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Surnames and Origins

Family Surnames | Family Origins

Family Surnames

Although this is the "Falconberry-Falconbury" family web site, the members of this extended family have a wide array of surname spellings. In the early years of this country, many of our ancestors were not able to read or write so it was up to their clerical peers to determine how to record their names on the various documents that have survived to this day. From then until now our family members have had their surnames written as: Falconberry, Falconburg, Falconbury, Falkenberry, Faulkenberry, Faulkenborough, Faulkenburgh, Faulkinburgh, Fortenberry, Fortinbury and so many others. It is not unusual to find ancestors whose surnames were recorded with multiple variations in spelling.

Today, members of our extended family can be found all over the United States. Whenever you travel, look in a local telephone book and you may just happen to find someone who is a fifth or sixth cousin.

Family Origins

As varied as the spellings of our surname are, the theories about where we came from are just as varied. It is not clear exactly when our ancestors first crossed the Atlantic, or from where, but the theories are interesting to read. The one consistent thread throughout the theories is that our ancestors came to this great country over 300 years ago and, as will be seen, our forefathers were generally among the first wave of pioneers to push out into, and tame, the wild frontier.

My first exposure to the topic of our origins came from a newspaper clipping in a Casey County newspaper written around 1968 by Dr. Harold E. Ragle. The newspaper article is almost identical to his book The Falconburys of Casey County, Kentucky, in which Dr. Ragle offers this possibility:

Family tradition has it that they were of Scottish origin, but came to the Carolinas in America in the later part of the seventeenth century. I have failed to find the name in either the lists of Scottish or English surnames. It is a matter of interest that as early as the thirteenth century there was a Sept of the Keith clan in Kincardlineshire, Scotland, known as the Falconers due to their use of the Falcon in sport and hunting. The Anglo-Saxon word "Bury" means castle, town, or fortified place. The people living in and near the Falconer's stronghold were referred to as Falconburys.

Whether we are descended from these Falconburys is not confirmed but there is evidence that some Falconburys, whether part of our family or not, lived in Great Britain. Falconbury Ltd. is a publishing company located at 10-12 Rivington Street, London, England, and is named for the school building in which it is housed. In addition, there is a Falconbury Drive near the English coast. More detailed information about these two places can be found on the Miscellaneous page. Additionally, in the databases of the Latter Day Saints Church, are two records for James Falconbury. One record gives a birthdate of "about 1656 Dublin, Dublin, Ireland." The second record indicates his marriage to Ann Tadpole on July 17, 1682, also in Dublin. Is it possible that he, or a relative, came to America at the turn of that century? As Dr. Ragle states, he was unable to find any such names n the Scottish or English lists. Future research may turn up something more promising.

There are several sources that tell us about the man who may be our earliest ancestor in America: Henry Jacobs Falkinburg. The sources conflict regarding his origin but tradition has it that he was either from Denmark or Holland. He came to America in the mid-1600s, settling in the Swedish community around Swedesboro, New Jersey. He was a principal Indian trader along the Delaware River and became fluent in speaking the Indian language. His name appears on more Indian deeds in that area than anyone else and is spelled in a variety of ways such as Henricus Jacobse Falconbre, Henry Jacobs Falconbridge, Henricus Jacobse, Henry Jacobs Falkinburg and others. When the first English settlers arrived in New Jersey in 1677, Falkinburg served as an interpreter between the new arrivals and the Indians. In fact, he was so successful in his dealings that he was presented with 200 acres of land on the Rancocas River by grateful settlers in 1681 "in recognition of his public services as an Indian interpreter." Later, Henry moved to Little Egg Harbor, which became a Quaker community, and purchased 800 acres of land from Samuel Jennings in 1698.

Apparently, Henry was a widower but I do not have any information about his first wife or any children. Once he had settled into his home, which was a cave in Little Egg Harbor, he traveled back to Swedesboro to acquire a wife. His mission was successful and he returned home with his fiance. Her name is not known but it is conjectured that she was the daughter of Sinnick Broer, a Swede, who was the head of the Sinex and Sinnickson family line.

Records only indicate the birth of one child to this couple, Henry Jacobs Falkinburg, Junior, born somewhere between 1700 and 1702 in Tuckerton. He is thought to be the first white child born in Little Egg Harbor. Henry Jr. married Penelope Stout in 1731 and they had six recorded children: John, David, Jacob, Henry, Hannah and Mary. Eventually, all of the Falkinburg family left Little Egg Harbor except for one of John Falkinburg's sons, Samuel. It is believed that they moved on to Virginia and eventually settled in North Carolina along with descendants of the Sinnick family. This will be discussed later.

The earliest documented ancestors in our line are Henry Falconbury (born about 1700), his son Isaac Falconbury (born about 1725), and Isaac's son Jacob Falconbury, Sr. (born 1757). Although Henry Jacobs Falkinburg, Sr. son, Henry Jacobs Falkinburg, Jr., was also born about 1700, there is no record that Henry, Jr. had a son named Isaac. This leads me to conclude that Henry Jacobs Falkinburg, Jr is not our Henry Falconbury. However, it is possible that Henry Jacobs Falkinburg, Sr, had a descendent from his first marriage through whom we are connected.

The following story gives some circumstantial evidence that this could be a possibility.

In the 1770s, there was a legal dispute over some land that once belonged to Brewer Senix/Sinexer, who was apparently a descendant of the New Jersey Sinex family mentioned earlier. He received 134 acres of land on the Pee Dee River in Bladen County, North Carolina, in an area which later became Anson County, on April 4, 1750. In 1756, Henry Falkenborough sold the same amount of land of the same dimensions to Jacob Falkenborough and, a year later, Jacob sold the same area to Henry Falkenbury. Two years later, Henry Falkenburg, Senior, gave this land to his grandson, Henry Falkenburg, Junior, as a gift. In April, 1770, Henry and Jacob Falconberry requested a resurvey of the land that was granted to Brewer Sinexan. The next year, Samuel Spencer, the Anson County Court Clerk, petitioned North Carolina's governor about a caveat issued by Isaac Falconbury. He wrote that the Falconbury's had no legitimate claim to the land because Brewer Sinex died intestate and that his only survivor, a son, had since died. The end result is that the Falconberry's lost the land. What I found interesting is that it was Samuel Spencer who then became the owner of that land and some surrounding property as well.

The point to all this is that Henry Jacobs Falkinburg is thought to have married the daughter of Sinnick Broer. It also appears that members of the Falconbury, Senix and other families migrated through Virginia to the Carolinas together because many of the names of farmers in Virginia are nearly identical to those found in later documents from North Carolina. The fact that Henry, Isaac and Jacob Falconbury laid claim to the property of the deceased Brewer Senix indicates that they felt that they had a right to the property. Being related in some fashion to Brewer would certainly explain their occupation of and use of the land. The fact that they could not prove that relationship satisfactorily for the court is irrelevant. Because of this situation, it would appear that we are, indeed, related to Henry Jacobs Falkinburg. The $64,000 question is: exactly where or who is that connection?

The preceding information came from the following sources which contain more details you may be interested in reading:
 The Historic County of Burlington Little Egg Harbor was originally part of Burlington County. Falkinburg is discussed in the first few paragraphs.
 Little Egg Harbor Township History. Scroll down to the section "Henry Jacobs Falkinburg, Sr."
  Wilcox and Waughtel Genealogy. Click on "The Falkenberg Story".
 Criminger, Adrianne Fortenberry; The Fortenberry Families of Southern Mississippi; (Southern Historical Press, 1984), page 1.

Note: I have seen many references to The Fortenberry Families of Southern Mississippi and it is probably the best compiled source of information on our family's early history. It generally traces the Fortenberry family which migrated to Mississippi by way of Georgia and Alabama, but does a good job of exploring the roots of our family tree up through Jacob Falconbury, Senior and his move to Kentucky. I have attempted to purchase a copy of the book but it is out of print and all available copies have long since been sold; however, there are copies of this book available for research in two libraries that I know of:

1. I have used the copy located in the Genealogy section of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library in Huntsville, Alabama. The library's web site is http://www.hpl.lib.al.us/.

2. Lyman Reynolds informed me about a copy he found in the Allen County Public Library, Fred J. Reynolds Historical Genealogy Department in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The library's web site is http://www.acpl.lib.in.us/.

If anyone knows of copies in other libraries, please let me know and I will add those to this list. If you happen to have a personal copy that you would be willing to sell or know of one that is for sale, please let me know.

In addition to our possible Swedish heritage, the second page of The Fortenberry Families of Southern Mississippi also mentions a German family. Johan Felden Volkenburg, his wife and two children set sail with a group of fellow Germans from Saint Catherine's, England, in June, 1709. In a list made in 1710, a Johann Wilhelm Falckenburg is noted as having one child but no wife. On a 1712 list, the same name appears along with the notation that he has a wife and one child. If this is the same man, the authors wonder if his wife and a child died on the trip over or after arriving in the colonies. Apparently, Johann Falckenburg remained with his German travelers and eventually settled in Ulster County, New York. It is not likely that we are descended from this man.

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