Faulkner Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Faulkner Surname Meaning

Faulkner is an occupational name for someone who kept and trained falcons. It could also describe someone who hunted with falcons or followed hawking as a sport. The root is the Old French word fauconnier. Falconry was an extremely popular sport among the aristocracy in medieval Europe and most great houses had their falconers. It was their responsibility to supply hunting hawks to the lord of the manor.

Royal falconers could prosper. There was Henry II’s falconer whose family was subsequently recorded as receiving the manor of Falconer’s Hurst in Kent and adopting the name of Le Falconer. Legend has it that Randelph de Lunkyis of France, royal falconer to King William of Scotland in the late 12th century, was captured by the English and taken to England where, as Sir John le Faulconer, he too was granted lands.

The first record of the surname in England was Henry Falkenar in the Wiltshire rolls of 1194. Fawkener and Falkner were early spellings. In Scotland the spelling became Falconer.

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Faulkner and Falconer Surname Ancestry

England.  Fawkener and Falkner were early spellings. A Fawkener family was to be found in the township of Cholmondely in Cheshire in the mid 16th century. Cholmondely Hall had the following notice above its front door: “The house was built by William Fawkener, master of carpentry and joinery work, in 1571.”

The Fawkener spelling began to die out but the Falkner spelling extended into the 17th and the early 18th century. William Falkner was an East Anglian preacher and Thomas Falkner an Jesuit priest from Manchester at that time.

The Faulkner spelling was by then beginning to take precedence. Sir Everard Faulkner the London merchant was born in 1684 a Falkner or possibly a Fawkener, but died in 1758 a Faulkner. There are recorded family histories in Fletching in Sussex and in Leighton Buzzard in Essex beginning with Faulkners in the mid 18th century. Tom Faulkner from Surrey, known as “Long Tom,”
was a cricketer and prizefighter at that time.

By the late 19th century, the greater number of Faulkners in England were to be found in the West Midlands and Lancashire, with an outpost in Northamptonshire. Family records show Faulkners at Everdon and at Titchmarsh in Northamptonshire from the late 1770’s. William Faulkner was born at Preston Capes in rural Northamptonshire in 1836. He later emigrated to New Zealand.

ScotlandFalconers existed in Scotland as well and the surname developed there, perhaps more logically, as Falconer.

There was a Falconer clan, connected over the centuries with the Keith clan, in Halkerton in Kincardineshire in eastern Scotland.  Sir Alexander Falconer was the first to hold the title of Lord of Halkerton. His line soon ended and two subsidiary Falconer branches, first that of Glenquhar and then that of Newton, assumed the title in the 1680’s. The clan history has been recounted in Paul Gifford’s 1997 book Falconer of Halkerton. 

Some Falconers made their mark in Edinburgh.  Hugh Falconer, born in Forres, Morayshire in 1808, was a distinguished Victorian geologist, botanist, and palaeontologist. The Falconer Museum in his home town is his legacy. 

Ireland.  Faulkners in Ireland were mainly of Anglo-Irish descent although there were some Irish Faulkners, the name here being an anglicization of the Gaelic O’Fachtna sept in county Longford. 

An early example was George Faulkner. He settled in Dublin as a printer and publisher in the late 1720’s and made a fortune from his Journal and his other publications. He was well known as Jonathan Swift’s printer, described at the time as “vain and fussy, though not devoid of taste, who gave brilliant entertainments to literary men and persons of rank.” 

Most of these Faulkners were to be found in Ulster. In the early 1900’s James Faulkner owned the Belfast Collar Company which at the time was the largest single-purpose shirt manufacturer in the world, employing some 3,000 people. His sons were Sir Dennis Faulkner, colonel of the Ulster defense regiment, and Brian Faulkner, the last Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

America. The first Faulkner to step foot in America was Thomas Faulconer from Sussex who came with his wife Margaret on the Mary Providence to Virginia in 1622. He secured his passage through being an indentured servant, but became an Anglican minister soon after his arrival.

Faulconer descendants made the crossing on the wilderness road to Kentucky in the early 1780’s. The family history has been recounted in James G. Faulconer’s 1984 book Thomas Faulconer and His Descendants.

Three Scots Falconers, possibly related, came to America at an early date:

  • Patrick Falconer to New Jersey in 1684. His descendants were farmers in upstate New York.
  • Gilbert Falconer to Maryland in the early 1700’s. His descendants headed south and were merchants and slave-owning planters.
  • and Alexander Falconer also to Maryland around the same
    time. His family were Methodists. They either stayed in Maryland or headed west.

These Falconers all in time adopted to Faulkner name. But the Falconer spelling, as a result of later immigration, has persisted in America.

The writer William Faulkner was said to have told a friend:  “My great grandfather Murray had his grandfather’s claymore which he had carried at the battle of Culloden.”

His Falkner forebears were in North Carolina in the 1700’s and moved to Missouri and Mississippi in the 1820’s. His great grandfather William Clark Falkner – soldier, businessman, and writer in Mississippi – was a major influence on him.

New ZealandJohn Lees Faulkner, from Whitby in Yorkshire, was an early arrival in New Zealand, purchasing land in the Bay of Islands in 1835. He became accepted by the local Maoris and prospered as a trader between the Bay of Islands and Tauranga.  When he died in 1882 the flags were half-masted in Tauranga and shutters put up in the shops.

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Faulkner Surname Miscellany

Falconer’s Hurst.  Balderic the falconer was said to have been granted the mansion of Hurst in Kent by Henry II.  The house became known as Falconer’s Hurst and Balderic’s descendants adopted the Fauconer surname.  The first of this line was Godfrey de Fauconer who died in 1279.  The line descended to John Mitchelgrove alias Fauconer of Mitchelgrove in Clapham, Sussex in the 15th century and Elizabeth Mitchelgrove who married Sir John Shelley in 1474. 

The Falconer Clan in Scotland.  The Falconer clan was said to have descended from Ranulf le Falconer who obtained a
charter from William the Lion, King of Scotland, in 1211.  The
earliest ancestor from whom descendants can be proved was Alexander Falconer of Halkerton and Lethen who died in 1499.  Sir Alexander Falconer, born a century or so later, was the first to hold the title of Lord of Halkerton.

The Falconers and the Keiths intermarried for centuries. The hyphenated Keith-Falconer name first appeared with Anthony Adrian Keith-Falconer, born in 1742, who was the seventh Lord Falconer of Halkerton.

The Falconers are somewhat unusual in that no male lines of descent traceable to the original line have survived in Scotland.  By 1900 there were only three Falconer lines left in Britain; the Keith-Falconers, the Falconer-Stewarts of Feddal in Perthshire, and the Falconers of Gloucestershire.

Sir Everard Faulkner and His Line.  His family,
originally Falkner and Fawkener, had come from the small county of Rutland where they held the manor at Uppingham.  At
the visitation of Rutland in 1638 William Fawkener of Uppingham claimed but failed to prove his descent from Sir Thomas Falconer, mercer and mayor of London in 1414.

A later William was a mercer in London.  His sons William and
Everard became engaged in commerce and in overseas trade with the Levant Company.  Everard was a merchant in silk
there and the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire between 1737 and 1744.  At his home at Wandsworth his
leisure hours were spent in reading the classics or in collecting
ancient coins and medals.  He married late in 1747,
aged 53, and died in 1768.

Sir Everard’s other passion was cards.  He played cards
for high stakes but with very little judgment.
It was said after his death that he had “left a great many
debts, a very deserving wife, and several fine children in very bad circumstances.”

His two sons William and Everard became civil
servants.  His two daughters married well
and there is a well-known picture of them by Sir Joshua Reynolds.  William, the son of his brother William, was
Governor of the Bank of England from 1743 to 1745.

Faulkners in Titchmarsh, Northamptonshire.  Various
family records show Faulkners at the village of Titchmarsh in Northamptonshire.  Jonathan and Mary Faulkner had four children – William, Jonathan, Susannah, and Rebecca – born there in the early 1800’s. Another Faulkner family dates
from the 1820’s.

“The Faulkner family lived in Titchmarsh since at least the 1820’s.  My great grandfather was both a tailor and a landlord – first at The Vine and then The Wheatsheaf.  My grandfather Walter was a grocer’s assistant in Titchmarsh before moving to Peterborough in the early 1900’s to set up his own business.”

George Faulkner the Dublin Publisher.  George Faulkner had, like Jonathan Swift, a ready wit and satire.  Richard Cumberland described him as follows in his 1807 Memoirs.

“Faulkner had a solemn intrepidity of egotism and a daring contempt of absurdity that fairly outfaced imitation.  He never deigned to join in the laugh he had raised, nor seemed to have a feeling of the ridicule he had provoked.  At the same time he was
pre-eminently and by preference the butt and buffoon of the company.  He could find openings and opportunities for
hints of retaliation, which were such left-handed thrusts as few could parry.  Nobody could foresee where they
would fall.  Nobody was of course forearmed and, as there was in his calculation but one super-eminent character
in the kingdom of Ireland and he the printer of the Dublin Journal, rank was no shield against George’s arrows which flew where he listed and fixed or missed as chance directed.  He cared not about the consequences.”

Cumberland described the company at one meeting in Faulkner’s house which included both a
man who has been reprieved from the gallows and the judge who sentenced him.

William Clark Falkner.  William Faulkner added the “u” to his name when he first began to publish fiction.  It was a way of setting himself apart from his father.  His great grandfather, William Clark Falkner whom Faulkner would always refer to as “the Old Colonel,” had been a legendary figure in Mississippi history.

The details of William Clark Falkner’s life are obscured by legend, beginning with his date of birth in 1826 in Knox County, Tennessee.  Family lore asserts that the name was originally spelled Faulkner but that the Colonel dropped the “u.”

Falkner grew up in Ripley, Mississippi.  He first distinguished
himself in 1845 when he helped capture an ax murderer and then prevented a mob from lynching him.   After serving in
the Mexican War, he returned to Ripley where he became involved in a feud that would leave two men, Robert Hindman and Erasmus Morris, dead and a third, Thomas Hindman, spoiling for a duel.

When the Civil War began, Falkner helped organize a company named the “Magnolia Rifles,” which joined with other companies to form the Second Mississippi Infantry of which he was elected Colonel. He led this regiment with distinction at First Manassas but was subsequently demoted and for various reasons never attained a prominent position in the Confederate army.

After the war, he played an active role in Reconstruction, helping to rebuild the northern part of the state and to start the Ship Island, Ripley, and Kentucky Railroad Company.  He also wrote fiction, his most popular work being The White Rose of Memphis which was serialized in the Ripley Advertiser. In 1889, he was shot and killed on the square in Ripley by his former business partner R. J. Thurmond.

Reader Feedback:  I was born in Holly Spring, Mississippi.  Is it possible I’m related to William Falkner?  Fred Falkner Jr (fred.falkner.195574.ff@gmail.com)

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Faulkner Names
  • William Faulkner was the American Nobel Prize winning novelist. He is considered one of the most important writers of Southern literature in the United States.
  • Max Faulkner won the British Open golf championship in 1951. He was known for his colorful dress sense.
  • Brian Faulkner was the last Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. He gave up his post in 1972.
Faulkner Numbers Today
  • 19,000 in the UK (most numerous in Essex)
  • 14,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 14,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
Faulkner and Like Surnames

These were status positions within the feudal position of that time – usually positions serving noble families, lords of the manor, or in the church.  Here are some of these status position surnames that you can check out.

AbbottChambersGardnerParker
BaileyFaulknerHaywardPrior
ButlerFowlerKnightSpencer
ChamberlainFranklinMarshallWoodward

 

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