What’s In A Name?

SurnameDefinitionStockdale Moor, North YorkshireStockdale near SettleGuild logoSir Thomas Wentworth

Above left: an Ordnance Survey map showing Stockdale Moor in the North York Moors National Park; above right: Stockdale Farm in the Yorkshire Dales, possibly another source of the surname; bottom left: logo of the Guild of One-Name Studies; bottom right: Sir Thomas Wentworth, who may have inadvertently been responsible for introducing the STOCKDALE/STOCKDILL surname into Ireland.

My surname, 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 (www.one-name.org). 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.

The 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 Moor, 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. I have even seen a name spelt in more than one way in the same document!

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. I have also occasionally seen, principally in America, versions of the name with an “s” in the middle, i.e. STOCKSDALE and STOCKSDILL.

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.

Ireland
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. In my own family, the name frequently swapped backwards and forwards in England between Stockdale and Stockdill from the early 18th century up to late in Victorian times – and none of my family came from Ireland.

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, among whom was probably a Stockdale, Stockdill or other variant.

Coincidentally, the name first appears in Dublin in about 1635 in a Church of Ireland (Protestant) parish 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 some American Stockdills 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!

2 Responses to What’s In A Name?

  1. martin stockdale says:

    Hi Roy,
    By chance I happened on your most interesting article. My surname is stockdale! My grandfather came from County Down in Northern Ireland. Of all the stockdales mentioned in the 1901 irish census we are the sole catholic family. I simply wish to say a big thank you for enlightening me as to the origins of our name.
    Martin Stockdale

    • Many thanks, Martin. Good to hear from you and I am so glad you found my website intersting. You may have read that there were some Irish STOCKDILLs but they seem to have died out or become STOCKDALE. It;s the same name, really!

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