The U.S. Census Bureau says there were 88,799 unique surnames found in the 1990 Census. It's pretty easy to guess the top five -- Smith, Johnson, Williams, Jones, and Brown -- in order. The name Foulks ranks 14,330 on that same list. It is not a common name. Source: Frequently Occurring Names

The Ancient History of the Distinguished Surname: Foulks

From the beautiful Welsh mountain ranges comes this distinguished surname of Foulks. Wales is a land of soft spoken, music-loving poets, a people famous for their bards, Eisteddfods (music festivals) and their choral groups.

After the Romans vacated the British Isles at the end of the 3rd Century the Welsh or Ancient Britons were left in sole possession of all of England, all the way north to the banks of Clyde. Their most distinguished leaders were Ambrosious, and later in the 5th Century, King Arthur of the Round Table. The Saxons forced them westward into the mountains of what is now Wales, north to Cumberland and southern Scotland, and into Cornwall to the south. The first recorded King of Wales was Rhodrl Mawr, or Roderick the Great, who ruled from his seat in Anglesey. He died in 893. On his death he gave Wales to his three sons: Anarawd became King of North Wales, Cadalh became King of South Wales and Mervyn became King of Powys, or mid Wales.

The ancient history of the name Foulks also emerged from these same Welsh chronicles, woven into the prosaic tapestry of the ancient Welsh tradition. It was first found in Denbighshire where they were seated at "Yr Eifiad" from very ancient times, some say before the 9th Century.

Researchers reviewed manuscripts such as the Domesday Book, the Pipe Rolls, Hearth Rolls, the Black Book of the Exchequer, the Curia Regis Rolls, and the family name, Foulks, was found in many different forms. Although the name, Foulks, occurred in many references, from time to time the surname was spelled Foulke, Foulks, Foulkes, and many of these variations are still in use today. These changes in spelling frequently occurred, even between father and son. It was not uncommon for a person in his or her own lifetime to be born with one spelling, marry with another, and have still another of the headstone is his or her resting place.

The Norman Conquest of Wales was a disaster. A testimony to the indomitable Welsh fighting spirit is that there are more castles, or ruins of castles, to the square mile in Wales than anywhere else in the world. Border warfare against the Normans and their successors continued unabated until the end of the 14th Century. The Welsh tactic was to thrust, then retire to their bleak mountain homes to plan their next attack. As peace gradually returned to this picturesque country, the Welsh, attracted by the economic opportunities, moved eastward into the English cities. Hence, we now find Welsh surnames such as Jones, Price, Edwards, Phillips, Evans, Pritchard, Morgan, Williams, Roberts and so on, to be amongst the highest population names in England at this time.

Despite this background of mountain greenery the Welsh family name Foulks emerged as a notable family name in Denbighshire. This distinguished family claim direct descent from Marchudd ap Cynan, Lord of Abergele, Founder of the eighth Noble Tribe of Wales in the 9th Century. Descended was Gronwy ap Dafydd, usually styled "Y Penwyn," who was one of the few chieftains who supported King Edward I in his conquest of Wales in 1290. This family was related to the Roberts of Bryn Tangor, the Jocelyns of Stansteadbury, and Wynnes of Maes-y-Coed. The family also claim descendancy from the Baron of Kymmer-yn-Edeirnion. In later years the family branched to Devonshire at Medland, and the Reverend Henry Foulkes was Principal of Jesus College in Oxford in 1827. Prominent amongst the family name during the late middle ages was Gronwy ap Dafydd.

For the next two or three centuries the surname Foulks flourished and played an important role in local county politics and in the affiars of Britain in general. During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries England was ravaged by religious conflict. The newly found passionate fervour of Cromwellianism swept the nation. The power of the Church, and the Crown, their assessments, tithes, and demands imposed a heavy burden on rich and poor alike. They looked to the New World for their salvation. Many became pirates who roamed the West Indies such as Captain Morgan.

Some were shipped to Ireland where they were known as the "Adventurers for land in Ireland." They acquired land for an old song. Essentially, they contracted to keep the Protestant faith, being granted lands previously owned by the Catholic Irish. There is no record of the Foulks family migrating to Ireland, but this does not preclude individual migration.

The migration or banishment to the New World also continued, some voluntarily from Ireland, but mostly directly from Wales or England.

They sailed to the New World across the stormy Atlantic in the tiny sailing ships which were to become known as the "White Sails." These overcrowded ships, build for 100 but crammed with 400 and 500 people, sometimes spending two months at sea, were wracked with disease, something landing with only 60% to 70% of the original passenger list.

In North America, among the first migrants who could be considered a kinsman of the Foulks family or having a variation of the family surname spelling, were:

In the 80s, some of the notable British contemporaries of this name: Nigel Gordon Foulkes, Chairman, British Airports Authority; Major General Thomas Herbert Fischer Foulkes, C.B., O.B.E.

The most ancient grant of a Coat of Arms for Foulks found:
Red, with three silver boar's heads.
The crest is: A boar's head
The ancient family motto is "Jure Non Dono" ("Show No Mercy," or...?)

Researched by History of Names, Inc., © 1989

* (In 1997, many Foulks descendants can trace their ancestry to a William Foulks, who was a carpenter [joiner] in Philadelphia, in 1764-1768. However, George is also a prominent first name in that branch of the family tree, and William is thought to have lived earlier in Leesburg, Virginia.)

More Foulks Family History

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