country."

It would be too long a history to enumerate all the honors that came to the house of d'Urfe until 1724, when it parted of male issue. Its record was famous in the history of France of the middle ages; so much so that in 1724, when the name failed of direct heirs, a younger branch of the house of Rochefoucauld, descendants of the d'Urfe' on the female line, took up the arms and name of d'Urfe as a great honor, and the last representative of this line of Rochefoucauld was an aid to Lafayette in our War of the Revolution.

Montbrison is in the south of France, north of Lyons, and the chateau d'Urfe is now standing, or was quite recently. It is on a very high hill visible for several miles, and two old towers of great massiveness are called Cornu d'Urfe, or Horns of Urfe'.

The Durfees were first Knights, holding lands and owing fealty to the Count of Forez, later Counts of Forez, and still later, by fortunate marriages, one became a marquis, and the title became a very complicated affair. Honors and wealth and power of princely nature came to them. The first d'Urfe won his spurs in the first crusade; another was Grand Master of the Knights Templars at Malta; another Envoy to Rome; another commanded the French in war against Italy. But to translate again and quote from the French author:

"Nothing was lacking to the glory of the d'Urfe' family. The mysterious grandeur of its origin; the brilliancy of the alliances which it had made; the immense wealth which it possessed; the favor which it enjoyed with the kings, all seemed to unite to make it the first family of Forez and one of the most noble houses of France. However, Jacquez d'Urfe' added still to its celebrity by his marriage with Rene de Savoie, granddaughter of Anne de Lasearis, whose father, Jean Antoine de Lasearis, was the oldest son of Honoret de Lasearis arm Vintimille. Thus the d'Urfes could boast of belonging to two imperial houses; to the house of Saxe G. Wlfh of Germany, and to the house of Lasearis, which, derived from Constantinople, had just carried to the West the fortune and its ancient splendor. (The de Lasearis coat of arms is now the imperial coat of arms of Russia.) We have already seen the d'Urfe' united in an alliance with a branch of the Bourbon-Vandome.

* * * * * * * *

"The revolution of 1789, which seems to have taken upon itself the mission of effacing all traces of the past to commence a new era, has hardly left anything remaining which could recall the glory and opulence of this celebrated family."

The d'Urfe coat of arms, de vere au chef gules, is a simple one, as all of the time of the first crusade were. De vere' is supposed to represent a squirrel skin (Varus, a squirrel), and in heraldry is drawn and represents squirrel skins united, showing white and gray; or, as heraldry has it, argent et azure (white and blue). The crest is a mailed hand rising out of a coronet, which may be on a helmet; the motto is probably "constancy." The effect of the coat of arms is as follows:

The red band should be wider, shaded parts blue, unshaded, in white.

The coat of arms of William d'Urfe, Grand Master of the Knights Templars at Malta, was a Lion rampant de vere, i.e., drawn as if silhouetted out of a de vere field on a red background.

The coat of arms of Marquis d'Urfe was quartered d'Urfe in petence on a quartering of 1 and 4. De Lasearis and Vintimille 2 and 3. Savoy. The crest 9 ostrich plumes -- 5 black, 4 white.

This is a very handsome coat of arms when painted, the de Lasearis being gold double-headed crowned eagles on a red field.







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