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Flack Origin & Coat of Arms

Flack Coat of ArmsTracing the origin of surnames is not an exact science, and defining the derivation of FLACK is no exception. The Penguin Dictionary states that it is a version of FLAGG meaning turf, sod or peat-cutting. The old Norse word "flag" means "to flay or cut stone or peat". Other sources claim it comes from the Dutch VLAK (Vlake, Vlaken, Vlack, Vlach, Flach, Flake): Dutch settlers would have come across to assist with the farming of the marshy fenlands of Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. Another source claims that the name came from the Scottish surname AFFLECK or "a fal leac" which means flagstone enclosure.

So basically FLACK means "Dweller in a field of flagstones" whichever origin you choose. First found in Norfolk in ancient times, the name spread southwards into Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, then on to Essex, Hertfordshire and inevitably to London and the southern counties of Surrey, Sussex and Kent. From the mid 17th century onward Flacks joined in the great migration from Europe to the New World: most immigrants of this name in America, Canada and Australia can trace their roots back to England, Ireland or Scotland.

In 17 and 18th century sources it is generally written as FLACKE, the final "e" having virtually disappeared from use by the late 1800's. In old handwriting the capital F was written as "ff" and so in some transcriptions the name is given as FFLACKE, erroneously so in my opinion. I am unsure if "Flacks" existed in its own right or if this is a mis-transcription of Flacke, or a phonetic spelling of Flax.

Notes on using indexes and other transcripts: The capital letter F probably written in more ways than any other letter of the alphabet, leading to many indexing and transcription errors. If you can't find your Flack, try looking under Hack! This shouldn't happen with censuses from 1851 onwards because there are plenty of H's in "Head"s around for comparison, but it still does. The middle letters are sometimes hard to read, so Flack can become Fleck, Flock, Fluck, Flask, Hock, Flash and Flach. Sometimes the F is very weak so that it looks more like an S - there are Flack's that appear in the 1881 census index as Slack and as Stack in the 1901 census index. Probably the most extreme case I have come across is one instance where Flack was transcribed as Islock!

Article written by Denise Carr.

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