What the Devonshire Lay Subsidy of 1332 Reveals about the early Babbs of Devon

Today I sat down to continue reviewing the documents I collected at the Dallas Public Library about 2 months back. I found something unexpected in the Devonshire Lay Subsidy of 1332. A record of Thomas Babbe in Highweek on the same page as John de Babbacombe in Ideford. From town limit to town limit these locations are scarcely more than a single mile apart.

Index to Devonshire Lay Subsidy of 1322

Image: Babbacombe Bay, Devon, England

The document has a number of revelations that may not be apparent at first.

  1. It reveals a Babb(e) living in Devon 154 years prior to the previous earliest known record (by me at least).
  2. The location of Thomas Babb is in Highweek, which is the area that seems to link all of the other lines together in the records that are still extant. There are so many connections with leases back to Highweek in the early records that I had already suspected it was the place of origin for the name.
  3. It shows people using de Babbacombe & de Babbecombe, meaning “of Babbacombe”. Over time the “of” portion could have easily been dropped leaving Babbacombe or Babbecombe as their surname as those came into use.

Using names has been documented in even the oldest historical records. Examples of surnames are documented in the 11th century by the barons in England. English surnames began as a way of identifying a certain aspect of that individual, such as by trade, father’s name, location of birth, or physical features, and were not necessarily inherited. These descriptors often developed into fixed clan identifications that in turn became family names as we know them today. By 1400 most English families, and those from Lowland Scotland, had adopted the use of hereditary surnames.[2]
–Source: Surname – Wikipedia

I’m including the snippets of each entry in this 1332 Record for your review.

We can only speculate at this time as to the accuracy of the possible match to Babbacombe. But we definitely seem to be heading in that direction. In the long run, DNA will likely be the deciding factor. FamilySearch.org revealed 514 Records, most of which are past the timeframe that we would expect to see a connection having been made. With so many lost records anything could be the case.

However, I’ll have to research that on another day. I’ve still got stuff to do first with the Babb records before I try to delve into the Babbacombe surname. A quick search on FamilySearch.org revealed 514 records, but most of those are from much later after any apparent split would have occurred. For now, it is just an idea that still needs to be fleshed out.

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