Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Calendar of Patent Rolls and Blake entries between 1216 and 1452

Source: Calendar of Patent Rolls  (

I decided to extract most of the Blake entries from the Calendar of Patent Rolls as I found the printed copy online at the above website. Initially I extracted just because it was quite interesting beginning in 1230 with the reign of Henry III (the rolls begin in 1216). Places are often associated with the Blake surname. The entries are from many many different areas of England (but seldom Wiltshire as it turns out more likely along the coast or in East Anglia or in Lincoln, Hertford, Norfolk). I am beginning to look at Blake differently. It is a gradual change in perspective. The choosing of the name "Blake" has always fascinated me. Just why would you choose that name? The surname Blake appears in many of the earliest documents held at the National Archives of the United Kingdom but not before 1230 it would appear. I have searched on Blak, Blacke, Blague and Blake. In 1230 I am finding that the surname is prefixed with a "le" hence "le Blake."

This afternoon I chanced to be at the City of Ottawa Archives and decided to look through the BIFHSGO Library (shelf reading). An interesting couple of books caught my eye and I spent a couple of hours reading from various books. One in particular may be interesting to this Blake discussion. It is a surname book that I have not encountered before: The Origin of English Surnames by P.H. Reaney published by Routledge and Kegal Paul, London: 1967. Blake is included under Nicknames from physical characteristics. Now this has been the thought about Blake for a considerable time but a slightly different thought where he attributed colour-names as referring in particular to complexion or hair colour. "Blache and Blach are palatal forms of OE blac which in ME occurs both as blacke and blake (now Black, Blake) the latter name being indistinguishable from ME blake from OE blac and meaning bright, shining, pale, wan" and this is similar to the meaning of the French word Blanck, Blank or blanc which means white or fair as opposed to the use of neir as black in Ancient French or in modern French noir. Interesting especially given the thoughts that I2a2b crossed the channel from the Normandy area and some believe at the time of the 1066 invasion. Since they did not receive estates at that time one can assume that they were liege men to the powerful lords and barons that accompanied William. As you read through the Calendar of Patent Rolls you continue to see them listed as liege men to some of these Norman Lords until John Blake is appointed as as Excise agent 6 Nov 1286 at Clarendon (not his location but the location of the Court) where he is collecting custom on wools, wool fells and hides in the port of Shorham. I will extract all the entries and locations and produce a blog on this information. Up until this point in time I have been accepting the idea that Blake moved outward from Wiltshire down towards the Channel but Shorham is on the Channel near Brighton! Presumably he lived near there but possibly not.

With respect to the I2a2b haplogroup and there are now three testers in the Blake surname study at FT DNA:

two people whose ancestry does not converge earlier than more than 500 years ago and likely longer are an exact match (one Irish and one English). My paternal line belongs to a similar grouping with these two but the common ancestor of my line with the other two is likely thousands of years ago. Amazing that they would pick the same surname except for the thought that being a colour name  which refers to complexion or hair colour a group of young men coming from a similar location could have been called le Blac/le Blake just because they looked somewhat alike and to give them a surname at a time when surnames were being taken in France. Of course this family could have crossed over at any time after 1066 or before; there is absolutely no way thus far to determine that particular fact.

I have tended to fall back on the published theories with respect to the Blake surname but gradually I am realizing that I am forming an opinion and perhaps I will one day write a Blake surname article which I can submit to one of the journals. That is in the future though. I am still extracting as much data as I can on the Blake family. I must admit that I tend to do most of my abstraction prior to 1921 although the marriage file goes as far as Free BMD has extracted information. But my greatest interest is prior to 1800 and the Parish Registers/Wills. But conversations on the DNA list and ISOGG list have set me thinking about the ancient history of the Blake family and I shall devote a part of each day to looking at that history. 

The earliest entry in this Calendar is to Willelmum le Blake 30 January 1230 (membrane 7d) at Estwell. The English Archaeologist's Handbook by Henry Godwin (published 1867: Oxford and London: James Parker and Co.) names this as Henwood (formerly Estwell) Nunnery, Kettleberne, Lord of Langdon, about 1154 in Warwickshire. Estwell was the location of an English Nunnery founded by Kettleberne, Lord of Langdon. By 1230 it would appear that one group of individuals were claiming the right of tilage against another group of individuals. The decision was made at Hertford. Not being able to read latin very efficiently that decision is not obvious to me at this moment in time. Few people in the list have surnames; most are associated with their father (i.e. Adam son of Willemi, etc). The Calendar of Patent Rolls run from Henry III beginning in 1216 and ending with Henry VI in 1452 (250 years of Blake history in England dealing with the monarch in one way or another). The Kings included Henry III, Edward I, II, and III, Richard II, Henry IV, V and VI.

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