Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Blake or Black

A comment was received on one of my blogs which mentioned the following:

"I'm another descendant of the Landrake Blakes,so thanks for all your work on them. I've not read all previous posts but just wonder why you think the Blakes were immigrants around 1300.That is when people started using surnames,apart from the 'de placename' type.. I suspect that the name may be the same as Black, as spelling was very variable and vowel shifts are common. Even in the 19th cent. one of the Landrake families was entered in a census as 'Blake'.

Tony Wise"

I have skirted around the surname Black through all my time doing this one name study on the Blake family. I think it is partly because I think that Blake is a distinctive and ancient surname that is attached to particular family groupings. I always felt that it had several founders and the England's Immigrant Database showed that to be true with around 30 distinct individuals coming from the Continent and other places in the British Isles (notably Ireland) to England between 1330 and 1550. According to books on surnames (and I will list a few below) there weren't any surnames in Britain prior to the Norman Invasion. There were by names and aliases but no hereditary surnames. This was brought to Britain by the Normans.

Why do I think that Black and Blake are different? I have found, on rare occasions, in the parish registers the surname Blake spelled Blacke - these occasions are rare and I tend to discard them as being a spelling error on the part of the priest. Hence I have never collected the surname Black as I work my way through the registers and other documents. But the comment gave me pause to consider that I should occasionally check out these new sources of information to see what they have on Black as a surname.

 Looking at the England's Immigrants Database (http://www.englandsimmigrants.com/ ) I found 21 entries for the surname "Black(e)".

I eliminated seven of them because they referred to the Black Book of Winchester which also listed the particular individual and this book was edited by W.H.B. Bird of Winchester in 1925. Another eight were eliminated because they referred to Black Torrington hundred in Devon. That left me with two locating in Devon, one each in Essex, Northumberland and Middlesex and the last individual was said to be English (married to an Englishwoman). The individual in Essex lived at Black Notley and so was eliminated. The individual in Northumberland lived at Black Hedley so also eliminated. Thus eliminating 17 of the 21 entries.

Jacobus Black was from India and a servant to Thomas Gale living at Dartmouth, Devon

John Blacke was returning from the Holy Roman Empire but had lived in England for 25 years and is linked by a researcher (William Page) to a John Blagge/Black a grocer in London. No location given in this record. This is rather interesting because I do have a Blake line in London that is quite ancient to that City so will keep this gentleman in mind.

John Goldsmyth living at Exeter, Devon and originally from Flanders had the alias Black John Goldsmyth. In the account he is also named as John Blake. This entry too is quite interesting and I need to check to see if it came up with the entries in the Blake search.

John Black servant to Richard Savage of Monken Hadley, Edmonton, Middlesex hundred (no place of origin given).

So an interesting foray into these records and I thank the correspondent for querying Blake and Black as possibly being surnames in common. Because the name Blake appears to be distinct from an early time in English records I do think that it was an established surname belonging to the grouping "Characteristic Surname." Would this prove that they were the same since the surname is said to mean two different characteristics on the one hand referring to a very pale person and on the other a person who was swarthy. But I suspect as a surname Black was not a very common one but rather given to place names especially when you note that 17 of the 21 entries referred to place names in this sample.

In the Cornwall Records I have not found the spelling Black for Blake other than the occasional time and generally it is Blacke not Black.

Aside from the hugeness of the project if I thought about doing Black with Blake, I just do not think that the two surnames have a common ancestry. If I thought it I probably wouldn't have taken the project on as it would just be too huge and would have stayed just with my Blake line in Hampshire! But I will bear in mind the need to actually look at the records to see in those early years if there were Black entries.

Looking at Black on the Public Profiler software (developed by researchers at University College, London, UK:

The Surname is said to be Celtic and of Scottish origin according to this website. The highest frequency for this surname is in Australia and New Zealand, United Kingdom, then Canada, the United States, Ireland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Hungary and Germany (for the top ten countries). 

Population increases in the Colonies/former Colonies of Great Britain can account for these high frequencies as the number of children people had in the colonies was often much greater than in the British Isles itself. The numbers in Europe are rather interesting though and I wonder if they can be accounted for by British Isles people moving to the Continent since the entry of the UK into the Common Market. So once again an interesting foray into the Black surname and probably I should do a comparison map of Blake:

Blake is less frequent than Black worldwide but again the frequency in particular countries is highest in Australia, then Ireland, United Kingdom, New Zealand, United States, Canada, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and Denmark. Again colonies/former colonies of Great Britain show the highest numbers. Australia leads the way for both Black and Blake. Perhaps one day someone will study Black and then a comparison may be run between the two to determine their individuality or commonality. At the moment I believe that they were distinctive names with Black arising later (this I do revise as in a later blog I mention that Black was a surname in the Great and Little Domesday Books and so was present in England prior to Blake/Blak) as a surname when the bulk of the population in the British Isles took on surnames. I remain convinced that Blake as a surname probably evolved on the Continent and came to England. 

However, I also say that individuals in England took on the surname Blake because in my own line the yDNA says that my Blake line is ancient to the British Isles hence they acquired this surname for whatever reason (and that is one of my must do research queries) at times in the past. Certainly by the mid 1400s my line was using the surname Blake/Blayke. Did they acquire the surname by marriage with a female having the Blake surname? They did have a small piece of property at Knights Enham and finding the earlier history of that property may well give me that answer. For that I need to go to the Record Office in Winchester and have a look at the early records. They do exist and in them is likely the answer. Since I live in Canada I always hope that someone else descendant in my line will do that but perhaps it may yet be me as we still plan to go to England a few more times in the years to come. 

More Blake descendants testing their yDNA may help to solve the mystery of Blake in England. I should imagine that there was a certain novelty to taking on surnames and acquiring one from a daughter of an immigrant with the surname Blake would certainly be one way. Blake was already a prominent surname in the British Isles probably because of individuals from Normandy coming to England with this surname and receiving government posts that put them into eminent positions and more visible to the overall population. That may have increased the ability of individuals with the Blake surname being able to convince people (possibly through marriage) to take on the surname. I know that Richard le Blake, merchant from Rouen, had at least one daughter Alice la Blake. Interestingly in a similar time period at Basingstoke, Hampshire there was also a Joanna la Blake that I have mentioned in an earlier blog. She was married to a Robert le Blake.

The Pipe Rolls of Hampshire 1301 also mention Richard le Blake and possibly his children:

Place                                Surname    Forename       Date
Wargrave                        Blak          John              1301-2
Havant                             Blak         Laurence       1301-2
Wargrave                         Blak, la    Alice              1301-2  (daughter of Richard le Blak)
Wargrave                         Blak, le    Richard          1301-2
Merdon                            Blak, le    Thomas          1301-2
Waltham St Lawrence     Blak          Hamo             1301-2
Waltham St Lawrence     Blak          Walter            1301-2 (son of Hamo Blak)
Staplegrove                     Blake, le    William         1301-2

No mention of Robert le Blake or Joanna la Blake but Robert was already known to be deceased. Joanna mentions her heirs but no names and she could also be deceased as this is ten years later for the Pipe Rolls. Interesting that there are so many entries already for the Blak(e) family just in the Pipe Rolls of Hampshire. I will check the Pipe Rolls of Hampshire my next visit to the BIFHSGO Library.

One other item to mention is the Blake Pedigree Chart held at the Swindon and Wiltshire Record Office. This immense chart (12 feet by 4 feet) takes us back to the time of EdwardI/EdwardII and a particular mention of a land transfer helps to date it even more accurately. The progenitor of this Blake family is said to be Richard Blaake/Blague of Wiltshire Esquire married to Anne daughter of William Cole (the coat of arms is that of the Cole family of Devon). His son is said to be Henry married to Elizabeth Dorrant. The Pipe rolls above do not have a Henry Blak/le Blak but they are also the Pipe Rolls of Hampshire not Wiltshire. Were there two Richard Blakes in this time period? It is all a mystery because the Blake families in Hampshire and Wiltshire are quite ancient back into this time frame. I need to also mention my little map of Blake in England from the Calendar of Patent Rolls blogged here:

Already by the mid 1400s and going back to the early 1200s there were Blake families located all over England although the numbers do not represent people so much as entries and one person could represent a number of entries. One would need to read through all the information and at some point I shall attempt to redo the map looking solely at families. But the frequency of Blake quite fascinated me even at this early time period. One of these days I shall also compare it to the 1881 census for Blake in England.

Lots more work to do and for these reasons I will continue to consider that Blake is distinct from Black. Just recovering from a bout of  influenza but wanted to respond to the comment. Back to resting and reading!

Surname Books

A Dictionary of English Surnames, Revised Edition. P.H. Reaney, Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-19-860092-5

Families of County Galway, Volume VI of the Book of Irish Families, great and small. Michael C. O'Laughlin, Irish Genealogical Foundation, 2002. ISBN 0-940134-00-4

The Surnames of Wales for family historians and others. John and Sheila Rowlands. Genealogical Publishing Company Inc, 1996. ISBN 0-8063-1516-4

The Surnames of Ireland. Edward MacLysaght, Irish Academic Press, 1999. ISBN 0-7165-2366-3

Penquin Dictionary of British Surnames. John Titford, Penquin Books, 2009. ISBN 978-0-141-02320-5

The Surnames Handbook: A guide to family name research in the 21st Century. Debbie Kennett, The History Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-7524-6862-4

Surnames, DNA, and Family History. George Redmonds, Turi King and David Hey. Oxford University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-19-958264-8

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