Select Duke Surname Genealogy

The surname Duke is generally considered to be derived from the various Middle English words duc, duk, and douc that came out of the Old French duc meaning "leader."   The patronymic form Dukes (son of Duke) accounts for about 25% of the Duke and Dukes today.

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Select Duke Ancestry

EnglandThe surname Duke was originally the Norman le Duc and started to appear in England in various places London, Bedfordshire and Warwickshire - in the late 12th century. 

The Norman family identified with Roger le Duc, who was sheriff and mayor of London between 1225 and 1230, was particularly conspicuous in the 13th century.  Other Dukes of London were successful in the wool trade and helped with the royal finances in the next century.  The best known of these was Thomas Duke, citizen and skinner of London, who died in 1422.  The Dukes in Suffolk claimed descent from Roger le Duc and held land at Shadingfield and Brampton.  These Dukes were Royalist during the Civil War but recovered their position with the Restoration.

The Duke name was first in the west country in the early 14th century in Wiltshire.  It appeared a century later in Gloucestershire, where the Dukes of Cirencester were merchants engaged in trade with France, and in Devon where Duke merchants from Exeter had established themselves along the coast at Otterton. Richard Duke prospered from the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530's, purchasing Otterton Priory and remodelling it into a mansion.  Later Dukes were country gentry until the male line ran out in 1741.

"The last Duke was going to build a new house in Otterton Park.  The entrance pillars are still visible there.  But sadly he fell off his horse and died before the house was built."

By the 19th century, the main location for Dukes was London and the southeast, with other Dukes in Yorkshire and relatively few left in the west country.

Ireland.  Two Dukes, John and Robert Duke, were Cromwellian soldiers who were granted the Newpark estate in Sligo.  Their descendants were landowners in Sligo and Roscommon in the 19th century.

Henry Duke was an early immigrant to Jamestown, Virginia sometime in the 1630s.  His descendants moved westward in Virginia and were later to be found in Georgia and Alabama.  One line is thought to have run to Taylor Duke in Orange county, South Carolina and to his son Washington Duke. 

William Duke
came to North Carolina from Dorset in the 1720's.  Joseph Dukes was recorded in Orangeburg, South Carolina in 1757.  Thomas Goodman Duke and William Duke were ship captains based in Charleston who travelled extensively to the Caribbean at that time.

The Duke tobacco dynasty began with Washington Duke, a poor farmer in Orange county, South Carolina at the onset of the Civil War.  Afterwards, his tobacco focus paid huge dividends and his son James was to become the leader of the American Tobacco Company trust by the turn of the century.  The Duke family fortune was to end up with his daughter, Doris Duke.

Caribbean.  Humphrey Duke from Devon emigrated to Barbados in the 1630's and is believed to be the ancestor of many later Dukes on the island.  Henry Duke was Solicitor-General of Barbados, but was killed in a hurricane in 1781 while trying to protect his wife and two daughters. 

Later Dukes in Barbados could have had Irish blood in them, descendants of Mansergh Duke, a doctor from Sligo who had arrived in the 1890's. A later Duke of this family, nicknamed Konks, was the Police Commissioner of Barbados.

Australia.  William Duke came to Australia from Ireland on the Lady McNaughton in 1840.  He was a portrait and landscape painter who also worked extensively as a scenery painter with a number of theatrical companies.  He died in 1853 at the relatively young age of 38.

Select Duke Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Duke Names

Washington Duke was the founder of the Duke tobacco dynasty that went on to form the American Tobacco Company.
Geoff Duke was the English motorcyclist who dominated world motorcycle racing in the 1950's.
Patty Duke was a youthful American TV star of the 1960's.

Select Dukes Today
  • 9,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 15,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 9,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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