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Thread: A New Etymology Hypothesis for the Wilkinson (and variants) Surname

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    A New Etymology Hypothesis for the Wilkinson (and variants) Surname

    I want to make folks aware that after about three years of research into my genetic genealogy, most of which has been made possible by Y-DNA analysis on FTDNA (and some YSEQ and YFull), and also forum discussions on Anthrogenica, I’ve published a book (link below). I discuss the Y-DNA impact on my research in the book.

    My book is the product of ancillary findings in some early medieval material that I came across during my genealogical research. In simplest terms, I believe that what I have found in the historical materials shows that the standard explanation of the Wilkinson surname (and really all “wilk” root surnames) as being of Norman origin is simply not correct. Rather, these "wilk" root surnames are patronymics that originated from given names that came out of the Polabian Slav (Wend) Wilzi tribe, their word for wolf was "wilk". The Wilzi migrated out of south central Germany and settled in Frisia (near modern Utrecht in Netherlands) and to the Baltic cost just east of Denmark in the modern area of Mecklenberg-Vorpommern. The Wilzi assimilated into the Frisian and Danish populations and, in turn, these names were introduced into the British Isles and Ireland initially by the Anglo-Saxon, and later by the Viking, migrations/invasions to these isles.

    I Hope folks will check it out. Please also let other “wilk” surname (Wilkins, Wilkie, etc.) people know as the theory origin applies to those names as well. Hope you find it of interest. It certainly has been a fascinating research journey.

    Forgotten Wolves of Wilkinaland: A New Etymology Hypothesis for the Wilkinson Surname in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales https://www.amazon.com/dp/1480895903..._TxcIFbHG50XG0

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    Can this be backed up with haplogroup evidence? If they were Polabian Slavs, they would have had high percentages of R1a. My own line is German and R1a-M458, probably from the Main River Wends in Bavaria Slavica.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeyP37 View Post
    Can this be backed up with haplogroup evidence? If they were Polabian Slavs, they would have had high percentages of R1a. My own line is German and R1a-M458, probably from the Main River Wends in Bavaria Slavica.
    Some are genetic direct Polabian descendants, but not all. The Clan MacDonald line is R1a and could be an off shoot, though the R1a split was probably much older. Remember too that the Wilzi were assimilated into the broader Danish and Frisian populations. The Slavonic language died out but remnants in given names (Wilken, Wilko, Wilkain, Wilke) remained in use. They are found in some Danish mytho-saga such as the Didrek of Bern saga (King Wilkinus of Wilkinaland) and the character of Wilken in the Langbeen Riser ballad (slayer of Etgeir the giant). These originally Wilzi givne names continued long after their Slvonic root meaning was known (the way a non-French parent might name a son Jean, or a daughter Yvonne), and then these given names would have become patronymics. The patronymics would have shifted generation to generation until surnaming conventions "froze" them.

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    Er, ah, my own Wilkinson line, which comes via a third great grandmother on my dad's mom's side, is Scottish. I have a number of autosomal dna matches in that line, and finally one of the males turned up at 23andMe. 23andMe gets him as far as R1b-DF85 on the y-chromosome side of things.

    That is downstream of M222 thus:

    Wilkinson R1b-DF85 Phylogeny: M207>M173>M343>L754>L389>P297>M269>L23>L51>P310>
    L151>P312>Z290>L21>DF13>Z39589>DF49>Z2980>Z2976>DF 23>Z2961>Z2956> Z2965>M222>FGC4124>S658>DF104>DF105>DF85 (aka S675)


    No offense, but I seriously doubt your new Wilkinson etymology. "Wilkin" is supposed to have been a diminutive derived from William. Wilkinson is simply "son of Wilkin". That makes more sense to me and is far simpler and more straightforward (and ordinary) than some sort of elaborate and tenuous derivation from the Slavic Wilzi, the root of whose name would have had to have been preserved for - what? - at least a thousand years before being adopted as Wilkinson in Scotland.

    Nah. Especially not with a British/Irish y-chromosome like that.
    Last edited by rms2; 10-16-2020 at 08:02 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rms2 View Post
    Er, ah, my own Wilkinson line, which comes via a third great grandmother on my dad's mom's side, is Scottish. I have a number of autosomal dna matches in that line, and finally one of the males turned up at 23andMe. 23andMe gets him as far as R1b-DF85 on the y-chromosome side of things.

    That is downstream of M222 thus:

    Wilkinson R1b-DF85 Phylogeny: M207>M173>M343>L754>L389>P297>M269>L23>L51>P310>
    L151>P312>Z290>L21>DF13>Z39589>DF49>Z2980>Z2976>DF 23>Z2961>Z2956> Z2965>M222>FGC4124>S658>DF104>DF105>DF85 (aka S675)


    No offense, but I seriously doubt your new Wilkinson etymology. "Wilkin" is supposed to have been a diminutive derived from William. Wilkinson is simply "son of Wilkin". That makes more sense to me and is far simpler and more straightforward (and ordinary) than some sort of elaborate and tenuous derivation from the Slavic Wilzi, the root of whose name would have had to have been preserved for - what? - at least a thousand years before being adopted as Wilkinson in Scotland.

    Nah. Especially not with a British/Irish y-chromosome like that.
    Yes, I am well familiar with the diminutive of Willliam explanation. I figured it to be so until I started digging. I want to make clear that the patronymic is not connected to a particular genetic signature (Slavic or otherwise). The Wilzi who assimilated into the Frisians and Danes, would have brought given name traditions. Late 19th century surname treatises confirm these given names in England (Wilken, Wilkain, Wilko, Wilke) as Frisian and Danish. It also commonly was transcribed as Uilcin. Note that the ancient form of McQuilkin in Scotland and Ireland is MacUilcin. Wulf and Ulf were common Anglo-German and Norse given names. It seems plain that that the Wilzi would have done similarly in the form of Wilk and variants. In the book (which is heavily footnoted) I show all the "wilk" root place names in England and Ireland that either definitely (all the England ones are pre-Norman in Domesday) or likely (Viking areas in Ireland) predate Normans. Naming conventions are not going to track straight genetics. Especially not patronymics, which depending on fecundity, might have changed 4 to 5 times per century up until the surnaming conventions required the surname name be carried forward. It wouldn't have taken a millennium at all. The Frisians were among the Anglo-Saxons who colonized Britain in the 5th and 6th centuries. The Danes show up in England, Scotland and Ireland only three centuries later.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rms2 View Post
    Er, ah, my own Wilkinson line, which comes via a third great grandmother on my dad's mom's side, is Scottish. I have a number of autosomal dna matches in that line, and finally one of the males turned up at 23andMe. 23andMe gets him as far as R1b-DF85 on the y-chromosome side of things.

    That is downstream of M222 thus:

    Wilkinson R1b-DF85 Phylogeny: M207>M173>M343>L754>L389>P297>M269>L23>L51>P310>
    L151>P312>Z290>L21>DF13>Z39589>DF49>Z2980>Z2976>DF 23>Z2961>Z2956> Z2965>M222>FGC4124>S658>DF104>DF105>DF85 (aka S675)


    No offense, but I seriously doubt your new Wilkinson etymology. "Wilkin" is supposed to have been a diminutive derived from William. Wilkinson is simply "son of Wilkin". That makes more sense to me and is far simpler and more straightforward (and ordinary) than some sort of elaborate and tenuous derivation from the Slavic Wilzi, the root of whose name would have had to have been preserved for - what? - at least a thousand years before being adopted as Wilkinson in Scotland.

    Nah. Especially not with a British/Irish y-chromosome like that.
    Incidentally, my Wilkinson line also traces to Ulster then the Hebrides, most likely as McQuilkin before
    being anglicized sometime in late 1600s of early 1700s. Two deep Y matches are McNeills from Tiree. Another is a Pedersen from Denmark. There is a concentration of both McNeills and McQuilkins in the Knapdale/Kintyre/Gigha/Jura/Islay areas of Argyll. Many were fugitives after the defeat of the Jacobite uprising in late 1600s. This matching only plausibly points to a Norse Gael origin. Why are the surnames different? Again, because the requirement to maintain the same surname wasn’t established in GB and Ireland until 1100s or so, probably much later in remote areas like Hebrides. In Denmark, requirement to carry forward same surname wasn’t required until 19th century. Thus patronymic shift by generation continued for centuries. So genetic lines of common paternal ancestor descent could and do have a multiplicity of surnames.

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    Prior to Margaryan's 2019 Viking DNA study, a Norse-Gael origin for my line didn't even occur to me, my R-U152>L20 haplogroup seemed to preclude it (and frankly I was happy enough to be of presumptive "Alpine Celt" descent). I figured that my Danish match was just a random convergence, and my Y line probably came to British Isles/Ireland during Iron Age or maybe as Belgaic Roman auxiliaries. But then two things happened. First, Margaryan's study found 2x (recently upped to 3x) R-L20 ancient Viking remains in Denmark (VK286(Langeland), VK326(Jutland), and VK373(Funen)). Then my 1x McNeill match in Tiree turned into 2x McNeills in Tiree. No Ulster plantation colonist (my prior working hypothesis for my line) wandered up to Tiree. So, I had to rethink what the actual data showed, it seemed clear that the Danish and Hebridean link had to mean a Norse-Gael descent. Expanding over time through Argyll, and eventually ending up in Ulster (Antrim, possibly Rathlin) sometime before ~1740 or so when we packed up for the North Carolina colony. I want to make clear, that this does not mean that all Wilkinson (or more accurately "wilk" root) lineages are Norse-Gael. Nor does my book argue so. Some are Frisian components of the Anglo-Saxon migration principally to England. Some Danes probably came along at that stage as well (cf. Beowulf). The some lines came with the Viking era Danes to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, during the Viking era. Finally some may have come with the Normans, but probably among the Flemish contingents. The "son of the diminutive of William" Norman origin claim almost always cites the descendant of Robert de Wintona from his estate in Wales (Pant Wylkyn). There a several problems with that claim. First and foremost, the first de Wintona descendant to take the Wylekynsone (var.) name was about 10 generations post-Conquest. That puts him about 1250 AD at the earliest (figuring a generous 5x generations per century). The Vikings were pretty active in Glamorganshire well before the Normans arrived. It is entirely plausible that Pant Wylkyn had its name from Viking times and the de Wintona descendant adopted the name of the estate as his (as many Normans did, e.g. de Baeumont, etc). There are at least a half dozen "wilk" root place names in the Domesday book. Again, all indications are that these are of Frisian origin, all prior to Norman conquest. There are also several Uilcin/Wilkin place names in Ireland too. These are almost certainly pre-Norman as well. Finally, about 50 years prior to the de Wintona descendant, there was at least one Wilkan among John de Courcy's entourage in Ulster (the son of one of his vassals from Flanders), and around the same time, there was an Irish Wilkin near Limerick (see Caislean Uilcin), most likely a remnant Norse-Gael who decided to work with the Normans (according to Orpen this cost him his life in the machinations between Connacht and the Normans over Limerick). Again, all this (and much more) is meticulously documented in 140 footnotes in my book. I understand your skepticism, but I think you might be surprised by how much evidence there is to support my theory, and how little to support the prevailing Norman origin theory.

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    From what I can see, there is no reason whatsoever to believe such an elaborate and tenuous derivation of the surname Wilkinson when the standard, traditional explanation makes a lot more sense and is a lot simpler.

    Honestly, your new etymology looks like the product of an out-of-control desire to construct a romantic, heroic legacy in place of the much more ordinary - and accurate - one.

    If you want to believe all that, knock yourself out, but I don't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rms2 View Post
    From what I can see, there is no reason whatsoever to believe such an elaborate and tenuous derivation of the surname Wilkinson when the standard, traditional explanation makes a lot more sense and is a lot simpler.

    Honestly, your new etymology looks like the product of an out-of-control desire to construct a romantic, heroic legacy in place of the much more ordinary - and accurate - one.

    If you want to believe all that, knock yourself out, but I don't.
    To the contrary, this book was really quite accidental. I had no intention of even writing a about our surname etymology, but my research kept coming over and over again to information that pointed to Frisian/Dane rather than Norman. If the Norman theory is correct, why does no variant of Wilken or Vilken appear in the best and most comprehensive source for a "whos who" in Norman England is K.S.B. Keats-Rohan, "Domesday People: A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents 1066-1166", Vols. 1 &2, Domesday Book, The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1999? Checked both the first edition (600 pages) and the second edition (1200 pages), well indexed. I submit that you will find no variants of Wilkens. There are many names with prefixes such as de or fillus or prior etc. and again, null set. The Second Edition is "Pipe Rolls to Cartae Baronum" - largely to the 1200s. Melvyn Bragg in his "The Adventure of English" (ch. 5) notes that William as a popular name didn't arise until the mid 1200s. This is well after "wilk" root place names in areas of Frisian settlement existed. He also notes that the suffix "son" is heavily represented in the Viking Dane naming tradition, listing many examples, including Wilkinson (ch. 2).

    Barber in his 1894 surname treatise probably captures where some of the mistaken attribution arises from noting that:

    “The terminations ing, kin and son, so common in English names, are derived from the Norse ingr, kyn, and sonr, the r being dropped in compounds. The Danish make the last sen. Also kyn must not be confounded with the diminutive-endings: Germ., chen; Fris., ken and ke; Flem., kin; which have quite different meaning and are used in pet names chiefly.

    “The diminutives, Frisian, ken, ke, ock, and cock… should be noted….

    “There is no doubt about many Frisian names having spread along the southern shore of the Baltic, for the prevalence of the diminutive ‘ke’ in contradistinction to the German ‘chen’ is transparently obvious. Nevertheless, there are many of them patronymics which are difficult to trace, either through the Frisian, or from those of the ancient Scandinavian as found in Iceland.” Barber, 6, 14.

    Again, Barber identifies of the “wilk” root names (Wilke, Wilko, Wilkie, Wilkins, Wilkinson, etc.) in his surname treatise as being of Frisian and Danish (as well as Dutch or Flemish). He identifies Wilko and Wilke as Frisian masculine given name, and the Wilken name as Danish.

    See also generally Fellow-Jensen, “Scandinavians in Dumfriesshire and Galloway: The Place Name Evidence” in Oram & Stell, Galloway, Land and Lordship, 77–96 (Edinburgh, 1991).

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    Nothing you wrote above suggests to me any reason not to believe the standard idea that Wilkinson is derived from "son of Wilkin" and that Wilkin is a nickname or diminutive for William.

    It all looks like the work of someone who wants to make the surname Wilkinson more glamorous, sexy, barbaric, heroic, gloriously Germanic, etc.

    I'm trying to be kind.
    Last edited by rms2; 10-22-2020 at 11:11 PM.

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