Use of DNA results in conjunction with existing genealogical reseach.


Copyright Stephen F Stockton, Bloomington, Illinois, USA

July 1, 2004.


Stockton. The Stockton surname derives from England, but is now also found in several former British colonies. There are telephone listings for over 7000 Stockton households in the United States, and the surname is well represented in Canada and Australia.

The meaning of the name is probably connected with some settlement in a wooded area; that is, the first “Stocktons” probably resided in some type of log structure, or stockade. In old English, “stoc” means the cut trunks of a tree, and “tun” means a structure or settlement. In a play on this meaning, one of the family coats of arms is decorated with three tree stumps.

The name was recorded in the 11th -century Domesday Book as the manor of “Stochetone” in Shropshire, and an Adam de Stocton (roughly translated as “Adam of the cut tree settlement”) was mentioned in an 1196 document. There are several small settlements called Stockton in England, but the name was historically concentrated in three areas of England: (1) southern Cheshire and northern Shropshire, (2) Yorkshire and the former Cleveland area, and (3) Essex, Middlesex, and London. There are records showing that many of the London-area Stocktons came to that place in the late middle ages, when many rural residents came to the City to learn a trade.

DNA studies may allow us to map some of the early branches of the family. For example, we now know that a branch from the Cheshire-Shropshire area has genes normally associated with a Norman origin. The ancestors of this line may have accompanied William the Conqueror when he defeated King Harold at Hastings in 1066, and could have been rewarded with one of the most valuable spoils of war – land. Of course, at that time, they probably did not have the surname “de Stocton”, and may have had no surname at all.

Three main branches of the Stockton family have been identified in the United States: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. There are others as well, as evidenced by the results of the Stockton DNA Project.

There have been some efforts to link the New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia branches. One hypothesis was that the Pennsylvania and Virginia branches were descendents of unrecorded children of Richard Stockton, the immigrant who established the New Jersey branch in the middle 1600’s. This theory seemed unlikely and is not supported by the recent DNA evidence.

However, DNA is supportive of another anecdotal story: that the founder of the Pennsylvania branch, Robert Stockton, and the founder of the Virginia branch, Davis Stockton, were brothers. Our DNA results cannot prove that they were brothers, but does show that they had a common male ancestor, which is consistent with the possibility of that sibling relationship.


New Jersey Branch of the Stockton Family. Richard Stockton, the founder of the New Jersey Stockton’s, was first recorded in America at Visslingen, near the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, in November, 1656. He is recorded in a number of records there after that date, and he was one of about two dozen signatories to the Flushing Remonstrance, which was an early demand for freedom of religion in America. Just as New Amsterdam became New York, Visslingen was renamed Flushing when the British assumed control of the area in 1664. Richard Stockton’s village is today part of the New York City borough of Queens, and home to the New York Mets baseball team.

It has been variously claimed that Flushing’s Richard (“the Emigrant”) Stockton was from all three of the main English Stockton areas: London, Yorkshire-Durham, and Cheshire-Shropshire.

Colonial Families of the United States of America, George N. MacKenzie, editor (New York, 1907), states that Richard was descended from Randall Stockton of London, who was himself from Cheshire. New Jersey Biographical and Genealogical Notes from the Volumes of the New Jersey Archives (New Jersey Historical Society, Trenton, 1916) says that Richard descended from an English family at Stockton on the River Tees in Durham. These sources are without citation.

Another source, A History of the Stockton Family, by J.W. Stockton (Patterson & White, Philadelphia, 1881), said that Richard “was the son of John Stockton, of the parish of Malpas, in Cheshire, England, and was born in the year 1606”. The book goes on to claim that the father, John, was of the Stockton family that resided at Kiddington, in Malpas parish. This belief was then followed in T.C. Stockton’s book, The Stockton Family of New Jersey and Other Stocktons (Carnahan Press, Washington DC, 1911).

The parish church of the village of Malpas, Cheshire is St. Oswald’s. It is located in Church Street, about 150 yards west of the town center, or “cross”. In the attractive church building, which dates to the 14th century, there are several reminders of the Stockton family of the late 16th and early 17th century. One plaque records Owen Stockton of Kiddington in Malpas, and his eldest son, John, who died in 1610 and 1643 respectively. There are carvings in two very old wooden church pews: “John Stockton 1626”. There is also a plaque to the memory of another John Stockton of Kiddington, who passed in 1700.

The Stocktons of Kiddington (today called Cuddington, an area just west of Malpas), were landowners, wealthy for their time. They owned considerable land in southern Cheshire and some in northern Shropshire, although they were not titled. Records from the Church and at the College of Arms in London document several generations of that family. Owen (?-1610) was the father of John (1576-1643), whose eldest son was Thomas (1609-1674), whose eldest son was John (about 1644-1700). That latter John died childless, but he did have two brothers who carried on the line away from Malpas.

Unfortunately, the ancestry given Richard “the Emigrant” Stockton by J.W. Stockton’s The History of the Stockton Family is not accurate. The parish records do record the birth of a Richard Stockton on 26 June 1606, but the father is shown as John Stockton of the Higher Wych in Wigland in Malpas, which is an area just south of village of Malpas, but very distinct from Kiddington in Malpas. In fact, none of the official records of the Kiddington Stocktons mentions the birth of a Richard to any of the males of that family.

Adding doubt to the book’s claim, we know that Richard “the Emigrant” Stockton died in New Jersey in 1707. He was also fathering children as late as 1680. It is therefore unlikely that he was born as early as 1606. It is more probable that he was born sometime in the period 1628-1632.

Ironically, the John Stockton misidentified in the book as Richard’s father was probably related to Richard. Richard “the Emigrant” Stockton was from the Stockton family of the Higher Wych in Wigland in Malpas parish, and the misidentified father was probably his uncle or cousin.

There is documentary evidence showing that Flushing’s Richard “the Emigrant” Stockton was a descendent of the Stocktons of the Higher Wych in Wigland in Malpas, Cheshire. The evidence of this is credible, but indirect and complex, and will be the subject of a future article. However, no exact birth date or place for Richard has yet been found.

The lineage of the New Jersey Stocktons is well documented and identified with the growth of the United States. Richard “the Emigrant” Stockton’s son, Richard “the Builder” Stockton, purchased thousands of acres of land around Princeton, New Jersey from William Penn and built the first Stockton home there. His son, John Stockton, was a co-founder of Princeton University, and constructed the second Stockton home, Morven (which later served as the governor’s mansion, and is today a state museum). John’s son, Richard “the Signer” Stockton, was a lawyer, a member of the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Richard’s son, Richard “the Duke” Stockton was a lawyer and United States Senator. Richard’s son, Robert “the Commodore”, was a naval officer who led the forces that captured California and annexed it into the United States – he was also the first governor of California and a United States Senator. Robert’s son, John Potter Stockton, was attorney-general of New Jersey and also a United States Senator. Further generations produced ambassadors, lawyers, military officers, and corporate executives, as well as the author of this article – a more ordinary person.


Four Branches of Stocktons in Cheshire-Shropshire. We have already identified at least two branches of the Stockton family from around Malpas, although the Higher Wych in Wigland and the Kiddington in Wigland branches may share a common ancestry prior to about 1500. There are records of “de Stoctons” at Malpas as early as 1303, but the main wealth of that line was passed into the Eaton family (and eventually the Grosvenor family) with the marriage of Isabella de Stocton to Robert de Eaton in 1334. Ormerod’s History of the City and County Palatine of Chester says that a junior line to that early family survived at Tushingham, which is adjacent to the Higher Wych in Wigland, and could account for the Stocktons at the latter place in the 1500’s.

Like much of Cheshire, the Kiddington Stocktons supported Charles I during the English Civil War, and much of the family’s property was lost to the “sequestration” process after the King’s beheading in 1649. After the death of John Stockton in 1700, no survivors of that branch remained in Malpas, although two of John’s brothers had removed to Ireland.

There was also a branch of Stocktons around Whitchurch, in northern Shropshire. Whitchurch is only about six miles from the village of Malpas, and only four miles from the Higher Wych in Wigland. This branch is discussed in an excellent article by Douglas Richardson in the New England Historical & Genealogical Society Register (April, 1993). There were a number of Stocktons farming in northern Shropshire during the 16th-17th centuries, and both the Kiddington and Higher Wych in Wigland branches had connections to Whitchurch.

Finally, there is a branch of the Stockton family centered around Bunbury, which is more north and east of Malpas in Cheshire.

In addition to Richard “the Emigrant” Stockton’s move to America sometime prior to 1656, there is evidence of members of the Kiddington and Whitchurch branches moving to Warwickshire, Norfolk, London, and Surrey, as well as Ireland as mentioned above. Some members of the Bunbury branch are in Canada.


London Stocktons. This category includes Stocktons from the home counties in southeast England. Following a common pattern, many of the London Stocktons were born in other areas and removed to London to engage in the trades. There were hundreds of Stocktons in the City during the 17th century, and there are records of some who again removed away from London in later years.

There were Stocktons in Essex in the 15th century. One, Sir John Stockton, was a mercer who became Lord Mayor of London in 1470. According to the College of Arms, he was survived by a son, but allegedly that branch then died out. However, the coat of arms registered to Sir John Stockton was later used both by Stocktons in Malpas and the New Jersey Stocktons. It is not known if there is a connection between the Essex Stocktons and these other branches, or if the arms were being used without authority.


Yorkshire Stocktons. Research documents a separate, major branch of Stocktons in Yorkshire, Durham and the former Cleveland area during the period 1560-1700, and presumably beyond. Some concentrations of Stocktons were at Great Edstone, Ingleby Arncliffe, Kirby Misperton, New Malton, Pickering Thorntondale, and Stokesley.

These Stocktons are more likely to have had Viking or Anglo-Saxon connections than the Stocktons in Cheshire-Shropshire, although this can only be proven by conducting a DNA test on known descendents of Yorkshire Stocktons.

Of course, the largest place named Stockton in England, Stockton-on-Tees, is in this same area, and was an early manor that could have lent its name to the family. Just outside of the city of York, there is a small settlement called Stockton-on-the-Forest.


Pennsylvania and Virginia Stocktons. With recent DNA findings consistent with the anecdotal family tradition that Robert Stockton of Pennsylvania and Davis Stockton of Virginia were brothers, more credibility could be given to the further tradition that they were “from the north of Ireland”.

Obviously, Stockton is not a common Irish name, and there are very few recorded instances of Stocktons in Ireland. Unfortunately, because a 1922 fire destroyed many Irish records, it is very difficult to trace the family there.

As stated above, among the few documented Stocktons in Ireland were Thomas Stockton, his two sons, and his brother, John. All were descendents of the Kiddington Stocktons of Malpas, Cheshire, and Thomas and his sons were in Dublin in the period from about 1650-1674. They also had connections with County Wicklow and County Louth.

Census records indicate that there was a second John Stockton in County Clare about the same time, but little is known of him at this time.

Dublin and the three counties mentioned above are all in the central and southern regions of Ireland, and not in Northern Ireland, so there is no obvious connection to the “north of Ireland” tradition.

Although there is no record of their arrival, Robert and Davis Stockton both appeared in America in the 1730’s. Robert settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and Davis was an early settler near Charlottesville, Virginia. One of Robert’s descendents was a governor of Maryland. The descendents of Davis moved westward from Virginia, especially into Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Texas. The Virginia Stocktons are probably the largest group of Stocktons in the USA.


Stockton DNA. Stockton DNA research to date has proven its value. Long after memories fade, ancestors pass, and paper records are lost or destroyed, we all carry markers of our genealogical origins in every cell of our bodies. The evidence carried is limited and must be carefully interpreted, usually in conjunction with more ordinary genealogical research. The Stockton DNA Project focuses on male DNA because the family surname follows the male line.

Already, the DNA evidence has illustrated that a link between the New Jersey Stocktons and the Pennsylvania/Virginia Stocktons is unlikely – it is fairly certain that Robert Stockton and Davis Stockton are not lost sons of Richard “the Emigrant” Stockton. This also would seem to rule out an earlier link between the branches.

The DNA results have also confirmed previous genealogical research that establishes a link from the New Jersey Stocktons back to the Malpas, Cheshire area. DNA from several New Jersey Stocktons is a close match with  the DNA of at least one English resident descended from a Stockton who resided in Wales, just west of Malpas.

Further testing could establish more DNA groupings of Stocktons, in England and other places. Once more groupings are established, further linkages are likely to emerge. For example, it is possible that a match to the Pennsylvania/Virginia Stocktons might be found. We know that the DNA of the Pennsylvania/Virginia branch is not similar to the New Jersey branch, and therefore is probably not similar to the Higher Wych in Wigland branch, from which New Jersey branch descended. However, as stated above, the Higher Wych in Wigland branch is not necessarily related to the Kiddington branch, and it is still possible that the Pennsylvania/Virginia branch is related to the Kiddington branch. The Yorkshire branch is another possible match.

DNA is not the sole answer for genealogical research, but it provides yet another tool to be used in conjunction with standard research methods. We hope to further investigate the Stockton family genealogy by encouraging participation in both the DNA testing program and by obtaining known lineages from family members.