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About the study
I have been researching SPEAKE family history since 1974. This study initially focussed on the numerous families of that name in Shropshire, where they have lived since at least 1525. The study has since expanded to include the Speke family of Devon, Somerset and Wiltshire, Speak families in Lancashire and Yorkshire and branches of the families who moved to Australia, New Zealand, India and USA.
In order to be able to search and discover links between the various individuals, since 1987 I have complied and added to a large relational database of my research.
I am keen to share my research with other people interested to these families and to receive further contributions, and to put enquirers in touch with each other if they so wish.
All the available reference books point towards two sources for the name SPEAKE and all its derivatives; one being a nickname, and the other a place name.
P.H. Reaney, in his 'Origins of English Surnames' states - 'The woodpecker has given us a variety of names, probably due to its place in folklore: Pike and Pick are, at times, from Old English pic, Latin Picus; from Old English Speoht or Speht, and Mediaeval English speight we have Speight, Spaight; and from Old French espech(e), espek, Speake, Speck, Speek and Speke.'
The origins of the place Speke, in South Lancashire, according to the 'Dictionary of Place Names of the British Isles' by Adrian Room, (Bloomsbury 1988) gives the derivation; Speke - 'A district of Liverpool whose name means '(place by) brushwood', from the Old English spaec (small branch, probably related to the modern 'spoke' and 'spike')'.
Distribution of the name
For the period 1541 to 1991, the all time number of the name who ever lived in England is estimated as about 10,000 people.
The estimated the current UK population of SPE(A)K(E)(S) as 2,788, with an annual birth rate of 37. Therefore a SPE(A)K(E)(S) family member today is 1 in 19,000 people of the total population; or 53 SPEAKES per million of the UK total.
In the USA today, there is a probable total of 7000 SPEAKE (and variants) families. One striking difference between the UK and the USA is how uncommon the variation SPE(A)K(E)S is in the UK, and how often it appears in the USA.
For Australia the estimated total SPEAKE population of about 120. Approximately half of these are Western Australia, and the others fairly equally distributed amongst Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales.