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(Click on picture to enlarge) The Judges one-name study.

One-Name Study


About the Judges One-Name Study

Back in 2006, I became the guardian of the Judges “family archives” (basically, a load of boxes of old photographs and documents) and I subsequently, started to take an interest in the history of our family and eventually, the origins of my surname. I soon gathered a massive amount of information from many open and free to access sources, as well as the census returns of England & Wales for 1841 and 1911, regarding Judges family members, not only for my specific branch of the family, but also for those without any actual direct link to me.

In 2012 I presented the complete body of information, collated into one coherent work and somewhat humorously, entitled “The book of Judges” to my father (who has since also become interested himself), as a gift. That is when he informed me, what I had just given him was actually very similar to a One-Name study!.. and so here we are.

Whilst I am hoping to eventually be able to cover the Judges name world-wide, almost all of my current information pertains to England & Wales, with a large percentage from the county of Kent.

The aim when I first started putting together “The book of Judges” for my father was two-fold, firstly to show our direct lineage as far back as possible. And secondly, to collate in its entirety the mass of information that I had gathered for the Judges family as a whole into one succinct work that actually made sense, and for us then to be able to use that information to pinpoint exactly where best to concentrate any further focus to the benefit of our own ancestry research.

The progression of the branches of the Judges family from 1669 right through to present day can be broken down into three clear stages, and I have called these the “Three phases of Judges”. Between each of these phases I believe there is a chunk of missing information (possibly an unrecorded generation) that I am still searching for and which, I hope, will link the phases together.

Phase 1 - The surname Judges seems to first come into widespread recorded usage in Stepney shortly after the dual events of the great plague of London (1665) and then the great fire of London (1666). In Stepney the plague killed a higher than average percentage of the population and the subsequent great fire destroyed many of the repositories of records held in this area at that time, we can assume, that those two tragic historic events probably not only dispersed many of the Judges families throughout the area (largely unrecorded), but also wiped out many of the then existing Judges records thereabouts. It is at the early stages of this phase , that I suspect the surname Judges first came into continued and widespread usage, rather than just being an occasional aberration.

Phase 2 - The initial movement from Stepney to the villages of Kent (around 1720-30) sees some of the Judges family members beating the later (population swelling) rush of around 1750-1800 to the agriculturally rich and industrially diverse countryside of Kent, although (or possibly even because) the threat of invasion was a constant worry to the county throughout this period of time. The Judges family groupings in this phase seem to be concentrated around 6 main village locations (all local to one another) in Kent.

Phase 3 - The spread of Judges throughout Kent in the latter half of the 18th century and on into the 19th century does not appear to be indicative of anything unusual, appearing to follow alongside the agriculturally developing areas and sits nicely within national trends. Backing up what we can see from other sources regarding Judges working on the land.

Within phase 3 there appears to be 5 distinct branches of the Judges family tree all with earliest records that are contemporary chronologically, as well as plenty of assorted, scattered bits and pieces. M y own branch of the Judges family Tree can be traced back to this final phase, (and to one of the aforementioned 5) to the village of Lenham, Kent in1778 and the birth of my Great Great Great Great Great Great Grandfather Early Judges – and yes his name apparently really was Early!

In order to support my three phases theory “The book of Judges” included a “Judges time-line” (showing chronological Judges events by location), Kent distribution maps (showing movement through phases 2 and 3) and brief historical studies on both Stepney and Kent (in order to give a better insight into how my ancestors might have been influenced and affected during their lifetimes by the social, political and economic issues of the day).

The associated coat of arms is recorded in Burkes General Armory, and the motto “Totum est Providentia.” translates as “All is providence.”


The point could well be made that 'the surname 'Judges' is actually a variant of 'Judge', and that 'Judge' is in turn itself, a variant of 'Juge'.

It is my belief that the chronological progression of the surname, including known variants and deviants and culminating with the present day surname 'Judges', went something like this -

'Juge'/'la Juge'/'Jugge' - 'Jude' – 'Judd'/'la Judde' – 'Judge' – 'Judges'

There is also an Irish twist to the 'Juge' surname history, This comes from the Gaelic 'Mac an Bhreitheamhnaigh', translating as the 'son of the Judge'. A variation of the Gaelic is also found as the surname '(mac) Brehany', this is an Anglicised spelling, but not a translation. There is some debate as to whether the Irish surname 'Judge' is a translated and Anglicised form of the original Gaelic.

To date, I have not concentrated any real effort on any of these variant names, but it is worthy of note that of them all, Judge seems to be by far the most prevalent.

Origin of the surname

There are three possible explanations for the origin of the Judges surname:

1 - The surname Judges is derived from the old French word 'Juge' an official name, the judge, one who administered justice.

2 - Early records of the name Judges show it to be an old Norman surname, (possibly from Juge in Normandy, France?) and many sources suggest that the origin of the surname in England lies with the Norman conquest of the 11th century.

3 - The name Judges was also a nickname surname for one who was solemn and authoritative, or who behaved like a judge.

Historical occurrences

I have gathered scattered pieces of information referencing individuals with the variant surnames that go as far back as 1202, but the earliest individual with the actual surname 'Judges' that I have a record for is Robert, who in the year 1567 married Katherine Chandler in Norwich, Norfolk.

There seem to be very few, (if any), Judges recorded through history who appear to have performed notable deeds or attained a high level of worthiness, although;

2 Judges are listed on the UK 'Army roll of Honour' and

1 Judges received a 'Distinguished conduct Medal citation' during WWI.

Frequency of the name

According to searches on the ONS list database at www.taliesin-arlein.net/names for England & Wales, as of September 2002, there were -

329 individuals with the surname Judges, making it the 15,359th most common surname at that time.

Whereas for some of the other variants, there were -

5884 individuals with the surname Judge, making it the 1,342nd most common surname at that time.

8 individuals with the surname Juge, making it the167,220th most common surname at that time.

1022 individuals with the surname Jude, making it the 6507th most common surname at that time.

Findmypast.com shows the number of census returns as;

1841 122
1851 168
1861 179
1871 185
1881 205
1891 319
1901 300
1911 328

Distribution of the name

Throughout the census returns for England & Wales the greatest concentration of Judges have been, and in fact still are to some extent today, clearly in the county of Kent. With almost 90% of all Judges listed in the 1841 census being resident there, however, this percentage has dropped by the time of the 1911 census to just under 60%.

The districts of London are the next most populated areas for the family throughout the census returns.

A search on the website www.worldnames.publicprofiler.org gives us a frequency per million (FPM) rating for the top countries featuring records for a surname, and shows us that Judges has a FPM rating of 5.87 in the U.K. and of 1.83 in Canada. The two most 'Judges' populated countries, followed by the Netherlands, United States of America, Argentina, Germany and France.


When I originally started my research I raided websites with gusto (ancestry, familysearch, findmypast, freeBMD, thegenealogist, genesreunited , & nationalarchives chief amongst them) for any and all information about or even featuring a Judges, mainly for births, deaths, burials and marriages, jotting the information down in paper files as I went.

Any relevant census returns for England & Wales for 1841-1911 and all the International Genealogy Index records I came across were all dutifully copied out, and visits were made in due course to little villages in the middle of Kent in order to wander amongst gravestones and check out old church records.

Unfortunately, this has now ended up with me having on my hands a rather large volume of paperwork relating to Judges family members.

I am currently in the process of transferring this paper mountain to much more user-friendly digital formats...

I welcome any information regarding bearers of the Judges surname from any time period and of course I may be able to help if you are yourself researching Judges records. Any and all information will undoubtedly help to build a better overall record of the Judges family.

I would like to hear from anyone who has information about some of the more modern Judges family history, or who has, in fact Judges family information/records of any kind or age. If you are researching your own family and a Judges is featured, I may have access to information that could help you, I would love to hear from you and help if I can.

Ultimately I would like to tie together the 5 branches of the family which all have their earliest records (4 in Kent and 1 in Essex) around 1770-1800 and have lines that run through until at least 1910.


Writing this, as of September 2013, and the Judges name has seen a welcome surge of popularity, leading to other Judges creating both;

the Judges family Facebook group - www.facebook.com/groups/201126686722107/

and the Judges Family website - www.thejudgesfamily.com

.. which even has it's own forum - www.thejudgesfamily.com/forum.html

I am pleased to be involved with, and have become active on, both of these (as yet early stage) projects.

I would recommend that anyone with an interest in the Judges surname should take a look at both.

Contact details

For further information, contact:

Mr Rhys Judges

This page last updated 2 September 2013.

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