Wake History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Wake is part of the ancient legacy of the early Norman inhabitants that arrived in England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Wake was a Norman name used for a watchful or vigilant person having derived from the Old Norse word vakr, meaning watchful. A broad and miscellaneous class of surnames, nickname surnames referred to a characteristic of the first person who used the name. They can describe the bearer's favored style of clothing, appearance, habits, or character. There is however, much discrepancy over the origin of the name. One source claims the name originates with Hugh Wac, lord of Wilesford, Lincolnshire. Another claims the name originated with Hereward le Wake during the time of Edward the Confessor. And Archbishop Wake disowned the Norman ancestry thinking the name was originally Le Wake, or the Watchful, a skilled military commander. [1] Another source claims that the individual by the name of Wake recorded in the Roll of Battle Abbey was weary of Harold's rule and fled to Normandy and while there "invited" Duke William to conquer Britain. Lord Wake who died in 1156, was founder of the Abbey of Brun and was claimed descent from Sir Thomas Wake, a gallant knight who fought with the Black Prince. He was sheriff of Northamptonshire under Edward II for many years. [2]

Early Origins of the Wake family

The surname Wake was first found in Lincolnshire where they held a family seat as Lords of the manor of Wilsford (Wivelesforde) and under tenants of Godfrey de Cambrai, and represented by Le Sire de Wake.

Some of the earliest records reveal Baldwin Wake (died 1282), as a famous warrior and progenitor of the following early line of nobles: John Wake (died 1300), 1st Baron Wake of Liddell and his son Thomas Wake (1297-1349), 2nd Baron Wake of Liddell, an English baron; and daughter Margaret Wake (c. 1297-1349), wife of Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent. This line belonged to the Lincolnshire family which also had lands in Cumberland.

Early History of the Wake family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Wake research. Another 165 words (12 lines of text) covering the years 1349, 1580, 1632, 1657, 1737, 1716 and 1737 are included under the topic Early Wake History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Wake Spelling Variations

Anglo-Norman names tend to be marked by an enormous number of spelling variations. This is largely due to the fact that Old and Middle English lacked any spelling rules when Norman French was introduced in the 11th century. The languages of the English courts at that time were French and Latin. These various languages mixed quite freely in the evolving social milieu. The final element of this mix is that medieval scribes spelled words according to their sounds rather than any definite rules, so a name was often spelled in as many different ways as the number of documents it appeared in. The name was spelled Wake, Waik, Wayke and others.

Early Notables of the Wake family (pre 1700)

Another 42 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Wake Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Wake migration to the United States +

Because of the political and religious discontent in England, families began to migrate abroad in enormous numbers. Faced with persecution and starvation at home, the open frontiers and generally less oppressive social environment of the New World seemed tantalizing indeed to many English people. The trip was difficult, and not all made it unscathed, but many of those who did get to Canada and the United States made important contributions to the young nations in which they settled. Some of the first North American settlers with Wake name or one of its variants:

Wake Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Jonathan Wake, who arrived in Virginia in 1636 [3]
  • Giles Wake, who landed in Virginia in 1663 [3]
  • William Wake, who landed in Maryland in 1665 [3]
  • John Wake, who settled in Jamaica in 1690
  • Rich Wake, who landed in Virginia in 1695 [3]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Wake Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Wake, aged 31, who arrived in New York in 1812 [3]
  • George Wake, who arrived in New York in 1841 [3]
  • Mary Wake, who landed in Minnesota in 1874 [3]

Canada Wake migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Wake Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Ralph Wake, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750

Australia Wake migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Wake Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • James Wake, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Bussorah Merchant" in 1848 [4]
  • Benjamin Wake, aged 26, who arrived in South Australia in 1850 aboard the ship "Trafalgar" [5]
  • John Wake, aged 26, a bricklayer, who arrived in South Australia in 1854 aboard the ship "Star Queen" [6]

New Zealand Wake migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Wake Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Charles Wake, aged 17, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Westminster" in 1843
  • Mr. Charles Wake, American settler travelling from San Francisco aboard the ship "Helen S. Page" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 10th October 1850 [7]
  • Marion Wake a servant, who arrived in Nelson, New Zealand aboard the ship "Eagle" in 1854

Contemporary Notables of the name Wake (post 1700) +

  • David B. Wake (b. 1936), American professor of integrative biology and former curator of herpetology of Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Derek Cameron Wake (b. 1982), American NFL football linebacker
  • Hereward Wake, American Republican politician, Member of Connecticut State House of Representatives from Westport; Elected 1946 [8]
  • Henry Williamson "Harry" Wake (1901-1981), English professional footballer
  • Nancy Grace Augusta Wake AC, GM (1912-2011), British agent during the later part of World War II and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

RMS Titanic
  • Mr. T. Wake (d. 1912), aged 32, English Asst. Baker from Southampton, Hampshire who worked aboard the RMS Titanic and died in the sinking [9]


The Wake Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Vigila et Ora
Motto Translation: Watch and Pray


  1. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. ^ Burke, John Bernard, The Roll of Battle Abbey. London: Edward Churton, 26, Holles Street, 1848, Print.
  3. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  4. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) BUSSORAH MERCHANT 1848. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1848BussorahMerchant.htm
  5. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) TRAFALGAR 1850. Retrieved http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1850Trafalgar-March.htm
  6. ^ South Australian Register Monday 1st January 1855. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Star Queen 1854. Retrieved http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/australia/starqueen1854.shtml
  7. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  8. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 11) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  9. ^ Titanic Passenger List - Titanic Facts. (Retrieved 2016, July 13) . Retrieved from http://www.titanicfacts.net/titanic-passenger-list.html


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