LAFLIN is an unusual name and many books on surnames omit it altogether. For example it does not appear in Richard McKinley's book on Suffolk surnames in the Middle Ages. He does not claim to give a complete list of all surnames, so the absence does not necessarily imply that they were not present in Suffolk at this time - however he does discuss those names which appeared most frequently in the written records. He also concluded that many surnames originated with a single family and this theory is consistent with the evidence for the LAFLIN family.

P. H. Reaney's "Dictionary of British Surnames" does contain entries for "Lafflin" and "Laffling" which were said to be an English pronunciation of "Laughlan". "Laughlan" in turn was said to be a variant of "Lachlan" which was a Gaelic name meaning "lake or fjord-land" and was used as personal name for immigrants from Scandinavia, usually Norway. A later dictionary by Patrick Hanks & Flavia Hodges agreed with this derivation, described the name as "Irish" and gave the meaning as "stranger - originally a byname applied to Viking settlers". They also stated that many Irish LACHLANs claimed descent from Lochlann a tenth-century lord of Corcomroe, County Clare.

All of this is fine for a family from Ireland, but our family was found in East Anglia, mainly in Suffolk and sometimes in Essex. The earliest record found so far was the Lay Subsidy Return of 1524, when Thomas Laughlyn was living in Boxford and paid 6/8d.

“The Means of Naming” by Stephen Wilson was consulted about the development of surnames. This said that in England, single names were still the custom in the eleventh century, but from the twelfth century onwards, the use of a second name became steadily more common and these later became surnames - passed from father to son and used to identify a complete family. Studying the tenants of Bury St Edmunds abbey, around 1100 “more than half” had a second name while by 1200, 70% had a second name. Elsewhere it was said that 45% of all men recorded in written sources in 1100 had second names, by 1200 this was 90% and by 1300 this had risen to 99%.

All this suggests that some time after 1200 and probably closer to 1400, the Laflins were given a surname in a Gaelic-speaking country (probably Ireland or Scotland) which implied that they had come from Scandinavia (probably Norway) (i.e. the name was Irish but the people were Norwegian.) After this, they moved to East Anglia and settled there, bringing their surname with them. By 1524, Thomas Laughlyn was living in Boxford and was wealthy enough to have to pay the Lay Subsidy. They may have been another example of a surname originating from a single family, in which case the "Symon Laughlyn" of the later sixteenth century was probably a son of Thomas and they were ancestors of all the later LAFLINs in Suffolk. The later history of this family may be found on the Laflin Family website.


"Norfolk & Suffolk Surnames in the Middle Ages". Richard McKinley. 1975.
"A Dictionary of British Surnames". P.H.Reaney. 1976.
"A Dictionary of Surnames". Patrick Hanks & Flavia Hodges.1989.
"The Means of Naming” Stephen Wilson. 1998 UCL Press ISBN 1-85728-245-0.

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Page maintained by Susan Laflin. Last updated in April 2009.