Some Devon Surname Aliases


Mike Brown  

Dartmoor Press (Archived Copy)

The Index below has been compiled from a variety of documentary sources, but principally from registers and wills. It is now being made available via the GENUKI website in the hope that the entries might provide enquirers with some useful clues to surnames to consider in trying to unravel the genealogy of the families concerned. And also so that others with a general interest in this subject can see what aliases have been discovered in various records which have been consulted.

The Index is solely of true aliases, rather than alternative spelling forms which are purely phonetic in origin, which latter were occasionally written as aliases in some sources. So-called aliases used in manorial documents are also excluded, for the term alias was used in them only in order to identify the maiden names of lives in three life leases. Sometimes in manorial records, instead of using the form of words 'Winifred Bishop alias Smerdon', the name was written 'Winifred Bishop now Smerdon', which is what was meant in all such instances, the first name being the maiden name (that by which the person was named as a life on the lease) and the second being the married name. This example is not a hypothetical one. Winifred Bishop was named as a life on a lease of Southbrook in Buckland before she married the tenant, Thomas Smerdon (this was regular practice, a new lease often being taken out on a property shortly before or soon after a marriage in order to protect the future interests of the wife). Winifred Bishop outlived her husband by a considerable number of years, but continued to hold the lease by virtue of being a named as a life on the term. But by then, of course, she had become Winifred Smerdon. Hence the necessity to name her as Winifred Bishop 'alias' or 'now' Smerdon in the manor rentals and surveys, in order to positively identify her so as to leave no doubt as to her entitlement to the leasehold on the property.

A few introductory notes and some general observations are provided before the actual Index.....

I have for some time held a fascination for surname aliases, and over the past couple of years or so have made a particular point of noting and indexing them when they have been found. One of the initial aims of compiling such an Index - but one which has not really been achieved! - was to try and identify the origins of some of the aliases. But it has to be said that these remain something of a mystery in the vast majority of instances.

Historians appear to have only touched very briefly on this subject, two principal alternative proposals for the origin of aliases having been mooted. One is that aliases were assumed by bastard children in order to protect, or safeguard, their inheritance, the alias in such cases being the surname of the father. The other proposition was that the alias identified the occupation of the person, but this would surely have only been the case in very early times. Neither of these proposals has been borne out by the very limited research which I have conducted into these matters.

Most particularly, despite having studied many hundreds of bastardy documents, I have never yet found an instance of a bastard child taking the name of the father as an alias. Indeed, in cases where the father's name was indentified in the name given to the child, the father's surname was a second forename. This was a frequent occurrence. A solitary instance was found where a male child in later life dropped his mother's surname in favour of his father's (which latter had been given to him as a second forename), but this was not the use of an alias in the accepted sense.

Neither have I found any occurrences of aliases identifying the occupation of the person concerned, although the documents considered are almost certainly from too late a period to fall into this category.

So, the origins of the vast majority of the aliases in the Index remain unresolved. But an interesting factor which emerged, not previously fully appreciated, or understood, is that all of the aliases so far discovered were very localised, either exclusive to one parish, or found only in a compact group of a few neighbouring parishes. This factor points strongly towards the use of many aliases in order to protect the inheritance, or interests, of children in a single generation.

However, if such was the always case, the recurrent use of some aliases in successive generations is the more curious. Bremblecombe alias Clarke is an instance of this. Why it was necessary to continue the usage of the alias in such cases is not clear. An even more extraordinary example is that of Ley alias Poole (and/or the other way around), scattered occurrences of which are spread over a period of no less than 165 years!

There are relatively few examples which have come to light of the same aliases occurring in parishes somewhat detached from one another. These few instances, I believe, can be easily accounted for by the movements of a single individual or family. The Jetsome alias Clement which occurs in Shaugh Prior and Holbeton, for instance, are known to have been one and the same person.

An origin for some aliases emerged during the research, used to identify children of a previous marriage, presumably in order to protect their inheritance. The occurrence of Prestwood alias Bodley proves this absolutely. The alias occurs in the will of Alice Prestwood, widow of Thomas Prestwood, in order to identify the children of her previous marriage to a Bodley. She also identified herself by this alias. In this case, and any similar instances, the alias would have been used only in legal documents, so that in the case of wills, no question of the identity of the testator and the beneficiaries could arise - in just the same way as so-called aliases were used in manorial documents to positively identify married daughters of previous tenants, so that there would be no question respecting their rights to leasehold interests, as being named as lives in the leases. This usage cannot, however, explain the vast majority of the aliases which have been found.

Another, rather less convincing, argument for the use of aliases which has been propounded by a previous author is that they were used to identify the place of residence or dwelling of the person concerned. I am very sceptical about this suggestion. In particular because the placenames adopted by individuals in early times were not really aliases. Rather, they took the form of, for example, Roger atte Well. Which is not the same as Roger alias Well! Even though this person lived, literally, 'at Well'. The property itself later became Welltown, and the family adopted the surname Atwell (sometimes spelt Atwill). So that the place became, literally, 'the town (settlement) of the Atwell family'. The last member of this particular branch of the Atwells died more than two centuries ago. But the medieval house from which they took their name still stands - now much-altered, of course. It is in Walkhampton. The natural spring - 'well' - in a field above, after which the place was first named, still flows through the main courtyard of the premises.

I have, however, come across a solitary instance of an alias having been taken from a property name. And from a relatively late period. For I found that the Wotton alias Gale which appears in stannary court rolls of 1576 occurs as Wotton of Gale in the lay subsidy rolls of 1533 & 1534. Aside from the obvious consideration that the Wotton family lived at Gale - which is in Ashburton - why this particular family should have also taken the property name as an alias is difficult to explain. For if this was a commonplace method of adopting names then there would be many hundreds of examples from this period. The stannary coinage rolls of this year, by the way, contain very many dozens of other personal names who were described as being 'of' or coming 'from' such and such a place, but this is the only actual alias in well over 1,000 entries.

And again, this usage cannot explain the vast majority of aliases. For the fact that a number of them could apparently be transposed proves that this cannot have been so. A hypothetical example will demonstrate the point. Crocker alias Upperfarm, assigned to a Mr Crocker who purportedly lives at the highest farm in the valley. This cannot be transposed to Upperfarm alias Crocker, which is absurd and meaningless! I had, however, considered that some of the transposed examples which have been noted from various registers were errors made by ministers or clerks, for some of these are very few in number. The example of Bremblecombe alias Clarke does not support this idea, however. This occurs 27 times in the parishes in which it was found. Clarke alias Bremblecombe occurs 11 times which, although a far lesser number, is still too many to be accounted for by odd mistakes here and there.

Another interesting instance of the use of an alias is that of Fynes alias Clinton. However, although I have included this in the Index I do not regard it as a true alias. Rather, the name Fynes was adopted by James Clinton in the early eighteenth century to disguise his true identity, because of the strong Jacobite associations of the Clintons. There is a little mystery surrounding the family which I have not satisfactorily resolved. For around this period the Clinton baronetcy fell into abeyance, and passed by a rather convoluted process through various cadet branches and female lines - though not being officially recognised - until it was later assumed or appropriated by a member of another family whose connection with the principal lines of descent is obscure to say the least. It is my belief that James Clinton was probably the rightful heir, although for some reason never took the inheritance. The fact that his original memorial tablet, which identified the alias in its text, is said to have 'mysteriously disappeared' from the church sometime after his death merely adds to the mystery.

A most unexpected factor which emerged from the research was the extraordinary number of aliases which occur in just a very small district in the Dartmoor borderlands. The number (37) from the Drewsteignton-South Tawton-Throwleigh district represents a large proportion of the total (207) which have been found anywhere. It should be emphasised that not all of the registers from the parishes in my own particular region of local history interest (Dartmoor & West Devon) - a total of about 40 or 50 parishes - have been systematically scoured for aliases or been fully transcribed. But all of the registers in the region have been closely studied during various avenues of research, and a total of 125,000+ entries transcribed from them (all are rural parishes with generally small populations, by the way). So that it certainly appears that the very large assemblage of aliases in just these three parishes is indeed something unusual.

And also something which is inexplicable! It does, however, raise the intriguing possibility that aliases were resorted to or adopted in some places more than others, perhaps by long custom or tradition. Which in turn begs the question why? And for what purpose? And what do the aliases signify?

On the other hand, if aliases were in almost universal use, one would surely expect to find similar numbers of them in parishes of similarly sized populations. But this does not happen. Very extensive research has been conducted into some parishes and manors. From the many hundreds of Walkhampton documents and ledgers which have been studied only six aliases have been noticed, and I regard two of these as very suspect. Only three have resulted from extensive research with the Ugborough archives. Both of these are fairly large rural parishes in terms of population size. None at all have been noted from the records of Buckland in the Moor. This is admittedly only a tiny place, but the number of documents consulted during research into that manor and parish again runs into many hundreds.

These rather strange results call for explanation. And I wish that I could provide one!

Aliases Index

Columns in the Index provide:

Surname,Alias,Date(s) of Occurence(s) & Document Code,Parish

Documents (Codes Follow the Dates) from which aliases have been noted are:

AI Apprenticeship Indenture
CR Manor Court Rolls
CW Churchwardens' Accounts
D Property Deed
IPM Inquisition Post Mortem
LS Lay Subsidy
MI Monumental Inscription
R Register
RO Removal Order
SC Stannary Court Rolls
W Will

Adam Walkey 1657 R Lifton
Agate Lidger/Lydger 1747 & 1748 R Throwleigh
Aggat Leager 1687 R Throwleigh
Agget Lidger 1755 R Drewsteignton
Alforde Smythe 1606 R Axminster
Allen Blackford 1732 R South Tawton
Apter Toull 1613 R Ilsington
Apter Venton 1572 CR South Tawton
Arscott Remmet 1645 R Belstone
Avery Crocker 1668-1695 & 1735-1741 R Drewsteignton
Avery Crocker/Croker 1723 & 1768 & 1787 R Throwleigh
Avery Taverner 1668 R Lustleigh
Axworthy Ham 1648 W Milton Abbot
Bannadon Vawden 1617 R Sampford Spiney
Bartoll Baker 1633 D Awliscombe
Bastowe Cole 1626 R Ilsington
Benham Treasure 1780 R Ashburton
Berde Ewen 1581 LS Buckfastleigh
Blackford Dowle 1607 W Swimbridge
Boddye Marcken 1605 W Hemiock
Boryer Bearden 1767-1772 R Dean Prior
Bowcher Lovey 1588 R Lamerton
Bowden Butcher 1749 R Throwleigh
Bowden Ewe 1670 R Holne
Bowdyn Baker 1524 LS Drewsteignton
Boys Man 1598 R Widecombe
Braylie Widlake 1601 W Filleigh
Bremblecomb(e) Clark(e) 1662-1711 R Drewsteignton
Brent Stephen 1543 LS Tavistock
Broke Halse 1547 D South Tawton
Bryant Williams 1677 R Bere Ferrers
Budbrook Preston 1777 R Manaton
Budbrook Priston 1756 R Drewsteignton
Burnman Newberry 1723 R Milton Abbot
Burring Gross/Groose 1781-1811 R Buckfastleigh
Butson Broke 1546 W Kentisbeare
Capron Butler 1646 W Tiverton
Chamberlayne Harper 1604 & 1619 R Ilsington
Christophers Jeffery 1719 R Throwleigh
Clark Brimacombe 1709 R Throwleigh
Clarke Bremblecomb(e) 1676 & 1698 & 1708 & 1782 R Drewsteignton
Clarke Puttavin/Pottevin 1770 & 1776 R Dean Prior
Cleave Hamett 1652 R Widecombe
Cleave Hammett 1702 CR Lydford
Clement Jetsom 1595 D Holbeton
Cleve Hamete 1613 R Widecombe
Coke Tyllan 1525 LS Sampford Spiney
Coldridge Smal(d)ridge 1680 & 1707 & 1708 R Drewsteignton
Cole Kelland 1640 W Jacobstowe
Collrage Smalridge 1659 R Drewsteignton
Combe Axworthy 1647 W Hatherleigh
Combe Axworthy 1648 W Okehampton
Combe Axworthy 1671 W Bridestowe
Come Medewill 1543 LS Tavistock
Cominge Cole 1595 W Plymouth
Commyn Chilcott 1646 W Tiverton
Cooch Leline 1745 R North Bovey
Cooke Glanvill 1724 R Bridestowe
Cooke Reynolls 1606 R Axminster
Corn Quaram 1750 R Ugborough
Countere Smerdon 1606 R Widecombe
Cozen Shepherd 1666 R Lustleigh
Crocker Avery 1698 & 1699 & 1760 R Drewsteignton
Crocker Lane 1580 W South Molton
Crooker Grindon 1580 W Witheridge
Davies Pain 1701 R Drewsteignton
Demans Cotley 1620 R Holbeton
Denly Salter 1791 & 1797 & 1799 R Ashburton
Denwode Burnard 1581 LS Ashburton
Down Harvey 1772 RO Thrushelton
Drew Buffet 1762 & 1765 R Throwleigh
Dyrek Oger 1516 CW Ashburton
Eastabrook Shilston 1684 R Drewsteignton
Edmond Knight 1587 CR Lydford (Forest)
Farleigh Martin 1725 R South Brent
Farleigh Soper 1587 CW Ugborough
Farley Soper 1545 LS Cornwood
Finch Thomas 1757 R South Tawton
Foscue Gregory 1634 R Bere Ferrers
Frost Vost 1671 R Drewsteignton
Fuinge Knight 1632 W Kingsbridge
Fynes Clinton 1774 MI Moretonhampstead
Gilbert Webber 1569-1601 R West Alvington
Glanvil Gloyan 1777 R Sourton
Gloine Glanvil 1758 R Sourton
Gloyne Glanville 1663 R Kelly
Gytsham Clement 1561 D Holbeton
Halls Maynerd 1625 R Buckland Monachorum
Ham Bucknell 1737 W Axminster
Hammett Cleave 1702 CR Lydford (Forest)
Hammett Cleave/Cleeve 1643 & 1652 R Widecombe
Hancock Easton 1616 R Buckland Monachorum
Harman Algar 1582 R Buckland Monachorum
Harrie Wilcocke 1613 W Lifton
Harrys Tucker 1592 W Axminster
Harrys Tucker 1617 R Axminster
Hatherly Nicols 1619 R Harford
Hele Tucker 1754 R Eggesford
Hele Tucker 1761 R Wembworthy
Herne Wills 1797 R Buckfastleigh
Hext Babb 1572 CR South Tawton
Hext Cabbe 1536 IPM South Tawton
Higg Raynolds 1631 R Bere Ferrers
Hoare Hookeway 1618 W Colyton
Hobbes Webber 1613 R Bigbury
Horslade Lockyar 1595 W Fremington
Horwoode Horwell 1584 W Hemiock
James Kensbeare 1629 W Upottery
James Slade 1575 & 1585 W Kentisbeare
Jeffery Christopher 1608 R Lustleigh
Jetsome Clement 1622 R Shaugh Prior
Jetsome Clement 1649 D Holbeton
Keene Frye 1617 W Hatherley
Kingwell Tucker 1724 & 1731 R Ilsington
Knight Edmonds 1608 R Sampford Spiney
Knyght Edmondes 1572 R Widecombe
Laskey Sheperd 1733 R Ilsington
Laudley Reed 1674 R Tavistock
Lavers Clement 1612 & 1631 R Shaugh Prior
Lavers Clement 1610 R Sampford Spiney
Lee Pool 1729 & 1733 R Drewsteignton
Leline Cootch 1778 R Moretonhampstead
Ley Poole 1753 R Manaton
Ley Pule 1613 R Bovey Tracey
Lidger Agget/Agate 1710-1744 R Throwleigh
Lightfoot Barrett 1737 R Sydenham Damarel
Lightfoot Barrett 1788 R Milton Abbot
Lightfoot Tapper 1727 R Moretonhampstead
Lockyer Sawyer 1693 W Honiton
Mander Creber 1621 & 1624 R Shaugh Prior
Marten Honychurch/Honichurche 1585 & 1587 W North Tawton
Meady Medway 1794 R Ashburton
Merdon Jookmor 1609 R Widecombe
Michall Miall 1790 R Tavistock
Mills Sloman 1810 & 1812 R Sourton
Miniphee Searle 1688 W Exeter
Mitchell Hams 1681 R South Brent
Monk Rod 1752 R Walkhampton
More Heade 1618 W Hemiock
Moule Colman 1653 R Dean Prior
Nettle Sleep 1752 R Sydenham Damarel
Nicholl Bowden 1585 R Bere Ferrers
Odimer Clarke 1583 W Bickleigh
Odimur Clark 1609 R Bickleigh
Oger Dyrek 1515 CW Ashburton
Oke More 1551 R North Tawton
Olyver Bodway 1583 W Bickleigh
Osborne Webber 1617 R Axminster
Osement Ossbourne 1668 R Lustleigh
Pike Jetsham 1779 & 1780 R Buckland Monachorum
Poole Ley 1781 R Manaton
Poole Leye 1614 R Bovey Tracey
Preston Budbrook 1752 R Drewsteignton
Prestwood Bodley 1558 W Exeter
Pritcher/Pricher Austin 1664 & 1667 R Belstone
Puttavin Clark 1788-1811 R Buckfastleigh
Rod Mount 1755 AI Walkhampton
Rode Bondfield 1607 R Branscombe
Salter Denly 1804 R Ashburton
Scuse Perez 1652 R Buckland Monachorum
Shapter Pomeford 1615-1616 R Ilsington
Shortridge Cooke 1601 R Lamerton
Simons Dinodle 1633 R Widecombe
Slade James 1585 W Kentisbeare
Smaldridge Coldridge 1685 R Drewsteignton
Smyth Will 1588 R Lamerton
Soper Good 1581 LS Cornwood
Soper Weeks 1617 R Ilsington
Staback Combe 1740 R Throwleigh
Stephen Talbot(te) 1550 & 1607 & 1621 & 1649 R Buckland Monachorum
Stone Prince 1677 W Exeter
Stonning Talbort 1666 R Sampford Spiney
Sture Rogers 1724 R Widecombe
Sutton Harris 1798 R Drewsteignton
Symons Swaddle 1619 R Ilsington
Sysselegh Tayllor 1525 LS Whitchurch
Talbot Steven 1581 LS Walkhampton
Talbott Steven 1592 R Bere Ferrers
Thomas Tiddy 1690 R Walkhampton
Torr Coulter [?] 1652 R Bere Ferrers
Torren Cole 1608 W Dartmouth
Tozer Simmons 1765 R Ugborough
Upton Norracott 1676 & 1681 R Drewsteignton
Venery Wills 1685 & 1690 R Throwleigh
Wannell Voisie 1581 LS Moretonhampstead
Wash Emmett 1803 R Buckfastleigh
Way Peter 1635 W Stockleigh English
Waye Geffry 1512 CW Ashburton
Webber Gilbert 1575 R West Alvington
Weekes Downe 1610 R Drewsteignton
Welbroke Yolland 1581 LS Ashburton
White Walter 1629 R Buckland Monachorum
Wike Tolly 1566 R Belstone
Will Smyth 1592 R Lamerton
Williams Bryant 1639 R Bere Ferrers
Williams Wilky 1639 R Bere Ferrers
Wills Fernworthy 1745 R Drewsteignton
Wills Vener(e)y 1674-1690 R Throwleigh
Willyams Cholwill 1581 W South Brent
Wingatt Windeatt 1773 R Tavistock
Wolcombe Bawden 1590 D Shaugh Prior
Wood Butler 1587 W Willand
Wotton Combe 1604 R Ilsington
Wotton Gale 1576 SC Ashburton
Wyatt Wickett 1785 R Walkhampton
Yalland Welbroke 1610 R Widecombe
Yard White 1608 R Aveton Gifford

Brian Randell, 16 Jul 2010