Select Hancock Surname Genealogy

Hancock derived from the personal name "Hann," itself a form of the early Johan or John.  The suffix "cock," a nickname for a young lad, was an affectionate ending of French origin which began to appear in England in the 13th century.

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England.  Although there were early records of the name in Yorkshire, Hancock definitely has had a westward name distribution, in a line stretching from the southwest counties of Devon and Cornwall northwards into Staffordshire.

Devon  There was a cluster of Hancocks in the South Molton area of north Devon.  Many left for Canada in the 19th century, including Thomas Hancock, an itinerant preacher who took his family there in the 1870's.  A Hancock family that remained brews Devon cider

Cornwall  The Hancock name also crops up in Cornish tin mining towns - St. Agnes (where the Coulter Hancocks were landowners) and St. Austell (where Peter Hancock has written a nostalgic book of his home town, St. Austell: The Golden Years).  However, when the mining boom ended in the late 19th century, many Hancocks from these parts emigrated.  Henry Hancock became a superintendent of the Moonta mine in South Australia. 

Somerset  A Hancock family from Somerset were well-known fair operators in the west country in the latter part of the 19th century.  Their lives are recounted in Kevin Scrivens and Stephen Smith's book, Hancocks of the West.   Another Hancock family were brewers in Wiveliscombe.  These Hancocks were fanatical about the game of rugby.  Seven of them played rugby for Somerset, one represented Wales, and another England.

Wiltshire  Meanwhile, an earlier Hancock family from Marlborough in Wiltshire, furniture makers on the High Street, produced two remarkable sons, Thomas and Walter.  Thomas's invention of the masticator machine for rubber scraps helped found the British rubber industry.  Walter pioneered steam-powered road vehicles.  

Staffordshire  One family history began with the birth of William Hancock in Newbolt in 1739.  Benjamin and Margaret Hancock were living in Wolstanton in the early 1800ís.  Their daughter Sophia was said to have been the great grandmother of the comedian Charlie Chaplin 

Hancocks here included the celebrated 18th century engraver Robert Hancock from Oldbury and the 19th century Wesleyan Sampson Hancock who founded a pottery company in Stoke.  It continued until 1937.  The present day comedian Nick Hancock hails from Stoke.

  Hancocks came from England to New England and to Virginia and Maryland.

New England  Thomas Hancock was an early settler in Farmington, Connecticut.  From this line came the merchant Hancocks of Boston.  They built the first house (Hancock Manor) on Beacon Hill and adopted John Hancock who was the first Governor of Massachusetts and produced that famous signature on the Declaration of Independence. 

Some of these Hancocks ended up in New Hampshire, including in recent times Mary Louise Hancock, the so-called "Grand Dame" of New Hampshire politics.  The Hancock lumber company in Casco, Maine dates from 1848 and has remained family-run through six generations.

Virginia and Maryland  William Hancock was the first Hancock in Virginia, arriving in Jamestown in 1619. However, he was killed by Indians in the general massacre which occurred in 1622. 

Around 1630 three Hancock brothers from London came to America and became prominent planters in Virginia.  They established a family line that today includes many thousands of their descendants in the south and the midwest.   The family line was covered in Mildred Grunerís 2015 book Hancock Family History.

Another line descends from Stephen Hancock who arrived in Maryland in 1663 as an indentured servant. Their stone farmhouse, built in 1785 at Hancock's Resolution on Chesapeake Bay, stayed with the family until the 1960's.

There were Hancocks in Brunswick county, Virginia by the 1760ís.  Clement Hancock headed south to Alabama in the early 1800ís.  One branch of his family moved west to Texas in the 1850ís.  But Richard Hancock returned to Virginia in the fighting during the Civil War, married and settled down there, and started to breed thoroughbred horses at his Ellerslie farm.  His son Arthur established the famous Claiborne stud farm in Paris, Kentucky and the horse-breeding is now with the fourth generation of Hancocks.

Georgia and Texas  Hancocks were to be found in numbers in Georgia and Texas as the 19th century proceeded.  James and Jestern Hancock from North Carolina moved to Tattnall county, Georgia in the early 1800's where they ran a tavern.  Their descendants were later to be found in Worth county.  Another Hancock family homesteaded at what is now called Hancock Lake.  A notice in the Sunland Tribune in 1881 read:

"Mr. Henry Hancock, resident of Hernando County for 30 years, has eleven children and eighteen grandchildren.  He possesses one of the finest places in the county." 

The Texas influx included a pioneer African American family in the years after the Civil War.  These Hancocks were sharecroppers for Judge John Hancock until 1880 and then became successful farmers in their own right in Travis county.

California  The gold rush attracted Hancocks to California from all over, overland from Missouri and Virginia (Hancocks who bought up land in Placerville) and by sea from as far away as New Zealand.  But the most successful Hancock was one who did not stay but headed south to what was to become Los Angeles.  

Henry Hancock grew up in New Hampshire, but ran away at the age of 12.  He shipped out on a mackerel schooner from Boston and eventually headed west.  The land he acquired in Los Angeles is now Hollywood and the Wilshire district.  It also contained valuable oil rights which made the family wealthy.  Allan Hancock built Hancock Park in the 1920's and also started the Hancock College of Aeronautics where thousands of pilots were trained for service during World War Two.   
South Africa. 
Hancock's Drift, published in 1960, is a narrative account of the 1820 settlers who left England to seek a better life for themselves and their children on the wild untamed frontier of the eastern Cape Colony.   It is written from the perspective of Joseph Hancock, the eldest surviving son of James and Ann Hancock, and is derived from his father's notebook and from later family research.

Most Hancock arrivals into Australia, such as Thomas and Emma Hancock in the 1860's, came from the west country.  A Hancock family became one of the oldest landowning families in Western Australia.  This family produced Lang Hancock who discovered one of the richest iron ore deposits in the world in 1952 and was at that time Australia's richest man.  Today the Hancock name is known for the custom guitars made by Kim Hancock and his two sons at their Tamborine Mountain workshop in Queensland.

Australia was tragically the location where the comedian Tony Hancock made his last TV appearance in 1968 before committing suicide.

Select Hancock Miscellany

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

Select Hancock Names

John Hancock was a Massachusetts merchant and prominent patriot of the American revolution.  He is best remembered for his large flamboyant signature on the Declaration of Independence, so much so that his name has become an informal synonym in America for signature.
Thomas and Walter Hancock were brothers from Wiltshire in the early 19th century.  Thomas was the founder of the British rubber industry, Walter the inventor of the first steam-powered road vehicle.
Winfield Scott Hancock was the Union general who was the victor at Gettysburg and later was a Democratic candidate for President.
Lang Hancock was a controversial 20th century iron ore magnate from Western Australia.
Tony Hancock was a very popular British radio and TV comedian of the 1950's and 1960's.
Sheila Hancock is a popular English actress.
Herbie Hancock is a well-known jazz pianist and composer.

Select Hancocks Today
  • 24,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lincolnshire)
  • 19,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 17,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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