Wilcockson Surname Origins Part 3

Copyright © 2013, updated 2019 Jane E. Wilcox, Forget-Me-Not Ancestry, Albany, NY www.4getmenotancestry.com.

In the early 2000s I researched the origins of surnames in England and of the surname Wilcockson in particular to include in a chapter of my book on the origins of Puritan William Wilcockson of Biggin by Hulland, Derbyshire, and his wife Margaret probably Harvie of Ilkeston, Derbyshire who immigrated to New England in 1635. The following is my research for that chapter as prepared in 2013, with DNA evidence added in 2019, debunking the Welsh nobility origins myth that was presented by Thomas Wilcox in his two 20th century genealogies and showing that the surname Wilcockson in England is polygenetic.

Part 1    Part 2    Part 4    Part 5

So this brings us to the origins of the surname Wilcockson. The surname also appears in records as Wylcockson, Wylcoxson, Wilkockson, Wilcokeson, Wilkokson, Wilcoxson, Wilcoxon and other variations. Sometimes there are two “ls”. I’m using Wilcockson since that is how the immigrant ancestor featured in my book spelled it. As of 1991, the first notation of the surname Wilcockson or one of its variants to be found was William Wilcockson in 1332.[1] He appeared in the subsidy or tax rolls of Cumberland County, England during the reign of Edward III. About forty-five years later three other Wilcocksons appeared in 1379: Ricardus Wilkokson, Adam Wylkokson and Willelmus Wilkocson–all in the Yorkshire poll taxes.[2]

Because Wilcockson derives from the name Wilcocks, we need to spend a little time on that name as well. The name Wilcocks first appeared  in 1246, almost 100 years before the first Wilcockson name, and it was spelled “Wilcok”.[3] This was in the Lancashire assize rolls, which is more taxes. (There is a joke in the genealogy community that a person can be missed by a census enumerator or by a city directory data collector, but he will never be missed by the tax man.) In the next 100 years, Wilcoxes appeared in Cheshire in 1286, Somerset in 1254, London in 1275, Yorkshire in 1316 and Suffolk in 1327.

The counties where the Wilcox and Wilcockson surnames first appeared—for Wilcox in Lancashire and Cheshire and for Wilcockson in Cumberland and Yorkshire –are in northern England, so it appears the names “Wilcocks” and “Wilcockson” sprang up in the north first.

A few years after 1246, when the name Wilcocks was recorded in Lancashire, there was a William, a.k.a. Wilkock, Lord of Mawddwy, who lived in Wales from 1260 to 1315. He will be discussed in more detail a little later.

With these reference points in mind, there are three theories, or variations thereof, as to the origins of the surname Wilcockson. All agree that the base of the name is “Will”—the shortened version of “William,” which, by the way, is the Norman form of the French name “Guillaume”. Obviously the Wilcockson forbearers followed the popular naming practices after the Normans conquered England. The three theories also agree on “-son.” The original bearer or bearers, if the name is polygenetic, of the name “Wilcockson” was the son of Will. Some historians believe the use of “-son” at the end of an English surname shows some degree of Scandinavian/Viking influence; others disagree. The areas where the name Wilcockson first appear are areas that were invaded and settled by the Vikings.

The “-cock” part of the name is where the theories diverge. One theory asserts that “cock” derives from the word meaning “a male bird” and that it was added onto a name to show endearment: e.g., Allcock, Wilcock, Hitchcock, Hancock, and Babcocks.[4] A second theory says that the suffixes ‘-cock” and “-kin” were used as diminutives or nicknames—to distinguish between a father and a son; e.g. Wilkin, Wilcock, and Atkin.[5]

[1] P.H. Reany and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames (London: Routledge, 1991), , 492.

[2] Charles Wareing Bardsley, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames with Special American Instances (1901, reprint Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1967), 813.

[3] Reany, et al, A Dictionary of English Surnames, 492.

[4] Patrick Hanks, editor, Dictionary of American Family Names vol. III O-Z (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2003), 349.

[5] Reany, et al, A Dictionary of English Surnames, xxxix,

Posted on by Jane Wilcox

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