Select Fleming Surname Genealogy

Fleming is a surname in English-speaking countries.  It usually points to an ancestral origin in and emigration from Flanders.  Flemings came to England at an early time.  There were extensive ties between Flanders and the British Isles later in the Middle Ages, with numerous Flemings arriving as merchants or weavers. 

At this time Flanders was the hub of the European textile trade and many Flemings were offered incentives to set up their trade here, particuilarly in Scotland.  Some of this emigration happened so long ago that the name has been retained while the ethnic connection has been lost.

An alternative spelling of the surname is Flemming.  The Irish Gaelic name is Pleimeann.  German variants include Flaming, Flahming, and Flehmig; Dutch variants Vlaming and Vlaaderen.  The Flemings of Louhisaari were a Swedish noble family whose forebears had migrated to Swedish-ruled Finland. 

The one place where there are few Flemings is Flanders.  There are only 125 in Belgium and 100 in Holland.   

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Scotland.  The Flemish influx into Scotland began when they were driven out of England as alien traders by Henry II in the 12th century.  They set themselves up in the wool trade on the Scottish borders, first at Berwick and later at Dumfries. 

Other Flemings were influential in Lanarkshire:. 
  • Robert Fleming was a supporter of Robert the Bruce and his son Malcolm was made the Earl of Wigton.  Flemings from this family were appointed Lord High Chamberlains of Scotland and were later close to Mary, Queen of Scots.  This line died out in Scotland in the 18th century. 
  • another Fleming family from Stonehouse in Lanarkshire has descendants today in Canada and New Zealand. 
The Fleming surname has cropped up in various other places in Scotland.  There was the Laird Cragganfearn Fleming in Perthshire.  David Fleming was an 18th century Glasgow merchant whose descendants were graziers in Australia. 

Migrants to LondonRobert Fleming started out as a jute baron in Dundee in the 1880's and set up his own international merchant bank in London.  His grandson was Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond books.  Roddie Fleming sold the family business in 2000 to Chase Manhattan Bank. 

Another Scot who migrated to London was Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin in 1929 at St. Mary's hospital in Paddington.

England.   Two weavers Constancius and Reginaldus Flemmyng - names which suggested they were recent arrivals from Flanders - were recorded in the 1379 poll tax records of Redenhall in Norfolk.
In England, however, the Fleming name was generally to be found in the north of the country, in particular in what is now Cumbria. These may also have been early Flemish settlers.  A Michael le Fleming was recorded at Aldingham in the Lake District in 1150.  The le Fleming seat there for many centuries was Rydal Hall (this family history is recounted in Ann Galbraith's The Fleming Family of Rydal Hall).  The family emigrated to New Zealand in the 1850's. 

A Fleming family from Wath near Rotherham in the West Riding of Yorkshire dates from Reiner Fleming in the 12th century.  This family produced Richard Fleming, the Bishop of Lincoln in 1419.   They too have long departed the scene.  Flemings in Lancashire are more likely to be of Irish origin.

Fleming has been less in evidence in the south of England.  The Flemings of Stoneham in Hampshire descended from Sir Thomas Fleming, the Lord Chief Justice in James I's time.  This Fleming estate had become very extensive by the end of the 19th century.  But the ancestral home at Stoneham Park has since been demolished and the estate broken up.     

Wales.  There was a Flemish enclave left at Llangwm after their initial settlement in Pembrokeshire in the 12th century.  Flemish craftsmen built its Church of St. Jerome around 1185.   However, Fleming as a surname has hardly figured there.

Ireland.  A Fleming family, starting from John Fleming in the 15th century and possibly earlier, were lords of Slane in county Meath.  Many Flemings were prominent in the church at that time.  Flemings became landowners in Sligo in the 1650's.  However, the Meath Flemings lost their holdings in 1690 when the Jacobites were defeated. 

Other Flemings were Scots settlers in Ulster from the 17th century.  These included the Flemings from Tyrone in Cookstown and Dromore and the Flemings from Derry in Kenoght. 

  Alexander Fleming came to Virginia in 1649 with other adherents of Charles I and purchased land in Lancaster county.  He was, according to family tradition (although not confirmed), from the Scots Wigton Flemings.  These Flemings subsequently lived at Rock Castle in Goochland county.  Captain John Fleming fought and died in the Revolutionary War.

William Fleming from Scotland was an early settler in Chester county, Pennsylvania in 1714.  Another William Fleming, also from Scotland, arrived in Kent, Delaware in 1740.  The Flemings in Pitt, North Carolina, where David Fleming was born in 1755, may also have come from Delaware.  Benjamin Fleming, an African American, did come from that state.

Scots Irish.  Samuel Fleming, Scots-Irish from county Antrim, arrived in Savannah, Georgia with his family in 1768. Another Scots-Irish Samuel Fleming, this time from county Tyrone, had come to New Jersey around 1740 and was the founder of the township now called Flemington. 

A third Scots-Irish immigrant, George Fleming, came to St. Augustine in Florida in the late 1700's and received a land grant from the Spanish authorities.  Fleming Island was named after him in 1790 and his Hibernia plantation was located near Jacksonville.  His descendant Francis Fleming was a segregationalist Governor of Florida a century later. 

Canada.  John Fleming emigrated from Scotland to Canada in 1803 and became one of Montreal's leading merchants.  During his lifetime he amassed the largest library of books in Canada.  However, he died early, at the age of forty six. 

Sandford Fleming came with his brother David to Ontario in 1845.  Two years later he established the Royal Canadian Institute and designed the first Canadian postage stamp.  He was subsequently known as a railway surveyor and the proponent of worldwide standard time zones.

Flemings from Ireland came to Newfoundland, most notably Michael Fleming, the Catholic bishop who arrived there in 1823.  For the next twenty five years he expanded the position of the Catholic church in the colony and looked after the incoming Irish immigrants.  Legend has it that he devised the tricolor flag of Newfoundland.

Australia.  Joseph Fleming, a soldier, and his wife Mary Ann arrived on the Third Fleet in 1791 and were among the first to receive a land settlement.  A later generation was involved in incidents of Aborigine killings, John in the Myall Creek massacre and brother Joe in further massacres in SW Queensland.  Joe started up one of Queensland's first sawmills, Bremer Mills, in the early 1850's. 

William and Isabella Fleming came to Sydney from county Tyrone in Ireland in 1835 on the Clyde.  John Fleming arrived there in 1855 on the epidemic-stricken Constitution which was immediately put into quarantine. 

Jim Fleming was a pioneer of Sydney discount supermarkets in the 1930's, which his son carried on.  When their Fleming and Jewel chains were eventually sold, Jim junior became one of the wealthiest men in Australia.  Like his father, he had a love for the horses.       
Select Fleming Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Fleming Names

Sir Thomas Fleming was the Lord Chief Justice who sentenced Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plotters in 1605.
Michael Fleming, a Catholic bishop, was regarded as the most influential Irish immigrant to have come to Newfoundland in the 19th century.
Sir Sandford Fleming was a Scots-born Canadian engineer and the creator of Standard Time.
Robert Fleming was a Scots financier from Dundee who founded the merchant bank Robert Fleming & Co.
Sir Alexander Fleming was the discoverer of penicillin in 1929, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1945.
Victor Fleming was the director of two classic American films, Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz.
Ian Fleming was the novelist and creator of James Bond.
Tommy Fleming from Sligo is one of Ireland's top singers.

Select Flemings Today
  • 28,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lanarkshire)
  • 34,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 35,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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