WELCOME to my blog! I am a professional genealogist, writer, researcher and lecturer in England. I run a one-name study of the surname STOCKDALE, STOCKDILL and other variants. These names are registered with the Guild of One-Name Studies (, a major genealogical body founded in England in 1978 and now with members worldwide.

Guild logoA one-name study is defined by the Guild as follows… “A one-name study is a project researching facts about a surname and all the people who have held it, as opposed to a particular pedigree (the ancestors of one person) or descendancy (the descendants of one person or couple).”

Currently, over 2,600 people have registered over 8,300 study surnames with the Guild.

In this blog I shall be introducing you to some facts and figures about the origins of my surname – the root name of which is STOCKDALE – some historical background and focusing on people and events involved in my study, including some famous connections.

The name STOCKDILL is a variant of the more common surname STOCKDALE, which is overwhelmingly a name of the county of Yorkshire, deriving from place names in that great English county. I have run for a number of years a one-name study for the names, registered with the Guild of One-Name Studies ( This site will deal with the origins, history and general background of Stockdale/Stockdill and other variants, plus my own personal family history.

The surname STOCKDALE, with variants STOCKDILL and STOGDALE, appears in the major reference book, A Dictionary of English Surnames, by P.H. Reaney & R.M. Wilson. This is widely respected as one of the principal sources for the origins and definitions of English surnames.

DefinitionSurnameThe name has its origins in place names in the counties of Yorkshire and Cumberland, the latter being an adjacent county to Yorkshire. It derives from the Old English word “stocc”, meaning a tree stump, and “dael” (or dale), a valley. Thus, the name originally meant a “dweller in the tree stump valley”, no doubt referring to a place where the trees had been cut down to form a clearing for habitation.

The surname was first recorded in English history in 1332 in the name of one Alan de Stokdale in the Subsidy Rolls for Cumberland and later in the same century in 1379 with William de Stokdale in the Poll Tax for Yorkshire. But whether either of these gentleman can be claimed to have been ancestors of present-day living Stockdales and Stockdills is impossible to say because researches have not so far been able to trace that far back. However, since Yorkshire was invaded and settled by Norse invaders in the 8th and 9th centuries, before the Norman Conquest, it seems likely that Viking blood runs in the veins of many Stockdales and Stockdills.

There are a number of places called Stockdale in Yorkshire and Cumberland, most of them in remote, moorland spots. One lies in the North York Moors near Westerdale, a place called Stockdale Moor with a stream called Stockdale Beck. This is in the Cleveland Hills which are part of the beautiful North Yorkshire National Park. There is another Stockdale Moor over the other side of Yorkshire, in the equally stunning Yorkshire Dales. close to the famous beauty spot of Malham Tarn. There is a hamlet called Stockdale in this location, today little more than a single farmstead, lying on a moorland track between the town of Settle and the parish of Kirkby Malham.

There is yet another place called Stockdale further north in the Dales between Thwaite and Keld. And there are places called Stockdale, also a Stockdalewath, in Cumberland.

Curiously, there is also a place in Cornwall called Stockdale, north-west of Falmouth, but I know very little about it except that it is not thought to have been a source of the surname, otherwise there would have been far more people of the name in Cornwall than there appear to be.

What is certain is that since Yorkshire has always had a far larger population than Cumberland and most other English counties, then the number of people with the name Stockdale, and variants like Stockdill, are predominately found in Yorkshire.

Genealogists and family historians will know that surname spellings were fluid before the 20th century and numerous variations (known as variants) are frequently found in old documents like parish registers. Most families will find their name spelt in at least half a dozen different ways over the years and generations.

This variation is unsurprising. It was common in former times when illiteracy was often the norm and people were often unsure as to the correct spelling of their surname, so they left it to the vicar, parish clerk or other official – and those gentlemen may have had differing views as to how a name ought to be spelt.

In my researches I have found the following spellings of our family name: STOCKDALE, STOCKDILL, STOCKDELL, STOCKDAILL, STOCKDAYLE, STOCKTEL, STOGDILL and STOGDALE. The variants Stockdell, Stockdaill, Stockdayle and Stocktel appear to be antiquated variants that have died out, while Stogdill and Stogdale seem to be more frequent in America than in the UK.

Please note that, while many one-namers concentrate on collecting as many records of their registered name as possible – as indeed the Guild recommends – this is not entirely my approach! Rather than adopting a simple “train-spotting” attitude to my one-name study, I think it important to include some personal stories about bearers of the surname, their achievements and accomplishments, which is what I have endeavoured to do on this website. Here you will find a number of articles about bearers of the Stockdale (and variants) name and their lives. Perhaps it’s largely due to the fact that I am a journalist and am interested in human stories, but this to me brings alive in a more interesting way some of the characters I have encountered in the course of my researches, rather than just presenting an avalanche of cold statistics!

Over the centuries, the Stockdale and Stockdill surname has spread around the world, particularly to the English-speaking countries. I have distant relatives in Canada and Australia, while the name Stockdill is found also in America and New Zealand.

There appears to be a belief among some American Stockdills that their name is the Irish version of the much more common Stockdale, but this is erroneous! It is perfectly true that there are more Stockdills in America than there are here in the UK (only about 40 at the last count) and that most of them do appear to descend from an Irish Stockdill but it doesn’t mean that my version of the name originated in Ireland.

Over the centuries it appears in the International Genealogical Index (IGI), compiled by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in various forms, mostly as Stockdale but with many Stockdills. All the evidence, together with my researches, indicates beyond doubt that both versions have their origins in place names in northern England, specifically Yorkshire and Cumberland.

As mentioned previously, the name was first recorded in England in 1332, while my own researches have established that it did not appear at all in Ireland until a relatively late period in the mid-1630s. Moreover, there is no place in Ireland that I have been able to discover called Stockdale or Stockdill, which there would be had it originated in that country separately as a surname.

I will probably never be able to prove it but I have a theory that the name first appeared in Ireland in the shape of a man who was either a soldier or retainer to Sir Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford (1593-1641) who was sent to Ireland to rule that country by Charles I in 1632 as Lord Deputy. He took up residence in Dublin Castle. Sir Thomas was a major landowner in Yorkshire and would undoubtedly have taken many people with him, amongst whom was very probably a Stockdale.

Coincidentally, the name first appears in Dublin in about 1634 in a Church of Ireland (Protestant) register, therefore the bearer was almost certainly not a native Irishman who would very likely have been a Catholic. It spread to the north of Ireland as well as Stockdale, Stockdell and Stockdill.

Thus, it’s an English – and principally Yorkshire – name that was imported into Ireland and did not originate there, whatever Americans may think!

* This article is the copyright of Roy Stockdill, 2013. Please ask my permission to quote from it. This will not be unreasonably withheld but an accreditation would be appreciated. Thank you!

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