Buck Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Buck Surname Meaning

The Buck surname is both English and German in origin.

The English Buck may derive from the Old English bucca, a male goat, or from bucc, a male deer.  The name here would have begun as a nickname – for someone with a possible resemblance to the animal in terms of strength, speed or sturdiness.  The Buck name could also be topographical, deriving from the Old English boc, a beech tree, and referring to someone living by a prominent beech tree.

The German Bock, which often came to America as Buck, had a similar derivation, from the Old German boc meaning a male goat.  It would also have begun life as a nickname.  In early Dutch and Belgian annals the name could also be Bouc or Bouck, in early French le Buc or de Buc.

Buck Surname Resources on The Internet

Buck Surname Ancestry

  • from Germany and from England (East Coast)
  • to America, Canada and Australia

England. Walter le Buc was said to have come to England from Flanders in the early 13th century as a mercenary to help King John in his battles with the barons.  He settled in Yorkshire at what became known as Bucktown.

John Bucke of this family from Harthill supported Richard III at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 and subsequently lost his head.   Sir George Buck became well-known as an author and antiquarian, his works including a life of Richard III.  However, his end too was unfortunate.  He fell from favor, was overwhelmed by debt, and died insane.

But Bucks of this family by this time were established at Hamby Grange near Leverton in Lincolnshire where they were to remain until the late 18th century.

Other early Bucks were:

  • John Buck who was rector at Benston in Norfolk in 1457 (his descendants were to be found in Norwich)
  • James Buck who was vicar at Stradbrook in Suffolk in 1649
  • and Matthew Buck, lord of the manor of Winterbourne in Gloucestershire around that time.

The Buck brothers, Samuel and Nathaniel, were engravers and printmakers from Yorkshire who roamed the country in the 1730’s and 1740’s selling what were known as Buck’s antiquities.  One family history starts in the 1770’s with Samuel Buck of Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire.

The Buck name in the 19th century was primarily to be found in East Anglia, extending northward into Yorkshire and southward to London.

America. English Bucks came first, then German.

English.  The first Buck in America was the Rev. Richard Buck from Wymondham in Norfolk who served as the minister of Jamestown from 1610 until his death in 1624.  Buck was a close friend of English planter John Rolfe and he officiated at the wedding of Rolfe and Pocahontas, the daughter of the Powhatan chief, in 1614.  Buck was later acknowledged as one of the “ancient planters” and given a land grant.

Another Buck family in Virginia began with Thomas Buck who came to York county around 1635.   The Bucks were a prominent and well-to-do plantation family in early Virginia.  They were active in the local economy, politics and religion of the Shenandoah valley during the 1700’s and 1800’s.

Early Buck settlers in Massachusetts were:

  • William Buck, a plowwright from Buckinghamshire who travelled with his son Roger on the Increase in 1635 and settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • and Isaac Buck who was transported to Boston on the Amitia in the same year for refusing to take the oath of conformity.  He gained renown as an Indian fighter when he saved Stockbridge mill from the Indians in 1676.  His descendant Daniel Buck moved north to Vermont in 1785 and both he and his son Daniel represented Vermont in the US Congress.

Emmanuel Buck came from Norfolk in the 1640’s and settled in Wethersfield, Connecticut.  One descendant branch went through Samuel Buck of Portland, Connecticut; another through Captain James Buck of Litchfield, Connecticut.  After the Revolutionary War James’s son William left Litchfield for virgin lands in Pennsylvania. upstate New York, and finally Indiana where he died in 1844.  Later Bucks moved onto Iowa.

However, Bucks in America are more likely to be of German than of English origin.

German.  Frederick Buck arrived in Pennsylvania from the upper Rhone valley in Germany in 1743.  His son Philip Buck joined the British army during the Revolutionary War.  After the defeat his family made the long trek to Canada with other Empire Loyalists.

Johann Jacob Buck, however, did fight on the American side in the War.  He had arrived from Wurttemburg on the Neptune in 1751 and settled in Buffalo township, Pennsylvania.  So too did the sons of Johannes Buck who had arrived on the Two Brothers in 1747 and came to Lancaster county, Pennsylvania.  Nicholas Buck arrived from Lorraine in 1752 and settled in his Buckhill home in Springfield, Bucks county. William Buck published An Account of the Buck Family of Bucks County in 1893.

Ludwig Buck was a German from Friedenstal in south Russia who came to America in the 1890’s and ended up in Streeter, North Dakota.

Canada.  The Loyalist Phillip Buck and his family made their home at Trafalgar township in Halton county, Ontario.  His descendants held a reunion at the family Omagh home there in 1922.  The home of Dr. Anson Buck, grandson of Philip, is still standing although it is now Anson‘s restaurant.  Meanwhile descendants of Adam Buck moved back across the border to St. Louis in the 1880’s.

Another Buck Loyalist who departed for Canada was Samuel Buck from Litchfield county, Connecticut.  His lands had been plundered after he joined the British cause.  In 1788 he departed with his family for Quebec.  He died there soon afterwards in a militia skirmish.  His family resettled in South Mountain, forty miles south of Ottawa.

Australia.  Two Buck brothers from Norfolk, Richard and William, came to Australia in 1849 and settled there, Richard in Western Australia and William in South Australia.  Richard joined exploration parties in search of an inland sea in Western Australia.

Buck Surname Miscellany

Walter le Buc and His Descendants.  Walter le Buc arrived in England from Flanders in the early 13th century as a mercenary to help King John in his battles with the barons.  He was said to have been present at Runnymede at the signing of Magna Carta.

As a reward for his services and as an inducement for him to stay in England, John gave Walter large tracts of land in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.  Walter made his home at Bucktown in Yorkshire.  Later le Bucs were donors and patrons of the nearby convent and priory at Bridlington.

By 1273 his descendants were numerous and included, according to a list compiled at that time: Roger and Henry le Buc in Yorkshire; John le Buc in Suffolk; Arnicia de Buc and others in Huntingtonshire; Hugh le Buc and others in Wiltshire; Castro le Buc in Buckinghamshire; and Edric le Buc in Norfolk.

Zechariah Buck of Norwich.  John Buck settled at Benston, Norfolk around 1453 and became rector of the church there four years later. One of his sons was assistant vicar at nearby Hawgley and a later John Buck was master of the free school in Norwich in 1547.

A 19th century descendant was Zechariah Buck, the well-known organist and choir master at Norwich Cathedral.  He began his lifetime of service at the age of 21 in 1819.  It was said that Dr. Buck’s talent for training boys’ voices was simply outstanding.  Jenny Lind, visiting Norwich in 1847, said she “had never heard children sing so well.”

Buck had his strong likes and dislikes.  Annoyed that a family by the name of Waters invariably arrived late, He arranged that they were met on one occasion by the choir singing: “Save me, O God, for the waters are come in.”

He continued in his position until 1877 when he was in his 79th year.

Bucks in America.  Bucks in America are more likely to be of German than of English origin.

Bucks in America by Country of
 Numbers  Percent
Germany   731   67%
England   217   20%
Ireland   138   13%

Thomas Buck of Bel Air in Happy Creek.  In 1735 Charles Buck moved westward into the Shenandoah valley which his son Thomas later called “this wild and savage country.”  He prospered there and became a large landowner near what is now Front Royal, Virginia.  He was a keen sportsman and his jockey Dick was said to have been the first slave carried across the Blue Ridge mountains.

His son Thomas was one of the original trustees of the town of Front Royal and a leading citizen for many years.  In 1797 he built his home Bel Air in Happy Creek nearby, a building which still stands.

A letter written in 1918 from Lucy Rebecca Buck noted:

“The two wings of the house were erected several years before the main brick one was made and I have heard our old aunt Calmes, who died in her ninety second year, say that as a little girl she had played in the space between the wings.  The brass knocker on the front door – one of my earliest recollections of the house – bears the inscription ‘Thomas Buck, 1800.'”

Lucy was born in Bel Air and some say her ghost still haunts it. Her brother Irving had been forced to sell the house.

Johannes Buck in Pennsylvania.  Johannes Buck and his wife Elizabeth were among the Mennonites who left the Palatinate in Germany for religious freedom in America in the early 18th century.

Leaving Rotterdam they arrived in Philadelphia on October 13, 1747 on The Two Brothers, swearing allegiance to the English King on the same day.  They eventually settled in what was then called Londonderry township in Lancaster county.  Early spellings of their name in America were Bock and Bok.

Johannes bought land and farmed.  He lived through the Revolutionary War, but died soon after. Three of his sons – Johannes, Christian and Frederick – fought in different capacities in that war.  Christian served in the Lancaster militia and he and his wife Catherine raised seven children.  Edith Fisher’s 1958 book Johannes Buck: 1747-1790 covered the lineage of the family through this second son Christian.

Philip Buck, Empire Loyalist.  The story of Philip Buck is an example of what Loyalists suffered, endured and overcame and their fortitude as founders of Canada. It was written by a descendant Grace Austin, American born, who happened to stumble on this Loyalist fact while researching her American ancestry.

In 1776 Philip Buck had joined Butler’s Rangers as a private. During the war he was captured and held prisoner in Philadelphia.  He lost everything he had – land, house, barn, livestock, furniture, utensils etc – all of which was taken by the rebels or plundered by Indians.

The families of these imprisoned men were destitute and in desperate straits.  The wives decided to take their children and seek refuge in Canada hoping, that by some miracle, they could get here.  Their escape to Canada was a true tragedy.

The party consisted of five wives and 31 children and only one pair of shoes among them. It was winter-time and they were completely destitute.  At one place they would have perished, but for the kindness of some Indians.  After weeks on the road, the commander of the British forces heard of their unhappy plight and sent soldiers and Indian guides to take charge of them.  After they reached Canada, Margaret Buck gave birth to her seventh child.

The Government of Canada assumed responsibility for the refugees until, by an exchange of prisoners, some of the soldiers were once more united with their families.  In 1778 Buck was exchanged as a prisoner to New York and came thence to Niagara and his family.  Because of his loyalty, the Crown granted Buck land on the Niagara peninsula in Bertie township.

Reader Feedback – Bucks in Vermont.  Looking to confirm the given name of Mr. Buck who was the father of Robert Buck, born in 1804 in Vermont. His wife was Hannah Craw from Connecticut.  I need to find a marriage record or other documentation to prove marriage and birth.

Patti Waitman (pattitwirler@comcast.net)

Buck Names

  • Walter le Buc was the Flemish founder of the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Buck family.
  • Frank Buck was an American big game hunter who became a movie actor in the 1930’s and 40’s.
  • Pearl Buck was the American novelist based in China who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938.

Buck Numbers Today

  • 10,000 in the UK (most numerous in Worcestershire)
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
  • 5,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Buck and Like Surnames 

The first wave of German immigration into America came in the early 1700’s from the Rhine Palatine and Switzerland.  They were fleeing religious persecution at home.  Most ended up in Pennsylvania, bringing their Mennonite church with them.  Some went to the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York.  Their Germanic names often changed under English rule to English-style names.  Thus Fischer became Fisher, Schneider Snyder, Hubner Hoover and so forth.

The reasons for immigration were different in the 19th century – in search of a better life, sometimes to avoid the draft.  They came from all German states and went not just to Pennsylvania but all over as the middle and west of the country was opening up.  And they brought German skills with them, notably beer-making.

Here are some of the notable German surnames in America that you can check out.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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