Grand Pockets’s Blog

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Fleming Family origins


This is a sort of overview of the Fleming family. Use it as guide for further research – there are literally hundreds of sites devoted to about every name or place in this monograph. The Virginia Fleming’s link to King James IV of Scotland, the King of the King James edition of the Bible, who commissioned its’ translation, is genealogically solid. Probably the least proven and weakest link in the chain is that of William Fleming and Jane Clark, the parents of the William Fleming who married Jean (Jane) Frame and his brothers Robert, Archibald and John.

The name of Fleming is as old as any of the FLEMING many time-honored family names of Scotland, and has worthy connection and honorable mention in numerous important events in Scottish history, that have passed into song and story.

During the stormy political and religious times of Scotland during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, persecution, on account of religion, was prevalent, and it was during one of these periods when reason and justice were supplanted by prejudice and wrong, four brothers of this family, William, Robert, Archibald and John, were driven by church tyranny to the North of Ireland, where the wonderful Scotch-Irish race was passing the nursery stage of its existence, ere being transplanted to this country to attain its full development in the pathless forests of the new world.

The four Fleming brothers above named emigrated to this country, settling in 1741 in Penn’s colony, on the Delaware, taking up lands in what is now known as Mispillion Hundred, Kent county, Delaware. This land is still owned by their descendants. In 1789, John, with three of his brother William’s sons—Nathan, Boaz and Benoni—removed to western Virginia and settled on lands along the Monongahela river.

Of John Fleming (one of the four brothers) there is but little account. [note – he was blind, a fiddler, and his upkeep was provided for among the family. From the little we do know it seems he was beloved among his kin].

After a few years the brothers Nathan, Boaz and Benoni, were joined by their sister Mary and family, and their stepmother (Ann Hudson) and her son Thomas. Gradually their children scattered until now almost every state and territory in the union boasts of some of the name as worthy citizens. As a family they are notably upright and trustworthy. Their history shows the guiding hand of a kindProvidence. “Their lines are fallen unto them in pleasant places; Yea, they have a goodly heritage.”

The Flemings have been known for more than a century as one of the steady, industrious and progressive families of western Virginia, and many of its members have held with credit and honor prominent and responsible positions in both Old and West Virginia commonwealths.The following concerning its ancient history was published in Denver, Colorado, December, 1893, in “The Great Divide,” from the pen of Henry Dudley Teetor, M. A.:

The statue of an armed knight with a fret upon his shield, hands elevated in a praying posture, sword by his side, and legs across, may be seen in Furness Abbey, Lancashire, England, an ancient burial place of the Fleming family. It was placed there generations ago in memory of Sir John Le Fleming, a Crusader. One branch of the Flemings still bears a shield charged with a fret—a heraldic composition of the cross and Norman mascle indicating that the family had a founder, one or more, in the holy wars. The surname of this illustrious family, according to the sentiments of the most approved historians and antiquarians, was at first assumed from a person of distinction, who in the days of King David I. (1124), a Fleming, by nation, transplanted himself into Scotland and took the surname Flander- ensis, or Le Fleming, from the country of his origin.

Robert Le Fleming, the direct and immediate earl of Wigton, was one of the great barons of Scotland under King Edward I., of England (1272- 1309). It was this Sir Robert who repaired to the standard of Robert the Bruce, and with a few trusty friends, all brave men, accompanied him whom they thought their lawful sovereign in adventure at Dumfries where they killed Sir John Cuming, and never rested until they set the crown upon the head of the immortal monarch, on the Feast of Annunciation, A. D., 1306.

He was succeeded by his son, Sir Malcom Fleming, Lord of Fulwood, also in great favor with the king, who made him a large grant of land in Wigton- shire, and also governor of Dunbarton Castle and sheriff of the county.He was succeeded by his son, Sir Malcom Fleming, who was a forwarder and assister of the right and title of David II., Brucian line. He succeeded his father as governor of Dunbarton Castle, and discharged the trust with the utmost fidelity. During the whole of the usurpation of Baliol, this castle was a place to which the royalist did flee and with great security resort. Here Sir Malcom had the honor to shelter and protect, in that evil time, Robert Lord High Stewart of Scotland, afterwards King Robert II. (1371). His highness was graciously pleased in reward of Sir Malcom’s signal loyalty and fidelity in his service to create him Earl of Wigton. The good earl fell sick and died soon after.

He left his estates and title to his grandson, Thomas Fleming, second earl of Wigton. Malcom Fleming, Earl of Wigton, was in great favor with James V. by whom he was constituted Lord High Chamberlain of Scotland. He was slain in the service of his country at the battle of Pinkey, September 10, 1545. He married Janet, daughter of King James IV., and by her had a son, James Fleming, who being a nobleman of fine and polite parts, by special favor of Mary, Queen of Scots, made her Lord High Chancellor.

He accompanied Queen Mary to Scotland, and died in Paris, December 1, 1558. He was governor of Dunbarton Castle and distinguished himself for his zeal and loyalty to his queen.

The Flemings, who became Lords of the Barony of Slane, county Meath, Ireland, descended from Archibald Fleming, who went from England to Ireland, A. D., 1173, with Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, and took part in the Norman invasion and Conquest of Ireland. The Lords Fleming, of Slane Castle, numbered, successively, twenty-three. This branch of the family came also originally from Flanders, with William the Conqueror, whose wife is known in history as Matilda of Flanders.

Sir Thomas Fleming, son of the Earl of Wigton, emigrated to Virginia in 1616. Many of the family followed him to the same colony, one of whom was Colonel William Fleming, and another, the father of James Fleming, who was born in Iradell county, North Carolina, in 1762. He served in the revolutionary war; afterwards removed to Ohio, where he died in 1832. He was the great-grandfather of Hon. Josiah Mitchell Fleming, of Denver, Colorado.

Another descendant of these Wigtonshire Flemings was Colonel John Fleming, who emigrated from Virginia to Kentucky in 1790. He was the grandfather of Hon. John Donaldson Fleming, late United States district attorney for Colorado.

Dunbarton Castle

Dunbarton Castle

The marriage of Lord James Fleming, governor of Dunbarton Castle, to the daughter of Lord Ross, took place in Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh. A banquet was spread in the park adjoining the palace. There is still a dam traceable which held the water back to make an artificial lake. Queen Mary graced the occasion with her presence. It was a highly esteemed privilege to me personally to walk around upon the scene of this historic marriage. The incident is so pleasantly picturesque and associates Queen Mary so agreeably with one of her subjects, that it is gratifying to reflect on Lord Fleming proving a steady friend to the Queen throughout her subsequent troubles. He stoutly maintained Dunbarton Castle in her favor against the regents and against Elizabeth’s general, Sir William Drury.

Archbishop Richard Fleming, founder of Lincoln College, Oxford, was born in Crofton, county York. He was educated at University College, Oxford, and in 1407 was appointed proctor of the University. In his early days he was an ardent disciple of Wycliffe, but recanted and espoused the cause of the Pope. In 1415 he was prebendary of Langford, Church of York, and in 1420 bishop of Lincoln. In 1428 he carried into effect the decree of the Council of Constance, which ordered that the bones of Wycliffe should be disinterred and burned to ashes. It is remarkable that the endowments which he gave to the University have contributed to educate more than one celebrated opponent of the opinions he so vehemently espoused; among them it is sufficient to name John Wesley, who was sometime fellow of Lincoln College.

Gleaston Castle Ruins

Gleaston Castle Ruins

Major General James Fleming was buried in Westminster Abbey where I saw his monument, of which an illustration is given. He was born in 1633, died in 1751, spending forty years of his life in the British army. Gleaston Castle was the seat of the Flemings after the Norman Conquest, being a special grant by William the Conqueror to Sir Michael Le Fleming, Knight.

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Furness Abbey

Furness Abbey

The ruins of Furness Abbey, founded in the twelfth century, are among the most picturesque and extensive in England. The finest feature of the ancient remains are the chapter house and the triplet of grand Norman arches. In the Abbot’s chapel are two effigies of Norman Knights, twelfth century, said to be the only ones of the kind in England; and the allusion in the opening sentence to this article, is the one to them—the effigy of Sir John Le Fleming. Dunbarton Castle is built on a rock two hundred and forty feet high and one mile in circumference—a rock trodden by Roman soldiers two thousand years ago. When Queen Mary as a child was sent to France to be educated at the French court, she was brought from the monastery of Inchmahome, in the Lake of Menteith, to the Castle of Dunbarton on the 28th day of February, 1547, and on the I7th of March embarked from it to the palace of St. Germans. As a royal-fortress-residence it was entrusted to the custody of the Fleming family for generations—from Sir Malcolm Fleming, time of the Bruces, to Lord James Fleming, time of Queen Mary.

I stood under its walls and listened to the sermons its stones have been preaching during the lapse of centuries:”One generation passeth away and another generation cometh, but the earth abideth forever.””Tell ye, your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.”In the article is the Fleming coat-of-arms and ensign with the motto: “Pax Capia Sapientia.” “Fleming A. D. 1066.”

[a final note on heraldry and the Fleming arms – There is almost no chance a person has any right to use the arms of early Flemings. They were passed from father to son in direct line until extinct. Sometimes they lasted but a generation. As marriages were made, or titles sold, arms were appended or changed until there were many variations on the family arms. It is a ridiculous affectation of modern family historians to claim these armorials as “theirs”. Sorry. No they are not yours. They are just an interesting historical footnote.]

pp406-409 of Butcher’s Genealogical and Personal History of the Upper Monongahela Valley West Virgina, Vol. 2

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13 Comments »

  1. I enjoyed this narrative very much. I just recently learned that I am a direct descendant of Janet Stewart wife of Malcolm Fleming. She was the illegitimate daughter of James iv by Agnes Stewart.

    I have read that that there was problems with Janet’s ( also known at Jane or JOan) because of consangunity, but havne’t found any futher info.

    Again I enjoyed the narrative. It’s info like this that makes genealogy interesting.

    Comment by Margaret Shaw | July 24, 2009 | Reply

    • I am also a descendant of William Fleming and Jane Frame. I have found something on the marriage of Janet Stewart and Malcolm Fleming. Too large to print here. Any suggestions?

      Comment by Kathleen Crane | December 23, 2010 | Reply

      • I’d love to see it by email or posted here. Or send it by email and I could format it properly to post here and give you full credit for finding it. Chuck

        Comment by Grandpockets | November 12, 2011

  2. This is all quite interesting…

    Comment by Virginia Fleming | November 20, 2009 | Reply

  3. my mom is a fleming. Her dads name is Roger Fleming of Ohio. I think eter his middle name or first is Hon

    Comment by Robert pittman | December 5, 2009 | Reply

  4. Great site.I’m seeking more info Gen.James Fleming and his descendents. My Grandmother’s oral history has us descended from him.Her father was Henry Fleming of West Point Virginia on the York River.She said they lived at Brickhouse, one of the earliest ports in America, incorporated 1670 or 80.We visited his monument in West Minster Abbey years ago.Thank you for any info.
    Keith Van Allen,Richmond VA

    Comment by Keith Van Allen | January 11, 2010 | Reply

  5. Enjoyed the read and invite all male and female Flemings
    to check out our FLEMING DNA PROJECTs (Y and MtDNA) at
    http://www.dna.ancestry.com search for Fleming

    We have over 190 members from around the world and are
    looking for more participants.

    Join the Fleming Y or Mtdna Project at dna.ancestry and
    then send for your kit using our discount code which
    is available on the site (for members)

    Comment by Janet Flemming | March 10, 2010 | Reply

    • I’ll look into this and may even join up for testing.

      Comment by Grandpockets | November 12, 2011 | Reply

  6. i would like to have as much information the fleming

    family and the bellew family. john bellew married amy

    daighter and coheir of john fleming. decendent of

    achibald flemying baron of salne in ireland.

    need as much information on this family as i can.

    thank you for your help

    paticia

    feeneypatricia@hotmail.com

    patriciaconry@hotmail.com

    Comment by patricia feeney | May 28, 2010 | Reply

  7. Are these relatives descendants of the Robert Big Jeff Flemings in the southern states, Pike County Kentucky? Thanks!

    Comment by Denise Oliver | April 12, 2011 | Reply

  8. Found this very intereszting my boys who areFrench on their father s side are very proud of their Scottish Irish heritage I am Mary Frances Fleming born in 1959 to John grandmother Katherine Berry my address e mail is maryfrancesf@gmail.com if I can be of any help thanks for doing the research workFleming and Frances Grady my grandfather George Flemingby the way I was born in Dunbarton

    Comment by Mary Frances Fleming | July 21, 2011 | Reply

  9. I enjoyed this narrative greatly; it’s informative and puts information together well. I was reading another Fleming article recently and it pointed out that some parents don’t talk about their ancestral families…such is my case, and it’s been an uphill struggle to trace same. My Fleming roots are maternal and this article helps to define some of the issues I questioned. I especially like the “final note on heraldry….”; I’m as guilty as many in this regard; it’s good to get a reality check. Thanks again. Patrick.

    Comment by patrick mckendrick | August 9, 2011 | Reply

    • Patrick,
      Thanks for your comments. As for the heraldry, really, I have copies of arms, too, I just be sure and point out they aren’t mine as such but they were earned by some descendant or cousin or other. Actually explaining it that way makes it even more interesting. One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing people ripped off by companies selling faked up arms or the idea that these arms belong to them.

      Comment by Grandpockets | November 12, 2011 | Reply


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