Origins of the Stokes
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Meaning of the name
Although there are often many reasons for using the name Stokes, the most common reason is to describe someone who lives near a monastery or out-lying farm, as opposed to the commonly held view that it was someone who "stoked" fires! Surnames were not in great use in England until the end of the 13th century. Coincidentally a large Monastery was built in Edington in 1351 by William of Edington, so its unlikely the naming of the Stokes came before then. This does seem to indicate that Stokes have lived in Edington from at least the middle of the thirteen hundreds. Alternatively there another possible choice. A village called Erlestoke exists, not more than 4 miles from Edington. The village was believed to have been named after Erle of Stoke. As spelling is effectively not existent until Caxton, this indicates a Stokes existing around the time of the creation of Erlestoke. This must be after 1086, as there is no mention of it in the Domesday Book. If Stokes did come from Erlestoke, why had there been such a dramatic change of fortune, that by the 1600s, there were merely peasant far
According to 'Hall of Names', Stokes is one of the oldest Norman surnames, possibly also coming from the Battle of Hastings. The earliest known records of Stokes is in Pembrokeshire, where they had been seated since early times. They were descended from Peter de Stock who came from Caen in Normandy round about 1180. This family was attracted to Pembroke in the wake of Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke's invasion of Ireland, and soon after moved to Ireland in about 1220 where they were granted lands. They also branched out in England into Tetherton In Wiltshire, and also Watersend in Kent, Cambridge, Devon, and Gloucestershire.
The Normans are actually of Viking and not French origin. They besieged Paris in 910, until King Charles the 'Simple' granted all of northern France to Tirfinn Rollo became the first Duke of Normandy, the territory of the North Men. Rollo married Charles' daughter and was converted to Christianity. Duke William who attacked Hastings in 1066, was directly related to Rollo, who in turn was related to the Vikings who first attacked Scotland in 870 under Stirgud the Stout.
The original spelling of Stokes
seems to have been Stoakes. Up until the 1700 and 1800s the
Stokes were generally illiterate so the naming when written down
came from the Vicars imagination. As you will see if the family
tree the shift from Stoakes to Stokes actually came surprisingly
between brother and sister, rather than father and son!.
So where did they come from?
There is no real written evidence before the late 1500s, when written parish records were demanded for by Elizabeth I. Even then various scams prevented from full yearly records being made. Some years such as 1597 were quite thorough in Edington. As the Stokes were in Edington in the 1500s, we must assume this is where they settled when they first came to England. The Norman Conquest of 1066 did not lead to a massive influx of Normans (who themselves came originally from Danish descent). Stokes does not sound very much like a French name, or does it?
There is a small chance because the Edington Monastery mentioned above was built on the site of a late Norman church. However the Stokes have never been anything else other than working class (you can judge for yourself on present company), so unless they were brought over as servants with the Normans, they are not of French origin. Being only peasantry, Stokes would not have had a surname in the 10th century (the French surnames didnt generally evolve till the end of the 13th century), so all because Stokes does not sound French, it does not guarantee the Stokes are not of Norman origin, because a they would not have had a surname in 1066. The usual career of Stokes' from all the information gathered usually seems to be agriculture related. This being true, tailored with the fact that vocation was nearly always passed on from father to son, it hardly seems likely that the French would have brought along their own farmers.
Scandinavian and Viking
infiltration of Wessex (where Edington resides) was not great
either, and when they did settle, they were quickly driven out.
This leads us back to the Anglo-Saxons. These people are the
predominant clansman of Wessex. Before then the true "Britons"
were driven out with the introduction of the Anglo-Saxons. Based
on the evidence about the Stokes of Edington, I think we
should go with the percentages and say they are of Anglo-Saxon
descent. Its worth remembering with so much racist talk in
society today that very few people in England can truly claim to
be English. Modern day Wales contains more true Britons than
How did the Anglo-Saxons get over here?
According to the Venerable Bede,
the first batch of Germanic settlers in England were hired as
mercenaries by the British Prince Vortigern during his fifth-century
struggle for power with the British Celts. This had occurred
because of the Roman exodus from Britain due to the collapse of
the Roman Empire. The Germanic warriors then fell out with their
lord and masters and seized territory for themselves in Southern
England. Soon they were bringing their families across the
channel to settle. Infiltration first started along the rivers of
south-east England, before they progressed to the fens, and
throughout southern England. There is an irony in that Alfred and
the legendary Arthur were great British heroes, when in fact
Arthur exploits were actually against the invading Anglo-Saxons.
Had Arthur ultimately succeeded then the Stokes clan would not be
in England today.
Where did they come from?
Bede thought the settlers came from
Anglian and Saxon regions of Europe, which today take up Holland,
Southern Denmark, and Western Germany. They brought with them
their own lore, with Old style English not being used until the
introduction of Christianity and the manuscript skills from both
Rome and Ireland. Latin predominately came in with Christianity,
and the Anglo-Saxons soon proved their adeptness for academic and
scientific work. Constant Viking raids though would often wipe
out large information resources which they had built, meaning
they would have to be start up all over again.
Anglo Saxon Territory
Origin of the Angles
Origin of the Saxons
End of the Anglo-Saxon Dynasty
In the same way the Anglo-Saxons
took power illegally, they became victims of the same fate when
the Normans conquered England in 1066, with the death of King
Harold at the battle of Hastings. The Normans had been promised
the English Crown, by Harold's predecessor but thats another matter altogether. The
Normans themselves had come originally from Denmark, but had
settled on the French coast and adopted the French way of life.
Brave Anglo-Saxon axe man could not match Norman tactics and
skill, and the rest is history. Much of the Germanic language
remained in the lower classes, and indeed most Anglo-Saxon
culture remains even today, including many of its laws. The
new Norman way of life primarily only affected the upper and
ruling classes. In some cases both cultures have remained side by
side. An Anglo-Saxon would say Cow and Pig, while a Norman would say Beef and
And before then?
Going back to the birth of Christ
the area of Saxones existing in what developed into the Jutes,
Angles, and Saxons. Although the Roman Empire dominated
everything to the South and East Saxones was never overrun. Going
back even further the area of Saxones was actually linked
physically to what is modern day Britain. This was the era of the
Stone age, some eight or nine thousand years before the modern
era (circa 8500BC), where Upper Palaeolithic cultures existed.
Where can the Stokes' be found today, and how many of them are there?
United States of America........57,700
Total estimated today..........110,000
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