Franks – what’s in a name?

The Franks surname is of Norman origin, introduced into England after the Conquest of 1066. Recorded in the spellings of Frank and Franks and the unusual West Country dialectals Frunks and Fronks, it is a patronymic of the Norman given name “Franc”.

In origin this is an ethnic name for a “Frank”, a member of the Germanic people who inhabited the lands around the river Rhine in Roman times. In the 6th Century, under their leader Clovis 1, the Franks established a substantial empire in central Europe, which later formed the basis of the Holy Roman Empire.

Their most famous ruler was the Emperor Charlemagne (742 – 814). Their name is of uncertain ultimate etymology; it may be akin to a Germanic word meaning “javelin”, of which the Olde English pre 7th Century form is “franca”. Franco and Francus (without surname) are listed in the Domesday Book of 1086, and the surname is first recorded in the early 13th Century (see below). Walter le Franc is noted in the Curia Regis Rolls of Cumberland (1221).

On August 14th 1574, Joane Franks was christened at the Church of Harrow on the Hill, London, and George Franks married Esther Wilson on December 30th 1686 at the Church of St. James’, Duke’s Place, London. A Coat of Arms granted to the family is a green shield, on a gold saltire a red torteau, the Crest being on the trunk of a tree a hawk proper charged on the breast with a red torteau. The Motto “Sic vos non vobis” translates as “You are not born only for yourselves”.

The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ricardus Franc, which was dated 1201, in the “Curia Regis Rolls of Essex”, during the reign of King John, known as “Lackland”, 1199 – 1216. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax.

Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to “develop” often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

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