Wilkes Family Lineage


Shield: Argent three gryphons Sable passant en pal, a seme of trefoils slipt vert.

A crossbow proper issant from a mount verte charged on a Knight's helmet, tortil Gules and Argent.

Motto: In Arcui Non Confido (no confidence in arms -- arcui is a half arc, or a crossbow)

(War Cry): Deo Salus Mea (My safety comes from God)



Arms of the Ancient House of Wilkes.

In the county of Hertford, tempus Henry III A.D. 1216-1272

Heraldic Artist: Charles Fred Wilkes, FAS, OAE. Note that while the Blazon of the crest calls for a Knight's helmet, and this would usually be represented by a helmet afronte with the visor open, early representations of these arms in achievement form show a helmet like that used here. The name "Wylkys" is reproduced below the Motto under the Shield from a very early version of it found in England. Note that the final "s" is a "long s" and folds back over the top of the name. In this version, there are traces of "runic" from the earliest times in England following the Nordic invasions.


The arms and crest of the Wilkes family were researched by Commander Charles Denby Wilkes, USNR, and published in Vevey, Switzerland in 1959, entitled "The Wilkes Chronology; An Historical and Genealogical Document" available in the Library of Congress, CS71.W679 1959. Commander Wilkes remained in Paris following the end of World War II, and was there a member of the American Legion during the time he did this research.

Charles Fred Wilkes, compiler of this genealogy, also served in World War II, and by coincidence also lived in Paris from 1980 - 1986 where he was also a member of the American Legion there during this time. His research in England and in the U.S. established the Wilkes line to which he is descended as having originated in this country by Robert Thomas Wilkes, known as Thomas, who along with his brother William was sentenced to transportation to the colonies by Cromwell following the execution of their father, John Wilkes, Mayor of Shrewsbury, Shopshire, England, for leading the defense of the city during Cromwell's siege and capture of that city in 1650. This was reported in recent years by a Mr. Charles Wilkes, professor of History at London University. This John Wilkes was a descendent of the early Wilkes bearing these arms. Charles Fred Wilkes is the 10th generation direct lineal descendant of Robert Thomas Wilkes.

Origins of the Wilkes' family:

Prior to the year 1,000 A.D., people other than the nobility did not use surnames as we know them today. The Welsh people and others did recite their genealogy, but it was a long list of ancestors, inappropriate for use as a surname. Around the time of the Norman conquest in 1066, surnames did come into wider use, but was often applied to individuals who came from someplace else. Thus the Normal name "de Wylkys" as it was then written, meant "he who comes from a family in Wiltshire".

The name "Wilkes", in Norman times spelled "Wylkys", originated with those of the name living in "Wylkyshire" now "Wiltshire". The Gaelic name "Wylk" meant "Wolf". Thus the name "Wylkyshire" meant the province of the Wolves.

About the time of the Protestant Reformation, the name was spelled both as "Wilkes" and as "Wilks" - the latter spelling being the phonetic equivalent of the true single syllable pronunciation of the name. The same name spelled "Wilkes" is also found in the Netherlands and in Germany, but there it is pronounced "Vil-kes" in two syllables.

In England, some of the name became Protestants, while others remained Catholic. Such divisions always caused much trouble among family members, and this was no exception. The Catholic members kept the spelling of "Wilkes" -- followers of tradition are loath to change things for the sake of changing. This group lived primarily near the city of Yorkshire in East-Central England. Others who became Protestant, spelled their name "Wilks" to differentiate themselves from their despised kinsman who did not follow King Henry VIII's wishes. Eventually this distinction was forgotten, but both spellings persisted.

In what is now the United States, most families farmed for a living, and were not of high education. When these family members bought or sold real estate, recorded births, marriages and deaths, they often verbally told the county recorders their names, who then recorded it as it sounded to them. If the recorders did not know better or were not told differently, they would write the name as "Wilks", spelling the name as it sounded. If they did know better, or if the family member thought to spell it for them, it was written as "Wilkes". At times the same name appears under both spelling in the same document. Thus families spelling their name either way were in fact the same family, and not two distinct families.

Early bearers of the name Wilkes (Wylkys):

John (1st) de Wylkys of Pouleshale in Wylkyshire, tem. Hen. III. A.D. 1216-1272.

John (2nd) de Wylkys, Kn., born at Pouleshall, A.D. 1258. Removed to Hertshire before 1312.

John (3rd) de Wylkys of Walton Surrey, and of Moorhouse in Yerdelaye Herts., fl. 1312.

John (4th) de Wylkys, Kn. Fought in all the King's battles in the first half of the 14th century in Gascony and in France. His arms (these arms undifferenced from their original "plain" form) were carried at Crecy-en-Ponthieu 1346. Slain the same year under the walls of Calais.

Descendant line of Thomas Wilkes