Faulkner


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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 earliy spellings.  In Scotland the spelling became Falconer.


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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.

Scotland.  Falconers 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 Zealand.   John 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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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.

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  • 19,000 in the UK (most numerous in Essex)
  • 12,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 14,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

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Bird East Kerr Pettigrew Walton
Boone Edgar Knight Phelan Watkins
Brady Emerson Lawrence Quigley Waugh
Branson Everett Leary Quirk West
Brooks Faulkner Levine Regan Whelan
Buck Fettiplace Levy Reilly Whitney
Burke Ford Lloyd Rhodes Wolfe
Bush Goldberg McIntosh Sharp Woodward
Carr Goodman McLaren Sheehan Yates
Carson Gordon McMillan Sinclair York

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