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About the study
Out of some thirty-three surname dictionaries, only one (Surnames of the United Kingdom by Harrison) was there any reference to our name. The name was equated to 'Farmelo', said to derive from an Old English name 'Farman' and the word 'low' meaning a hill or tumulus. Correct? Maybe, but not convincing.
What is the origin of the Farmiloe name? The tradition in the family is that our name originated in the county of Gloucestershire, England. The late Rev. Jimmy Farmiloe, who carried out much research into the family history, had a theory that our name originated from the village of Framilode which lies on the southern bank of the Severn estuary, south-west of the City of Gloucester. The name means the 'Frome crossing'; the river Frome flows into the Severn at this point. The Framilode Passage was until the 2nd World War a ferry across the Severn, a quarter mile below the outfall of the Frome.
The early records show that a family did indeed derive its name from this place. William of Framilode seems to have been in possession of a weir as tenant of the Abbey of Gloucester; it was the subject of a dispute with John of Fretherne in 1243. In 1261, Simon of Framilode disclaimed his right in the local fishery. In 1327, three 'Fremelodes' are listed for the county in the 'Lay Subsidy' tax. Simon de Fremelode was listed in the entry for the village of Saul (which included Framilode); he was assessed to pay 13 shillings and 1/4d (the tax was supposedly based on one-twentieth of the value of a person's moveable goods). William Framlode is recorded as having been a tenant of a property in the City of Gloucester in 1455.
The 'Gloucester connection' is at first glance borne out by the locality of the vast majority of baptisms recorded in the International Genealogical index (IGI) collated by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The English part of the IGI contains more than 56 million names, contributed by Church members and transcribed from parish records. The IGI contains around 100 baptisms or marriages for individuals with the Farmiloe name and its variants. It is striking that of these entries, four took place in Devon, one in London and one in 'England'. All the other events recorded took place in Gloucestershire. The towns of Minchinhampton and nearby Avening feature most in these records. The indication that our name originated in Gloucestershire seemed therefore very strong. Or was it?
In 1608, King James directed his Lord Lieutenant in Gloucestershire to list: 'The Names and Surnames of all the able and sufficient men in body fitt for his Ma'ties service in the warrs within the City of Gloucester and the Inshire of the same'. Numbers and letters were used to indicate the approximate ages of the men and their stature: '(p) sheweth the man to bee of the tallest stature fit to make a pykeman, (m)...of a middle stature fit to make a musketyer, (ca)... of a lower stature fitt to serve with a Calyver, (py)...sheweth the man to bee of the meanest stature either fit for a pyoner, or of little other use'. Not one single person with the Farmiloe name or variant was listed. Were they all draft dodgers or so unfit as not even to make the 'py' grade? It seems more likely that they simply were not around in Gloucestershire at this time. But if so, where were they? A closer analysis of the IGI entries showed that the earliest entries in fact took place at Exeter Cathedral, Devon. These were a series of three baptisms of the children of John ffarmeloe whose eldest daughter Margery was baptised in 1597. We have subsequently discovered that John ffarmeloe was a 'Vicar Choral' or singer in holy orders at the Cathedral. The house where he once had chambers still stands in the Cathedral Close.
Further research in Exeter revealed that a certain 'Farmelowe' (no first name given) was listed in the 1522 Military Survey under the 'Aliens' category as living in the Exeter Parish of St Stephen and whose place of birth was 'Picardy'. His occupation was servant to 'my Ladies Grace' (by which title Katherine Courtenay, the Countess of Devon, was generally known in the county at that time). Perhaps then the Farmiloes originated in Devon, and before that, Picardie in France. But there is another twist to the story. 'The Chronicles of Shortwood' written by a Gloucestershire non-conformist parson relates a tradition that the name derives from Flemish weavers who were encouraged to immigrate to England in the reign of Edward III in order to help establish the cloth making industry. Unfortunately, no source is given for this information. So the story has not yet found its beginning...
Distribution of the name
- IGI worldwide extractions
- UK General Register Office birth, marriages and deaths 1837-1900
- UK census 1841-1901
- Devon and Gloucestershire parish register extracts
- The Times archive extracts and other newspapers
- Armed Forces references
- Miscellaneous collections