Saturday, April 7, 2012

Surname Saturday - Fleming

Some surnames directly reflect the ethnicity or national origin of the bearer.  For some reason, these names are especially common in Hungary where names like Tóth, "Slav", Horváth "Croat", Németh "German", Oláh "Vlach or Romanian" and Rácz "Serb or South Slav"  are all among the most common surnames.

Although these types of names are not as common in other places, theses names are present in many different regions.  This month I will be exploring names of this type in my own family.  I will start with my fourth great grandmother Polly Anne Fleming (1823-1907).  Both of her parents were born in Massachusetts, but she was born in New York.  The family eventually made their way to Lorain County, Ohio, where she married English immigrant and tailor, John Wood.  The couple had three children, including my third great grandfather Benjamin Franklin Wood (1847-1986).  While her children were still you, her husband died and she remarried soon after. With her children and second husband, Alonzo Stanton, she relocated to Jackson County, Michigan.

All indications point to a British background for the family; they followed a typical migration route for many New Englanders. But the name provides a possibility for another more distant origin for the family.  The surname Fleming comes from the Middle Dutch Vlâming, a term for an inhabitant of Flanders (OED).  This region extends from the Netherlands to France, with the largest part in modern Belgium.  In general its people speak a dialect of Dutch called "Flemish". As one of the closest regions to England in continental Europe, the two places had close political and economic ties.  As a result, there was some immigration of Flemings to England.  It is possible that my Flemings go back to one of these immigrants

Of course, names can be tricky things and are not by themselves proof of origins.  It is possible there is another explanation for the name; maybe the name was given because members of the family had characteristics which were considered stereotypical of the group.

1 comment:

  1. Yours is such an interesting approach to genealogy and family history. I am fascinated by the depth of it. I can only hope that at some point you will come across some variations of the name "Rauls" which has me delightfully puzzled. In the meantime, there is a lot to learn from each of your posts. Well done!