Blackman Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Blackman Surname Meaning

Blaecmann is an Old English first name that would have been a description of a dark-complexioned man.  It was thought that this name was used for Danish Vikings who had settled in NE England.

However, Blackman as a surname was and is mainly to be found in SE England, perhaps initially from the Romney Marsh area of Kent.  Maybe it was a name that Anglo-Saxons applied to a darker early Briton found there.  Blackman, from Blechman or Bleichman, can also be a Jewish surname.

Blackman Surname Resources on The Internet

Blackman Surname Ancestry

  • from SE England
  • to America, Caribs (Barbados), and Australia

England.  Blackman is a name of London and SE England, with this area accounting for about 85 percent of the Blackmans in England in the 1911 census.  The main numbers were to be found in London, Kent, and Sussex.  There is an old hamlet named Blackmanstone in the Romney Marsh area of Kent which Blacheman held prior to the Norman invasion.

Sussex.   Earliest known Blackmans were in East Sussex – including Samuel Blackman who was born in Ringmer in 1563 and Edmund Blackman born in Crowhurst in 1570.

John Blackman was a yeoman farmer at Ninfield near Pevensey in the 1550’s.  His descendants moved to Wartling where William Blackman was born in 1758 and his son William in 1796.  Both were practicing surgeons.  Another son Charles became a missionary in Canada.

Other sightings for Blackmans in East Sussex have been at Battle, Hooe and Catsfield.  Andrew Blackman, who lives at Fairlight near Hastings, was appointed the Lord Lieutenant for East Sussex in August 2021.

The actress Honor Blackman, who died in Lewes in 2020, had Sussex roots.  Although she came from Essex, her line goes back to John Blackman who was born in Coldwaltham near Pulborough in West Sussex in 1715.

Elsewhere.  Lucie Blackman, born in Norfolk in 1652, was the forebear of a rich and powerful family of West India merchants.  His son John Lucie Blackman acquired estates in Barbados and Antigua and these were passed down in the family – to his son of the same name and then to his grandson George, later Lord Harnage.  George survived his own bankruptcy in 1823 and left his title to his eldest son George.  Another of his sons John Lucie had been killed at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Thomas Blackman was born in Reading, Berkshire around 1730.  He and his wife Mary took over the Barley Mow tavern (still standing) at Knaphill near Woking in Surrey.  His son James was a farmer at Chobham; and two of James’s children – Anne and John – emigrated to New Zealand.  John wrote a book The Story of My Life in 1884 after he had arrived there.

America.  There were two notable early Blackmans in New England, although in both cases it was not clear where they had come from.

New England.  The Rev. Adam Blackman had arrived in Scituate, Massachusetts in 1638.  A year later he became the first minister of the Anglican church in Stratford, Connecticut, a position that he was to hold until his death in 1665.  He left descendants in Stratford and Fairfield, some of whom, such as his son James, spelt their name Blakeman.

The second to arrive, John Blackman, had come to Dorchester, Massachusetts around 1650.  His sons moved onto Rhode Island and Joseph and his wife Elizabeth (a Mayflower descendant) subsequently to Lebanon, Connecticut.

Some Blackmans later departed for Ohio, others for Indiana.  In 1852 George Blackman traveled from Connecticut via the Erie Canal to the Niagara Escarpment in western New York.  There, near Lockport, he started a homestead farm which is still flourishing under the fifth generation of Blackmans.

Virginia and the South.  Captain Nicholas Blackman, a mariner from London who was active in moving people to Virginia, appeared in the 1624 records at Jamestown.  It is not known whether later Blackmans in Virginia – Humfrey Blackman who arrived there in 1635 on the Safety aged sixteen or William Blackman who was a planter later in Henrico county – were related to him.

One descendant line from William Blackman led to Sampson county in North Carolina and then, in 1808, to Rutherford county, Tennessee.  Alfred Blackman who made the move to Tennessee as a young man did much to develop a community around his cotton plantation – which came to be called the Blackman Community – over his long life there.

Another Alfred Blackman came from Blackmans in Virginia that migrated to South Carolina and then to Georgia in 1830.  Alfred himself moved from Georgia to Claiborne parish in Louisiana in 1850 where he prospered – that was until the outbreak of the Civil War.  He said he inherited Welsh and Irish blood from his ancestors.

Caribbean.  The Blackman name spread to Barbados and Trinidad, although it was probably brought by Englishmen.

An early arrival to Barbados was Thomas Blackman from Kent who was recorded as coming there with his wife, children and servants in 1679.  John Lucie Blackman, a West India merchant, made a more substantial presence when he acquired the Boarded Hall plantation in 1767.  The Blackman name later passed to the Afro-Caribbean population.

Recent Blackmans here have included the Caribbean writer Woodie Blackman and two notables who died in 2021:

  • Sir Courtney Blackman, the longest-serving Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados
  • and Sylvanus Blackman, a weightlifter who won a silver medal at the 1958 Commonwealth Games.

Another recent death has been that of Garfield Blackman aka Lord Shorty, a Trinidad singer and musician.  He has been credited with inventing soca as a means of reinvigorating Caribbean calypso music.

Canada.  Charles Blackman from Wartling in East Sussex came to St. John’s, Newfoundland in the 1830’s.  He took Holy Orders there and became a missionaryHis line and related Sussex lines were covered in Henrietta Blackman Batson’s book A History of the Blackman and Allied Sussex Families which was published after her death in 1943.

Australia.  James Blackman from Woolwich outside of London was one of the early free settlers to Australia.  He departed for Sydney with his family on the Canada in 1801.  The early years were tough, floods on the Hawkesbury river washing away his landholdings in 1809 and again in 1819.

He moved his family to Bathurst and then to Mudgee.  His son James played an important role in opening up this area of NSW for settlement.  A later Blackham, William, was a Justice of the Peace for the Mudgee district in the 1860’s and active in the pursuit of bushrangers in the area.

Blackman Family History in Sussex

A Blackman line in Sussex came into contact with my own Shelley line when Charlotte Blackman married Charles Shelley in Alfriston in 1818.  I found out two things about Charlotte recently – first that she had been born out of wedlock (and this was the basis of a later lawsuit); and second that she was descended from a long time of Blackmans in East Sussex that could be traced back to the late 1500’s.

Just click below if you want to read more about this:

Blackman Surname Miscellany

Reasonable Blackman in Tudor England.  Reasonable Blackman was a silk weaver resident in Southwark, London in the late 16th century. He was among the earliest people of African heritage working as independent business owners in London in that era.  He may have originally come from the Netherlands which had a relatively significant African population at the time and also a significant trade in silk.

The first record of Blackman is in the records of Southwark’s St. Saviour’s church in 1579.   By 1587 Blackman was married and therefore clearly had sufficient means to support a family. He had at least three children, of whom one (Edward) was baptised at St Olave’s Church, Southwark in 1587.  Two of his children, Edmund and Jane, died in 1592 of plague.  The name and ethnicity of Blackman’s wife are unknown.  The small number of people of African descent in London at this time makes it likely she was a white Englishwoman.

Blackmans in England in the 1911 Census.  The total Blackman numbers in 1911 were 5,100, divided as follows:

  • London 21% (1,050)
  • Kent 21% (1,050)
  • Sussex 15% (750)
  • Hampshire 13% (650)
  • Surrey 7% (350)
  • and Elsewhere 23% (1,250).

Alfred Blackman’s Misfortunes During the Civil War.  Alfred Blackman had arrived in Rutherford county, Tennessee with his father and family in 1808.  Three years later he and his wife Elizabeth converted to the Church of Christ and their strong religious convictions were to underpin their creation of the Blackman Community where they grew cotton.

Alfred was 71 years old when the Civil War began in 1861.  The war ravaged Alfred’s home, while their farm was heavily foraged by Yankees.

But worse was to come.  Both Alfred and Elizabeth had accumulated a large quantity of gold coins that would need to be hidden from coming Federal troops. They considered the graveyard nearby as a hiding place but felt this would be too conspicuous.

Fearful that their wealth would be confiscated, Alfred carefully stored the trove of gold riches in a bin of sweet potatoes in the basement of a slave cabin on his property. During the night, the slaves found the gold, silently loaded their belongings, and departed with Alfred’s mule cart never to be seen again.

The Blackmans and Bushrangers in Australia.  The Blackmans were a pioneering family in the Mudgee district of NSW during the 1860’s.  A Blackman descendant has been in possession of a brace of pistols which were said to have been surrendered by a bushranger at that time.

“We always believed that the guns were handed over from the bushranger to Mr. Blackman as the bushranger respected him and ran his horses on his place. Apparently when the bushranger was asked to surrender, he said he wouldn’t surrender in the king’s name but that he would to Mr. Blackman.  When he handed the pistols over, he broke them on a tree stump one one way and one the other.”

The guns in question were a matched pair of flintlock duelling pistols made prior to 1795.  But would such duelling pistols have been a desirable gun for a bushranger in the 1860’s?  Probably his preferred handgun would have been the revolver.

There was one documented link between the Blackmans and a bushranger, Tom Dillon, and the giving up of guns. This referred to Dillon’s arrest at Blackman’s run after his second escape from Mudgee jail in 1863.  However, Dillon was recorded as being armed at his arrest with a revolver of the “cap and ball” type, not with a duelling pistol.

Another candidate would have been Charley Johnson who was apprehended after a chase in which William Blackman the J. P. participated in 1868.  In his evidence in court Blackman referred to Johnson’s firearms successively as revolvers, pistols and firearms.  However, it is clear from the context that they were revolvers and not duelling pistols.

Whilst the evidence isn’t sufficient to definitively rule out Dillon or Johnson as having had possession of the duelling pistols at some time, it doesn’t seem likely.

But the two family stories – that of the pistols and that of Blackman’s capture of Johnson – might have been conflated as memories faded over the years. It is easy to see how this would occur, considering that the family story was based on an actual event that included Johnson dashing his guns against a tree and the fact that both duelling pistols were damaged.

Blackman Names

  • George Blackman, later Baronet Harnage, was a West India merchant and a director of the Bank of England in the 1820’s.
  • Honor Blackman was an English actress best known for her portrayal of Pussy Galore in the 1964 Bond movie Goldfinger.
  • Courtney Blackman was less than forty when he was appointed Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados in 1972.  At that time he was the youngest central bank governor in the world.
  • Lucie Blackman from Essex was a nightclub hostess whose abominable murder in Japan in 2000 received international headlines.

Blackman Numbers Today

  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 8,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 5,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


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Written by Colin Shelley

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