Wilcockson Surname Origins Part 4

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 3    Part 5

A very romantic theory, and I would say the least likely, espoused by Thomas Wilcox in his two Wilcox genealogies involves William, a.k.a. Wilkok, in Wales.[1] Thomas Wilcox found reference to this thirteenth century Welsh Wilkok and his heritage in a number of Welsh histories.

William a.k.a. Wilkok was the fourth son of a Welsh prince named Gruffudd, or Anglicized as Griffith. William inherited the estate of Mawddwy and was known as the Lord of Mawddwy, which was in Montgomeryshire, Wales. William, according to Thomas Wilcox, was known as Wilkok due to his ruddy appearance: “coch” in Welsh means “red”. Wilkok was also known as William Lord of Eschoed, William de la Poole, William Prince of Powys, William Poole, Red Will, and William the Red.[2] (These names come from another author who researched Wilkok in Wales, and his similar theory will be discussed below.) These names all show the inconsistency of second names during this period—people did not use one surname.

The sources Thomas Wilcox consulted differ on how many sons Wilkok had—one said he had only one son who was a minor when Wilkok died. Other sources refer to at least two other sons, according to Thomas Wilcox. One of Wilcox’s sources mentioned that Wilkok had a son Griffith.[3] Thomas Wilcox also says he found Richard, son of Wilkok, in a “Latin script” from Denbigh, Wales in the fourteenth century. The entry was as follows: Ricardus filius Wielmus Cocci– in other words, Richard the son of Will Coch.[4] Two sources that I consulted said that Wilkok had only one son: John, Lord of Mawddwy.[5]

Thomas Wilcox’s theory is this: the name Wilcockson came from this Welsh prince, William a.k.a. Wilkok, Lord of Mawddwy when one of his alleged sons was referred to as “son of Wilkok,” or “Wilkok’s son.”

In order to see how Thomas Wilcox got from Wilkok to Wilkok’s son we need to look at how the Welsh used patronymics to identify themselves. Wilkok was the son of Gruffudd or Griffith, who was the son of Gwenwynwyn. The Welsh way to identify one’s paternal lineage was to say “Wilkok ap Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn” and so on for a number of generations. According to Wilcox, somewhere along the way a record keeper asked one of Wilkok’s alleged sons who he was. The son’s response: “[Son’s name] ap Wilkok,” and the recorder Anglicized this response as “[Son’s name], Wilkok’s son”; hence, we get the name Wilcockson. What Wilcox didn’t take into account was that during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the records were kept in Latin and the recorder would have entered the name as “[Son-Namous] filius Willelumus”—not Wilkok’s son.

As noted above, in Wales people—including women who were married–were identified by their father’s name, and they knew a number of preceding male generations as well; i.e. William ap Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyen ap Owain Cyveliag ap Gruffudd ap Mredudd ap Bleddn ap Cynvyn. This actually is Wilkok’s lineage. Some men in their wills even referred to their wives by their maiden names or as the daughters of so-and-so. This patronymic practice continued well into the 1500s when the Welsh nobility began using hereditary surnames. Common folk in Wales kept the practice going even later.

Thomas Wilcox also alludes to the fact that the Anglo-Saxon kings in England squelched the Welsh noblemen and royalty and took over their lands. In fact, in 1283 when King Edward I conquered Wales and brought it under the complete dominion of England, Edward I also took the title of Prince of Wales from the Welsh royal family that held it. Even today the oldest son of the British monarch is known as the Prince of Wales. Thomas Wilcox points out that at this time daughters from the Welsh noble families were forced by English law to marry Anglo-Saxons so that the Welsh estates fell into the hands of the English. Because Wilkok Lord of Mawddwy’s estate passed on to his son John and then onto John’s only heir, a daughter Elizabeth, Wilcox believes the other alleged sons of the original Wilkok were pushed out of their right to be Lord of Mawddwy when the property became the inheritance of John’s daughter. Wilcox also believes that because of the English suppression of the Welsh nobility, Wilkok’s other alleged sons had no choice but to take up yeomanry, which is farming, for their livelihoods. Eventually their descendants migrated east into the English counties of Chester, Lancaster, York, and Derby, where a large number of Wilcocksons can be found in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As they moved east, they brought the surname Wilcockson with them.     There is one more piece of information that disproves Thomas Wilcox’s theory. The first mention of the name Wilcox or one of its variations in English records was in 1246, as mentioned above. This date was 14 years before William a.k.a. Wilkok was born in 1260.

The other author who gave a similar theory was Charles G. Pinney Wilcox of the Wilcox Family and Allied Families.[6] He also cited Wilkok Lord of Mawddwy as the originator of the Wilcockson surname, and it appears that Charles Wilcox preceded Thomas Wilcox with the publication of this theory. Charles Wilcox said that the names Wilcox and Wilcockson came from “William” and “Goch.” “Goch,” according to Charles Wilcox, was an ancient word used to describe the princes of Wales and Brittany during early times. It was translated into Welsh from the Saxon word “Kahn,” meaning “God,” according to Charles Wilcox. Because people in early days believed that their rulers were divinely appointed, it was natural that they took on the name “Goch” to indicate their divine right to be kings. The name “William” means “defender.” So the transliteration of Wilcox is “God, our defender,” according to Charles Wilcox.

When Charles Wilcox and Thomas Wilcox were researching the origins of the family name in the early-  to mid-1900s, many genealogists were endeavoring to link their surnames to royalty or noblemen. It was the height of genealogy at that time to be able to claim royal or noble descent. In this effort, genealogists also tried to pin down the family’s coat of arms. A coat of arms was originally a light garment worn over armor, and it had emblems, shapes, colors, and figures arranged in a certain way to identify the wearer as being from a certain family or as being a certain person. Some of the symbols used were lions (representing courage), snakes (wisdom), peacocks (beauty) fleur-de-lis (which looks like an iris), chevrons (“v’s”), pears, crosses, and ermine (a fur represented by black spots on a field of white). Some of the colors used were azure (blue—representing loyalty) and vert (green–representing hope). The coat of arms was worn into battle by knights during the age of chivalry. It is understandable that the two Wilcox historians would reach for a royal family in Wales who had a son named Wilkok and suppose that this Wilkok was the originator of the names Wilcox and, subsequently, Wilcockson.

[1] Thomas Wilcox, A Preliminary Report on the Descendants of William Wilcoxson (Los Angeles: privately published, 1936) and Descendants of William Wilcoxson of Derbyshire, England and Stratford, Connecticut (Pasadena, Calif.: privately published, 1963).

[2] Charles G. Piney Wilcox, “Variants of the Name of Wilcox, and Some of the Families Allied Therewith in England and America” (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Wilcox Family and Allied Families, n.d.), Document CS/71/.W667/1900z, Connecticut State Library, Hartford.

[3] W.V. Lloyd, The Sheriffs of Montgomeryshire, with Their Armorial Bearings and Notices, Genealogical and Biographical, of their Families from 1540 to 1639 (London: np, 1876), 367

[4] Thomas Wilcox, Descendants of William Wilcoxson, ix.

[5] Samuel Rush Meyrick, Heraldic Visitation of Wales and Part of the Marches; Between the Years 1586 and 1613, under the Authroity of Clarencieux and Norroy, Two Kings at Arms, by Lewys Dwnn, Deputy Herald at Arms; Transcribed from the Original Manuscripts, and Edited, with Numerous Explanatory Notes; by Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick (Llandovery, Wales: Welsh MSS Society, 1846), II:242 and <http://www.mytton.com/genealogy/pedigree.html> downloaded 10 March 2004.

[6] Charles Wilcox, “Variants of the Name of Wilcox”.

Posted on by Jane Wilcox

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