Recorded as Flatt, Fleote, Flott, Flatman, Flattman, and others, this is a very interesting English surname. It is not at all what it may seem. It is almost certainly occupational and originates from the East Anglian region known as the Fen Country, and specifically the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. The Fen Country is an area of marshes, lakes and rivers, which for many centuries was largely cut off from the main land, and which retained much longer than other places, traces of the Olde English life style dating back to Roman times and earlier. The name probably refers to the owner or captain of a 'fleot', although at least one nationally recognized etymologist has declared that it means a dweller on flat land. As the whole of East Anglia is flat, this seems rather illogical an explanation. 'Fleot' was a word of Germanic and later Anglo-Saxon 5th century origins, which whilst it literally translates as 'floating', in the context of its use in the Fen Country is more specific, and describes a flat bottomed boat or barge suitable for carrying cargo or ferrying in shallow waters. It is not clear when the term became a surname, but Henry Floteman is recorded in the tax register known as the 'Feet of Fines' for the county of Norfolk in 1551. This was during the reign of King Edward V1th, (1547 - 15554) known as 'The boy king', he died when he was only seventeen. Other recordings are those of George Flatt who married Mary Gagg at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on August 1st 1568 and Thomas Flatman of Suffolk in the tax register of the same year.
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