This unusual surname, recorded in the spellings of Chocke, Choke, Chockes and Choak, is not apparently what is claimed. According to the 1984 'Handbook of Cornish Surnames', 'Choak' derives from 'chok', meaning 'jackdaw' or 'chatterer', and is Cornish. This is odd because our research clearly indicates that the earliest recordings are found in London! It is our opinion that 'Cornish Surnames' are partially correct about the explanation, that the name derives from a fancied resemblance to a bird. However this is not a jackdaw, but the Olde English pre 7th century 'cocc' or 'cocca', and the Middle English 'Cok, Coc, or kok'. These words describes a cock-bird or as a nickname surname, 'a young lad', or more likely 'a bit of a lad', with all its possible connotations and insinuations! There are no easy explanations for many medieval surnames, given the Chaucerian humour of the period. What is certain is that the name in all its spellings was in London before the 17th century, and before they appeared in the West Country. The name today is to be found in the parishes of Mawgan in Menage, Constantine, and Paul, but not before 1776. Examples of early recordings include Alexander Chocke at St Peter's Westcheap, London, on June 21st 1574, Johis Chocke of Landulph, Cornwall, October 26th 1582, and John Choke of Totnes, on September 22nd 1589. Margret Choak married John Miler (!) at Maker, near Saltash, Cornwall on October 10th 1641, and Charles Choak was recorded at Mawgan in Menage, on November 24th 1776. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Francis Chokke, which was dated February 1st 1565, married Robert Hole in London by Civil Licence, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, known as 'Good Queen Bess', 1558 - 1603. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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