The founder of the family, Voyk, received the eponymous Hunyad Castle (in present-day Hunedoara, Romania) from Sigismund, King of Hungary, in 1409. His ethnicity is the subject of scholarly debate. Some modern historians describe him as a Vlach, or Romanian, knez or boyar, from either Wallachia or Transylvania. Others describe him as a Cuman or Slav nobleman. According to contemporaneous accounts, Voyk moved from Wallachia to Transylvania. Voyk's oldest son, John Hunyadi, was often mentioned as a "Vlach" by his contemporaries.
John Hunyadi, a talented military commander, became the first member of the family to acquire the status of "true baron of the realm". He was appointed Ban of Severin in 1439, and Voivode of Transylvania in 1441. He was also granted the title Perpetual Count of Beszterce in 1452, thus receiving the first hereditary title created in the Kingdom of Hungary. At his death, John Hunyadi held many lands throughout the Kingdom. John Hunyadi's fame and fortune led the election of his son, Matthias Corvinus, as King of Hungary in 1458. Matthias ruled Moravia, Silesia, Austria, and other neighbouring regions. He attempted to secure hereditary line of succession for his son, John Corvinus. This did not happen, however, and John was only able to retain the Duchy of Glogau, along with some other family domains in Hungary, after Matthias died in 1490. John's only son, Christopher Corvinus, was the last male member of the family. He died at the age of six in 1505. His sister Elisabeth died during childhood.
The family was given its land by Sigismund, King of Hungary, on 18 October 1409. On that day, Sigismund granted Hunyad Castle and its demesne to Voyk and four of his kinsmen. In addition to Voyk, the grant lists his two brothers, Magos and Radol, their cousin or uncle also named Radol, and Voyk's son, John, the future Regent of Hungary. The granted said that Voyk's father was named "Serbe", but did not say anything further about the origins of the family.
Voyk's son, John Hunyadi, bore the nickname "Olah", meaning "Vlach", in his youth, which implied that he was of Romanian stock. The court historian of Voyk's grandson King Matthias Corvinus, Antonio Bonfini, explicitly stated that John had been "born to a Vlach father". Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III likewise knew that King Matthias had been "born to a Vlach father", and a Venetian man, Sebastiano Baduario, referred to the Romanians as King Matthias's people.
Historians of the 15th and 16th centuries, with perspectives that were either against or in favour of the family, wrote differing reports of the family's status before King Sigismund's grant. Jan Długosz described John Hunyadi as "a man of unknown origin", and he is likewise mentioned as "a Vlach by birth, not highly born" by Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini. On the other hand, Johannes de Thurocz said that John Hunyadi "was descended from a noble and renowned race of Wallachia".