The surname of OAK was a locational name 'the dweller at the oak' from residence nearby. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. Local surnames, by far the largest group, derived from a place name where the man held land or from the place from which he had come, or where he actually lived. These local surnames were originally preceded by a preposition such as "de", "atte", "by" or "in". The names may derive from a manor held, from working in a religious dwelling or from literally living by a wood or marsh or by a stream. In some cases the surname may be a habitation name from minor places named with this word, such as Oake in County Somerset. It is also possible that it was also used as a nickname for someone 'as strong as an oak'. Following the Crusades in Europe a need was felt for a family name. This was recognized by those of noble blood, who realised the prestige and practical advantage it would add to their status. Early records of the name mention Adam at ye ock, 1273 County Salop. Henricus atte Ok, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. William George Oakes was baptised at St. Dionis Backchurch, London in 1604. Arthur Ayres married Mary Oake at St. George's Chapel, Mayfair, London in 1754. The acquisition of surnames in Europe has been affected by many factors, including social class and social structure. On the whole, the richer and more powerful classes tended to acquire surnames earlier than the working classes and the poor, while surnames were quicker to catch on in urban areas than in rural areas. These facts suggest that the origin of surnames is associated with the emergence of bureaucracies. As long as land tenure, military service, and fealty were matters of direct relationship between a lord and his vassals, the need did not arise for fixed distinguishing epithets to mark out one carl from another. But as societies became more complex, and as such matters as the management of tenure and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to have a more complex system of nomenclature to distinguish one individual from another.
The name is also spelt Oake, and Oaks.
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