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 it’s 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 didn’t 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. It’s 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 England.

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 that’s 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 it’s 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 Pork.

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
United Kingdom..................30,700
New Zealand......................2,000
Northern Ireland...................300

Total estimated today..........110,000

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