The Frame Family: ‘Weavers from Flanders’

Amy Eberlin
Thursday 2 April 2015

This is a continuation of our series of postings that focus on Scottish families that may have Flemish roots. In this posting Julie Frame Falk explores the possibility of a Flemish origin for the Frame family.  She brings together a range of documentary evidence with the results of DNA analysis to develop a case for a Flemish origin for her family.


Research for the Frame/Freame/Fremault DNA Project is focused on the time of established surnames. In the past, there have been many disparate views as to the origins of both the Frame surname and the clan. Two of the traditions passed down are that the Frames were ‘weavers from Flanders’ and that they had ‘fled religious persecution’.  George Black (The Surnames of Scotland) made no attempt to define or classify Frame; instead, only listing several early individuals. [i]   As will be illustrated, the Scottish Fram/Frame, the English Freme/Freame/Frame and the French Fremault/Fremaux families share a surname etymology and similar family profiles.  Given their artisan skills, where they lived and who they associated with, a case can be made to support the tradition that the ancestors of these families were ‘Weavers from Flanders’ – whether Flemish or Walloon.

DNA Test Results

Since 2006, Y-DNA testing has been utilised along with traditional research in an attempt to gain more insight into the wider Frame clan.  What began as the Frame DNA Project in 2006 is now known as the Frame / Freame / Fremault DNA Project.  The Project website is Here.

As yet, no participants with French surname variants have joined the DNA project; however, DNA test results soon lent strong support to another family tradition – that ‘all Frames are related’.  Y-DNA proved that the majority of men in the Project, random testers from, or with ancestry traced to England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, all share a common progenitor. DNA evidence suggests that some of these lines may have branched apart 800 or more years ago.  This group is classified as being Haplogroup I1, subclade I-L803. The SNP mutation L803 that defines them has thus far only been found in lines stemming from the United Kingdom but that may change over time with future testing (see below).

Haplogroup I1 is the most common I subclade in northern Europe. It is found mostly in Scandinavia and Finland, where it typically represents over 35% of the male Y-chromosomes. Associated with the Norse ethnicity, I1 is found in all places invaded by ancient Germanic tribes and the Vikings. Other parts of Europe speaking Germanic languages come next in frequency. Germany, Austria, the Low Countries, England and the Scottish Lowlands all have between 10% and 20% of I1 lineages.

Surname Etymology

The word ‘fram’ is Proto-Germanic – a preposition (from, by, due to) and an adverb (forth, forward, away, further).  The word ‘frame’ is a noun and a verb.  ‘Fram’ was also used as a first name: Fræna / Fráni = Fram.  For example, Framland wapentake in Leicestershire was said to have its name derived from the Scandinavian personal name Fræna and lundr, meaning ‘Fræna’s grove’ – with variants of the name including Frandone, Franelun, Franelund, Franland, Franlund and Framelund.  Note that the letters ‘n’ and ‘m’ were interchangeable during those early times, presenting a further complication for those researching the Frame surname.  Clearly, some families might have their surnames derived from a patronym, toponym or various nicknames; however, due to research into the possible Continental ancestral homeland of the British Frame/Freame clan, and the Y-DNA haplogroup designation of the largest project group (I1), which provides a reasonable geographical correlation, the Project presently favours Förstemann’s findings:  framea – spear.

In The Teutonic Name-System Applied to the Family Names of France, England, & Germany,  [ii] Robert Ferguson writes that there are probably as many names taken from the weapons that warriors used than from all other sources put together. The details provided on the name Fram are shown below.

Tacitus tells us that the Germans were generally armed with a short spear, adapted either for close or distant fighting, and which was called in their language framea. From this word, apparently allied to the Modern German pfriem, Förstemann derives the following ancient names, which are mostly Frankish.

FRAM. Spear.


English:         FRAME, FREEM.

French:         FRÉMY, FREMEAUX, FROMMÉ, FORME…  [iii]

With the French pronunciation emphasising the first syllable and the second syllable falling away, it is not difficult to envisage a gradual transmutation from the French variant Fremeaux to the anglicised Frame, Freme etc.

Based on this etymology, a search was made for examples of these surname variants (or possible spelling deviations), in relevant locations on the Continent.  In Britain, the surname first appears in England, not Scotland, so a search was then made in English records for occurrences up to 1700. The surnames shown below either match, or are phonetically similar to, the French and English variants derived by Förstemann:

Continental Europe

Netherlands:   Fraam, Fraismet, Fram, Frame, Framey, Freem, Freeme, Frem, Frema, Fremau, Fremay, Fremaux, Fremeaux, Freem, Freeme,  Fremme, Fremi, Fremmi, Fremou, Freummau, Frima, Froem, Fromeau, Fromi, Fromie, Fromy, Froumi, Froumy, Fruhm, Frummau, Frumo.

Belgium:  Frahm, Frama, Frame, Freimaux, Fremau, Fremaux, Frémaux, Fremeaux, Frémiau, Fremi, Fremy, Friem, Fremie, Fremmy, Fromy, Froumy, Frumy.

France:  Frame, Fremault, Fremaux, Freme, Frème, Fremé, Frémé, Fremy.

England: up to 1700

ffram, Fraim, Fraime, Fram, Frame, Framm, Fream, Freame, Frem, Frema, Freham, Freeham, Freem, Freema, Freeme,  Freima,  Frieme, Fremau, Fremaux, Freme, Fremou, Fremow, Frewme, Freumau, Fremault, Fremaut, Frim, Frime, Fryam, Fryme, Frymhe, Froama, Froiam, Fromow, Froum, Froume, Frowme, Fryme. 

Migration to England

See a map of surname distribution in England up to c.1700: Here   [iv]

The Freme/Freame/Frame surname began to appear in England in the early 14th century during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). For instance, Walter Freme and Robert Freme were recorded at Wick and Nursteed in the Wiltshire Tax List of 1332. [v]

Edward III encouraged Flemish weavers–see below–to settle in England, promising that they would be amply supplied with wool and provided with ready markets for all the cloth they could manufacture.

The Flemish cloth-workers, as they came over, had special districts assigned to them, with special liberties and privileges. They were planted all over England,—in London, in Kent, in Somerset, in Norfolk, in Nottinghamshire, in Yorkshire, in Lancashire, and as far north as Kendal in Westmoreland…

Other Flemings planted themselves in the West of England, and in course of time their fulling-mills were busily at work along the streams of Wiltshire, Somerset, and South Gloucester, where the manufacture of cloth still continues to flourish. Bath and Bristol also shared in the prosperity which followed the introduction of this new branch of trade... [vi]

Frame/Freame/Freme families were found in almost all of those locations by 1700; however, the major expansion was in Gloucestershire, especially in the valleys around Stroud where there was easy access to high quality wool, abundant supplies of fuller’s earth and water of sufficient quantity to drive the mills. Nearby Bristol was an outlet for the finished product. Numerous small valley hamlets developed into towns serving the cloth industry.  Settlements such as Chalford, Nailsworth and Stroud developed from the later 14th century, spreading along the sides of the river valleys and clustering around the mills. In 1656, Thomas Freame, a cloth worker, had his fulling-mill at Nailsworth  [vii] and John (Jn.) Freame of Chalford was a clothier in 1662. [viii]  The number of Freame/Freme etc. families working in the textile industry in Stroud and Bisley are too numerous to detail in this article; however, a map of their distribution throughout Gloucestershire up to 1700 can be viewed:  Here.

By the 1881 census of England only about 25 individuals with apparent French variants remained. They were surnamed:  Fremaux, Frimma, Framey, Frumey and Frumie. This suggests that most of the early families with the French variants had either fully assimilated and their surnames had become anglicised; that they had left England; or, that most of their male lines had become extinct – a less likely scenario.

A fuller coverage of the migration to England can be found at:

Migration to Scotland

Immigrants from Flanders settled in Scotland between the 11th and 17th centuries. It is not until the late 15th century that we first notice the Fram/Frame surname in Scottish records and there were only two individuals mentioned in this period:  Chaplain Sir Adam Frame and James Frame.

Adam Frame is first noted as a witness to an Instrument in the Midlothian Protocol Book of James Young 1488/9. [ix]  Later, on 9 Jul 1495 he was mentioned in this abstract:

Notarial Instrument on the Proclamation of the Brieve of Chancery for the Service of Margaret Boyd, widow of Alexander Lord Forbes, at the market-cross of Lanark, by John Hamiltoun, serjeant in that part, citing the barons and lieutenants of the shire of Lanark to appear for that purpose in the court-house of Edinburgh, on Monday the 27th of July following.

…Acta erant hec ad prescriptum crucem foralem antedicti burgi, hora nona ante meridiem, vel eo circa, sub anno, die, mense, indictione et pontificatu quibus supra presentibus ibidem, providis et discretis  viris, videlicet Thoma Weir, Johanna Mowat, ballivis dicti burgi, Andrea Williamsone, Johanne Doby, Willelmo Pursell, Willelmo Dikesone, Roberto Pedecrw, Thoma Lumisdaill, Thoma Bannathyne, Johanne Madar, et domino Adam Frame, capellano, testibus ad premissa, vocatis, pariter et requisitis.  

Et ego Johannes Stephani presbiter Glasguensis, etc. (in communi forma).’ [x]

James Frame in Musselburgh was deceased by 13 June 1495. Musselburgh was another sea port town through which the Dutch and Flemish traded.  As shown below James Frame was noted in the Midlothian Protocol Book of James Young (1493-1497).

‘09. 13 Jun 1495. William Malis, indweller in Smethton, resigned in the hands of William Fausid, bailie of Mussilburgh, an annualrent of sixteen shillings from the land of the deceased James Frame, lying in the burgh of Mussilburgh, on the east side of the street called Neubiggin, between the lands of Simon Cass on the south and north, the common of Mussilburgh on the east and a common passage on the west…’

A distribution map showing Frame families present in Scotland by 1700 can be viewed:  Here

The census of 1881 clearly shows that Lanarkshire had become the British ‘hotspot’ for the Frame surname. [xi]  1,540 Frames were enumerated in Scotland with 1,184 of them in Lanarkshire. Similarly with Fram – there were 58 counted with 31 being in Lanarkshire.

Like their namesakes in England, many of the early Frames in Scotland are known to have had strong ties to the textile industry as merchants, burgesses and artisans including many weavers.  The places we find them had been settled by Flemings; however, no documentary evidence has been found to indicate that they were among the Flemish people who travelled up to Scotland in the train of David I.  Considering the date the Fram/Freame surname first appears in Scotland, perhaps the most plausible period for the earliest migration would be after 1424, during the reign of James I of Scotland (reigned 1406-1437), when he returned after having been held in England for 18 years by Henry IV and Henry V.  See below.

‘One possible exception may be noticed in this matter. James I. of Scotland spent his youth at the English Court, and returned to his own land imbued with English ideas. He may well have been struck with the results of the industrial policy of Edward III., and he gets credit for sending for craftsmen out of England, France, and Flanders, and planting them in Scotland …’  [xii]

When Scotland became a Protestant country in 1560 it was a haven for Calvinists /Reformists from the Continent.  Some early Frames in the Edinburgh environs are found in the Canongate, Linlithgow and Uphall and introduced first names such as Daniel, Michael and Harri – names not previously seen in early Scottish Frame families.  Some examples in this eastern cluster are William Frame (sp. Helen Fleming) who was a Burgess in Edinburgh in 1592; John Frame, son to John Frame was apprenticed to James Hutson, Hatmaker in 1593 and in 1618 was a Hatmaker, Burgess; Daniel Frame was a Burgess/Merchant in Edinburgh in 1642; Michael Frame was a Wobster (weaver) in 1625 and Joseph Frame was a Burgess in Linlithgow before 1623.

From various Scottish records in the mid-16th century including Wills/Testaments we begin to find Frames scattered throughout the Lowlands of Scotland, especially Lanarkshire. Some examples are Arthur Fram in Kilcadzow near Carluke, Lanarkshire (1551); Robert Frame (sp. Margaret Abercorne), Cardross, Dunbartonshire (1564); Andrew Frame, Blackburn, East Kilbride, Lanarkshire (1583); James Frame, Edelwood Chapel beside Hamilton, Lanarkshire (1587); William Frame, Merchant/Burgess in Edinburgh (1592); John Fram, Dalserf, Lanarkshire (1593).

Arthur Fram was mentioned in George Black’s Surnames of Scotland.  In 1551 he witnessed a document for John Maxwell, laird of Calderwood:

89. DUNLOP    21 September, 1551, 11 a.m.

John Maxuell, laird of Calderuod, and of the barony of Mauldslie appeared on the ground of his five pound lands of old extent of Kynkaidzowlaw, lying within the barony of Mauldislie, sheriffdom of Lanark, and upper ward of Clydisdaile, and there, for a sum of money paid to him by Andrew Dunlop, gave sasine of the said five pound lands to the said Andrew Dunlop and Christine Coittis, his spouse, conform to the tenor of a charter to that effect.

Witnesses: Sir James Flemyng, chaplain, Thomas Clerksoun, William Caidzow, James Symsoune, James Gillerissoun, Arthur Fram, tillers and inhabitants of the said lands.’  [Glasgow (Scotland) – Robert Renwick, ABSTRACTS OF PROTOCOLS OF THE TOWN CLERKS OF GLASGOW, p.32]

A John Frame in Kilcadzow who died 10 Jan 1606 was almost certainly a near relative.  John Frame left a testament dated 2 Jan 1606. The sum of his inventory was £536 and included quantities of unwaulked cloth and linen which suggests that he may have been a weaver or merchant.  Other artisan Frames in the Carluke environs were mentioned in Poll Tax records.  For instance, in 1695 there were two records for Walter Frame in ‘Wigetshaw’ (Waygateshaw), one a weaver and the other a coater – perhaps they were father and son.  We also find Frames in Scotland described as sheriff, provost, writer, farmer, shoemaker, stocking maker, wright, mason etc.

Larkhall in Dalserf parish was known as a weavers’ town; however, Larkhall did not develop as a town until about 1770. The Statistical Accounts of Scotland (1791-99) states that Larkhall had about 100 houses at that time, which were principally occupied by weavers; many new incomers to the area. The old established Dalserf Frame families, however, were known to have been involved in weaving almost 200 years before the expansion of the weaving industry in Larkhall. The evidence is in the 1610 Will of Jonet Hamilton, first wife of John Frame in Marlage:  ‘Item to James Fram, wobster [weaver] in corsolloch [Cornsilloch], £12, part thereof borrowed silver and part for work.’  [xiii]  It is clear from his 1622 Will that John Frame in Marlage was reasonably well-off for those times.  The sum of his inventory and the monies owed to him was £869 10s. After his debts were paid his three children received £762 17s 8d divided between them.  This John Frame had a brother James Frame who was a merchant in Dalserf.  There are numerous Wills/Testaments for Frames in the late 16th and 17th centuries but only four in the 18th century. Perhaps Frame family fortunes took a downward spiral during this period.  From the 19th century onwards, the volume is what one would expect given the number of Frames in census records.

Alexander McLeod notes in The Book of Old Darvel [Ayrshire] and Some of Its Famous Sons:

There is a tradition that both Dutch and Huguenot immigrants settled in the Irvine Valley, and this tradition is supported by such surnames as Gebbie, Scade, Frame and Howie.  A colony of Flemings also established themselves in the neighbouring town of Strathaven [in Lanarkshire], which is still called Flemington. [xiv]

The OPR records of the Frames in Strathaven and other parts of Avondale parish provide ample evidence of ‘Flemishness’ in their occupations:  John Frame and James Frame, weavers in Strathaven; John, James and William Frame, weavers in Threestanes;  Robert Frame, weaver in Brownmuir; John Frame, mason in Strathaven; James Frame, brewer in Strathaven, Robert Frame, merchant in Strathaven.  On 5 May 1684, James Frame, weaver in Strathaven was on a list of fugitives published by the Privy Council in Edinburgh, ‘Against rebels lately in arms in the West…They will be prosecuted and brought to punishment. All subjects are to aprehend them.’ S2567. [xv] Several other Frames have been identified as ‘Covenanters’.

Given the large genetic distances between some related Frame participants in the DNA project it is evident that their lines branched apart many centuries ago.  One of these ‘outlier’ lineages has ancestry traced to Durham, England in the late 16th century.   Their family tradition is that their Frames ‘came down from Berwick’ – a port that once saw wool from Scotland shipped directly to the markets of Flanders.  Another is from Lanarkshire where numerous Flemish families settled.


There is significant evidence to support the long-held tradition that the Frames in Scotland were descendants of ‘weavers from Flanders’, so too, those in England. Moreover, if genetic kinship between the English and Scottish Frame/Freame families and the Fremault/Fremaux families is ever confirmed by Y-DNA testing – a goal of the Project – then it would be a discovery of great importance.

Julie Frame Falk

April 2015

Julie Frame Falk is a Director of an Australian family company and the Lead Administrator of the Frame/Freame/Fremault DNA Project.  She has been interested in genealogy for decades and has authored and self-published six family history books. In 2006 she became a ‘genetic genealogist’ after testing the Y-DNA of her brother – the first Frame to participate in the Project.  Her goal was to discover more about the wider Frame family – who they were – what they were – and where they came from.


[i]  George Black, The Surnames of Scotland, 1946, p.278

[ii] Robert Ferguson, The Teutonic Name-System Applied to the Family Names of France, England, & Germany, 1864, p.161.

[iii] Ibid. p.215

[iv] These samples were collated from birth records at Family Search and other sources. It is not a complete set of records. The number of records per pin is in brackets following surnames.

[v] Wiltshire Record Society, edited by D.A. Crowley, The Wiltshire Tax List of 1332, 1989, pp.129-30

[vi]  Samuel Smiles, The Huguenots, their Settlements, Churches and Industries in England and Ireland, 1869, pp.5-9

[vii]  ‘Nailsworth: Economic history’, A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11: Bisley and Longtree Hundreds (1976), pp. 211-215]

[viii] Gloucestershire Archives, Reference: D444/T56

[ix] Midlothian Protocol Book of James Young, 1485-1489; 1584-1515 Vol.2

[x] Archæological and Historical Collections Relating to Ayrshire & Galloway, Volume 3, 1882 – Architecture, pp.146-147

[xi] Archer Software, British 19th Century Surname Atlas.

[xii] W. Cunningham, Alien Immigrants to England, 1867, pp. 129-131

[xiii] National Records of Scotland ref. CC10/5/2

[xiv] The Book of Old Darvel and Some of its Famous Sons, edited by Alexander G. McLeod, 1953

[xv] Crawford.bib Ryl Tudor V2, pp.400-1

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