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Families from the West Indies If you are researching the surname Sercombe, or any of its variants such as Sercomb, Sircom, Sircombe, or Surcombe, I'd like to hear from you. My email address is at the top and bottom of every page on this site. You can use the table of contents at right to locate Sercombe families from various places in Devon, other parts of Britain, and countries around the world. I also suggest using the search feature of your browser usually control-F to look for your own Sercombe ancestors by name, place, occupation, and so on. If you find them, or if you can't find them, either way please send me an email. I have registered my research on this name with the Guild of One-Name Studies. Frequency and Distribution of the Surname Sercombe Sercombe is an unusual surname. In , only about people called Sercombe including variant spellings were alive in Britain, out of a total population of almost 30 million. There are probably only a few more today: PaginasBlancas has telephone listings for 5 Sercombes in Argentina. Within Britain, the name is quite geographically concentrated. In , about 74 percent of the British Sercombes were living in the county of Devon or had been born there. Many of the remainder were in nearby Gloucestershire and Somerset, which together accounted for another 11 percent. Thirty years earlier, in , of the fewer than Sercombes in Devon, almost all were in the city of Exeter about 24 percent or the nearby rural parishes to its south and west, particularly Dunsford 26 percent. The mobility of modern society has made the pattern less extreme, but it remains: Major Family Groupings Was there just one original family called Sercombe, from whom all subsequent Sercombes are descended, or were there several independent origins of the name? I am still far from finding out, but I hope that the information on this page and on the linked pages of source material see Sources of Information , below will eventually help to answer that question. I do already know that at least of the or so Sercombes alive in Britain in were descendants of John Syrcombe , who had six children at Dunsford between and At least another were descendants of Richard Southcumbe or Sircombe , who had seven children at Tedburn St. Mary, the parish immediately north of Dunsford, between and Almost certainly more than half of all Sercombes alive today are descended from these two men. My own Sercombe ancestors, who were in Richard's branch of the family, lived in Exeter in the mids. My great grandmother Alice Sercombe was born there in , the youngest of eight children of a wine and spirits merchant. Her father and two uncles came to Exeter from Bovey Tracey, about 10 miles to the southwest on the edge of Dartmoor, where their father had been a soap boiler. The generation before that lived in Hennock, adjacent to Bovey Tracey, and the one before that came from Dunsford. Spelling Variations and Confusion with Other Surnames Spelling, even of surnames, was not standardized until at least the 19th century. Before then, people just spelled the way they heard. You may find the same person's name written as Sercombe, Sircomb, Surcum, Syrcombe, or even occasionally Sharcombe or Circum. Later, particularly as literacy became more universal, the spelling Sercombe became standard. Outside the Exeter area, however, where the name was less familiar to the keepers of official records, the standardization sometimes settled on other spellings, particularly Surcombe in and near Plymouth, descended from William Surcombe of Lifton, Devon ; Sircombe in Tewkesbury, descended from Henry Sircombe of Exeter and Tewkesbury ; and Sircom in Bristol, descended from John Sircome of Bristol. Just because you find the same spelling for several generations of your ancestors, don't assume it was always that way. The problem of irregular spellings has an interesting silver lining. Before about , but only very rarely after that, it is common to find spellings like Shercombe and Shercom, with SH instead of S. This is surely a clue to the name's early pronunciation especially because, as noted in the next section, some of the possible locations for the origin of the name are still spelled Shircombe today. Similarly, the frequent absence of the final B in records going back to at least the s demonstrates that this letter was already silent by that time, despite its survival into the standard spelling today. There are several early examples of families who were sometimes called Sercombe and sometimes Southcombe. Today, Southcombe is a distinct surname, associated with North Devon rather than the Dunsford area. Mary people consistently called Sercombe have ancestors who were more often called Southcombe. It is not yet clear, however, whether these two surnames truly share a common origin. It is possible that the confusion was sometimes only a recordkeeping error, though even that may be a clue to early pronunciation. There are also examples of confusion with the Cornwall and West Devon name Seccombe. So far, such cases seem to be isolated. The surname Sercombe is clearly geographical in origin. The word combe means "a deep hollow or valley", or specifically, in the South of England, "a hollow or valley on the flank of a hill" or "a steep short valley running up from the sea coast" OED. It is found as an element of many English place names, especially in and near Devon. When English surnames became established, typically in the 14th century, it was common to take the name of the place where one lived. It was also common, especially in larger settlements, for migrants to take the name of where they came from but had now left. For our purposes, the two are equivalent. So probably the surname originated in one or more places called something like Sercombe. Places in Devon One intriguing possibility, considering the frequency of the surname in Dunsford, is a property there called Leate and Circombe, which is mentioned in the Fulford Estate rent book for In both and the tenants were named Connett, not Sercombe. Neither map shows anything nearby that resembles Circombe or Shercombe. In Southwest dialect a leat is "an open watercourse to conduct water for household purposes, mills, mining works, etc. Mary seem to be named after a person called Sercombe rather than vice versa. So surely is Sercombes Gardens map , a road in Starcross, Devon, that is probably named for one of the basket-making families descended from Thomas Sercombe or Southcombe. According to the Widecombe History Group , this is a local pronunciation of Southcombe SX , which is a few hundred yards southwest of Widecombe village. An abstract of Hamlyn's will appears in Worthy's Devonshire Wills. The original is now lost. George Lock of Sercombes at West Week is named as master in a apprenticeship indenture by the poor law overseers of Chulmleigh, Devon. West Week SS is about three miles northeast of Chulmleigh village. Neither a modern Ordnance Survey map nor one from shows anything nearby that resembles Sercombes. Perhaps the final s means that this place too was named for a person rather than vice versa. The tithe apportionment for Luppitt noted that the farm included a Sharcombe Copse. Two early references to this farm are recorded on a website about the Rogers family of Luppitt: There is an ongoing archeological dig at Sherracombe Ford, investigating a large iron smelting site from the late Iron Age or early Roman period. The rocks are shown on an Ordnance Survey map but not a modern one. All these are on the left bank of Dane's Brook, which here forms the county boundary between Somerset and Devon. Could the element Shir- mean "shire" in this case? Although maps show the valley here to be quite steep, the tempting meaning of "sheer" seems unlikely since the OED gives no citations for that usage of sheer before According to an estate agent website viewed Aug there is also a Sharcombe Lane there. A business data website viewed Aug lists a company with the address Sharcombe House, Peace Close Lane, West Horrington; that appears to be the same place. Sercombe Park map , a road in Clevedon, Somerset, is undoubtedly named for the family of William George Sercombe , who was editor of the Mercury newspaper in Clevedon. This place is unbuilt except for a cellphone mast, according to two documents from the Planning Applications Committee of the Surrey Heath Borough Council. I don't know which of the Australian Sercombe families this is named for. In the United States, North Sercombe Road map in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is presumably named for the family of John Sercombe , who were early settlers in the Milwaukee area and became prominent local businessmen. Sources of Information The information on this page is derived from a variety of sources: I intend to add similarly detailed references to all other sections eventually. In the poll tax, Walter and his wife Elizabeth were assessed at Tedburn St. In , of Tedburn St. Paul's Cathedral following the Great Fire of London. Assessed for the poll tax in the household of her parents. Mary for 99 years or the lives of his wife Joan and her brother Robert. Walter's will now lost was proved in the Court of the Archdeaconry of Exeter in In , with his wife, assessed for the poll tax at Tedburn St. I have not yet confirmed the details independently. Samuel sold it out of the family in Chevalier House was destroyed in the May blitz. Its site is now occupied by the Hog's Head pub. Some time before , Chevalier House was the Fountain Inn. At his marriage in , of Dunsford. This was the minimum qualification for serving on a jury. At his second son's burial in , at his remarriage in , and at his youngest daughter's baptism in , referred to as Richard Sercombe senior to distinguish him from his eldest son. Southcombe rather than Sercombe only at his and Susanna's burials in and The wills of Richard and Susanna both now lost were proved in the Court of the Archdeaconry of Exeter in ; in the probate calendar both Richard and Susanna were described as of Ashton. At his daughter's baptism in , referred to as Richard Sercombe junior to distinguish him from his father. Southcombe rather than Sercombe only at his second marriage in Richard's will now lost was proved in the Court of the Archdeaconry of Exeter in I have not yet been able to identify Mary's parents or where she was born. Three clues so far:
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