The Origin and History of the Epps Name

Origin of the Name Epps

     John Frederick Dorman a certified genealogist indicated in “Ancestors and Descendants of Francis Epes of Virginia Vol. I,” that the American Epps ancestors lived for centuries in the area around Ashford, Kent County, England. They came to the Virginia colony shortly after the Virginia Company of London established Jamestown.

    According to Dorman Roger Eppe whose name appears on the Hundred Role of Fourhowe, Norfolk in 1273 is the oldest known reference he found in England’s documents. In 1409 a John Eps and Stephen Eps appear as witnesses on a deed in Kent County. In 1459 William Aps alias Eps of Lamberdherst, Kent County alias Sussex County, was summoned concerning a debt he owed to a fishmonger of London.  Stephen Aps of Sussex County in 1463 was also involved in a court action concerning a dept. There is a Robert Epse who is deputy in the town of Rye, Kent County in 1433 and 1435 and later mayor of Yarmouth in 1436.

        It can be seen these early English sources spelled the name in various ways: Eppe, Eps, Aps, and Epse. These variations come from medieval scribes who worked without any spelling rules. The etymology of the Epps name taken from various internet sources says it is an English variant of the names Ebbs of north Germany or Apps which is a Dutch.

    Ebbs is the short form of Ebbert in north Germany. In medieval time many different cultural groups lived in the German states. This caused regional variations of German surnames. Some spoke Low German that is the dialect of those living in the northern low lying lands of Germany that is similar to Dutch.

    Apps is a Dutch variant of Epps. The Old English, which is of Germanic tribal origin, had a variant of Apps spelled Apse. The root meaning of both of these variants refers to someone who lived near an aspen tree. Both the Dutch “van” and German “von” which mean from or of are used as a prefix to some of the various forms of the Epps name as in van Epps or von Epps.

     Some of the numerous spellings of Epps are: Epple, Epp, Eppe, Eps, Ebs, Ebbs, Epps, Epes, Eppes, Eppling, Eppel, etc. Epp and Eppe is a Dutch pet form of the Germanic personal name Eberhardt.  Some of the individual names that appear in ancient German chronicles of various towns are Eberhart and Friedericus von Ebs in 1190, Albertus Dictum Eppelin in 1283, Rudel Eppfeler in 1367, and Nicolaus Eppler in 1390.  Compare these variations with the previous early English forms Roger Eppe 1273, John Eps 1409, William Aps 1463, and Robert Epse 1433.

     Clearly the Epps name has its roots among the Germanic tribes living in the European low lands. A review of Kent’s history follows which will document that people whose name would become the English Epes were in Kent at least by the sixth century. This review will also point to a Germanic tribe called Jutes as those who brought the name that became Epes in Kent.

History of Kent County

Roman Invasion: England before the Roman legions came was populated by people called the Celts. One of these Celtic tribes was called the Brython or Britons thus the origin of the name Britain. Julius Caesar was general of the armies who were fighting the Celts in Gaul.  The Celts of Britain had been aiding the Celts in Gaul and the defeated Celts in Gaul would often slip away to Britain to regroup. Caesar decided to invade to Britain. In the summer of 55 BC he crossed the channel from Europe and landed in Kent County. After a short stay he returned to Europe, but about 100 years later in 43 AD Emperor Claudius dreamed of expanding the Roman Empire to include Britain. He crossed the channel with about 40,000 troops and landed at a place now called Richborough in eastern Kent County. This place became the main Roman port for a century. It was situated on the southern shore of the channel which separated the Isle of Thanet from mainland Kent. Today the Isle of Thanet is no longer an island. Over the centuries the channel gradually filled with sediment and by the 19th century Richborough was no longer a port since it stood two miles inland from the sea.   

     In the late first century these Roman legions had chased the Celts back to Wales and Ireland and ruled Britain for 400 years. During this time they defended it against Viking invasions. This was a time of peace and cultural progress brought own by the good governance of Romans. Archaeological evidence for the Roman habitations in Kent are plentiful. In 410 AD the Roman legions abandoned Britain and returned to Europe to help defend Rome from the invading Visogoths.

Germanic Tribal Invasion:  A collapse of Roman law and civilization occurred rapidly after the departure in 410 AD. The Celtic people returned to the areas from which the Romans had evicted them and Britain no longer protected by the Roman legions began to be raided by Vikings, Picts, and Scots. The Celts turned to mercenaries from Europe to help defend them from these raiding attacks. These mercenary soldiers came from a mixture of low land northern Germanic tribes. Among these tribes were Angles (the source of the name England), Saxons, Jutes, Frisians, and others. Even though there were many tribes involved the period is commonly referred to as the Anglo-Saxon invasion.

     The name Kent comes from the people who called themselves ‘Cantware’ or ‘Kentings’ which was the Roman name of the area, ‘Cantium’ where they settled. Venerable Bede says these were the Jute people that sailed across the North Sea and settled in east Kent. Western Kent County was more sparsely settled by the Angles and Saxons who guarded there frontier along the Medway River from further advances of the Jute tribal people into their territory.  The Jutes were among the three most powerful Germanic peoples of that time. Bede says these Jutes came from a region north of the Angles which was located in the northern part of today’s Danish Jutland peninsula which borders northern Germany. The Jutes have also been associated with the east Frisian coast and perhaps the mouth of the Rhine River. Bede indicated that the Jute culture was different from that of the Angles and Saxons. This is supported by artifacts from Kent which are distinctively different from those found elsewhere in the country, implying a different cultural origin for Kentish settlers.

     In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles a Celt leader named Vortigern invited Hengist and Horsa to come and defend his people and in return they would be given land. They landed according to the Chronicles in 449 AD at a place called Ypwines fleot on the Isle of Thanet which is believed to be the same as the place called Ebbes Fleet today.  This marked the beginning of the so called Anglo-Saxon invasion. It was not long until the culture of these Germanic tribes absorbed or replaced Kent’s Celtic culture. Hengist (d. circa 488) was the semi-legendary founding ruler of the kingdom of Kent.Legendary or not the first Christian king of Kent named Aethelberht claimed descent through many  generations of kings before him from Hengist.

     In 596 Pope Gregory sent St. Augustine to Kent and he landed at Ebbsfleet where he had an open air meeting with King Aethelberht and his elders. The open air meeting was demanded so Augustine could not cast a magic spell on them. After this meeting the King allowed monks to lodge in Canterbury and preach the Gospel. He was converted and baptized shortly after this first meeting. Today there is a large Celtic style cross standing in Ebbsfleet to commenorate this historic event. Ebbsfleet like the old Roman port at Richborough is no longer on the seas but is situated well inland on the Isle of Thanet as a result of the channel that ran by it filling with sediment.

     These previous references to a port named Ebbsfleet or Ebbes Fleet on Thanet are significant to Epps history. The name Ebb or Ebbs was earlier shown to be a short form of the German name Ebbert. Epps is an English variant of Ebb or Ebbs. Ebbsfleet is a name associated with fleet which means a group of ships. If the English variant for Ebb is used then the meaning of Ebbsfleet is Epps Harbor. The importance of this place shows that the Germanic form of the name Epps occurs on the Isle of Thanet at least by the sixth century when Augustine landed at this place. It was probably established even earlier perhaps in the mid fifth century. The history of the place name Ebbsfleet pushes the Epps name back in the Kent history centuries before the first extant reference to one Roger Eppe in 1273.

Conclusions

People with the low land Germanic tribal short name Ebb or Ebbs came to Kent County during the so called Anglo-Saxon invasion. Members of the tribe known as the Jutes are probably the ones who carried the Ebb or Ebbs name to Kent. A place in Thanet, Kent County name Ebbs
Fleet which means Epps Harbor existed when Augustine landed there in the sixth century. This means people named Ebbs were in that area at that time and perhaps earlier. The English form of Ebbs in Kent County eventually became Epes which is the name one Francis Epes I of Ashford, Kent County. The Epps Society documented in “The Ancestors and Descendants of Francis Epes I Vol. I” that Francis came to Virginia before 1625 and founded the family line of American Epps. Like many of his fellow Englishmen his ancient ancestors were Germanic tribal people.

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13 Responses to The Origin and History of the Epps Name

  1. Arthur William Ebbs says:

    EBBS
    I would like to trace Ebbs back as far as I can.
    This is Excellent – Thanks.

    Any more info? Arthur.

  2. Buck Epps says:

    I am glad you enjoyed my attempt at tracing the family name. I am convinced all of us Ebbs, Epps, Eps, Eppes, Aps, etc. came from the germanic lowland tribes of Europe most likely the Jutes. We were brought in as mercenary troops to England and stayed.

  3. Laurel Epps Jones says:

    Thank you so much for your post. I have been interested in the history of the Epps name in Kent and in relation to the Jutes.

    Laurel
    Canton, Georgia

  4. Buck Epps says:

    There is a Georgia Epps forum that you can join. I have not found any connection between my line and the Georgia groups.

  5. My grandfather passed away in 2012. I am the oldest male left with the last name
    Epps in my family. I’m so glad this website was available to show my children where exactly where their last name originated. The information on this website will be a great help when they continue to learn their family history.

  6. Buck Epps says:

    I’m glad you children can use this effort to tell about the ancient name of Epps. Is you Epps line from the Lincoln Tennessee Epps clan?

  7. Byron Eppes says:

    My father also had our lineage traced with the same conclusions. It seems there have been Eppes/ Epps ancestors attending almost all the most important events in American history including Lee’s surrender to Grant (Eppes) and the bombing of Pearl Harbor (Epps onboard the USS Alabama).

  8. Buck, I am a descendant of Hiram Thomas Epps, son of James Thomas Epps, son of Hiram Thomas Epps, son of Hugh M. Craton Epps, son of Larry Epps of Lincoln Co.,Tenn.

    I was born in Thomaston, Upson Co., Ga. on March 26, 1949 and I am now 64. I have tried to get in touch with you a few times over the years on different sites.

    I served as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam in DaNang in 1970 and was in the Corps from 1968-72.

    Cpl. of Marines, 1968-72,
    Staff Sgt. of Airmen, USAFReserve, 1982-86,
    Steven Pruitt Epps

  9. Pam Campbell says:

    I am searching for Martha Ann Epps who married Charles Connor of Antrim, Ireland. Any help would be wonderful.

  10. chris says:

    no so far no Epps in Ireland

  11. Duane Epps says:

    My father is African American, and our last name is Epps, could you please help explain?

  12. David Epps says:

    Trying to find out more about my bloodline my grandfather was from Kingstree sc George sinnot Epps was his name.I would love to learn more about my relatives please email me at my wife’s address thank you. David G

  13. Antwan Epps says:

    My father is from North Carolina…his fathers name was Joshua Epps. I think my dad was born in Berry Farms? Small town outside of Raleigh.

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