Saturday, November 3, 2012

Surname Saturday - Gawkroger of Platts

One of the more interesting names in my family tree is Gawkroger. Depending on which source one finds, it means something along the lines of "awkward or clumsy" Roger or "left-handed" Roger. Tracking down the Gawkrogers gets interesting as some of the family of immigrants used the surname Platts. Heather Wilkinson Rojo wrote a post about the family last July. Platts is a place name and evidently used to distinguish my ancestors from those of another "awkward/clumsy/left-handed Roger."

Names and History: People, Places, and Things by George Redmond uses the Gawkroger surname to demonstrate the linguistic and social development of a surname (p. 38-39). "In a roll of 1545, for example, six individuals were taxed in Sowerby and two more in Hartshead and Liversedge. It was not a prolific surname but probably more numerous than these figures suggest, for there would be some families who were not sufficiently well off to be included." He goes on to trace the evolution of the name to various aliases that different branches started to use. The name Platts came from a property and the family was said to be "of Platts" and some eventually took Platts as their surname. Another branch of the family lived near Sowerby Bridge and took the surname Brigge. Yet another became Barker - possibly from the northern England word for a tanner. He concludes "The lesson for genealogists is clear, for while they would probably accept that Gaukroger might have such variants as Gawkroger and Gaukrodger, or even Corkroger and Cockroger, they would find it more difficult to to come to terms with aliases such as Barker, Platts, Brigg, Ro(d)gers, Gawke, and even Cockrobin."

Mary Gawkroger was the daughter of Abram and Martha (Riley) Gawkroger. She married John Prescott on April 11, 1629 in Sowerby, Yorkshire, England. The couple went first to Barbadoes and then became one of the first families of Lancaster, Massachusetts.

Mary Prescott married Thomas Sawyer and had a daughter, Mary.
Mary Sawyer married James Houghton and I descend from two of their sons, Ephraim & Thomas.

Ephraim Houghton & Hannah Sawyer
Elisha Houghton & Meriah Pierce
Moses Houghton & Martha Haskell
Sally Houghton & James Dunham
Florilla Dunham & Asa Freeman Ellingwood
Nina Ellingwood & George Gibbs
Annie Florilla Gibbs & Ray Everett Cotton
Fern Lyndell Cotton

Thomas Houghton
Hannah Houghton & John Pierce
Meriah Pierce & Elisha Houghton (first cousins, once removed)

Names & History: People, Places, and Things


  1. This is one of my favorite ancestors, because of their rather odd name. Thanks for linking to my post, Pam. Now I can see your lineage and lots of other names from my tree (Pierce, Haskell, Ellingwood)

  2. I have not read Names and History: People, Places, and Things but I have had the pleasure of hearing George Redmond speak at family history seminars. He is amazing!

  3. If memory serves me, George Redmond in the book displayed here, refutes the simplistic 'gawky' etymology of the surname, explaining its Danish connection and provides the actual source and pronunciation. The surname 'Gawkroger' is pronounced 'Gawk-RO-jur'. and refers to a rocky outcropping where Cuckoos roost (another, related family name is Gawkthorpe, taken from a farm where Cuckoos were abundant). No "gawky Roger", I'm afraid. And, it was the crooked antics of certain members of the family that drove others to disassociate from them by taking the name of Sowerby Bridge where some lived, and which led to some of their descendants acquiring the surname Bridges. --- Cheers, Gary Smith

    1. Thank you for sharing. I was not able to access the entire book so I had to work with the snippet I could see on google books along with other research. Now I want more than ever to track down a copy to read the rest of the story. I appreciate that you took time to share what you know about the name. Are you a relative? I love finding out about word and name origins. Thanks again for taking the time to leave me a comment.

  4. I found out my husband and I share the same 13th great-grandparent James gawkroger and Isabel Fields...could it have also bern varient of Graukroger? He is German....

  5. I found out my husband and I share the same 13th great-grandparent James gawkroger and Isabel Fields...could it have also bern varient of Graukroger? He is German....