Hawkins Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Hawkins Meaning
root of Hawkins appears to be the Old English word hafoc meaning “hawk,” which was
said to be still in use in the 13th century. The surname might
be descriptive of a hawk-like person. More likely, it comes from
the place name Hawking (from hafocing
or “hawk place”) near Folkestone in Kent.

Resources on

Hawkins Ancestry

Kent is believed to be the starting point for the Hawkins name.
It then moved to the west country.

Kent The first
Hawkins on record in Kent was Osbert de Hawking who was said to have
the Hawking manor in the late 12th century for his services as warden
of Dover castle. By the 14th century, these Hawkins had acquired
through marriage the Nash Court estate near Faversham where
the family was to remain for the next five hundred years.

Cornwall It is
thought that branches of this family brought the Hawkins name to
the west country. The strongest connection was with the Hawkins
of Cornwall who established themselves at Trewinnard and later at Trewithen.
This line included Sir Christopher Hawkins, the Cornish mine-owner, and
his younger brother John Hawkins, a writer and geologist who
helped found the Royal Horticultural Society

Devon Some
considered that the Hawkins of Devon were also a branch of the
Kent family. But there is no direct evidence that this was
so. The first of the Devon line was John Hawkins of Tavistock,
who was born around 1475. His son William made his name as a sea

“Old master William Hawkins of
Plymouth, a man for his wisdom, valor, experience and skill at sea
causes much esteemed and beloved of King Henry VIII, and being one of
the principal sea captains in the west parts of England in his time,
not contented with the short voyages commonly then made only to the
known coasts of Europe, armed out a tall and goodly ship of his own of
the burden of 250 tons called the Paul
of Plymouth
, wherewith he made three long and famous voyages
unto the coast of Brazil, a thing in those days very rare especially to
our nation.”

His son Sir John Hawkins, patriarch of the “Sea Dogs” under
Queen Elizabeth, was even more famous. He is remembered for
having built the English fleet which defeated the Spanish Armada in
1588. He was also a pioneer of the English slave trade; while his
son Sir Richard, another “Sea Dog,” was best known for his acts of piracy against the Spanish. Descendants of Sir John Hawkins the admiral are said to be numerous.

Dorset One
Hawkins family in Dorset can trace their history back to
Elizabethan times:

“The story of the Hawkins at Martinstown begins with William Hawkins, whom local and family
tradition remembers as ‘Hawkins from over the hill.’ A feature of the family’s 500 year recorded history has been their extreme reluctance to stray more than a few miles from their ancestral roots.”

The Hawkins, together with the Savages, were clockmakers in Exeter in the 17th and early 18th centuries. The Hawkins of Kelston in Somerset were distinguished surgeons, Sir Caesar Hawkins being surgeon to both George II and George III. He built a new mansion for himself at Kelston Park in the 1760’s.

Elsewhere From Hertfordshire came that criminal judge of Victorian times, Sir Henry Hawkins, and his cousin the writer Anthony Hawkins (who wrote under the pen name of Anthony Hope). One of Sir Henry’s famous cases, that of the fraudster who claimed to be the missing heir Sir Roger
Tichborne, was the inspiration behind Anthony’s best-selling novel of deception, The Prisoner of Zenda.

The late 19th century Hawkins surname distribution showed one
concentration east around
London and Kent and another larger concentration west in a line running from
Devon through Somerset to Gloucestershire.

Hawkins in Ireland can be either of English or of Irish origin.

The English Hawkins may be found in county Down. The McGuinness castle at Rathfriland passed to William Hawkins of London in 1641. The Hawkins family stamped their authority on the town and the Hawkins name still lives on there today. There were also English Hawkins in Loughrea, Galway by 1649.

Meanwhile, the Irish
Haughan from the Gaelic O’hEachaidhin,
a fairly common name in Antrim, has sometimes transposed to

America. Three early
immigrants to America claimed descent
from Sir John Hawkins, the admiral:

  • Robert Hawkins who arrived on the Elizabeth and Ann in 1635 with his
    wife Mary and settled in Charleston, Massachusetts. Some of these
    Hawkins were later in Derby, Connecticut. Descendants of Samuel
    Whitman Hawkins were pioneer settlers in Kankakee county, Illinois in
    the 1830’s.
  • William Hawkins who emigrated to York county, Virginia in 1637
    and began a plantation along the New Poquoson river. Joshua
    Hawkins of this family headed south to Greenville, South
    Carolina. There were other lines to Tennessee and Kentucky.
  • and John Hawkins who came to Essex county, Virginia with his
    sisters in 1705. John was a lawyer and his name cropped up often
    in Essex county records.

North Carolina. Philemon Hawkins arrived there with his family from Devon around 1715 and ran a
plantation in what was
then Granville county. Benjamin Hawkins was a member of George Washington’s staff during the
Revolutionary War and was later appointed as Indian
agent for all tribes south of the Ohio river. His family then
were prosperous North Carolina planters and they ran other businesses
as well, including sawmills, banks, and, after the Civil War, phosphate
manufacturing. They were also politically influential, with Ben’s
William becoming Governor of the state in 1811.

Texas. There was
Indian blood in the Hawkins that headed east to Texas – first
in Ben’s son Benjamin
Hawkins and his wife Rebecca
who got there as early as 1833
and then in a female line that went via Ben’s daughter Cherokee to
Georgia Lawshe Woods (the subject of Janice Woods Windle’s
family saga True Women).
Both Rebecca and Georgia ended up in charge of plantations at the time
of the Civil War.

Another Hawkins who made the trek from North Carolina to Texas was
James Boyd Hawkins. He came in 1846 with his wife Ella and a
retinue of slaves to lower Caney Creek in Matagorda county. There
he built himself a large colonial-style plantation house out of cypress
and embarked on large-scale sugar cultivation. These Hawkins survived
the Civil War and ran their plantation afterwards on convict labor.

Hawkins in the African American vernacular is a word for a cold malevolent wind.

Canada. Hawkins in Canada
may be of American, English, or even of Irish origin. There were
Protestant Hawkins from Ireland who settled in the Irish community of
Lanark county, Ontario. Hawkins from Wexford came in 1819,
Hawkins from Wicklow some twenty-to-thirty years later. Samuel
Hawkins from Wicklow headed west in 1889 and opened up a harness-making
shop in Roundthwaite, Manitoba.

Thomas Hawkins had captained the Berwick during the Napoleonic Wars
but, after his ship was decommissioned, he sought a new start in
Australia. He arrived in 1822 and received a land grant and a
position in the interior in Bathurst, NSW. He and
his family were soon firmly established there as gentry settler

Another early Hawkins settler was William Hawkins
who arrived with his wife Ann from Sussex in 1848. They headed
out to farm at Wollombi in the Hunter valley.


Hawkins Miscellany

The Hawkins of Nash Court.  In the reign of Edward III Andrew Hawkins married an heiress, Joan de
Nash, and the Hawkins came into possession of Nash Court near Faversham
in Kent.  His line continued down to Thomas Hawkins of Nash who,
dying in 1588, was buried with his wife in the north chancel of
Boughton church.  On a tomb of Bethersden marble lay his figure in
brass with the following inscription:

“He served King Henry VIII, which won
him same, who was a gracious prince to him, and made well to spend his
aged days; that he was high of stature, his body long and strong,
excelling all that lived in his age.”

The Hawkins family was and remained a Catholic family.  In 1715,
during the ferment at the time of the rebellion in Scotland, Nash Court
was plundered by the locals.

“Every part of the furniture, family
pictures, writings of the estate and family, were burnt by them, with
an excellent library of books; and the family plate was carried off and
never heard of afterwards.”

The Hawkins of Trewithen.  John Hawkins was the first member of the Hawkins family
to move to Cornwall.  Originally a courier to Henry VIII, he
decided to leave Nash Court in 1554 to escape the turmoil of a
rebellion against the Catholic Queen Mary.  He settled at
Trewinnard near St. Erth, married and established a maritime trading
business through Mevagissey which thrived for many years.

It was Phillip Hawkins who established the Hawkins
dynasty at Trewithen.  He was a wealthy attorney and landowner
when he bought Trewithen in 1715.  He commissioned the London
architect Thomas Edwards to rebuild the house and lay out the
park.  When he died childless, the estate passed to his nephew
Thomas Hawkins (whose parents lived at Trewinnard), thereby uniting the
two branches of the Hawkins family in Cornwall.

Thomas fell in love with Anne Heywood, the daughter of a
wealthy cloth merchant and banker in London. She agreed that they could
marry on the proviso that his architect, Sir Robert Taylor, was
commissioned to re-design and embellish Trewithen House.  The work
was carried out and, in addition, Thomas had plans drawn up for
landscaping the gardens.  Unfortunately Thomas died after having
innoculated himself against smallpox and the estate passed to his
eldest son Christopher.

Although Christopher never married, he did an enormous
amount for both Trewithen and Cornwall during his lifetime.  He
opened new tin and copper mines in the area, became involved in clay
mining near St. Austell, and rebuilt the harbor at Pentewan and the
breakwater at St. Ives.  Politically, he was Father of the House
of Commons by virtue of the number of “rotten boroughs” that he

Sir John Hawkins and His Descendants.  It is a truth universally acknowledged that all Hawkins believe they
are descended from the Admiral.  And this applies to Hawkins on both sides of the Atlantic.  One Hawkins wrote in as follows:

“I have a photocopy of Sir John Hawkins and one of my
maternal great grandfather John P. Hawkins. The resemblance is amazing,
down to moustache and beard.  I cannot – at present anyway – claim
descendency from the famous admiral, but contemplation is very

Mary Hawkins in her 1888 book Plymouth Armada Heroes provided the
first published tree of Hawkins descendants.

More recent works on the Plymouth Hawkins have been:

  • James Williamson’s 1949 book Hawkins of Plymouth, sub-titled “a
    new history of Sir John Hawkins and of the other members of his family
    prominent in Tudor England.”
  • and Michael Lewis’s 1969 book The Hawkins Dynasty: Three Generations of
    a Tudor Family

In addition, Alexander Mitton published privately in 1960
Pedigree of the Family of Hawkins of
County Devon
.  Harvey Coney from Harlow in Essex also
produced Hawkins lineages at about the same time.  And there are
many Hawkins family trees on the internet.

Reader Feedback: American Descendant of Elizabethan Sir John Hawkins.  My grandfather’s name was Floyd LeRoy Hawkins. The family mythology says that he was a direct descendent of Sir John Hawkins, Queen Elizabeth I’s business partner in the 16th century.

Floyd was born in Ohio around 1890, had family in Wilmington, Ohio, and went to Ohio State University.  He was a civil engineer for the State of West Virginia and last lived in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Can you tell me anything about him?

Pete Heuberger (heubergerp@gmail.com)

Reader Feedback: Hawkins in Bedfordshire.  In family ancestry, I find my ancestor Robert Kempton Jr of Walkern in Hertfordshire marrying Joan Hawkins in Sandy, near Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire.  Robert is b 1540ish and Joan is b 1540ish with a 1560s-70 tidy list of children born in Walkern.

From the Beds parish records it is believed that Joan is the daughter of Thomas Hawkins (b <1519).  From the Beds visitations, there are no landed gentry et al for a Hawkins nobility listing, Albeit the parish records of 1534 onwards have a large and procreative colony of Hawkins in this Houghton Regis area who were not poor dirt farmers.  We are not dirt farmers as we have now found De Kympton entries of 1189, 1250, 1260, 1280 1307 Herts land purchases.

So I am wondering how this Hawkins branch in (Sandy) Houghton Regis, Beds trace back into your main Kent family tree.  There are many Thomases that are mentioned with the Devon branch of the Sir Admiral Hawkins genealogies – but I (almost) seriously doubt that a Devon line would branch back eastwards into Beds.  It would make more sense to branch westward from Kent into Beds.

John Lord  (johnlord9@gmail.com)

Thomas Hawkins’ Windmill at Bathurst.  Thomas Hawkins, his wife and their large family
had arrived in Australia in January 1822 and by April had received, as
free settlers, a grant at Bathurst.  And for good measure Thomas
was appointed Commissariat storekeeper.

He immediately set
off there.  He crossed the Blue Mountains to Bathurst with his wfe
Elizabeth, his seventy year old mother-in-law, and their eight
children.  The trek took eighteen days and they were the first
family of settlers to make the crossing.  Elizabeth’s account of
the journey has been preserved.

As early settlers
left the coastal plains and moved inland to settle the dry inland areas
they quickly became aware of the lack of surface water and were
dependent on water which collected in rock holes and soaks.

Thomas Hawkins
planned a windmill.  Construction on this mill, probably utilizing
convict labor, started in mid-1823, when it was reported that:

Hawkins of Bathurst is about erecting a wind-mill, upon quite new
principles to any heretofore in this colony, in the newly-discovered
country of Bathurst.  The machinery of this expensive undertaking
is several tons in weight and will afford no small difficulty in being
conveyed over the mountain.”

By 1824 the brick tower windmill, the first on the
western side of the Great Dividing Range, had been completed.

Benjamin and Rebecca Hawkins.  Benjamin Hawkins was
the half-Indian son of a Creek woman and the Indian agent Colonel
Benjamin Hawkins.  In 1831 he married Rebecca McIntosh, the
daughter of the half-Scottish chief of the Creeks. Benjamin then became
acquainted with Sam Houston and, two years later, he and Rebecca
migrated to East Texas where Hawkins engaged in a number of land
transactions and other dealings with Houston.  Hawkins was
reportedly involved in an attempt to purchase land for the settlement
of “a large body in Indians from the United States,” the rumor of which
raised fear and anger in the Anglo-American citizenry.

Hawkins may have been
present with Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto, but did not live to
see the new Republic of Texas flourish.  Sometime in 1836 he was
murdered, perhaps as a result of the ongoing conflict between the
Indians and the other settlers.  Rebecca and their two daughters
inherited his property.

Rebecca married Spire
Hagerty soon after but the marriage was not successful.  From the
date of her final separation from Hagerty, probably in 1848, Rebecca
managed two plantations, Refuge in Marion county and Phoenix in
Harrison county, as well as her own household.  The principal cash
crop was cotton.  Shipped down the Red river to the Mississippi,
the cotton and cattle hides were sold in New Orleans.  Sometimes
Rebecca herself would make the trip.  She was the only woman in
Texas owning more than 100 slaves in 1860.

True Women by Janice Woods Windle.  Author Windle started out with the intention of compiling family
recipes as a wedding gift for her son and bride-to-be in 1985.
But as she pored over piles of recipes, letters, and diaries, she
pieced together a fascinating story.  Not long after presenting
her son with the recipe book, she borrowed it from him so that she
could use it while writing True Women,
her novel chronicling the lives of three generations of her family in

The novel tells the story of two dynastic families in Texas, the Kings
and the Woodses.  Georgia Lawshe Woods was in fact the
grand-daughter of Benjamin Hawkins, the Indian agent of George
Washington and after whom Fort Hawkins in Macon, Georgia is
named.  His daughter Cherokee Hawkins had married the well-known
Indian fighter Lewis Lawshe.

Georgia Lawshe, a victim of prejudice because she was rumored to be
part Creek Indian, married the physician Peter Woods.  She it was
who risked her plantation by running the Yankee cotton blockade during
the Civil War.  She had to defend herself and kill a vicious
Yankee soldier who had entered her home.

True Women was made into a TV
mini-series in 1997 starring Angelica Jolie.  One critic described
the offering as Gone With The Wind,

Hawkins is Coming.  Chicago is called “The Windy City” and its wind is often called “Hawkins” or “The Hawk.”  This term has long been
popular in African American vernacular English.  Its earliest
recorded written citation was in the Chicago
of October 20, 1936: “And these cold mornings are on us – in other words ‘Hawkins’ has got us.”

The Baltimore Sun sought to
found out the origin of the term.

This was one reader’s comment:

“I have a very faint gleam of light to
throw on the darkness of the saying “Hawkins is outside” when the wind
is biting cold.  My young colored cook says that her old father
always used the expression when he was alive and that her mother thinks
he meant that there was a mean old man going by.”

Another elaborated more:

“I remember as a small child hearing
adult members of my family – of Virginia stock for many generations –
say on a day when the wind was particularly high and cold, “Hawkins is
certainly out today.”  I have heard similar expressions from
Negroes, but I have never had the impression that Hawkins was of
African origin.  It was my idea that the blacks had borrowed him
from the whites.

This idea is strengthened by what my wife tells me.  She is
English and spent her early years in Devon and South Wales and she says
that Hawkins was frequently mentioned when the wind was particularly

The next contributor also gave an English explanation:

“In the long, long ago when I was an
apprentice to an East Indiaman in the 1880’s, I used to hear great
yarns about a famous Pirate Hawkins, a native of Cornwall, from our old
sailmaker who also said that Hawkins was an ancestor of his.
Hawkins always chose the worst of weather to make his raids in the
English Channel and about the Cornish coast.”

The Baltimore Sun concluded:
“The origin of the name is a mystery, but one thing is certain: it
didn’t originate in Chicago.”


Select Hawkins Names

  • Admiral Sir John Hawkins was a
    buccaneering naval commander, privateer, and slaver trader of the Elizabethan era.
  • Benjamin Hawkins was an Indian
    agent from North Carolina and a delegate to the Continental Congress.
  • Sir Henry Hawkins was a
    distinguished Victorian criminal judge.
  • Coleman Hawkins was a highly
    acclaimed jazz tenor saxophonist. He was best known for his rendition of Body and Soul in the 1930’s.
  • Jack Hawkins was a well-known
    English film actor of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
  • Jeffrey Hawkins was the
    inventor of the Palm Pilot
    and the founder of Palm Computing.

Select Hawkins Numbers Today

  • 40,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Hampshire)
  • 49,000 in America (most numerous
    in Texas)
  • 26,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).


Select Hawkins and Like Surnames

Some surnames have come from SE England, in particular the counties of Kent, Surrey and Sussex.  These are some of the noteworthy surnames that you can check out.




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