Have you seen the World Names Profiler? It’s had a lot of publicity recently. It’s taken several days for me to get a result searching for ‘Faulkner’, due to massive demand on the site. Having finally done so, I now find there are more FPM (Frequency Per Million) in Australia than anywhere else. Cue ‘convict’ jokes from my wife …
Clicking on the UK results, the surname is most popular in Northern Ireland, followed by most parts of England. Then you get the rest of England (including East Anglia, where we currently live) and Wales. Bottom comes Scotland, which is where the surname originates.
It’s different if you profile the putative original spelling (insofar as you can assume anything of the like, given massive illiteracy affecting birth registrations in previous centuries). ‘Falconer’ is far and away most popular in Scotland in terms of UK density. (Worldwide, it’s found most commonly in New Zealand.)
All of which brings me to a story: when I was born, I was given the middle name ‘Duncan’ to mark the Scottish heritage of the family. Studies suggest that ‘Falconer’ originated in Aberdeenshire around the 1200s, and the Falconers were a sept of the Keith clan. There is a town in Aberdeenshire called Keith. Falconers were plebs who looked after the falcons on the laird’s estate, and of course ‘falconer’ is still used as the name of the associated profession.
When my father and aunt were growing up, they both clearly remember their grandfather telling them that he had been born in Scotland, but had come south of the border with his family as a boy. In those days, the name was still spelt ‘Falconer’. When he went to school in England, the teacher said to him, ‘Now you’re in England, you’ll spell your name the English way.’ And so, according to Dad’s grandfather, that is when our surname changed to ‘Faulkner’.
As a result, Dad has always supported Scotland at football and rugby. I was named David Duncan, as I said.
In recent years, however, a problem has arisen. After he retired, Dad began investigating the family tree. He discovered the part of ‘Scotland’ we come from. It’s called Lincolnshire. He got as far as the early eighteenth century, and our family was always living in Lincolnshire hamlets, where some of our ancestors were shepherds – a nice antecedent for what I do now.
I’ve never had the heart to tell Dad that I’d discovered ‘Duncan’ was originally Irish.
Still, at least they were OK with calling me ‘David’. They chose that, because they knew it meant ‘beloved’.
So what’s in a name? What’s in yours? I like to use these stories at Christmas when preaching about the naming of Jesus. You might think of other applications. Do tell.