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.


  1. Nothing is in a name but without nme a person cant identify
    so everything is depend upon the work person should be identify thorugh his work .


  2. The Hebrew tradition puts great weight on the meaning of a name – more so than we do today.

    But you raise an interesting point about a person’s identity. If it is through their work, then what happens when they lose their job? I profoundly believe that our identity is most secure in the knowledge that in Christ we are children of God.


  3. I didn’t mean to demean the devastating effect of losing a job. I’m sorry if I did. I quite agree that it has vast effects, especially on self-esteem. However, I don’t believe the answer is to create our own identity. That creates other problems. I believe a much more secure identity is found in the love of God.


  4. you are right love of the god is a identity between you and god
    this world is very bad everyone want to see some miracal then people will belive on so identity alwas matter while living in this world we hacve to create that type of identity that people should know u s after the death
    what you want to say


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