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About the study
- This study was initiated in November 2012 to work in tandem with the Acree Surname DNA Project, which was created six years earlier to determine the extent to which individuals with the surname Acree (variously spelled) relate to one another worldwide - genetically and genealogically.
- Variants of the Acree surname include Acre, Acrey, Acrea, Akre, Akrie, Akrey, Ackre, Ackrey and Acra.
- The surnames Acres, Acker(s), Aker(s), Dacre, Daker and Hacker evidently had an historical association with the Acree surname in the British Isles.
- Records show that the Acree surname was fairly common in both Britain and Colonial America in the 17th and 18th centuries, but it was never spelled that way. Instead, it was written or subsequently transcribed in more than two dozen different ways, including less obvious variants such as Acare, Accore, Acrill, Ackares, Akues and Hacker. It appears that the spelling Acree arose in the U.S. in the late 18th century, coincidental with the more disciplined spelling of surnames.
- The surname has no definite history. DNA evidence indicates that variants originated and evolved in diverse locations, as scattered people gradually adopted surnames in the British Isles in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest.
- At the most basic level, Acree derives from the word "acre" - denoting a measure of land that can be tilled in one day by a man with his ox. So people who adopted the name long ago may have been characterizing themselves essentially as farmers or landowners, as most people were in the past. The name, however, became associated with geographical locations, clans and estates.
- One version of the name was sometimes adopted by pilgrims and soldiers who ventured to the ancient Palestinian town of Acre (now in Israel), which experienced a brutal history during the Crusades of the 12th and 13th centuries. Returning home, travelers occasionally took appellations that proudly affirmed their return "from Acre" - using the designation "d'Acre" or "de Acre" because English nobility preferred the French language at the time. The historic Dacre coat of arms depicted, on a red background, three silver scallop shells, proclaiming pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
- Early use of the name occurred when a Norman known as William de Warenne accompanied William the Conqueror to England in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings. As one of William's most powerful and trusted knights, he became the king's son-in-law and was awarded several properties in England. One of his early accomplishments was to build the historic Acre Castle in northwest Norfolk. The reason for the name was that the previous Saxon owner, for whatever reason, had called that area Acre. Today, its ruins are a tourist attraction. Warenne and his descendants did not use the surname Acre themselves, but commoners living in the vicinity may have later adopted it.
- The subsequent Dacre peerage employed the same coat of arms but derived its hereditary surname differently. In the late 12th century, an ambitious family of obscure origin established itself as a barony near Hadrian's Wall on the Scottish frontier, in what is now the county of Cumbria. It took its name from that of a local village and stream where a monastery once stood, according to the Venerable Bede. The Dacre barons built two castles in the vicinity and supported successive English kings by keeping Scottish marauders at bay on the West March. Those castles have been continuously occupied ever since. A branch of the barony survives as the "Dacres of the south." It is likely that some tenants who resided on the Dacre estates, when obliged to adopt surnames in the 13th and 14th centuries, chose to take theirs from the lands on which they lived, later, in some cases, shortening Dacre to a form of Acre.
- In the early 14th century, Dacre barons acquired lands in nearby Lancashire. In 1576, Captain George Acres of Liverpool was granted arms that included, in the first quarter, the distinctive Dacre arms, thereby confirming a relationship between the Dacre surname and its variously-spelled derivatives.
Historical occurrences of the name
- There have been many prominent, successful people named Acree, but none has achieved outstanding historical reputation.
- According to the U.S. census, there were about 7,400 individuals with the surname Acree and its above variants in the year 2000, nearly two-thirds of whom spelled their name Acree.
- The surname has been rare in the British Isles. The spelling Acree has been practically non-existent, while the spelling Acrey has become the most prevalent.
- The surname and its variants have been rare in the rest of the world as well, but have occurred most frequently in Canada and Australia.
Distribution of the name
- See above.
- I maintain a large computer-based file on individuals with the surname, in addition to a cabinet of associated paper files.
- I established the Acree Surname DNA Project at the Ancestry.com testing firm in August 2006 and have administered it since then.The project currently has over 80 participants. Most live in the U.S., five in the U.K. two in Australia, one in Brazil, and one in Dubai. In December 2012 the project was established also at the Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) firm, to provide an alternative testing environment. It now tests primarily there and secondarily at the YSEQ firm.
- Through a combination of DNA testing and genealogical research, the project has met its primary objectives - finding that most Acrees living in the U.S. descend from an early-18th-century immigrant to Virginia with origins in the English-Scottish border area and that a substantial minority descend from an unrelated contemporary British immigrant from that area with the surname Akers.
- Any male bearer of the surname Acree or its above-mentioned variants is invited to participate. The project compares Y-Chromosome DNA segments that fathers pass to their sons, which remain relatively stable from generation to generation, with infrequent mutational changes. Females may participate by convincing an Acree-surnamed male relative (grandfather, father, brother, uncle, cousin or nephew) to provide the requisite DNA as a representative of her line.
- Further details are provided on the project's webpages, listed below.