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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016

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]


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.

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.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Wake research. Another 329 words (24 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.


Another 69 words (5 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Wake Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


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
  • Giles Wake, who landed in Virginia in 1663
  • William Wake, who landed in Maryland in 1665
  • John Wake, who settled in Jamaica in 1690
  • Rich Wake, who landed in Virginia in 1695

Wake Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Thomas Wake, aged 31, arrived in New York in 1812
  • George Wake, who arrived in New York in 1841
  • Mary Wake, who landed in Minnesota in 1874

Wake Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century

  • Ralph Wake, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750

Wake Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • James Wake arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Bussorah Merchant" in 1848
  • Benjamin Wake, aged 26, arrived in South Australia in 1850 aboard the ship "Trafalgar"
  • John Wake, aged 26, a bricklayer, arrived in South Australia in 1854 aboard the ship "Star Queen"

Wake Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • Charles Wake, aged 17, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Westminster" in 1843
  • Marion Wake a servant, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Eagle" in 1854


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


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


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  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.

Other References

  1. Shirley, Evelyn Philip. Noble and Gentle Men of England Or Notes Touching The Arms and Descendants of the Ancient Knightley and Gentle Houses of England Arranged in their Respective Counties 3rd Edition. Westminster: John Bowyer Nichols and Sons, 1866. Print.
  2. Le Patourel, John. The Norman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-19-822525-3).
  3. Fairbairn. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  4. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. Print.
  5. Hitching, F.K and S. Hitching. References to English Surnames in 1601-1602. Walton On Thames: 1910. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0181-3).
  6. Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 Edited by Samuel Eliot Morrison 2 Volumes. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968. Print.
  7. Virkus, Frederick A. Ed. Immigrant Ancestors A List of 2,500 Immigrants to America Before 1750. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1964. Print.
  8. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  9. Dunkling, Leslie. Dictionary of Surnames. Toronto: Collins, 1998. Print. (ISBN 0004720598).
  10. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  11. ...

The Wake Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Wake Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 10 January 2016 at 07:49.

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