Select Beck Surname Genealogy

The Beck surname is either English or German, but can as well be Dutch, Flemish, Jewish, or Polish. Name variants are Bek, Becke, Peck, and Von der Beck.

The English Beck origin may be Norman, from a place-name or family in Normandy, or it may – in northern England – be locational, describing someone who lived by a bekke or “stream.” The German surname also has that connotation with a stream, from beke. It may also be occupational, from the German beck or Yiddish bek (and therefore for Jewish families), for baker.

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Select Beck Ancestry

The Beck name is fairly common in Germany and nearby countries. The following is the estimated number of Becks to be found there today:

  • 75,000 in Germany
  • 15,000 in other German-speaking lands
  • and 3-4,000 in Denmark.

The name is mainly to be found in southern Germany, in particular in towns like Stuttgart and Karlsruhe in Baden-Wurttenberg.

. The Norman Beck origin (from Bec-aux-Cauchois in Normandy) is thought to have begun with Walter de Bec who was granted lands at Eresby in Lincolnshire after the Norman Conquest. This family, however, incurred large debts in the 14th century and their lands were lost to the crown.

Northern Becks have been most numerous in Yorkshire. Thomas Beck lived at Kirkby Malzeard in the early 1700’s and the name was fairly common in nearby villages of the north Yorkshire dales. The 1891 distribution of the Beck name showed the largest number in the north, in Yorkshire and Lancashire primarily, and smaller numbers in Norfolk and London.

Ireland. Becks came to Ireland at the time of the Protestant plantations of the early 1600’s, putting down roots in county Armagh. The 1630 muster roll showed the names of John and Adam Beck of Gransha barony in Great Ardes. Some of their 19th century descendants emigrated to America and Canada.

America. An early Beck settler in America was Henry Beck, who embarked at the age of 18 from London on the Blessing in 1635 for New England. He settled in New Hampshire. George Beck was an English artist who came to America in 1795 and was employed in painting pictures. He later settled in Lexington, Kentucky. A 19th century account of a well-to-do Beck family of English origins in Boston is to be found in Charlotte Conover’s 1907 book A History of the Beck Family.

However in America, if your surname is Beck, the probability is that you will have German roots. The largest number of Becks in 1920 and even today are to be found in Pennsylvania, traditionally an entry point for German immigrants. Among these Beck arrivals to America from German-speaking lands in the 18th century were:

  • Yohan Beck and his family from Alsace Lorraine who came to Philadelphia in 1740 on the Lydia and settled in Northampton county, Pennsylvania. Descendants moved onto Ohio and Michigan. Their line was covered in William Beck’s 1940 book The Beck Family in America.
  • Debolt Beck who arrived in Philadelphia on the Phoenix in 1750 and settled in Rowan county, North Carolina.
  • Johann and Anna Beck who left Pennsylvania for Granville county, North Carolina in the 1760’s.
  • and Conrad Beck or Peck who was born in Dauphin county, Pennsylvania in 1791.

Jacob Beck, born in Pennsylvania in 1780, moved to Wayne township and was one of the pioneers of Armstrong county. David Beck, born in Pennsylvania in 1803, moved to Richland county, Ohio with his wife in 1831. Peter Beck left Pennsylvania in 1861 for Wisconsin and Nebraska.

Canada. English Becks were to be found in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland from the 1830’s when Henry Beck married Dinah Gilbert there.

Jacob Beck, a German immigrant from Baden, founded the Baden community in Ontario in 1853. His son Adam was to achieve great fame as the father of hydro-electric power in Canada.

“In December 1911 Adam Beck came back to Baden for a huge celebration in his honor. The streets were jammed as hundreds of people tried to get into the tiny church to see Beck’s switch on the lights that let everyone know that hydro had arrived at Baden.”

Select Beck Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Beck Names

Sir Adam Beck was a Canadian politician and hydro-electricity advocate who founded the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario.
Harry Beck designed the iconoclastic London underground map in 1931 that is still used today.
Aaron Beck is an American psychiatist widely regarded as the father of cognitive therapy.
Jeff Beck is an English rock guitarist often compared with Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.
Glenn Beck is a conservative American radio and TV host, prominent on the Fox Network.

Select Becks Today

  • 12,000 in the UK (most numerous in Hampshire)
  • 36,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
  • 14,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


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