The spelling 

Is it "Farmar," or is it really "Farmer"?  The reason that most of the members of this family spell their name with “-ar” at the end is not known.  The earliest reference for Thomas F. Farmar in the current research is in the church records for his marriage to Grace Broadley in 1787.  The parish record for their marriage at Grace's home parish in Ringwould, Kent, shows the original signatures of the couple.  Thomas clearly wrote "Thomas Farmar."  His son Broadley Farmar also signed his name clearly with an -ar for his marriage to Hannah Bishop in Dover in 1815. 

A family monument in the churchyard of the Eythorne Baptist Chapel in Eythorne (near Dover) shows all members of Thomas and Grace's family with the '-ar'  spelling.  One of the names was originally carved with an “E”, but the character was altered in the stone to resemble an “A” with a diagonal line carved across the “E” from top left to bottom right. 

The fact that  “Farmer” carved in stone had to be corrected would confirm that the “-ar” is intentional, and not left over from the days when no one knew how to spell or cared about spelling standardization.  Note that the preference for “Farmar-with-an-a” is not as clear among members of the New Zealand family who are descended from Edward Farmer Eaton.  Edward’s middle name is often spelled Farmer in the records.  Edward (born in 1827) left England for New Zealand in 1852. 

Note also that the pronunciation of “Farmar” varies. Among the Farmar descendants in California in the twentieth century, some are using FAR-mar (emphasis on the first syllable) and others used far-MAR (emphasis on the second syllable). 

Name Origin

The origin of the surname Farmar is usually linked to the names Farmer, Fermer and Fermor in surname dictionaries.  The origins of the name go back to the Norman conquest.  The meaning of the name is a surprise for many – the “farmer” was a tax collector.  He farmed the people, not the land.


Ancestors of Thomas F. Farmar

My attempts to locate parents and relatives for a Thomas F. Farmar, born about 1763, in south-east England, have not yet been successful. Part of the difficulty in finding records for this family is that they were a non-conformist Baptist family. Many non-conformist groups did not maintain parish records with the same consistency as is found for the Church of England. 

One intriguing entry in the right geographical area is the burial of a John Farmer in the parish record of the Eythorne, Kent, Church of England parish on March 21, 1788.  The entry is clear (LDS 1866545), but no other references to John Farmer were found in records for the parish. Our Thomas Farmar was a resident of Eythorne at the time of his marriage to Grace Broadley.

My current favorite candidate for our Thomas is found in records from Woodchurch, a small parish about 35 miles west of Dover. "Thomas Farmer" was baptized in Woodchurch November 21, 1762, the son of William and Sarah Farmer. His parents, William Farmer and Sarah Wilds, were married at Woodchurch in 1749. A probable baptismal record for Sarah, in neighboring Orlestone parish in 1732, shows her name as Sarah Wiles, rather than Wilds.

The two important points that make this Thomas a promising candidate for our Farmar ancestor are the baptismal date and his mother’s name. A baptism in November 1762 (assuming that his birth was in the two or three months before his baptism), is a good match for the death date and lifespan for Thomas F. Farmar inscribed on the Eythorne churchyard monument. If Sarah Wiles (not Wilds) was indeed his mother, the name pattern would follow the custom in this family of using a grandmother’s surname as a middle name for a child or grandchild. The name Wiles was used as a middle name for one of Thomas F. Farmar’s grandsons.

The major problem with declaring the Woodchurch Thomas Farmer to be our Thomas is that he and his family lived nearly 35 miles from Eythorne, Ringwould, and Dover. No documents have been found that link the Woodchurch Thomas Farmer to the Eythorne Thomas Farmar. However, since no documents have yet been found for the Woodchurch Thomas as an adult anywhere else, there is still a possibility that he belongs on our Farmar family tree.