Select Brooks Surname Genealogy

Brooks, the possessive of brook, was generally locational in characteristic, describing someone who lived by a stream or brook.  There were also place names such as Brook in Kent and Brooke in Norfolk. 

The Hundred Rolls, a late 13th century census, contained a number of uses of "Broke" and "Brock," derived from the Old English broc, as surnames.   Ralph de Broc, granted lands in Colchester in Essex in 1119, was said to have derived his name from Broc in France (Anjou).

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EnglandBrooke and Brooks developed as surnames, with Brooks the more common.  However, there were many prominent families who were Brooke.

Cheshire  There was a Broke family of Leighton in Cheshire from the 13th century.  Richard Brooke of nearby Nantwich was among the many who prospered from Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries, acquiring for himself Norton Priory.  His descendants were prominent local gentry in Cheshire. 

Yorkshire  The Brookes of the Holme valley in Yorkshire began with Roger Brooke and a mill at the time of Henry VIII.  His descendant John Brooke founded Brooke’s woollen mill there in 1785.  Son William moved the mill to Armitage Bridge near Huddersfield in 1798.  John Brooke & Sons continued in operation until 1987.  It was at that time said to be the oldest family business in England. 

Robert Brooke was Lord Mayor of York in 1585 and a later Brooke had the same title in 1651.  Their line included:
  • the Rev. John Brooke, rector of High Hoyland near Barnsley
  • John Charles Brooke the antiquarian
  • and the Brook mill family who came to Meltham in the Holme valley in 1778.  Later three Brook brothers (Jonas, James and Joseph) started a silk mill complex there.
Lancashire.  Brooks as a surname has been more common in Lancashire.  A Brooks family who were cattle dealers from Whalley in the 18th century came to Crawshawbooth in the 1830's and developed a number of industrial enterprises in the Rossendale area. 

Another Brooks family from Whalley prospered as cotton traders, bankers, and later as property developers around Manchester.  Samuel Brooks developed the Whalley Range suburb of Manchester.  Meanwhile a Brooks family from Winsford in Cheshire were watermen on the Weaver river around that time.

Ireland.   The Brooke family have been in Ireland since 1598 when Basil Brooke gained the rank of captain in the English army in Ireland.  He later held the office of Governor of Donegal. 

His descendants established themselves in Fermanagh, an Anglo-Irish family there with a long military tradition culminating with Alan Brooke, Viscount Alanbrooke, the British Chief of General Staff during World War Two.  His nephew Sir Basil Brooke was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland from 1943 to 1963.  

America.  Brooks but not Brooke travelled to America. 

New England.  There were many early Brooks arrivals into New England, i
  • Henry and Thomas Brooks from Manchester (probably cousins), who arrived in the early 1630's and settled in Concord, Massachusetts 
  • William and Gilbert Brooks, servants to a wealthy merchant, who arrived in Boston in 1635  
  • and Richard and Thomas Brooks (probably related), who came to Massachusetts also in 1635 and later settled in East Hampton on Long Island.
The Brooks in Concord, Massachusetts had many notable descendants:   
  • from Henry Brooks there were Samuel Brooks who fought in the Revolutionary War (his Samuel Brooks house still stands); the Rev. Edward Brooks of Medford, Mass, one of the five Continental Navy chaplains, and his son Peter Chardon Brooks, a shipping magnate who became the first millionaire in Massachusetts.
  • from Thomas Brooks there were John Brooks, one of Washington’s generals who was Governor of Massachusetts between in 1816 and 1823; and the Rev. Phillips Brooks, one of the most famous clergymen in America during the mid 19th century.
These Brooks had their own version of Battle Hymn of the Republic.

.  Brooks also moved into Virginia and the South.  Bruce Edwards’ 1985 book The Brooks of Virginia covered the early Brooks lines in Virginia.  John Brooks was a notable arrival in Bladen county, North Carolina in the 1730’s.  Another Brooks family from Virginia (Mecklenburg county) migrated to South Carolina, Georgia and Texas.

Later, the Brooks name in America could have come from a number of Jewish names or from the German BrucksJulius Brooks and Fanny Bruck were pioneer settlers in California in the 1850's.

Caribbean.   The forebear of the Brooks of St. Elizabeth in Jamaica was George Brooks from Godalming in Surrey who arrived there in 1715 and took up the Burnt Ground plantation.  A later George Brooks established the family at the Blenheim estate in the early 1800's.

Australia.  Richard Brooks was a mariner from Devon who arrived in Australia as a captain of a convict ship in 1802. He died in Denham Court, NSW in 1833, after having been gored by a bull.  His sons Richard and Henry became prominent settlers in the Monaro district.

Select Brooks Miscellany

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

Select Brooks Names

Sir Richard Broke from Suffolk was Chief Baron of the Exchequer to Henry VIII.
John Brooks, Governor of Massachusetts in 1816, was the last Federalist to be elected to public office.
James Brooke became the first white rajah of Sarawak in 1841, ruling that part of Malaysia as his personal fiefdom for the next forty years.
Rupert Brooke was the English poet known for his idealistic war sonnets at the time of World War One.
Alan Brooke, Viscount Alanbrooke, was the British Chief of General Staff during World War Two. 
Edward Brooke was in 1966 the first African American to be elected to the US Senate.
Mel Brooks, born Mel Kaminsky in Brooklyn, is an American writer, comedian, and film producer and director.
James Brooks of Brooklyn Jewish roots is the TV producer of American shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Simpsons.
Garth Brooks is a popular country music singer.
Select Brooks Today
  • 60,000 in the UK (most numerous in Sussex)
  • 88,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 22,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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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