I have two direct ancestors named Ferdinando:

  • Ferdinando Hicks, baptised 1 Jan 1630 at St Germans, Cornwall
  • Ferdinando Sleep, baptised 13 Sep 1720 at Morval, Cornwall (who is a grandson of the above)

To me the name seems very Spanish rather than British, and I thought it likely to be very uncommon, and perhaps a pointer to something interesting.

Using FindMyPast I have searched baptism records for the 80 years leading up to 1630 to find:

  • Ferdinando used in 16 baptisms for Cornwall from 1597-1630 - the lack of earlier usage may simply reflect the paucity of earlier records
  • Ferdinando used in 226 baptisms for Britain from 1571-1630 with the earliest being in Cheshire

I suspect that this indicates that Ferdinando is quite an uncommon name for someone born in Britain at that time but unlikely to point to a single event.

At http://www.cornwallheritagetrust.org/page_history_early_modern_cornwall.php I read that:

During the late 16th century there were many conflicts with Spain with some Spanish vessels landing on the Cornish coast.

so some Spanish connection to the naming of my first ancestor named Ferdinando does not seem to be out of the question, but of course remains highly speculative, so my question will proceed from a more general perspective.

Does anyone know of any references that might suggest how a name like Ferdinando may have come to be used in Cornwall (and/or Britain) during the late 16th and early 17th centuries?

  • I also have some Ferdinandos in my family tree and have wondered about the name. Ferdinando Hoskings baptised 3 Dec St Stephens by Saltash. Ferdinando Binnick Jeffrey baptised 16 May 1726 St Stephens by Saltash and his Son Ferdinando Jeffrey baptised 22 Apr 1763 also in St Stephens by Saltash. Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 13:37

2 Answers 2


According to the Oxford Dictionary of First Names:

Ferdinand ♂
From a Spanish name, originally Ferdinando (now Hernán), which is of Germanic (Visigothic) origin, derived from farð ‘journey’ (or possibly an altered form of frið ‘peace’) + nand ‘ready, prepared’. This was a traditional name in the royal families of Spain from an early date. It appeared in Britain in the 16th century, having been introduced by Roman Catholic supporters of Queen Mary I, who married Philip II of Spain in 1554.

Unusual names like this were particularly common in the upper classes, for various political and social reasons.

The name was be found throughout the country in the 1500s and 1600s. I do not think this case being Cornwall is particularly significant, as the name Ferdinando was just as common - if not more common - in the Midlands during this period.

  • Ferdinando Hicks and his son of the same name appear to have left wills in 1708 & 1712 so I'll prioritize trying to view them next. Ferdinando Sleep does not seem to have a will still available but he is mentioned in that of his father-in-law Joseph Geach (1751).
    – PolyGeo
    Commented May 16, 2015 at 2:48
  • FamilySearch Historical Records has 74 instances of the form "Ferdinand" used in English baptisms in the 1600s and 29 in the 1500s. (No doubt there are duplications and misreads). "Ferdinando" is even more common - 323 in the 1600s and 70 in the 1500s.
    – AdrianB38
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 15:42

I have a Ferdinando too, and fondly imagined I might have a shipwrecked Spaniard in my tree. However, I think the answer is in the name of Sir Ferdinando Gorges c1565-1647, governor of Plymouth. He married first in London, then in Devon and lastly in Cornwall, and I think he may have been single-handedly responsible for the spread of Ferdinando in the west country! Despite the foreign-sounding name, his family were according to Wikipedia, in the UK from the Norman invasion.

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