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Bidlake Genealogy
Bidlake Genealogy

The Surname Bidlake, first appears as a description of a land area in County Devon, England.  A deed to Radus de Combe (Ralph of Combe) in 1168 is for land in the area known as Bidlake, and one of the witnesses to the deed was Nicholas of Bidlake.  As was common in that day, no one had a surname as we know them.  They were simply referred to by their name and "of" their residence.  As the population grew, this became less descriptive and it became necessary to give everyone two names.  Hence, a number of people took surnames that either reflected their occupation (i.e. Cooper, Smith, etc) or the land (ie Sheffield, Bidlake, etc).  A good number of the surnames I research fall into one of these two categories, that is, those of UK extraction.  There is a theory behind the origin of the name Bidlake, that it is a compilation of "by de lac".  A loose definition of this would be "near the lake or river".  In this case, the Lew River runs through the lands once known as Bidlake.

Photo by Kenneth Bidlake, taken 1999.
Bidlake MillThe Immigrant Ancestor, for many of the US branches,  is Christopher Bidlake b. 1661 Dartington, Devon, England emigrated to MA about 1690/1, d. 1740/1 MA.  There are many variant spellings that have been used over the years and which can be found in census and other records:  Bidlake, Bidlack, Bidlacke, Bedlock, Badlock, Bidlick, Billig, Bedlage, .... However, the two surviving spellings found today are Bidlake and Bidlack.  There are a couple of grandsons of Christopher who used the Bidlack spelling, making the spelling unique to US descendents.  The remaining descendents of all the other branches have retained the Bidlake spelling.  Today, in Devon, exists the Bidlake Mill, a structure that has been in operation since the 1200's (and is badly in need of a new roof!), Great Bidlake, an ancestral home tied back to the original deed and on the Bidlake lands, and a Bidlake B&B in Bridestowe, Devon, England.  All of which I have had the pleasure of visiting.   Only the Mill is still owned by Bidlake descendents.

The Coat of Arms.  The Bidlake Crest, a relief of which is still mounted on the fireplace mantle at Great Bidlake, is described as "a cock holding in the beak a trefoil, all proper."  The Motto is "Virtue non astutia", translated as "By Bravery, Not Stratgem."

There have been several "waves" of immigration to the US of Devon Bidlakes.  The first was Christopher, and for almost 200 years his was the only branch, but by the 1890's more had arrived both here and in Canada.  The groups arriving in the US were descendents of James Bidlake, younger brother of Christopher, who himself remained in Dartington.  There are still Bidlake's descended from James Bidlake living in Devon, with others scattered around the world.

The Bidlake/Bidlack Family Association was established in 1978 by 3 members of the Bidlack family.  Over the years many issues of the Bidlake/Bidlack Periodical have been produced as the Official Publication of the Association.  Each issue has been devoted either to a single family, or a branch of the family, and mainly discuss the lines that descend from Christopher Bidlake.  Issue 3 was devoted to the Bidlake's of Devon England.

Please contact me if you have any Bidlake's or Bidlack's in your tree, regardless of the location.

Jennifer Bidlake Cooper

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    Jennifer Bidlake Cooper