Hancock Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Hancock Meaning
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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Hancock Ancestry



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 1800’s. 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.

America.  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 Gruner’s 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 1760’s. Clement Hancock headed south to Alabama in the early 1800’s. One branch of his family moved west to Texas in the 1850’s.  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.


Australia.
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

The Hancock Show Family.  The Hancock family was one of the most famous show families in the west
country during the Victorian era. As the century moved to an end, they
were quick to spot the potential of moving pictures in their business.

During 1898 they travelled initially with their exhibition under the
name of “Edison’s Electric Biograph.”  By September, when they had
reached Exeter, it had become “Hancock’s Electical Biograph of Living
Pictures.” For many people, shows like these, when contained within a
fair, were key to the development of cinema.

Hancock’s Devon Cider.  This Hancock family has been making traditional Devon cider for over
a hundred years, with recipes and skills that have been handed down
over five generations.  They have been producing cider at their
Clapworthy mill three miles out of South Molton in north Devon for more
than fifty years.  Each autumn local apples are squeezed in
hydraulic presses to make cider and apple juice.  Originally old
type presses with straw had been used.

The First Hancocks in America.  A descendant of Thomas Hancocke who had been born in London around
1525, William Hancock came to Jamestown in America in 1619 as a member
of the Virginia Company of London.  He was part of a group that
founded the Berkeley hundred.  In 1622 the settlement was attacked
by Indians and William, along with many others, were massacred.

Shortly after 1630, three of William’s sons came to America.
Augustine, Simon, and William became prominent planters in Virginia and
established a family line that today includes many thousands of their
descendants.

The Hancock Manor.  Hancock Manor, built between 1734 and 1737 for the merchant Thomas Hancock, was
the first house to be erected in Boston at the top of Beacon Hill.

Eliza Gardner who lived in the Manor for many years described the
interior and garden as follows:

“As you entered the governor’s mansion,
to the right was the drawing or reception room with furnitire of
bird’s-eye maple covered with rich damask.  Out of this opened the
dining hall in which Hancock gave the famous breakfast to Admiral
D’Estaing and his officers.  Opposite was a smaller apartment, the
usual dining hall of the family.  Next adjoining were the china
room and offices, with coach house and barn behind.

At the left of the entrance was a
second
salon or family drawing room, thw walls covered with crimson
paper.  The upper and lower halls were hung with pictures of game,
hunting scenes, and other subjects.  Passing through this hall,
another flight of steps led through the garden to a small summer house
close to Mount Vernon Street.  The grounds were laid out in
ornamental flower beds bordered with box trees of large sizes.  A
great variety of fruit, among which were several immense mulberry
trees, dotted the garden.” 

Richard Hancock at Gettysburg and Ellerslie.  Richard Hancock had been born in Alabama and enlisted in the Confederate army in 1861
at the
onset of the Civil War.  Two years later,
he was wounded while serving with the Army
of
Northern Virginia at the battle of Gettysburg.
He was taken to Charlottesville in a mule-drawn ambulance.

While recuperating, he met and fell in love
with Thomasia Overton Harris, the daughter of the woman who had
treated
his wounds and housed him at the time.
Hancock returned to his unit but was wounded again and captured
by Union
forces.  This time he managed to escape
his captors and while on furlough married his sweetheart.

Thomasia’s father owned Ellerslie Farm in
Virginia and the
couple settled down there.  There Richard
began to take an interest in
horseracing, through a neighbor Major Doswell.
He began purchasing thoroughbred mares and Ellerslie became the
home of
the first distinguished racers bred by the Hancocks.

George Hancock and the Invention of Softball.  The story of how the first softball game was created is well
established in the history of American sport.  On the Thanksgiving
weekend of 1887, a group of young men were gathered in the gymnasium of
the Farragut Club in Chicago.  They were awaiting word, by way of
telegraph, of the outcome of the Yale-Harvard football game being
played that afternoon.  Many had placed a wager on the result,
including George Hancock who worked as a reporter for the Chicago Board
of Trade.

When the Yale victory was announced, a Yale supporter picked up a
boxing glove lying nearby and threw it toward a Harvard supporter who
struck it with a stick.  Hancock was so taken with the action of
the two men that he declared that there should be a ball game played
there and then.  Hancock bound the boxing glove tightly to create
a soft oversized baseball.  Using a cut-down broom handle for a
bat and foul lines marked with chalk on the gymnasium floor, the first
ever game of softball was then played.

Hancock was so enthused by his invention and its potential for play
as indoor baseball that he had a more symmetrical oversized ball
constructed.  Permanent foul lines were painted on the gym floor
and Hancock had a small rubber-tipped bat made for indoor use.
Hancock also created a set of written rules to govern a baseball game
played within the confines of a gymnasium.  These rules were
formally published in 1888 as the new game gained popularity in the
Chicago area.

Reader Feedback – Hancock’s Drift.  I must correct
you on one thing in your precis of Hancock’s Drift.
The story was written by my late father and I
am the editor and current publisher of his work.  I
also hold all copyrights to his works.

The
story is indeed written from the
perspective of Joseph Ebenezer Hancock; but he left no notebooks or
records of
any historical significance.  Some of the
early information was gleaned from a ‘bare bones’ notebook kept by
Joseph’s
father, James, but most of the information came from the hard slog of
research
done by my father in the 1950’s.  James
Hancock died in Port Elizabeth in 1837 and that’s where his notebook
entries
end.  The story of Hancock’s Drift
concludes nearer to 1892.

As
a matter of
interest, James Hancock came from Staffordshire, but was married in
London and
left from there for South Africa in 1820 with his surviving family.  He was a china painter and gilder by trade.

Best wishes  John Powell (ctrhine@talktalk.net)

Tony Hancock in Australia, The Last Show.  The story began on board the ship on which Tony Hancock was
emigrating to Australia.  He had with him an Australian valet,
Mervyn, whom he had met in England.  After arriving in Australia,
Hancock is told by the Customs Officer that a stuffed owl in his
baggage must be put into quarantine for six months.  Hancock is
then seen in the hotel foyer.  He has an altercation with a bored
hotel clerk and goes into his room.

In flashback we see his last night in England.  He goes to a
pub where he is obviously well known as a bore. But when he announces
that he is leaving for Australia, he immediately has to buy a round of
drinks.

Back in the hotel room, the maid advises him that the hotel
overcharges migrants and recommends him to a flat owned by a Mrs
Gilroy.  Mrs Gilroy proves only too willing to have Hancock as a
tenant.  She becomes rather over-amorous and Hancock has some
difficulty in persuading her to leave.

There followed three further episodes where Hancock is shown
settling into Australia and rehearsals were proceeding for the fourth
episode.  Then, on the morning of June 25th 1968, Hancock was
found dead.  He had taken a large overdose of barbiturate tablets
and a bottle of vodka.

 

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 Hancock Numbers 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)

 

 

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