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Home: Surnames: Arculus Family Genealogy Forum

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Origins of the name Arculus
Posted by: Julian Arculus (ID *****1148) Date: December 04, 2002 at 16:58:44
In Reply to: Re: Arculus One-Name Study by Bruce Arculus of 10

Hi Bruce,

The One Name Study is too big to post on the net - although I am increasingly attracted to the idea of putting it on CD-ROM (or DVD) since there would be no publishing costs, I could burn the discs myself, and postage would be minimised. Regrettably the older generation would not thank me for this - they would rather have a book to read, and I do tend to agree (but it would be large and costly).

Regarding the origin of the name this remains my main preoccupation, and I still aim to work back from the present as far as possible, using hard evidence.....

The first generation of the Study was born around 1582 (parish/country unkown) and his descendants can be traced through to the present day with confidence. We can deduce his year of birth from a dated legal document which gives his approximate age.

Before 1610 there is a complete blank suggesting our ancestor moved in from a parish whose records are destroyed, or came from another country, or attended some other denomination (not found among scant records so far). Parish register and other documents potentially enable our
ancestors to be tracked back to 1540 in England. The fact that they are not regularily appearing in a particular register or registers suggests to me there were probably very few of them, arrived relatively recently from overseas, still quite mobile.

I would be delighted to be proved wrong on this by the appearence of an as yet unkown parish on the IGI (probably in the South of England). Although I have consulted original registers for known source areas and their surroundings, I do not have the resources to wade through
all the original registers of all those parishes not on the IGI. I hope that in time they will be incorporated, and point us in a new direction.

There are earlier holders of the name Arculus (or near variants) in England (appearing approx.1540-1600) but these are very sporadic. Several have odd, Germanic first names. Several are described as 'aliens' or 'of no church'. Some are in the service of high ranking individuals / courtiers who seemed to be spending a fair proportion of their time in dealings with France. A couple clearly have come from the Low Countries. There is insufficient evidence to link any of these directly with our known ancestor, but there is a strong hint of continental Europe about most of them.

Going back before the times of Parish Registers, the other documents available show a distinct absence of our name - unless you count 'De ARCUBUS'. These may well have come over with William the Conquerer, but they seem to fade away by 1340.

Most recently I have established contact with present day people of the surname ARKULES. (This seems to me closer in spelling than ARCHELAUS, and so should be given full consideration). The Arkules are even fewer in number than the Arculus, and although now spread around the world they seem to come (in recent history) from the Southern Ukraine, from towns / cities not far north of the Black Sea and on major rivers connecting through to it (and hence on historic
trade routes leading to Byzantium and the Mediterranean). Interestingly there is a history of Greek settlement in just this area in ancient times. But the Arkules have one very interesting feature about them - they are Jewish.... Now I am no great expert on things Jewish, but I read that they have no longstanding tradition of patronymic surnames (they have always placed greater emphasis on the female line) - so I cannot be sure how far back into the past the surname Arkules goes. Maybe not far enough back. Am still investigating.

The Greek alphabet does not line up exactly with our more familiar one. It is hard to get a word that matches exactly, the best could be ARKELOS or ARKILOS (both relate to Bears) - but I have not found any existing Greek families with anything like our surname (yet).

Remember the Roman God ARCULUS (God of chests & coffers) - this is our name, spelt correctly.

In Germany there is a family name ARCULARIUS which seems at first sight very promising - this being Latin for box-maker (or casket-maker). However these guys do not seem to predate our Arculus in England - we were already here when they first appear in Germany.

In conclusion, since I don't want to write the whole book out here, I observe that our name is truly ARCULUS, and has frequently been misspelt (or 'corrected to') HERCULES because the latter is a name classically educated people (and the general populace) would have been very familiar
with. Everyone knew Hercules was Greek, therefore we must be Greek.

If perchance we happened to be Jewish, it might have been in our best interests to be seen as being Greek, especially if we happened to speak Greek and came from within the confines of the Byzantine Empire (Roman, but Greek speaking). This Empire came to an abrupt end in 1453, when
Constantinople was invaded by the Turks.... barely 100 years before the first 'likely candidates' appear in England. During this missing Century our ancestors may have progressed accross Europe, following trade routes, seeking a country that tolerated 'those of no religion'. The name Arculus, as derived from that Roman God, would especially suit a banker or money-lender, certainly a
properous (or aspiringly prosperous) merchant. I visualise a time in the Low Countries / Flanders prior to crossing the channel (trading links esp.wool/textiles were very strong). This is very much the era that surnames were coming into use throughout Western Europe.

But I am still fancifully hopeful of finding a colony of living ARCULUS somewhere in a remote region of Eastern Europe, who DNA test to match ourselves! (Dream on....!!).

Hope you are all well. Intend to dedicate the book to Stanley. Hope to meet you one day.

All the best, Julian Arculus.

P.S. I now live in Shetland, which has a Norse heritage. There is a surname here ARCUS, and another - HERCULESON ... (both derive from HAAKON apparently).

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