Recorded in a number of spelling forms including Fleis, Fliesch, Fleischer, Fleischmann, Vle, Vlee, Van der Vlies, Van de Vlies, Vlies, Vlse, and others, this is a Dutch-Flemish-German surname but principally of German medieval origins. It derives either from the word "vlie" meaning fleece, and therefore referring to a sheep farmer or butcher, or from "fleisch" meaning flesh, another occupational name for a "fleischer" or butcher. The name can also be locational from a place called "Vlieland" in The Netherlands, which is believed to mean either the free lands or the sheep lands, or possibly both.Curiously the surname is an early recording in England, suggesting that the original nameholder was possibly a protestant Huguenot refugee. This recording is that of Nicholas Vlse, whose daughter Elizabeth was christened at the famous church of St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on October 1st 1647. Recordings taken from easrly continental records include Heinrich Fleyse, in the charters of the town of Cleeburg, state of Hess, Germany, in the year 1357, and Michael Fleischer, of Zittau, Germany, in 1380. Later examples include Cornelius Van Der Vlies of Rotterdam on October 31st 1690, and Arij Van de Vlies, of Vlaardingen, Zuid Holland, on September 30th 1714.
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