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About the study
My mother's maiden name is ROCKER - she was known as 'Rocky' when she was younger - and, when I became interested in family history, I realised how unusual the name is - especially here in the UK.
I learnt, through attending a WEA family history course, of the existence of the Guild of One-Name Studies and wanted to join but, in those days, you had to have collected all the birth, marriage and death references (then held at St Catherine's House in London)...so I did. Once I had lifted every (heavy) register at SCH I joined the GOONS and even became Registrar.
On investigating other sources of information - Freedoms of the City of London at the London Guildhall, because mum reckoned that her grandfather was allowed to herd sheep across London Bridge (not true due to the time period) as he'd been made a Freeman of the City of London - I discovered that her grandfather had been born in Germany.
British surname dictionaries provide the following derivations for the surname ROCK - of which, they maintain, ROCKER is one of the variants:
- topographic name for someone who lived near a notable crag or outcrop, from Middle English 'rocc', or habitation name from a place named with the word
- topographic name for someone who lived near a large oak tree, from a misdivision of ME 'atter oke' at the oak
- metonymic occupational name for a spinner of distaffs, from ME 'rok' distaff.
German surname dictionaries, however, are not clear on the origin.
The earliest English resident that I have found with the name, via the IGI, is a Robert being baptised on 10th January 1549 in Linstead Parva in Suffolk.
History of the name
Rudolph Rocker was born 25th March 1873 in Mainz, Germany. He was a bookbinder by trade and quickly became involved in left-wing politics: this activity required him to flee to France before he was 20. It was in Paris where he came across Jewish anarchists: he was able - through his German - to understand most of the Yiddish language.
He continued his contact with Jewish anarchists after he moved to London in 1895 and became a leader of their movement, although he never advocated violence. His common-law wife, Milly Witcop, was a Ukrainian Jewess; they had one surviving child, Fermin - who went on to become a book illustrator. Due to Rudolph's political leanings he came into contact with people such as Kropotkin, Landauer and Malatesta. His Yiddish improved sufficiently for him to become the editor of the Jewish newspaper 'Arbeter Fraint', which was read not only in the UK but also in Paris and New York.
He was a friend to the poor and, in 1912, he inspired and led the Jewish garment workers out on strike and three weeks later the masters relented. However, with the outbreak of war the newspaper was suppressed, their club - where Rudolph himself gave many lectures, was turned into a cinema and many anarchists - including Milly - were jailed for their anti-war activity. Rudolph was interned as an enemy alien - see the Anglo-German Family History publication 'Civilian Internment in Britain during WWI' for an account of his time in Alexandra Palace - and was repatriated to Germany in 1918. he remained there until Hitler's rise to power when he moved to the US.
Rudolph met William Morris and Jung, Keir Hardie and Bernard Shaw, Einstein and Bertrand Russell and left his mark on their minds with his thoughts and words - many, like 'Nationalism and Culture', were printed - I only wish that I could claim to be directly related to such a person.