The Origin of the Surname
The earliest reference that we have found in parish registers that mentions our family name is for a marriage for a William [sic] Jeycott in 1562 in the parish of Ryton upon Dunsmore (near Coventry). The earliest baptism for this parish is in 1587 and, as the registers have survived since 1539, we must conclude that the Jephcotts were not an ancient family of this particular parish.
However, the parish registers for Ansty (near Coventry) have only survived from 1589. On inspecting these, the very first entry in the baptism register was for an Agnes Jefcocke, daughter of Richard Jefcocke. The will of John Jefcott (in his will, or John Jeffcotte in the inventory to his will) dated 1561, mentioned other Jephcotts in the parish of Ansty and also made mentioned of his father, one Nicholas Jefcott, who was also of the parish of Ansty.
Nicholas would have been born around the year 1460. We further know, from manorial records, that a Nicholas Geffecote was a customary tenant of Ansty in 1490. These two Nicholas' were probably one and the same!
We have gone on to draw up a large family tree for the Jephcotts of Ansty, the members of which are arguably responsible for the existance of so many Jephcotts alive today.
I am led to assume that the present day Jephcott families (and variant spellings) are derived from a family (or families) that lived in (or around) the parish of Ansty (approx. 6 miles north east of Coventry) in the 15th century. Whether the family thrived in this area in the 14th and earlier centuries, we shall probably never know, although the probability is that they did.
My conclusion is that the different spelling variations that exist today are a result of spelling inconsistancies on the part of the many persons who have recorded the name over the centuries, especially when the families moved away to other parishes. By this I refer to perhaps the vicar of the parish who, upon hearing the name spoken when arranging the baptism of a child, writes down the name as he sees appropriate. This would happen today, if we were not able to spell out our name to assist the writer. I think it highly probable that all Jephcotts (and variants) alive today, share a 500 year old link with Warwickshire.
Further evidence that possibly supports these conclusions is that today, the telephone directories for the UK show that the largest number of Jephcotts (and variants) living in one area is in (or around) Coventry. A study of these directories is shown in the Jephcott book.
The 'cock' suffix to the name was gradually replaced by 'cott' in the time period around 1550 to 1620. The 'ph' content in some of the variants appears to have come about around the same period.
Why these changes happened is not known but it is possible that 'cock' ending gave rise to obscene or ribald remarks and the gradual change to 'cott' or 'coat' was more acceptable. Could it have been that 'cock' suffix to the Jeff forename came about as a type of nickname that was to be resented by later generations of the family. So much so that they gradually brought about a change in the spelling. Nowadays, such English surnames as Balls, Crapper, Pratt, etc. can sometimes be a source of mirth to some. Reaney lists some outrageous surnames from past times and it is of little surprise that they have not survived in their original form.
It is known that Louisa May Alcott (1832 - 1888), the author of Little Women, was the daughter of Amos Alcott (1799 - 1888), who had purposely changed the family name from Alcox. That family could trace their descent from an ancestor named Alcocke.
Now, the Ansty family included several educated men and 'ph' may have looked a little more 'upmarket' than the humble 'f' or 'ff' of old. Perhaps it was felt that it would add sophistication and set them apart from other lowlier branches of the family.
Another example of this appeared with the Petifer family in Ansty. Around about the same time, their name was altered in some instances to Petipher. Could the spelling changes simply have come about by an over enthusiastic vicar or rector in Ansty, taking liberties with the spelling of names?
Whatever the true facts are, the surname underwent quite a change and the 'G' as in Geffecocke is now extinct.
It should, at this stage, be pointed out that there are families with the surname Jeffcock*, in existance today. They appear to have their origins in the Sheffield area and, to date, a link with our families has never been found or indicated.
We can only draw from the research material that we have uncovered back to 1490. However, Reaney has gone back even further and has found references to a vaguely similar name in Kent. Do our modern day Jephcotts have any connection with these 14th century 'Jephcotts' and does the proximity of Kent to France mean that the name has Norman origin? The answer to that, again, we shall probably never know!
Remember that the name Geoffrey is of Norman origin and that our Jeff-Jeph spelling would almost certainly have come from this Christian name. Does that mean that we are of Norman stock? Again, we will never know!
SURNAME SPELLING VARIANTS
Like it or not, our ancestors were not always literate. What use did a farm labourer (for instance) have for reading and writing? Indeed, well into the latter half of the 19th century, some of our ancestors were still making their mark on documents with a 'X' instead of a signature. It is surely little wonder that there are so many spelling variations of our name existing today when, presumably when asked their name, our ancestor would say it (with their particular accent) to the vicar or scribe, who would, in turn, write it how he saw fit.
There are 44 different spellings that we have found in research, that seem to have been used with varying degrees of regularity in documents of all types. These are shown in the table below. There are also instances of names such as Jeplicott, Jepcott, Jeffecote, Jefciote, etc. where we have accepted them as belonging to our research but, as they do not occur very often, we have taken them to be spelling errors.
The first 33 spellings are the ones that we have considered to be the true variants, the final 11 having only sometimes been recorded, up to perhaps the middle of the 17th century. Now, in the 20th century (what is left of it!), any families holding these final 11 names, are considered to be totally unconnected with our Jephcott families and, as such, have not been researched in any detail by us, nor considered to be accepted variants of the name.
1 Jephcott 12 Jephcoate 23 Jefcoatt *34 Jeffcock
2 Jephcot 13 Jephcoatt 24 Jefcoatte *35 Jeffcocke
3 Jephcotte 14 Jephcoatte 25 Jeffcut *36 Jeffcok
4 Jeffcott 15 Jeffcote 26 Jeffcutt *37 Jefcock
5 Jeffcot 16 Jeffcoat 27 Jeffcutte *38 Jefcocke
6 Jeffcotte 17 Jeffcoate 28 Jefcut *39 Jefcok
7 Jefcott 18 Jeffcoatt 29 Jefcutt *40 Jecock
8 Jefcot 19 Jeffcoatte 30 Jefcutte *41 Jecocke
9 Jefcotte 20 Jefcote 31 Jephcut *42 Jevcok
10 Jephcote 21 Jefcoat 32 Jephcutt *43 Jevcock
11 Jephcoat 22 Jefcoate 33 Jephcutte *44 Jevcocke
Today, ignoring the eleven * names, the telephone directories tell us that there are only 14 variations now in use:
1 Jephcott 17 Jeffcoate
4 Jeffcott 18 Jeffcoatt
7 Jefcott 21 Jefcoat
10 Jephcote 22 Jefcoate
11 Jephcoat 25 Jeffcut
15 Jeffcote 26 Jeffcutt
16 Jeffcoat 28 Jefcut
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17th June 2004