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The Ancient History

Of the Distinguished Surname Perkins
James Fulton Perkins

Essay Index



An Essay in two parts.
Part One


 Perkins is one of the most notable surnames from the European genealogical research of Anglo/Saxon surnames, and its historical trail has emerged from the mists of time as an influential surname of the middle ages.  This essay is intended to document the facts of the origin of the name and its recorded migration into the Americas.  It is by no means a source of genealogical information on every branch of the Perkins family line.  There have been numerous publications (The best of which are given at the end of this piece) which cover this subject and to do so here would produce a voluminous piece of redundant work. The writer's purpose was to clear up some of the errors, omissions, folklore and stories, which were uncovered during a search for family history.  It is left up to every reader's judgment to accept or discount any genealogical research, as it is not a perfect science rather individual interpretation .It should be noted at the beginning that the original spelling of the name was not Perkins.  Confusing to most, the name was originally deMorlaix as the manuscripts of this time period were, most always, written in Latin or French.  The later translators Anglicized the name from deMorlaix to Morley.  

In future generations the Perkins (deMorlaix/Morley) name was spelt Pierrekin, Pierkyn, and Perkyn. These changes occurred between father and sons and the reasons are varied, as will be explained.

Not until the late 14th century did the spelling take on the now accepted form. For the sake of uniformity this fact will be assumed and references made to the current spelling, Perkins.

Research of ancient manuscripts, which include the Doomsday Book by Duke William of Normandy in 1086 A.D., the Ragman Rolls of 1291-1296 authorized by King Edward 1st of England, the Curia Regis Rolls, The Pipe Rolls and The Hearth Rolls of England, found the first record of the name Perkins in Leicestershire, England.  The name Perkins, in one form or another (i.e.: deMorlaix/Morley), first appears on the census rolls taken by the Kings of England beginning about 400 A.D. 
The family name Perkins is one of the most distinguished of the ancient world during a time of Kingdoms, Kings and Knights.  If we are to believe Bede, the Chronicler of the Saxons, this founding race of England was led by the Saxon General/Commanders Hengist and Horsa and settled in Kent during this time and was a Anglo/Saxon race.  However, there is evidence to support the claim that the name is of Celtic/Welsh origin.  Based on British history we know that after the last Roman Legions left the continent in the early part of the 5th century the Saxons, Angles and other Low  German tribes settled in Southeastern England around Kent.  However, the Ancient Britons (Celtics) were the true natives of the area and it is an amalgamation of the Angles, Saxons and Celtic Britons who became what we refer to today as the Anglo/Saxons.  The truth is that the Angles and Saxons may have "moved in", but the Britons were there in far greater numbers, thus accounting for the claim that the blood line is far more Celtic than any other.  Therefore it should be concluded that the origins of the Perkins "Clan" are Celtic/Welsh.
 The Anglo/Saxon five-century domination of English society was an uncertain time and the nation divided into five separate kingdoms.  By 1066 King Harold had come to the throne of England and was enjoying reasonable peace and prosperity.  However, the invasion from France and their victory at the Battle of Hastings, found many Englishmen moving.

By the 13th century the family name Perkins emerged as a notable English family in the county of Leicester, where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated as Lords of the manor and estates in that shire.  They had branched to Ufton Court in Berkshire and Sutton Coldfield in Warwickshire, later branching to Nuneaton, Marston and Hillmorton, Warwickshire.  The main stem of the family continued at Orton Hall in Leicestershire, where it remains to this day.  Notable amongst the family at this time was Perkins of Leicester.  For the next two or three centuries bearers of the surname Perkins flourished and played a significant role in the political development of England.
It is at this point where we pick up the story of the present day Perkins.  The last generation to use the original spelling of Morlaix in or around 1331 was the family of one Pierre de Morlaix of Shropshire, England.  He appears to have been born 1312 in Bretagne, Morliax, Normandy, France and died about 1384 in Shropshire, England.  His name indicates that although originally from Morlaix, Normandy, France he was part of the Celtic/Welsh group previously mentioned who migrated to England.  During this time period surnames were not in common use.  Everybody was known by some personal characteristic such as what they did, who there father was or where they came from, hence Pierre de Morlaix was from Morlaix, France.  Attaining a high position within English society, Pierre became the High Steward of the Hugo de Spencer Estate of Oxfordshire, England (later known as the House of Spencer, of whom Princes Diana was a daughter).
Pierre changed his name to the English translated version "Peter Morley" when Charles V, the Black Prince of France renewed the Hundred Years War with England.  This war was disrupting English shipping, compromising trade with Spain and the Netherlands and persecuting English subjects on the mainland in many ways.  Because of the French victory at the Battle of Hastings, Frenchmen became persona-non-grata in England so to conceal his French origins Pierre changed his name to the English translation, Peter Morley. (1312-1384)
Unwilling to end the heritage of the deMorlaix name, when Peter (Pierre de Morlaix) Morley married Agnes Taylor, daughter of John Taylor of Madresield, Worcestershire, England, they had a son.  He was to be named Henry Pierrekin (meaning "first son of Pierre", born 1340 in Shropshire, England and died in Hillmorton, Warwickshire, England).  The "kin" suffix indicates the eldest son in a family and any subsequent sons are simply called with the suffix "son", as in "Pierreson".  Hence, the first son is Pierrekin and the second son of Peter (Pierre) Morley would be "Pierreson".   
      Henry Pierrekin altered the name further, again to disguise the French origin, becoming the very English Henry Pierkyn.  When Henry married his eldest son was to be called John Perkyns (born 1360 in Madresfield, Worcestershire, England and died 05 Jan 1400 in the same place); again the suffix to indicate the eldest but changed from "kin" to "kyns".  John became quite well educated and began often signing his name as John Perkins.  Now as the prosperous John Perkins, Esquire he attained the position of Lord of the manor of Madrasfield as well as High Steward of the deSpencers at the passing of his father Henry.  Thus began the spelling carried by all subsequent generations.     
The new, and very English, John Perkins, grandson of Pierre deMorlaix, became Amiger and Seneschal to Thomas, Duke of Glouchester and with the Duke's influence the Crown granted John the right to bear arms.  He was the first Perkins to own a Coat of Arms.       
The oldest known Coat of Arms, which is pictured below, appears upon the tomb of Francis Perkins of Ufton, England, who was born in 1582. The fesse dancette between six billets is the original granted to John Perkyns (Perkins).       
     Therefore, there have been many Coat of Arms for the Perkins family, as with any other family.

During the Visitation of 1634 the Coat of Arms granted to William Perkins of Pilsdon Parish, Llandogo, Monmouthshire, England depicted a Lion, Passant, Sable, holding a fleur-de-lis, gules.  The crest carried on the masthead of this document appears to be the most widely accepted version which was granted to the Warwickshire Perkins and which later families adopted as the Coat of Arms.  It is an Eagle displayed and the fesse in a conton.  In addition, the motto "Simplex vigilium veri" was attached to the top, which translated means "In defense of the simple truth".  The fact that numerous Coat of Arms were very similar during this period indicates, although not clearly documented, that the Perkins Families of Warwickshire, Leicester, Worcestershire, Hereford, Shropshire, Hillmorton and Ufton Court were all blood kin.

The distance between Pierre de Morlaix and John Perkins of Ipswich spans 10 generations and over 40 male offspring including all of the fathers and sons born during that period.  To bring this essay up to the America's settlers the following is the lineage:

Pierre de Morlaix, born 1312 in Bretagne, Morliax, Normandy, France and died 1384 in Shropshire, England, marries Agnes Taylor, son;

Henry Perkins, born 1340 in Shropshire, England and dies in Shropshire, marries? son;

John Perkins, born 1360 in Madresfield, Worcestershire, England and dies 05 Jan 1400 in Madresfield, marries? son;

Lord William Perkins of Ufton, born 1380 in Madresfield, Worcestershire, England and dies 1451 in Ufton Court, Berkshire, England, marries Margaret? son;

Thomas Perkins, born 1400 in Madresfield, Nottinghamshire, England and dies 1479 in Madresfield, marries? son;

William Perkins, born 1430 and dies 1495 marries? son;

Thomas Perkins, born 1458 in Hillmorton, Warwickshire, England and dies 21 April 1528 in
Hillmorton, marries Alice de Astley, son;

Henry Perkins, born 1484 in Hillmorton, Warwickshire, England and dies 16 June 1546 in
Hillmorton, marries? son;

Thomas Perkins, born 1527 in Hillmorton, Warwickshire, England and dies 23 March 1592 in
Hillmorton, marries Alice Kebble, son;

Henry Perkins, born 1555 in Hillmorton, Warwickshire, England and dies 11 March 1609, marries Elizabeth Sawbridge, son;

Part Two

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Many early researchers claimed that John Perkins Sr. of Ipswich, the 9th generation grandson of Pierre deMorlaix (aka Peter Morley) was from Newent in Gloucestershire, England.  Quite simply, this is not factual.  Discovery of the Hillmorton Parish Records indicate his birth as 21 Dec 1583 and with his marriage and all the births of his children, except one born in Boston, recorded there, proves without doubt that he was from Hillmorton, Warwickshire, England.  The births of cousins Abraham and Isaac can also be found in these early records of Hillmorton Parish.
John Perkins Sr. married Judith Gater, daughter of Michael and Isabel Bailey Gater, in 1608 at Hillmorton Hall, Hillmorton Parish, Warwickshire, England.  They had three sons John Jr. (1609-1686), Thomas (1622-1686) and Jacob (1624-1700).  In addition John and Judith had four daughters Ann (1617-?), Elizabeth (1611-1670), Mary (1615-1700) and Lydia (1632-1672).  Unfortunately, contrary to today's standards, daughters were not carriers of the family name and therefore will be mentioned only for information purposes in this essay.  One item must be clarified regarding Jacob.  Many researchers following the Perkins family have come across "Sergeant Jacob Perkins".  This is one in the same person as the military title of Sergeant was first prefixed to the name of Jacob Perkins in 1664 when he was chosen sergeant of the military band of Ipswich, a title which he favored and bore forever after.

John Perkins Sr. left Bristol, England on Dec 1,1630 on the ship "Lyon", William Pierce, master, setting sail for Boston, in the Americas, taking with him his entire
family. At the time, consisting then of his wife and five children, daughter Ann having died at some point in England and Lydia later born in Boston. 
Of historical note, Rev Roger Williams, afterward of famous divine, was a fellow
Upon arrival in the Americas in Nantasket February 5,1631 John and his family spent the following two years in Boston. where the youngest child, Lydia was born.  On May 18, 1631 John Perkins Sr. took the oath of freeman, admitting him to all the civil rights of the colony.  He removed himself and his family in 1633 to the colony then newly founded by John Winthrop and others at Ipswich.

It was now that the sons of John Perkins spread out across the land.  Jacob
(1624-1700) took a wife, Ellizabeth Whipple, daughter of Matthew Whipple and
Elizabeth Hawkins and produced five sons and 4 daughters.   John Jr. (1614-1686) also took a wife, Elizabeth __________ and produced eight sons and one daughter.  Thomas (1616-1686) also married, Phebe Gould, and they produced five sons and four daughters.
For the purpose of this essay, as one can plainly see, with 18 male offspring of John Perkins Sr. it would be impossible to record the genealogy trail for each of the original "three brothers".  For those interested in this family, the proceeding is the factual historical recounting of the stories told from generation to generation of the "three brothers" referred to in many family stories and who, according to legend, began the Perkins family in the New World.
Included at the end of this work is a excellent list of not only research material used in the preparation of this piece but further works which will aide in identifying a particular line.
Kinsmen of the name Perkins were amongst the many whom sailed aboard the armada of small sailing ships know as the "White Sails".  Where John Perkins Sr. and family arrived in Boston in 1631 they were long considered the first Perkins family to arrive in North America.  However, they were not necessarily the only branch to arrive, nor the first. Principle amongst the other settlers where the families of:   Rev. William Perkins of Topsfield, Mass. (Half brother of Edward of Conn.)       

Isacc Perkins of Ispwich, Mass. (Cousin to John Sr. of Ipswich)
  Abraham Perkins of Hampton, New Hampshire (Cousin to John Sr.)
  Rufus Perkins of Chester, Vermont (descendant of John of Ipswich)
  William Perkins of Dover, New Hampshire
Edward Perkins of New Haven, Connecticut (Half brother of William of Topsfield)
  William Perkins of New Jersey
  Thomas Perkins settling in 1642
  Robert Perkins settling in Virginia in 1645
and Davy and Dinah Perkins settling in Virginia in 1651.

     Of significant historical note is the fact that one Francis Perkins arrived and settled in Virginia in 1607, thirteen years before the "Mayflower".

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