Hanks Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Hanks Meaning
is generally regarded as
a Flemish pet-form of John. Most of the
early Hanks surname holders seem to have had a Flemish weaver origin. Flemish weavers were to be found in England
from the early 14th century.
There is an
older Scandinavian origin, from the Old Norse personal name Anke,
which could
have resulted in some Hanks surnames. DNA testing has shown that
the Hanks surname has at least two separate groupings.

Hanks Resources on

Hanks Ancestry

Hanks surname was
said to have been first found in Wiltshire in the west country. Early stories have the name associated with
the town of Malmesbury going back to pre-Norman times.
William Hanks was a photographer in
Malmesbury in the late 19th century and there are still some Hanks in

What is known is that Thomas
Hanks, probably from Malmesbury, settled in Stow-on-the-Wold in
around 1550. The Hanks name was also
evident in the Cotswold villages of a number of Gloucestershire parishes
during the 17th and 18th
centuries. However, many of these Hanks
may have come
from Flemish weavers in the area. Colonel Hercules Huncks, born
in nearby
Stratford, was certainly of Dutch origin.

The Hanks name was still to be found in the area – in villages
such as Horsley, where Elizabeth
Hanks emigrated

from in the 1830’s, and Naunton, where a Hanks family started quarrying
Cotswold stone in the 1930’s. James
was an audacious
young burglar in Oxford in 1793, but was finally caught, convicted, and
transported to Australia

Ireland. The
Hanks in Dublin were a Quaker family that had begun with Hercules
Huncks, a
colonel with Oliver Cromwell. They
operated a mill at Rathangan outside Dublin and were also the agents
for the
Dublin and Liverpool Steam Navigation Company.
The 1794 wedding of Jeremiah Hanks and Sarah Lapham brought
together the
elite of Irish Quaker society. Some of
these Hanks emigrated to America in the early 1800’s, principally to

America. Benjamin Hanks from
Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire came to New England with his wife
in 1699 and settled in Pembroke, Massachusetts.
He died in Easton in 1755 “in the ninetieth year of his age as
he saith.” Some of the later Hanks were
Mormons. They headed west to Salt Lake, Utah in the 1850’s.

Thomas Hanks appeared in Virginia land
records in Westmoreland county at an earlier date – in 1654. He also, it is believed, came from
Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire. He
been captured by the Royalists at the battle of Cirencester and
deported to
America as an indentured servant. His
line led, among other people, to Nancy
, the mother of Abraham Lincoln.

Hanks in the South.
The Hanks numbers increased in Virginia during the 18th century and
spread over the south. Barbara Baber’s
2009 book Hanks Family Chronicles, an expansion of the earlier Hanks
of Virginia and Westward
, covered this ground.

Hanks were among the early
settlers of Arkansas. One
line of Hanks came from Maryland and had been at one time Quakers. Fleetwood Hanks and his two brothers arrived
in 1827 and bought land outside Helena in the eastern part of the state
they built their Hanks homestead, Estevan
. Another line was from North
Carolina and Nathan Hanks who arrived in Arkansas a few years later. His son, G.P. Hanks, was born in NW Arkansas
in 1836 but spent most of his life travelling as an itinerant preacher
returning to Arkansas in the 1880’s.

The Rev. Thomas Hanks was also an itinerant preacher, this time from
Tennessee, who came with other Tennessee families to Texas in 1836 and
continued to preach there until his death in 1857. Meanwhile
another Rev. Thomas Hanks, known as Father Tom, was a Baptist minister
at a slightly later date in Christian county, SW Missouri.

Today the largest number of Hanks in America are in Texas.
The Rev. R.T. Hanks was a prominent Baptist minister first in Dallas in
the 1880’s and then in Abilene.
His son Bernard Hanks
began in newspapers in Abilene and then in 1920 joined forces with
Houston Harte of San Antonio to form the Harte-Hanks newspaper chain.

Alfred and Selina
Hanks emigrated from Yorkshire to Canada in 1905. Both
their sons Bill and Norman enlisted in
the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915.
Norman died on the Western front in 1918, Bill survived. He moved west to Manitoba in the 1920’s,
starting out there as a civil engineer before entering the world of
and local politics


Hanks Miscellany

Hercules Huncks’ Civil War.  Hercules Huncks was born in 1601 near Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, but was said, like
his brothers, to have come from the “Low Countries.”
His children indeed had decidedly Dutch names.

Huncks was a professional soldier who rose to
become Colonel in Cromwell’s army during the Civil War.
His main service was in Ireland where he was
granted lands in county Cork.His claim to fame came in
1649 when he was commissioned with two other senior officers by
to oversee the formalities and to carry out the execution of the King.  It appears that he refused to sign
the acknowledgement of orders which in turn provoked a heated
exchange with Cromwell.  That act
probably saved his life in 1660 when, come the Restoration, he was
arrested and
thrown into the Tower.  He survived under
the condition that he gave evidence against the other regicides.

By this time Hunks
had become part of the emerging Quaker community in Ireland.  He anglicized his name to Hanks.
And many of his children married into
Cromwellian families in Dublin.

Early Hanks in Gloucestershire Records

Year Parish Hanks name
1540 Buckland Henry Hanks
1570 Stow-on-the-Wold Thomas Hanks
1670 Nether Swell Thomas Hanks
1729 Addlestrop Henry Hanks
1744 Horsley Thomas Hanks
1747 Gloucester Thomas
1749 Little Compton John Hanks
Total of seven sightings before

The Audacity of James Hanks.  The pages of the Oxford Journal during
August 1793 were
quite full of the activities of a certain James Hanks.

The Journal of Saturday, August 17

“On Wednesday last, James
Hanks, a laborer of this city, was committed to our castle on suspicion
burglariously entering the lodgings of the Principal of New Inn Hall
stealing from there a piece of Irish cloth, three guineas in gold, two
pairs of
silver buckle shoes, four silver spoons, and divers other articles.  The said James Hanks was further charged with
stealing from the dwelling house of Samuel Denton a silver and a metal

Seven days later came the following report:

“Last Tuesday James Hanks,
under confinement in the castle jail in Oxford, found means to make his
from the felons’ building in the prison by breaking through the grating
enclosed the day room and getting over the boundary wall.
A reward of ten guineas has been offered for
his capture.

The said James Hanks is twenty two years of age, five
feet five
inches high, well made, fresh complexion, hazel eyes, brown hair, and
was born
at Handborough in the county of Oxford.”

Two weeks later the Journal reported:

“The fellow’s folly and
audacity has been such that his escape he has been in the service of
gentleman a small distance from here and has been several times in
during the time he has been at large.

Last Tuesday he came to the Cross
where he breakfasted and later stopped at Woodstock where he
was well
known.  On being apprehended he called
himself Smith and so boldly confronted those who challenged his person
that for
a while they became rather doubtful of his identity.”

James Hanks was eventually
captured and stood trial at the town assizes in March 1794.  He was sentenced to seven years
transportation to Australia.  However, he
remained incarcerated in England for more than three years until he
departed on
the Barwell in September 1797.

appears to have been a reformed character in Australia.
He was appointed in 1811 as one of the three
Constables of the town of Sydney.  He was
a carter by trade and died in 1842 and the age of 71.

Elizabeth Hanks from Gloucestershire to Australia.  John and Hannah Hanks lived in the late 1700’s in Horsley, Gloucestershire where John
was a weaver.  Their daughter Elizabeth
was born there in 1803.  She married
William Hanks (presumably no direct relation) in 1829 and their son
George was
born later that year.

William died in 1835 and, with her parents also
having passed away, Elizabeth decided to emigrate.
She departed England in 1839 with her young
son on the Bussorah Merchant for Australia. 

Nancy Hanks’ Line.  Nancy Hanks was the mother of Abraham Lincoln.  It was said that he got most of his looks
from her and, some say, also his drive and initiative.
Genealogists have traced her origins back to
Malmesbury in Wiltshire. There are in
fact still some Hanks left in this English town.

line of Hanks settled in Gloucestershire,
but were then forced to leave for America during the English Civil War.  Thomas Hanks, the immigrant in Virginia, led
to John Hanks and Joseph Hanks of Richmond, Virginia, and to Nancy
Hanks, born
in Virginia in 1784, said to be the illegitimate daughter of Lucy Hanks. Orphaned at the age of nine she followed her
to Kentucky where in 1806 she met and married their neighbor Thomas
Lincoln.  She died in 1818 of milk sickness.  For many years her graveyard lay abandoned
and in disrepair.

John Hanks of the
line above was also the forebear of the present-day Oscar-winning actor
Tom Hanks.

The Hanks and Estevan Hall.  Estevan Hall,
probably the oldest structure in Phillips county in eastern Arkansas,
is a home
whose history has been intertwined with a single family.  Since
construction in the 1820’s, Estevan Hall has been continually owned and
occupied by a member of the Hanks family.  The present owner is a
great great granddaughter of Fleetwood Hanks, the original owner of

Fleetwood was from Virginia but he had been born in Maryland.  His
grandfather, William Hanks, had been a vestryman in the Church of
England, but
became drawn to the Quaker movement.
Although Fleetwood himself was not a Quaker, his children seem
to have
adhered to their great grandfather’s faith.

Fleetwood and his two brothers,
James and Millinder, were among the early settlers of Helena, Arkansas.  In 1827 Fleetwood and Millinder bought a ten
acre tract on which Estevan Hall now stands.
Though the Helena of Fleetwood Hanks’ day was often flooded by
overflowing Mississippi River, the Hanks home was located on a very
high ridge
and therefore safe from inundation.

James M. Hanks was Fleetwood’s youngest
son.  Following the Civil War he was made judge of the First
Judicial District
of Arkansas.  In 1872 he was elected as a Democrat to the House of
Representatives in the 42nd Congress.  From 1865 until his death
in 1909,
Judge Hanks kept a detailed diary.  Each year’s entry was recorded
in one
volume and the complete 45 volume set still remains at Estevan
These diaries give a factual and picturesque account of 19th century
life in
eastern Arkansas.

After Judge Hanks died,
the ownership of the house passed to his adopted son, Harry
Orphaned after his English parents emigrated to the United States,
married Judge Hanks’ great-niece, Johnnie Porter, who was descended
Fleetwood Hanks through his daughter Anne.  With this marriage,
Hanks returned to Estevan Hall.


Hanks Names

  • Nancy Hanks Lincoln was
    the mother of President Abraham Lincoln. 
  • Bernard Hanks helped found the Harte-Hanks newspaper chain in Texas in the 1920’s. 
  • Tom Hanks is a well-known American actor.

Select Hanks Numbers Today

  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Gloucestershire)
  • 6,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



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