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Archiver > BECK > 1998-07 > 0900314275

From: Josiah Beck <>
Subject: [BECK-L] Beck Surname origin.
Date: Mon, 13 Jul 1998 00:17:55 -0700

The following was published in someone's webpage, and I copied the text
but neglected to copy the source. I can't take credit for the
information, I only corrected some of the spelling. As the note
mentions, there are several different Coats of Arms for various branches
of the family, but it gives the earliest the author(s) could find.
If anyone knows the source, please let me know so I can document the
information. To the author, I apologize for not keeping your identity,
but I'm grateful for the information.
Joe Beck, San Jose, CA


The Ancient History of the Surname Beck

English history

Few amongst the ancient surnames of England are as highly regarded as
Beck. This surname is one of the oldest Norman surnames and its history
is closely interwoven into the prosaic tapestry which is reflected in
the ancient Chronicles of all England.

Professional research into ancient manuscripts such as the Doomsday book
(compiled in 1086 by William the Conquerer), the Ragman Rolls, the Wace
Poem, the Honour Roll of Battel Abbey, the Falaise Roll, tax records,
baptismals, family genealogies, local parish and church records reveals
the first record of the name Beck was found in Yorkshire and
Lincolnshire, after they had been granted lands by King William after
the Norman Conquest in 1066.

The early and middle development of the name found many different
spellings in the archives researched, typically linked to a common root,
usually one of the Norman nobles at the Battle of Hastings. Although
your name, Beck, occurred in many references, from time to time, the
surname included the spellings Beck, Becke, Bech, Beche, and these
changes in spelling frequently occurred, even between father and son.
Scribes and church officials spelled the name as it was told to them,
frequently spelling it different ways on each occasion. It was not
unusual that a person would be born with one spelling, married with
another, and buried with a headstone which showed another. All three
spellings related to the same person. Sometimes preferences for spelling
variations either come from a division of the family or had religious
reasons or sometimes reflected nationalistic concerns.

The family name Beck is believed to be descended originally from the
Norman race, frequently but mistakenly assumed to be of French origin.
They were more accurately of Viking origin. The Vikings landed in the
Orkneys and Northern Scotland about the year 870 A.D., under their King
Stirgud the Stout. Thorfinn Rollo, his descendent, scion of explorer
clans who may well have visited North America, landed in Northern France
about the year 940 A.D. The French king, Charles the Simple, after Rollo
laid siege to Paris, finally conceded defeat and granted northern France
to Rollo. Rollo became the first Duke of Normandy, the territory of the
Northmen. Rollo married Charles' daughter and became a convert to
Christianity. Descended from Rollo was Duke William of Normandy who
invaded England in 1066 and was victorious of the Saxon King Harold at
Hastings in 1066 A. D.

Duke William granted his Norman nobles much of the land of England for
their assistance at the battle of Hastings. Amongst these Normans a
noble is believed to have been your ancestor. After careful analysis the
researchers found that the first evidence of your surname was found in
Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. Walter De Bec was granted by Duke William
many manors and estates in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. He had
accompanied Duke William at the battle of Hastings. They established
Beck Hall about this time. In 1330 a branch of Becks accompanied David,
Earl of Huntingdon, north to Scotland, and was granted lands in
Glenwaldy, in the Barony of Preston, they also settled in Bridgend in
Dumfriesshire. Notable amongst the family at this time was Bishop of

During the 15th, 16th and 17th century, England and Scotland were
ravaged by religious and political conflicts as first one element, then
another fought for control. This create the unrest that was to produce a
great exodus, either voluntarily or by banishment as first one side
acquired control then another. The tyranny almost assumed the profile of
an inquisition and many innocent men were condemned to either the
colonies, to prison, or to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Alliances
were all important. Arranged marriages assured families of protection,
and influence in the right quarter. Family names became extinct if they
chose the wrong alliances. Loyalty to the wrong power could bring
disastrous results to the future of a whole family name.

The result was the manipulation of families known to be loyal to the
cause. Subjugation of Ireland became the objective a succession of
monarchs. Many families were freely "encouraged" to migrate to Ireland
or to the "colonies". Lands were granted free or at nominal payments.
Some families were rewarded with these grants of land, others were

In Ireland, settlers became known as the "adventurers for land in
Ireland". Settlers undertook to maintain the Protestant faith within
their families and all those who worked for them. They branched to
Ulster in Ireland were the name became Beakey. John W. Beck wrote a book
relating to the history of the Beck family in Northern Ireland by
Barking in 1929.

But the new world beckoned and migration continued, some voluntarily
from Ireland but mostly directly from England or Scotland, their home
territories. Some clans and families even moved to the European

Kinsmen of the family name Beck were amongst the many who sailed the
Armanda of small sailing ships, tiny overcrowded vessels known as the
"White Sails" which plied the stormy Atlantic during the 17th, 18th, and
19th centuries. These overcrowded ships were pestilence ridden,
sometimes 30% to 40% of the passenger list never reached their
destination, their numbers reduced by dysentery, cholera, small pox and

Principal amongst the settlers which could be considered a kinsmen of
the surname Beck, or a variable spelling of that family name was
Alexander Beck who settled in Boston Mass. in 1634, who had sailed from
England in the "Blessing". In Newfoundland, Thomas settled in St. John's
in 1821; Henry settled in St. Lawrence in 1826; Henry settled in
Placentia in 1835; Robert was a fisherman in Rose Blanche in 1834. There
is a Beck Bay in Newfoundland.

The trek from the port of entry was also hazardous and many joined the
wagon trails to the prairies or over the Rockies to the west coast.
During the War of Independence, many loyalists made their way north to
Canada about 1790 and became known as United Empire Loyalists.

20th century notables of this surname, Beck, include many distinguished
persons. Sir Adam Beck of Niagara Falls fame; Professor Arnold Beck; Sir
Edgar Beck; Beck, Archbishop of Liverpool; Richard Beck, Architect;
Robert Beck, Engineer.

During the course of our research we also determined that many Coat of
Arms granted to different branches of the family name.

The most ancient grant of a Coat of Arms was:
An ermine cross on a red background.
The Crest was:
A silver pelican on a mound.
The ancient family motto for this distinguished name was: "Unitate

Norwegian History (from Alexander Beck)

The first way they spelled it was "BEKK". In Norwegian Bekk means small
road of water who runs down. In Telemark there was a farm at which there
was water running between the houses, and in Norway people's names used
to be same as the farm's name. So the man on this farm was called
Bekkimellom (water between). His son later shortened it down to Bek.

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