Last names in the Netherlands are a relatively new concept. In 1811 Napoleon required all people under his jurisdiction to register for taxation with a last name. Until then most common people in the Netherlands and Germany did not have consistent last names. One exception was West Friesland where many had started taking last names between one and three centuries before that date. In West Friesland most baptism records begin between 1580 (about the time when many Catholic people became Reformed) and 1700.
Many names in records before 1650 used an X in the name, such as Vreekx or Vreekxen instead of Vreeksz or Vreeksen. As more northern Dutch people learned to read and write in the 1600’s, spelling seemed to standardize around the K instead of the C. Even then, spelling wasn’t standardized at all. But it is true that by the late 1600’s many people could read and write. Andijk, a town of less than 1,000, actually had two schools in the late 1600’s.
Official documents didn’t always use the last names of people. They were rare in most baptism and marriage documents until the late 1700’s even though the majority of people in West Friesland had them by the late 1600’s. State burial records and sometimes church membership records used them a bit more frequently. The name Coxen was probably in use in West Friesland before 1600 but there is no written documentation to prove it.
In Holland the name Coxson (Coxon or Coxen) would not have developed as the son of Cox, Cock or Kok. Early Dutch records tended to put an -sz, -sen or -soon on the end of their patronyms (for example Jansz, Jansen or Jansoon). They would not use ‘-son’ simply because Dutch people transcribing from speech wouldn’t be used to spelling things that way.
The Period 1690 to 1786
The Coxen’s of Andijk, Holland
For many centuries there were Coxen’s living in the Andijk area of Noord-Holland, about half an hour north of Amsterdam. It’s in an area traditionally known as West Friesland. This area used to be Frisian, but gradually was assimilated by the Dutch people in medieval times. They still have their own dialects that are Frisian with a lot of Dutch slipped into them.
Most of the last names in Andijk seem to have come about because there were so many people with a specific first name. For example, there were sometimes as many as four Jan Pietersz all at the same time. The second name is not actually considered a last name. It is a patronym. If Jan Pietersz (or Pieter’s son) had a son named Teunis, this boy would be known as Teunis Jansz. And his son Cornelis would be known as Cornelis Teunisz.
However, if you have two men named Cornelis Teunisz living in the same area, they would each take on a last name so that people could distinguish between them. It might be an occupation, but it could be some trait or a place where they live too. Many names popped up in many areas, applied to people who were definitely not related to each other.
In West Friesland, Coxen is found only in Andijk. In the baptism and marriage records of Andijk, the first person to take the last name of Coxen was Tijs Freeksz, who was married in 1696. It is then spelled Coksen for the baptism of his son Vreek in 1742.
In Andijk, the name Coxen is actually another spelling of Koksen. Usually this would mean “son of Kok”, assuming that Kok is a first name. However, Kok is never a first name in the Netherlands.
The Andijker Buurtjeskerk Database records all the baptisms, marriages and some of the deaths in Andijk and early baptism and marriage records of nearby Wervershoof. The Andijk Gereformeerde Church, or Buurtjeskerk (neighborhood church) was founded in 1667, and most members had been baptized in Wervershoof. The Database standardized all the last names, and Coxen was standardized as Koksz so many of the subsequent records used this name.
Another database (the Piet Kistemaker Network) notes that there was also a Cornelis Freeksz Coxen, the brother to Tijs Freeksz. It adds in parentheses that the name is also Koksen. His daughter Trijn Cornelis Coxen was then baptized on June 20 1706. Piet Kistemaker comments that Coxen is actually a trade that he would have named himself after, possibly Coxswain, working with boats. This would make sense since Andijk is situated on a dike and many of the people there made their living from the sea.
Since spelling in Holland was so fluid until only the last 100 years, there are different ways Coxen seems to be spelled. Jan, Nanne and Freek Kokse became members of the Gereformeerde (Reformed) church in Andijk in 1732, 1723 and 1726. Freek Coksen baptized one of his children in 1742. Another Vreek Cokse became a member of the church in Andijk in 1760. An earlier Vreek Koksz died in 1737, and another Freek Koksz died in 1782. Antje, Freek and Geertje Koksen joined the Gereformeerde Kerk in Andijk in 1783, 1804 and 1786.
The Period from 1721 to 1751
This is from a search of Dutch Official records. The names of Coxon, Coxen, Coxson, Cockson, Coksen, Koksen and Koksz were searched. The Coxon and Coxen spellings are written as seen in each official record.
18th Century Ships and their Captain that sailed through Dutch waters and the Danish Sound – 1721 to 1751.
9 June 1721 – London to Stockholm, Sweden carrying herring – Captain John Coxon home port Romansgate (now Ramsgate, Kent).
24th July 1721 -Stockholm to London carrying iron – Captain John Coxon
23rd May 1722 – Newcastle to Copenhagen, Denmark carrying ballast – Captain John Coxon, Romansgate.
23rd April 1723 – Newcastle to Copenhagen, Denmark carrying coal – Captain John Coxon, Romansgate.
13th May 1723 – London to Riga, Latvia carrying various goods – Captain Francois Coxon, London.
14th July 1723 – Riga to London carrying vias (?) – Captain John Coxon, London.
25th July 1723 – Riga to London carrying vias – Captain Francois Coxon, London.
1st June 1741 – London to St Petersburg, Russia carrying ballast – Captain John Coxon, London.
12th August 1741 – St Petersburg, Russia to London carrying hemp – Captain John Coxon, London.
25th May 1742 – London to Riga, Latvia carrying ballast – Captain John Coxon, London.
3rd June 1742 – London to St Petersburg, Russia carrying laken (?) – Captain Nicolaev Coxen, London.
8th July 1742 – Riga to London carrying hemp – Captain John Coxon, London.
7th September 1742 – St Petersburg, Russia to London carrying hemp – Captain Nicolaes Coxon, London.
2nd July 1743 – London to St Petersburg, Russia carrying ballast – Captain John Coxen, London.
10th October 1743 – St Petersburg to London carrying hemp – Captain John Coxon, London.
23rd August 1751 – St Petersburg to London carrying hemp – Captain Adam Coxon, London.
The Period from 1796 to 1873
This is from a search of Dutch Official records. The names of Coxon, Coxen, Coxson, Cockson, Coksen, Koksen and Koksz were searched. The Coxon, Coxen, Cockson and Koksen spellings are written as seen in each official record.
Marriages, Births and Deaths
28th April 1796 – Marriage of Adriana Peeter Koksen (born Princenhage) to Henricus Watseels. Princenhage.
5th August 1816 – Birth of Arthur Coxon to John Coxon and Jane Arthur. Rotterdam.
29th August 1816 – Elisabeth Beasley (born Selby Yorkshire) died aged 74 years, had been married to John Coxon but divorced. Rotterdam.
26th May 1818 – Birth of Mary Coxon to John Coxon and Jane Arthur. Rotterdam.
24th January 1818 – Death of Arthur Coxon aged 1 year 6 months. Son of John Coxon and Jane Arthur. Rotterdam.
22nd May 1820 – Birth of Ann Coxon to John Coxon and Jane Arthur. Rotterdam
17th February 1822 – Birth of Ellen Coxon to John Coxon and Jane Arthur. Rotterdam.
25th November 1823 – Birth of Eliza Coxon to John Coxon and Jane Arthur. Rotterdam.
26th April 1828 – Birth of John Robert Melville Coxon to John Coxon and Jane Arthur. Rotterdam.
3rd May 1830 – Death of John Robert Melville Coxon aged 2 years and 5 days. Son of John Coxon and Jane Arthur. Rotterdam.
7th November 1846 – A. Coxon married Klein. Den Haag.
16th December 1846 – E. Coxon married Hermens. Den Haag.
19th February 1847 – Anne Coxon married Abraham Peter Klein. Daughter of John Coxon (merchant) and Jane Arthur. Amsterdam.
30th August 1847 – Death of Frederick Robert Coxon (born Kentish Town, London) at Den Haag.
17th January 1849 – Registration of Hannah Cockson (born Corbridge, England). Brabant.
17th November 1857 – Death of John Coxon (born London). Den Haag.
5th April 1873 – Death of Maria Coxon (born London). Den Haag.
The question is whether the name Coxen started in Holland and the Low Countries and then moved to England. Or was it the other way, from England to Holland and the Low Countries? Or did they develop separately?
Emigrate from Holland and the Low Countries to England?
From a comprehensive database (64,000 names, published in 2015) it is possible to check all the people who were Immigrants to England from 1330 to 1550. This is compiled from a variety of published and unpublished records – taxation assessments, letters of denotation (citizenship) and protection, licenses and grants and oaths of fealty taken mainly by people from the Low Countries (mainly Holland and Belgium) in 1436.
Searching this database for the names Coxen, Coxon, Cox, Koksen, Koksz, Coks, Koks and Kocks shows that there was no immigration to England of people with these names during this long period.
The earliest recorded Coxen in Andijk is around 1690 and knowing that last names in Holland started around the same time we can reasonably conclude that the name Coxen in England did not have its origin in the Low Countries since in England, Coxson first appears in official documents in 1475; Coxon first appears in 1538 and Coxen first appears in 1551.
Therefore it is unlikely that the England name came from Holland and the Low Countries.
Independent development of the name?
Today in Dutch the word “Coxen” means a cook or the son of a cook and could also refer to the raising of roosters. This is too modern an interpretation. The early Dutch would not put ‘-son’ on the end of a name. It is also likely that the spelling “Coxen” was used before the spelling “Koksen” or “Koksz” since the further back you go in Dutch documents the more often the C is used instead of the K.
It is possible, but not likely, that Coxen family lines in both England and in the north of Holland started independently. In Holland, as people took on last names, the name Coxen could make sense for people living in a coastal area since it could be concluded that many men would have worked as coxswains. However, the word Coxswain is not Dutch but an old English word which originated around 1425-1475. It’s derivation is from ‘cock’, a ships boat (from old French ‘coque’ a canoe) and ‘swain’, a boy (from old Norse ‘sveinn’ a boy, servant).
Emigrate from England to Holland and the Low Countries?
Many people from other countries settled in the Netherlands from the late 1500’s to the present day. Therefore a large percentage of the Dutch population has some ancestors not from the Netherlands. There were 4 reasons for this:
1. Many people fled to the Netherlands from religious persecution. Several people came from France and Belgium this way. The Pilgrims who later founded Plymouth in Massachusetts, now the United States, were also among these refugees. There were some Pilgrims who remained in the Netherlands.
2. Many Reformed people from other countries joined the Dutch army between 1570 and 1620 to fight for freedom from the Spanish during the 80 years’ war.
3. The Netherlands was a very successful commercial country, and both the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company held much power across the world through their trading in the 1600’s. Merchants from all over Europe settled in the larger cities across the Netherlands. These people usually returned home eventually, but sometimes they left a few children behind.
4. Many German people ended up moving to the Netherlands simply to find work. Whole areas of Germany in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s ended up losing their livelihood, often through the countryside being devastated by war. It’s doubtful any Coxons would have come to the Netherlands this way.
We can conclude that since Coxen, Coxon and Coxson started in England before Dutch records it is plausible that before 1600 there were people called Coxen who travelled from England to the Low Countries and started a community. Regular shipping traffic from England to Scandinavia, the Baltic states and Russia which passed along the Dutch coast (as recorded above) would give credibility that immigration from England to Holland before 1600 is a possibility. This needs further research but it is a reasonable conclusion that the name in the Netherlands came from people who were immigrants from England.
[Acknowledgement and sincere thanks: A substantial amount of the material in this article was provided by Bertram Sluys of Andijk who has allowed me to reproduce it here. Bertram has the name Coxen in his ancestry.]
[References: England Immigrants Database 1330-1550 (National Archives); wiewaswie.nl; Wikipedia; Online Etymology Dictionary.]