Posted by on 24 January 2013 in General, Guest Bloggers, What's in a name?

Authored by Elizabeth Kipp.  Elizabeth is retired and working on the history of her parents’ families – Blake being the first of two guest blogs.  She is a member of The Guild of One-Name Studies researching Blake since May 2011, See her website for the Blake one-name study  and her blog most days has items on the Blake family – and she may be contacted at: kippeeb@rogers.com.

BLAKE There are several theories with respect to the origin of the Blake surname. One such theory states that Blake as a surname originated from Old English. The word “blac” referred to an individual with dark hair or skin and the word “blaac” referred to an individual with pale hair or skin.   Since both are pronounced “Blake” the actual origin in this line of thought is unknown as it could pertain to either. Hence in this case the surname Blake belongs to the group of surnames that are based on physical attributes. Another theory attributes the surname to a location known as Blakelands (now Blacklands) near Calne Wiltshire and hence a locative surname. The Blake surname distribution included distinct areas within the British Isles from earliest records. One particular area was Galway, Ireland (thought to be descendants of Richard Caddell alias Blake who arrived in Ireland in the late 1100s). A second area, the Blake family at Calne Wiltshire (living at Blakelands or Blacklands as it is now known) can trace back to the late 1200s using tax rolls and also a Pedigree Chart created in 1690 with additions in the 1700s held by the Swindon and Wiltshire Record Office. A third is the Norfolk Blake family which can be found in the Norfolk records from the 1400s on.  There are a number of other old Blake lines in the British Isles pre 1500s.

yDNA studies have shown that all of these Blake families do not have common ancestry in many many thousands of years as their haplogroups vary from I2a2b to I1 to I2b1 to R1b1a2 to R1a1. Why the Blake surname was chosen is part of the quest in my study of the Blake family. There is always of course the possibility that name change occurred with a sister’s son taking on his mother’s maternal surname in order to inherit property from an uncle or the surname of the wife being used instead of the husband in a marriage or a non paternal event where the son of an unwed Blake female is given his mother’s surname.

The Blake family has spread around the globe from their local areas in the British Isles with some of the highest incidence of the surname being in Australia but equally frequent in other parts of the British Commonwealth as well as the United States of America. The Blake family in the Carolinas of the United States provided a Royal Governor  in Joseph Blake who was descendant of one of the Somerset Blake families. I continue to investigate a theory put forward by an American researcher Increase Blake that the Hampshire, the Wiltshire and the Somerset Blake families are all related. I am slowly building a file of families in the 1800s that I intend to trace back into the 1700s where possible and also come forward in the hope that more Blake males will test their yDNA to prove or disprove this theory and just to understand the origin and deep ancestry of the Blake families of the British Isles.

Illustrious members of the Blake family include (and I have only listed a very few): William Blake Poet Laureate (United Kingdom), Sir Edward Blake, Canadian politician and descendant of the Galway Blake family, already mentioned Joseph Blake, Royal Governor of South Carolina colony (now USA), Admiral Robert Blake one of England’s greatest Admirals, Dr. Sophia Jex-Blake British Physician and feminist, Francisco Blake Mora who was Minister of the Interior (Calderon Government), Mexico and Sir Peter Blake, New Zealand (winner of the Americas Yachting Cup). The members of the Blake family come from all walks of life and each and everyone is important to the study of the Blake family name.

The original Blake one name study dates back into the 1980s and I can not take any credit for the research that has been published on the Blake family by this earlier researcher or others. There are three of us currently working on the Blake study worldwide although one has taken a leave of absence. Bill Bleak lives in the United States and his surname underwent a spelling change from Blake to Bleak in the 1800s. Barrie Blake has been an active Blake researcher for many many years and I credit him with the work that has been done thus far on the yDNA study plus all of his work on Blake memorabilia.

Studying a surname for whom you have known the holders for over a half of a century can be a thrilling experience. My grandfather (born at Upper Clatford, Hampshire, England) loved to talk about his Blake family and as I have drawn out the research records that he talked about his accuracy on his family line is amazing. I receive requests from Blake descendants around the world and some I am able to help and others I offer some suggestions based on the information that I have accumulated thus far.

The attached picture is of my great grandparents Edward Blake and Maria Jane Blake (née Knight) and it is taken 27 Nov 1898 beside their home. I suspect it was taken because of the funeral of their son Edward Sidney Blake who was buried 27 Nov 1898. The original of this image is held by my cousins in England. This is the only known picture of this couple.

This Blake one-name study will eventually be archived with the Guild of one-name Studies when I step down (hopefully not for twenty years) and I am but a caretaker of this information collecting what I can and hoping that in the future someone else will feel as strongly as I do that this is a name that must be researched.

Authored by Elizabeth Kipp.  Elizabeth is retired and working on the history of her parents’ families – Blake being the first of two guest blogs.  She is a member of The Guild of One-Name Studies researching Blake since May 2011, See her website for the Blake one-name study  and her blog most days has items on the Blake family – and she may be contacted at: kippeeb@rogers.com.

About Emma

Emma Pulman is a Social Media and digital Marketing Executive for Ancestry.co.uk. Based in Ancestry's London office in Hammersmith, Emma regularly tweets and posts on Ancestry's Facebook page.