Origin of the surname
The surname Fleming is of Norman origin from Old French Flamanc meaning 'a native of Flanders'. The people of Flanders have, for centuries, been referred to as "Flemings" or as "the Flemish people". Flanders comprises the northern half of Belgium (where Dutch is the only official language) as well as Frans-Vlaanderen (in present-day France, mainly in the département of Nord) and the southern part of the Dutch province of Zeeland known as Zeeuws-Vlaanderen. Today, the Flanders region includes part of Belgium, France and the Netherlands.
In the the 9th century, strong local lords with castles and knights on horseback were the only protection for the people of this area from Norman raids. These local lords and knights eventually united behind the Count of Flanders. Flanders prospered as craftsmen in its towns built up a Europe-wide trade and reputation in fine woollen and linen cloth. In time, the Flemings became a trading nation that established colonies outside Flanders, including in Scotland.
My Fleming ancestors originated in Scotland. There are now two separate theories about Fleming surname history in Scotland.
The older theory was proposed by genealogists in the nineteenth century and had, until recently, been generally accepted. This theory recognises that a number of families migrated to Scotland from Flanders over several centuries and proposes that many of these Flemish families adopted "Fleming" as their surname when people in the British Isles first started to use surnames (generally during the fourteenth century ). The implication of this theory is that the Fleming surname was adopted by a group of families that were not directly related to one another, albeit that they all derived from Flanders. That is, while they had a common background and culture, they did not have a common heritage.
Genalogist and medieval historian F Lawrence Fleming has proposed a new theory based on his extensive research into medieval documents in Britain and France. He has concluded that "practically all of the Flemings of the British Isles in medieval times were members of a single extended family" that descended from Erchenbald Flandrensis. Erchenbald had Flemish-Norman ancestry and had come to Britain in 1066 as part of the Norman aristocracy. His descendants adopted Fleming as their surname during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. More specifically for Flemings of Scottish descent, he writes "I believe ... that practically every Fleming living in Scotland in 1841 was descended from one man who came to Scotland in 1147: Baldwin Flamingus, grandson of Erchenbald Flandrensis, a companion of the Conqueror." However, some may have descended from Jordan Flamingus who was probably also a grandson of Erchenbald (and first cousin to Baldwin). The point is that there was a single family; not a group of unrelated families.
F Lawrence Fleming has collected a range of genealogical, cultural and statistical evidence in support of his new theory. He has also examined the older theory and provided reasons why he thinks it is incorrect.
If we accept F Lawrence Fleming's theory, then Fleming families of Scottish descent are all descended from Baldwin and/or Jordan Flamingus, and thence from their grandfather Erchenbald Flandrensis. These men were all part of the Anglo-Norman nobility that administered the British Isles after the successful invasion by William, Duke of Normandy, in 1066 (i.e. William the Conqueror).
In my opinion, F Lawrence Fleming has put together a compelling case in support of his theory. If it is correct, it means that Erchenbald Flandrensis is my ancestor.
Australia and New Zealand
Charles Fleming and his family emigrated from Scotland to Australia on the Eastern Monarch in 1883, soon after the death of his parents Angus and Elizabeth Fleming. They settled in the Sydney suburb of Balmain where they lived until about 1902. Then Charles and his family emigrated again, this time to New Zealand. However, his eldest son (my great-grandfather Charles Taylor Fleming) decided to stay in Australia with his wife and children.
Our more recent Fleming ancestors include:
The following Fleming family stories are published on this website.
Our Fleming clan descends from Angus Fleming (c1800-1837).