Exploring the Relationships Among Some Key Flemish Families

Amy Eberlin
Friday 21 November 2014

As noted in earlier blog postings, it is not just people carrying the name Fleming that have Flemish origins in Scotland. There are a number of other families that are believed to have such origins. In this posting, James B. Sutherland and J. Mark Sutherland-Fisher examine an important set of families thought to have Flemish roots, specifically the Douglas, Sutherland, Murray, Innes, and Brodie families. The text below examines the relationship among these key families as well as to other families that have taken the name Fleming.

Some Key Families and their Relationships

The Armorial bearings of Flemish families in Clydesdale, West Lothian, and Moray show a family relationship among the families of Baldwin of Biggar, Sutherland, Douglas, Murray, Innes, and Brodie. These families have had a significant impact on Scotland’s history and so it is important to explore the linkages between them.

Professor Duncan in his book Scotland: The Making of the Kingdom spoke of the “remarkable Flemish Settlement in the Upper ward of Lanarkshire.”[1] He considered the Fleming Baldwin of Biggar (Baldwin Flamingus), Sheriff of Lanarkshire, to be the leader of this group, which also included his step-son John of Crawford, his vassal Hugh of Pettinain, also Lambin the Fleming, and his brother Robert the Fleming.[2] The group also included Flemings named Simon Locard, Tancred, and Wice (or Wizo).

In 1130 Freskyn de Moravia, who held land at Strathbrock in West Lothian, was given the task of securing the turbulent area of Moray by King David I of Scotland.[3] He moved up the east coast and eventually settled at Duffus in Moray, where he built a substantial motte and bailey castle.[4]

His son William was confirmed in lands in Strathbrock and Duffus. William had three sons, the first son, Hugh de Moravia, became Lord of Sutherland in about 1211,and in turn his son William became 1st Earl of Sutherland by about 1235.[5] The second son, William De Moravia, became Chief of the Murrays and Lord of Petty in Moray, and through an Oliphant heiress became Lord of Bothwell in Clydesdale before 1253.[6] Sir Walter Murray, 1st Lord of Bothwell, was co-Regent of Scotland in 1255. The third son, Andrew de Moravia, became Parson of Duffus.

Berowald the Fleming, head of the Innes family, who was in Bo’ness (Berowalds-toun-ness) West Lothian, not far from Freskyn’s original lands, was also later involved in putting down rebellions in Moray.[7] Professor Duncan also indicates the distribution of forfeited lands in the Laigh of Moray among these families. Thus far, the available evidence is strongly suggestive of a Flemish settlement in the area running along the south shore of the Moray Firth.[8]

Freskyn was a witness to charters giving Berowald the lands of Innes and Nether Urquhart by King Malcolm IV. Freskyn’s sister, daughter, or niece married William de Duglis of Douglasdale, and her son Archibald married a daughter of John of Crawford who was linked to Baldwin of Biggar. Of her other sons, Bricius de Douglas became Bishop of Moray 1203; Alexander, Henry and Hugh de Douglas all became Canons of Spynie in Moray. Freskyn de Douglas, Parson of Douglas Parish, was later appointed Dean of Moray.[9] The sons of both families acted as witnesses to a number of land charters in favour of the other. Professor Duncan, when discussing the de Moravia family, suggests that their early history requires further study for there can be no doubt that they were closely related to a Clydesdale-Flemish family which by 1200 had taken the name Douglas from its lands.[10]

DNA Testing

Within the Douglas DNA Project, there is a group known as Douglas 2a. Currently there are four men within this group who have a paper trail of descent from William de Duglis (1174-1213) and the early Douglas chiefs among the Earls of Morton.

Freskyn de Moravia is considered founder of both the Sutherland and Murray families, with Ollec identified as Freskyn’s father by the late Sir Ian Moncrieffe.[11] William de Duglis is identified as founder of the Douglas family with Theobald the Fleming named as his father by Platts.

Within the Sutherland DNA Project, a group of fifteen men (20% of the entire project and by far the largest group) have shown a link establishing that they share a common ancestor no further back than around 20-24 generations, but in some cases as recently as 8-12 generations. Within the group at least one member has a clear paper trail line of descent from Freskyn de Moravia. Work continues on placing the others on the extended family of the Dukes, Earls, Lairds and Chiefs of Clan Sutherland. They almost all currently trace their earliest ancestry to one Parish in Caithness and/or one Parish in Moray overwhelmingly dominated by the Forse and Duffus lines of the De Moravia family of Sutherland.[12] This group is known as Sutherland 0.3 The Moray Firth Group.

Alexandrina Murray, who runs the Clan Murray project, compared the Sutherland 0.3 Moray Firth group and the Douglas 2a group and found that they are an almost statistically perfect match. Over a range of 67 markers there is only one mutation. This result of 67/1 establishes that the Sutherland 0.3 Moray Firth group and the Douglas 2a group share a single male common ancestor.

Beryll Platts has suggested that the armorial bearings of these Scottish families already indicated a link back to the Counts of Boulogne, well known to be Flemish in origin.[13] Freskyn and others were believed to be related through the female line to Eustace II, Count of Boulogne, who led the right wing of the Norman army at the Battle of Hastings. He was also brother-in-law to Edward the Confessor, whose death without issue sparked the succession crisis leading to the Norman invasion of 1066. His son Eustace III married Princess Mary, daughter of Malcolm III Canmore and Margaret Atheling (great-niece of Edward the Confessor). This made Eustace III brother-in-law of David I. We know that David encouraged a number of young men to accompany him on his return to Scotland and the group would inevitably have included young male cousins of his brother-in-law Eustace III, attracted by the offer of land and power.

During the course of the intervening 900 years since the arrival of the De Moravia family on the southern shores of the Moray Firth, and of the De Duglis family in Lanarkshire, some 25-30 generations have passed. Using the Tip Reports for James Brown Sutherland in Scotland one of the Sutherland 0.3 Moray Firth group, the common ancestor is around 900 years ago. Both groups share the SNP P-312 and Haplogroup R1b1a2a1a1b pointing to possible Flemish origins.

There is no evidence of a link among the various Douglas, Murray and Sutherland families in the male line since the time of Freskyn De Moravia. Given that both the Sutherland group and the Douglas group come from a number of different families for at least 350 years, the chances of a male Sutherland fathering a variety of sons who took the name Douglas without it being recorded somewhere, or vice versa, is so small as to be negligible. Marriages inevitably have taken place involving female descendants but those marriages would have no impact on the yDNA trail.

The only likely conclusion is that the Sutherland 0.3 Moray Firth group represent the yDNA of Freskyn de Moravia and the Douglas 2a group represent the yDNA of William de Duglis, both alive in the 12th century, and that they themselves shared a paternal grandfather or great grandfather whose wife or mother was a member of the House of Boulogne.[14]

Within the Sutherland Family, the last Earl in the male line was the 9th Earl of Sutherland. The title then passed, not without dispute, to his sister Elizabeth and her Gordon cousin and husband from whom the line of Earls descended.[15] In the late 18th century the title then passed, once more not without dispute, to the infant Elizabeth, and on her marriage the line passed into the English Leveson-Gower family, where the ducal title remains. On the succession and subsequent marriage of the current Countess Elizabeth, the title passed into the Janson family, but by convention the current Countess and her immediate heirs have assumed the surname Sutherland.

The De Moravia male lines of descent from Freskyn continue to the present day through the cadet branches of the family founded by younger and illegitimate sons of the first 8 Earls. The Sutherland of Duffus line descends from the younger son of the 4th Earl. The Sutherland of Forse line descends from the younger son of the 5th Earl. The Sutherland of Kilpheddar line descends from a younger son of the 8th Earl. Further as yet unidentified lines may descend from the 6th and 7th Earls. Mark Sutherland-Fisher, Genealogist of Clan Sutherland, has for many years been researching the family of the Earls, Dukes, Lairds and Chiefs of Clan Sutherland. Much of his research has involved updating the work of the Clan Historian Emeritus Daniel J. J. Sutherland, who compiled the most comprehensive family tree some 30 years ago.[16] He has received considerable assistance from Malcolm Sutherland, author of A Fighting Clan and authority on Sutherland men bearing military commissions.[17]

It must be remembered that the lineage and lines of descent from Freskyn of Moravia are among the most studied and argued upon in Scotland. In the Sutherland Peerage Case 1771, the House of Lords, and those genealogists and historians appointed by them and by Counsel for the 3 parties contesting the Scottish Honours of Sutherland, examined in the most minute detail the land charters, titles and records of the Sutherland family.

The heraldic tree shown below displays, in schematic form, the relationships between the various families of Flemish origin examined above.

Sutherland Heraldic Tree


Notable Flemish Men and their Places of Settlement

If one looks at the Flemish in Pembrokeshire in Wales, they seem to have been deliberately planted there to form a buffer between Anglo-Norman invaders and the native Welsh. In Moray, Clydesdale and West Lothian, meanwhile, they were welcomed as new settlers without traditional ties to the region, to break old alliances of the native population or earlier rulers.  The men discussed below played significant roles in their respective families and they settled in various parts of Scotland.

Theobaldo Flamatico, probable father of William de Dugliss who held land in Douglasdale in 1174, was founder of Clan Douglas. There was a family of the Theobalds who were hereditary castellans of Ypres between 1060 and 1127. Sir Robert Douglas states categorically that Theobold’s son, William, married a sister of Friskin de Kerdale or Freskin of Moray. His heir Archenbald married a daughter of Sir John Crawford; the remaining sons went to Moray to support their uncle there.

Ollec, a Flemish Knight, held land in Pembrokeshire in Wales. Moncrieffe said in his book Highland Clans that Ollec was the father of Freskyn, founder of Clan Sutherland.[18] Freskyn had estates at Strathbrock in West Lothian and Duffus in Moray. His ultimate descendants are the Earls of Sutherland and the Murray Dukes of Atholl. See box below.

Freskyn de Moravia

There is much interest in the Sutherland Clan in its founder — Freskyn de Moravia – and the tracing of his history through old charters, heraldry, and documentation. The key books that address Freskyn’s life are authored by Barrow, Black, Duncan, Lawrie, Ritchie, and Moncrieffe, and are referenced at the end of this posting.[19] This literature suggests that there is a connection between certain Flemings in Wales and Scotland. An important question for research has been to verify that Freskyn’s father was Fresechinus Fillius Ollec, as suggested by Moncrieff.

Before exploring this issue, it is important to understand the links between the known Flemings in Clydesdale, brought there by Baldwin of Biggar, and the Sutherland, Murray, and Douglas families. What became clear was that two of the Flemings that came with Baldwin — Witso (or Witzo) and Tancred — were known to have settled in Pembroke in Wales and built castles there after 1105 in the time of King Henry I of England (1100-1135 that was), son of William the Conqueror.

Witso gave his name to the village of Wiston in Wales, five miles north-east of Haverfordwest, as well as to Wiston near Biggar in Clydesdale where, during the reign of King Malcolm IV of Scotland, he gave the Manor of his church and its two independent chapels to Kelso Abbey. Tancred (or Thancred) also built a castle at Haverfordwest soon after 1108 and gave his name to Tancredston in Wales as well as Thankerton near Biggar in Scotland, also in King Malcolm’s reign.

A study of the English Pipe Rolls corroborates a link between the Flemings. Pipe Rolls, sometimes called the Great Rolls, are a collection of financial records maintained by the English Exchequer or Treasury. The earliest of these Pipe Rolls date from the 12th century and they record not only payments made to the government but debts owed to the crown and disbursements made by royal officials. A review of Pipe Roll 31 for Henry I (page 136) revealed information on Witso. In searching for Witso, who was confirmed as Witsonis Flandrensis, a reference to Fresechinus Fillius Ollec was found on the same page. The translated text also has reference to Fresechin, son of Ollec rendering a debt of 20s for a false claim. This provides final documented proof that Ollec is Freskyn’s father and that they were settled in Pembroke in Wales before Freskyn moved to Strathbock in West Lothian with King David I of Scotland and then on to Duffus in Moray by 1130, where he was involved in putting down an insurrection.

It is possible that Ollec may have come with Eustace II of Boulogne and the Fleming contingent of the Conqueror’s army at the Battle of Hastings 1066 and then later moved to Wales, and that Fresechinus Fillius Ollec was living in Pembroke with other Flemings, specifically Witso and Tancred.

Baldwin Flamingus of Biggar, reportedly the younger son of Stephen Flandrensis of Bratton, Devonshire, was regarded as one of the most distinguished of the militant Flemings expelled by Henry II. His stepson was founder of the Crawford Clan at Crawfordjohn. Johns father was Reginald, a younger son of Alan of Brittany, Earl of Richmond. Reginald died young and his widow married Baldwin of Biggar. The first record of Baldwin was as witness to a charter dated 1154 by Bishop Robert of St Andrews. He was given the onerous Sheriffdom of Lanarkshire in 1162 by King David I and kept that office under Malcolm IV and William the Lion. Balwin’s son Waldeve was captured at Alnwick in 1174.

William de Moravia, son of William, son of Freskin, was founder of Clan Murray. Thereafter the chiefs of the Murrays became Lords of Petty and Lords of Bothwell. The Lords of Petty were also great soldiers, and their descendants assisted Sir William Wallace so they were great patriots of Scotland. Sir Andrew Murray, 4th Lord of Bothwell was killed in 1333 along with his kinsman Kenneth, 4th Earl of Sutherland against English invaders at Halidon Hill. The Lordship ended up with the 3rd Earl of Douglas.

Berowaldo Flandrensis, founder of Clan Innes, came from Bo’ness in West Lothian and was given lands in Moray at Innes and Easter Urquhart by Malcolm IV at Perth in 1154. The award was in recognition of his good services in putting down rebellious natives of Moray and one of the charter witnesses was Freskyn. Bo’ness was no more than eight miles from Freskyn’s West Lothian holding at Stratbrock, and Innes is rather less from his fortress at Duffus. The existence of Berewald is confirmed by a charter to his grandson Walter de Ineys, granted in 1226: “Alexander Dei gratia Rex Scotorum, etc. sciant non concession et hae charto confirmasse Waltero filio Johannis filii Berowaldo Flandrensis Inees.” (Innes Familie, Page 53)

The Brodie arms are similar to Innes. It has been suggested by Platts that there is a link to the modern dutch word broeder (brother) or and that the first Brodie was a vital link in Freskin’s military watch over the waters of the Moray firth.[20] This cannot be proved, as Lord Lewis Gordon burnt all the old records and charters in an attack on their castle in 1645. However, in George F. Black’s The Surnames of Scotland, we find Michael de Brothie had a charter from King Robert I in 1311 of the lands of Brodie as his father’s heir.[21] Thomas de Brothy was a juror at a court in Inverness 1376-7 (Family of Innes) and John de Brothy appears in 1380 as witness in a matter between the Bishop of Moray and Alexander Stewart Lord of Badenoch.[22]

Other Flemings who appeared in Clydesdale settled within ten miles of each other. The person responsible for bringing them into this area was probably Baldwin of Biggar. His descendants later married into the Fleming family.

  • Wice (or Wizo) left his name in Wiston in Wales, five miles northeast of Haverfordwest, and in Clydesdale, Scotland. During the reign of Malcolm IV he gave the church of his manor and its two independent chapels to Kelso Abbey.[23]
  • Tancred or Thancred built a Castle at Haverfordwest soon after 1108 and left his name at Tancredston in Wales, and also at Thankerton in Scotland. He came there in Malcolm IV’s reign.
  • Lambin the Fleming held Lamington as an estate from the crown.[24]
  • Hugh of Pettinain was a vassal of Baldwin of Biggar of Boghall Castle.
  • Robert the Fleming of Roberton was the brother of Lambin
  • Simon Loccard at Symington accompanied Douglas to Spain with Bruce’s Heart.[25]

November 2014
J. Mark Sutherland-Fisher and James B. Sutherland

J. Mark Sutherland-Fisher is a Company Director and Clan Sutherland Genealogist. He is also a project member of the Sutherland DNA Project and is engaged in upgrading and revising the original Genealogy of Clan Sutherland. James B. Sutherland is a retired Company Director and local family genealogist. He is a project member Sutherland DNA Project and has compiled articles, both historical and genealogical, for the Clan Sutherland Magazine.    

The authors have also furnished comments on the summary of the Workshop that took place in June 2014.  These comments can be seen by clicking on the comments section of the blog posting titled Scotland and the Flemish People Project Workshop and posted on July 3, 2004.



[1] A. A. M. Duncan, Scotland: The Making of the Kingdom (1975), pp. 137, 138, 189.

[2] W. Hunter, Biggar and the House of Fleming (1867), ch. XXII, p. 465; Richard Oram, Domination and Lordship: Scotland 1070-1230 (2011), pp. 316,318,319.

[3] J. D. Mackie, A History of Scotland (2nd ed., 1978), p. 42; Alasdair Ross, The Kings of Alba, c.1000-c.1130 (2011), p. 143.

[4] Richard Oram, Domination and Lordship: Scotland 1070-1230 (2011) pp. 316, 318, 319.

[5] Sir Ian Moncrieffe & Hicks The Highland Clans (1967), pp 176, 222.

[6] George Bain, The Lordship of Petty Nairnshire Telegraph Office (1925), p. 13.

[7] Beryl Platts,Scottish Hazard: The Flemish Nobility in Scotland (1985), vol. 1, pp. 165, 170.

[8] A. A. M. Duncan, Scotland: The Making of the Kingdom (1975), pp. 137, 138, 189.

[9] Richard Oram, Domination and Lordship: Scotland 1070-1230 (2011), pp. 316, 318, 319.

[10] A. A. M. Duncan, Scotland: The Making of the Kingdom (1975), pp. 137, 138, 189.

[11] Sir Ian Moncrieffe & Hicks The Highland Clans (1967), pp 176, 222.

[12] Daniel J. J. Sutherland, A Short History of Clan Sutherland; The Families of Sutherland of Forse and Duffus, 12th-19th Century (Private Copy).

[13] Beryl Platts, Scottish Hazard: The Flemish Nobility in Scotland (1985), vol. 1, pp. 165, 170.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Malcolm Sutherland, A Fighting Clan: Sutherland Officers 1250-1850, (1996).

[16] James T. Calder, History of Caithness from the Tenth Century (1973), p. 113.

[17] George F. Black The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning, and History (1974), p. 621.

[18] Sir Ian Moncrieffe & Hicks The Highland Clans (1967), pp 176, 222.

[19] Professor G. W. S. Barrow, The Kingdom of the Scots (2nd ed., Edinburgh, 2003); George F Black The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning, and History (1974), p. 621; A. A. M. Duncan, Scotland: The Making of the Kingdom (1975), pp. 137,138,189; Sir. Archibald C. Lawrie, Early Scottish Charters Prior to AD 1153 (Glasgow, 1905); R. L. Graeme Ritchie, The Normans in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1954); Sir Ian Moncrieffe & Hicks The Highland Clans (1967), pp. 176, 222.

[20] Daniel J. J. Sutherland, A Short History of Clan Sutherland; The Families of Sutherland of Forse and Duffus, 12th-19th> Century (Private copy); George F. Black, The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning, and History (1974), p. 621.

[21] George F. Black, The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning, and History (1974), p. 621.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Lauran Toorians, Flemish Settlements in Twelfth-Century Scotland, with added appendix Handlist of Flemings in Scotland in the twelfth and thirteenth century (copy of conference paper, 1992), pp. 683, 689, 691.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.