Select Oakes Surname Genealogy

Both the ash tree and the oak tree have provided locational surnames (i.e. one who lived by the ash or by the oak):
  • from Ash has come Ash and Nash
  • from Oak has come Oakes and Noakes - Noakes being a shortening of the Middle English atten okes
Nash is more common than Ash.  But there are more Oakes than Noakes.  Oakes has predominated in the northwest, Noakes in the southeast.

Select Oakes Resources on The Internet

Select Oakes Ancestry

England.  Early records of the name are Adam at ye Ock in Shropshire in 1273 and Henricus atte Ok in the Yorkshire poll tax of 1379.  Subsequent spellings could be Oake, Oaks, or Oakes.  Oakes as a surname was not that evident in English life until the 1700's.  

Cheshire  An Oakes line can be traced from the 1720's in Middlewich, Cheshire.  This family owned Sproston Hall for several generations and produced the Victorian landscape painter John Wright Oakes.  Other Oakes were to be found at Over nearby.  Some Oakes from this area later moved across to Liverpool.

Suffolk  James Oakes was the son of a well-to-do linen draper from Ardwick in Lancashire who had moved to Bury St. Edmonds in Suffolk in the 1720's.  James's fame rests on the diaries that he wrote between 1778 and 1827 which were subsequently published.  This Oakes family became local gentry from their Newton Court estate nearby.  Their second son James was the rector of Tostock from 1796 to 1861.

Elsewhere  Another James Oakes, from Somershall in Derbyshire, made his name and his money from the ironworks he acquired in the village of Riddings near Alfreton in 1818.  For the next hundred years, the Oakes family dominated the village, owning not just the ironworks but several local colleries as well.  Their home, Riddings House, is now a residential home for the elderly.

By the late 19th century, the northwest (Lancashire, Cheshire, and Staffordshire), accounted for, as per census data, just over half of the Oakes population in England.  There was some spillover into Yorkshire and East Anglia.  But, apart from London, few Oakeses elsewhere.

.  Oakes arrived from England into New England and Virginia.

New England  Two Oakes brothers, Thomas and Edward, came to New England in the 1630's.  Edward's son, Rev. Urian, was an early President of Harvard College.  Descendants later moved onto Maine.  William Oakes headed west in the 1880's to homestead in north Washington state. 

Nathaniel Oak arrived in the 1660's and was one of the first settlers of Marlborough, Massachusetts.  This surname Oak became Oaks and later Oakes.  Jonathan Oaks moved his family to Maine in 1771 and there was a later migration to California in 1866.  The family history Oak/Oaks/Oakes was published by H.L. Oak in 1900.

Virginia  John Oakes, a tobacco planter, came to Virginia in the 1670's, his son John and wife Rachel in 1702.  Their descendants are to be found across the South.  Thomas Oakes was hired by the Federal government to build houses in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) at the time of their removal from Mississippi.  From The History of Oklahoma:

"Thomas Oakes was a carpenter and among his activities was the erection of the first council house of the Choctaw Nation at Tuskahoma.  The building was constructed on large pine logs around 1850.  He built the Goodwater mission school which was one of the earliest small schools of the Nation.  A white man himself, he gained Choctaw citizenship by marriage into a prominent Choctaw family."

Thomas was the founder of the "red Oakes" family branch, to distinguish itself from his brothers' lines, the "black Oakes" which had settled in Missouri and the "white Oakes" which had gone north. 

Meanwhile John Oakes, a free man of color, and his wife Mary left South Carolina for Yazoo City in Mississippi in 1860.  Their son A.J. Oakes, known as Mississippi's black lumber king, started the Oakes Academy in Yazoo.  His home has been restored as the Oakes African American Culture Center.

Later Oakes  Thomas Oakes had immigrated to New Jersey from England in 1802.  In 1830 his son David started a thriving textile business in Bloomfield which remained in family hands for the next hundred years.  David's home, the Oakside on Bellevue Avenue, has been maintained by the town. 
The journalist George Washington Ochs (related to the New York Times Ochs) legally changed his name to Oakes because of the outrage at the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-boat in 1915.  Another anglicization to Oakes occurred during World War Two with the Axe family of German origin in the Philadelphia area.  

.  Jesse Oakes had been a Loyalist from Long Island who resettled in Digby, Nova Scotia in 1783. Later, a number of Oakes from Maine lived across the border in Connors, New Brunswick.  Garret Oakes, who had been born in New Brunswick, was one of the pioneer settlers of Yarmouth township in western Ontario in 1810. 

Harry Oakes had been born in Maine in 1874, but made his home and money (from mining) in Ontario.  He lived at Oak Hall near Niagara Falls and later in the Bahamas.  Sir Harry Oakes' murder in Nassau in 1943 was never solved. Twenty three years later, his son Sir Sidney was also killed in Nassau when he crashed his sports car.

The Oakes surname has been prominent amongst the Akwesasne Mohawks of Snye, Quebec near the US border.  Richard Oakes became a Native American activist, led the Indian storming of Alcatraz island off San Francisco in 1969, but was then murdered for his militancy three years later.

South Africa.  Walter and Herbert Oakes, descendants of James Oakes of Oakes Diaries in Suffolk, emigrated to South Africa in 1857 and settled in Natal.  Oakford Priory, a Catholic school and church, derived its name from these Oakes brothers who farmed where the priory stands today.  There was a ford over the stream where the settlers crossed and that was how it came to be known as Oakford.

Australia.  Francis Oakes had set off from England as a missionary to the South Seas in 1796, but ended up in the new colony of New South Wales as its first police officer.  His wife Rebecca (nee Small) had been a convict on the First Fleet. They had fourteen children, two of whom became parliamentary members.  The family were early settlers in the Bathurst area. 

A later convict arrival was George Oakes, transported from Cheshire on the Speke in 1826.  John Oakes came from London in the 1850's and settled in Melbourne.

Select Oakes Miscellany

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

Select Oakes Names

James Oakes
was a Suffolk banker in the late 18th and early 19th centuries whose diaries provide a window on provincial England at that time.
Hildebrand Oakes had a lengthy and distinguished career in the British Army and was created a baronet in 1813.
John Wright Oakes was a Victorian landscape painter.

Sir Harry Oakes
was a Canadian mining magnate of the first half of the 20th century.

Richard Oakes was a Native Indian activist who led the Indian storming of Alcatraz island in 1969.
John Oakes, the son of George Washington Ochs, was an influential journalist on the New York Times during the time of civil rights and the Vietnam war.

Select Oakes Today
  • 8,000 in the UK (most numerous in Norfolk)
  • 6,000 in America (most numerous in New York).
  • 8,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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