This web site originates from work which was started in early 1997. At that time there was not the rich resources on the WWW as there is now. Much of the value of this website is due to both the efforts of our early contributors who painstakingly researched without the benefit of todays internet resources. We also give credit to other members who provided much encouragement for our efforts.

Many "Wonnacotts" over the world, are trying to retrace their original roots.
Our research has indicated that the name appears to originate from Devon/North Cornwall, England and that a large cluster were living in Thornbury, Devon in the early 1800's and verified at census in 1851.
Others can be found at the time in Sourton , Shebbeare & Langtree within close proximity to Thornbury.
At a small village of South Zeal some 10 miles from Thornbury there is a large number of "Wonnacott" gravestones and even now at least 5 different living Wonnacott families out of a couple of hundred village families.
Other Wonnacott families can be found through census records in both North and Mid Cornwall from the 1700s as well. It now appears that the Wonnacott "clan" , whilst still rare , are well distributed throughout Canada , USA , Australia and of course in the UK.

It has been suggested that the name originates from Welsh and means wainscot or Glen in Wood.
In the UK a wainscot is the "kickboard" which is fitted on a wall at the floor level to protect the wall from foot damage and cleaning. We know of nothing linking the word to "glen in the woods" other than that wood was used as the material for the kickboard.
As for the suggestion of Welsh origin we cannot find any evidence as both the Welsh version and the "English" version appear almost non existent in Wales until more recent times. However there is a Celtic similarity between Olde Cornish "Kernow "and Welsh (Cymru) languages as well as Scots and Irish, all originating from Gaelic. These languages can be similar in both odd words and phraseology (disregarding some of the actual words which differ even between the three isolated Celtic societies). Our name is more likely to be a Kernow based name "Waen a Coed" - literally Wanna's Cottage.
For a graphical historical language chart please go HERE

English History indicates that over the centuries the Celts were pushed back across the borders into Wales and Scotland progressively from the east coast by the Vikings and from the southeast by the Romans. The Gauls(French) also made their mark on Southern England and the Breton (Brittany) language bears close resemblance to Kernewek ( Olde Cornish).
The areas of Devon & Cornwall were spared until the Tin mines were re-discovered by the Romans. Cornwall, Devon and the western part of Somerset formed the original Celtic Kingdom of Dumnonia.
By 47 A.D the limit of Roman dominance had spread from the East of England to North Tawton in Devon. ( a point of our family historical interest )

As these events happened over a period of many hundreds of years the local language would have got progressively watered down and changed following the same pattern as these events and roughly speaking leaving the mountains & hills of Scotland and Wales unscathed.

In Devon and Cornwall there was and still are many ".....acotts" including names of farms, villages and towns as well as family names. What we find from records is that Wonnacotts, Wannicotts, Winnacotts spelt with one or two "t"s,"n"s or by mixing a,i,o, in all sorts of permutations existed only in numbers between Dartmoor to the New Forest, which incidently is not "new". From the reference in Welsh one should note there are many "glens" - small open spaces in the New Forest (woods). You will also note that through the history (as portrayed by our web members) Glenn appears to be a favourite name and there is in one family line generations of Glenn Wyant's.

Maybe we can draw some reasonable conclusions that there is some pattern motivated by history although the latest recipients of the name may only be following tradition without realising any previous significance.
We also know that for a major part our ancestors were illiterate and therefore could not either spell the name or read it properly,so any recorded accuracy or inaccuracy was due to the abilities of the scribe.
Some scribes had been educated at monastaries such as Buckfast Abbey etc. Many of these educated by monks from Germany and France(Normandy).
As the Cornish Celtic language " Kernow" never became a fully documented literary language the ability to completely reconstruct its grammar, pronunciation and general vocabulary has limitations.
Currently a " Revived Cornish" has been constructed and is now spoken fluently and written by only a few more than one hundred people.

Therefore although of course we should keep an open mind whether anybody can support the Welsh ancestry hypothesis or obvious evidence in the historical background in Devon/Cornwall which leads us to believe the immigration was from Wales as the reverse of the documented Celtic movement.

In Britain surnames became established between the 13th and 15th Centuries. Many names were derived in the languages represented at that time and place by the dominant influence in the area. As many parents used to name the first born son after the father there became generations handing down the name.
One only needs to look at one of the Wonnacott family trees published on this site to see evidence of this even after surnames became established.

It is easy to see how Richard and son became "Richardson" as a need to address either Richard or Richard "ll" (to use an americanism) when both being in company with each other. For an interesting note on surnames visit Family Chronicle article by John Kennedy.

If you are reading this page and are a "Wonnacott" or indeed know anyone of that name we would be interested to receive an EMail with any particulars or contacts you may be able to provide. For submission of family details please use our submit page and complete the "on line form" SUBMIT


Visit Colin Hinson , whose pages contain many interesting links and historical information.
Colin also provides downloads of his FREE Software for extraction of data from IGI and Ancestral Files, Personal or Individual Record Files.

GENUKI with geneology data and links for UK and Ireland.


Copyright 2002, wonnacott.org
Created -- 29-11-02
Updated -- 21-01-09
URL: http://www.wonnacott.org/surn1.htm

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