Drake Surname Genealogy

The root of Drake is the Latin draco or drago, meaning a snake or
dragon. These terms cropped up also in Old English. As a
nickname they could apply to someone fierce in battle, or a standard
bearer. Draca was used
in medieval England to mean a battle standard as well as a
dragon. The name was to be found
at Musbury in Devon
Saxon times.

Drake Resources on

Drake Ancestry

England. Drake has been
mainly a name of SW England.

Devon. Drake has
from early times a Devon name. John Drake was recorded as holding
lands at Musbury from 1272. They were engaged in shipping and
trade out of Exmouth and owned lands at Sprats Hayes and East Budleigh

Around 1420 John Drake, described as a “man of great estate and a name
of no less antiquity,” married into the Billett family of Ashe.
This resulting Ashe line of Drakes continued through Elizabethan times
Sir Bernard

until the death of Sir William Drake in 1733. A later visitor to
their house was Sir Winston Churchill whose ancestor the Duke of
Marlborough had been born there.

The swashbuckling adventurer
Sir Francis Drake
, born near
Tavistock, started the Drake line at Buckland Abbey. “Drake’s
Drum” is said to be kept there. A
descendant Elizabeth Drake wrote a study of this family, The Family and Heirs of Sir Francis Drake,
in 1911. Sir Francis Drake himself died wihout heirs. His
succession passed through one of his brothers until 1794 when the line
became extinct.

Other Drakes in Devon were to be found at Crowys
Murchard and in and around Plymouth and Newton Abbot. The Drake
family in Barnstaple descended from Henry Drake, the mayor of
Barnstaple in 1679.
Many Devon Drakes
in the 1600’s
left for America.

Outside of Devon, Drakes were to be found in Somerset, Dorset,
Buckinghamshire, East Anglia, and Yorkshire.The most illustrious of these Drakes were probably in
Buckinghamshire. The first of the line was Richard Drake who
arrived from Devon via Esher in Surrey. His son Francis acquired
through marriage the Shardeloes manor at Amersham and became its MP in
1625. The Drakes remained
important in Amersham
well into
the 20th century. Edward Tyrwhitt Drake, a foxhunting enthusiast
like his forebears, was the Sheriff of Buckinghamshire in 1927.

The largest Drake cluster may have been in and around Halifax in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Some think that these Drakes were also originally from Devon. But the name was recorded at Horley Green in Northowram as early as the 13th century. Francis Drake from this family was an antiquarian who wrote Eboracum, the history of the city of York, in 1736. The Joseph Drake who married Margaret Holt in 1674 was the forebear of the Sowerby Drakes. And many Drakes were to be found in the parish records at Ovenden.

Ireland.   Drakerath in county Meath was the seat of the Irish Drakes from the early 14th century. By the time of Cromwell they were considered “more Irish than the Irish” and were dispossessed of their lands. They migrated first to Kildare and then to Limerick before returning to Meath in the early 18th century.

America.  Devon Drakes were early arrivals in New England, including Thomas Drake of the Ashe Drakes to Weymouth, Massachusetts in 1635. His line was covered in Louis Drake’s 1896 book The Drake Family in England and America.   Sir Francis Drake’s brother Thomas also came.

Francis Drake, probably from Meath in Ireland, came to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Richard Drake arrived in Virginia from Somerset in 1658.  His descendants were planters in Isle of Wight county. Some early Drakes were originally Dutch Drachs
and Dracks, such as the Johannes Drack of Long Island in  1715.

Carolinas.  The Drake name cropped up in North Carolina in the early 1700’s, particularly in Nash county. By the time of the Civil War, one family had moved from there to Tennessee, another (with sons in the Confederate army) to Alabama. A third had migrated to Iowa where their son,  Francis Marion Drake, fought on the Union side and rose to become the Governor of that state in 1895.From the other side of the tracks was an Eason Drake of uncertain parentage who was born in South Carolina around 1780. He was a wanderer. He drifted to Georgia and ended up in the 1840’s in Tyler county, Texas. His son Francis was a Confederate war veteran who lived on there, but died half-blind in poverty at the turn of the century.

Elsewhere.  Samuel Drake arrived from Barnstable in Devon in 1810. When his wife died four years later, he packed up his family and embarked on a tour of the West as far as the Mississippi, offering theatrical performances wherever he went. He died in 1854; but left a family of actors who carried on his craft.

Canada.  Some early Drake settlers were Loyalists from America. They settled in New Brunswick and in St. Thomas, Ontario. George Drake from Devon was said to have jumped ship in Newfoundland and ended up in Halifax around 1780. Another Drake from Devon, Samuel Drake, emigrated to Prince
Edward Island in 1826.

Australia and New Zealand. Thomas Drake was an early settler in the 1840’s in Wellington New Zealand, starting the first brewery in the area. His father John, a merchant from Deptford in Kent, had been in charge of convict shipments to Tasmania (he was declared bankrupt in 1826). These Drakes were related to the Devon Sir Francis Drakes and later family members made inheritance claims.

Select Drake Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Drake Names

Bernard Drake
of the Ashe family was the Elizabethan naval
captain who secured Newfoundland against the Spanish in the 1580’s.
Francis Drake
, born near Tavistock in Devon, was the Elizabethan
privateer who circumnavigated the world in the 1570’s and then helped
to defeat the Spanish Armada.
Roger Drake was Governor of
Calcutta during the notorious “black hole” incident in 1756.
Edwin Drake first drilled for
and discovered oil in the United States at Titusville in 1858.
Ted Drake
was the Arsenal footballer who played for England
in the 1930’s.

Select Drakes Today

  • 10,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Devon)
  • 23,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 13,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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