Hopkins Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Hopkins Meaning
Robert, introduced by the Normans, produced a lot of short-name
variations, such as Rob, Dob, Hob, and Hop. Hob or Hop with the
suffix “kin” early developed as a surname. Nicholas Hobekyn was
recorded in the Cambridge rolls of 1273.
In Wales, the suffix “cyn” was an adaptation of the English “kin” and
the name ap Hopcyn could be found in the Welsh patronymical
style. In the 1600’s ap Hopcyn lost its ap and Morgan son of
Hopkin, which had earlier been Morgan ap Hopkin, was now Morgan Hopkin
and a fixed surname. Over time Hopkin gained an “s” (as Hopkin’s

Resources on

Hopkins Ancestry

Hopkins is one
of those “-kins” surnames
, like Jenkins and Watkins, which
established itself in Wales.

Its largest
concentration was in south Wales, in the villages along
the Swansea valley in Glamorgan. The name in its
early patronymical form was Hopcyn and some Hopcyns have claimed to
lineage back to Rhodri Mawr, the first ruler of Wales in the 9th
century. Hopcyn
ap Tomas
was a collector of the old bardic prophesies at the
time of Owen Glendower.

By the 17th century fixed surnames had arrived. We find Lewis
Hopkin of Llandyfogwg, the bard who was a descendant of Hopcyn Thomas
Phylip. His grandson Lewis Hopkins became a minister in Bromyard,
Herefordshire. Will Hopcyn of Llangynwyd was, by repute, another
bard. His ill-fated love for a local lass was the basis for an
old Welsh story, the maid of Cefn Ydfa.

The late 18th century saw Thomas Hopkins from these parts team up with
two English businessmen to construct the Blaenavon ironworks near
Pontypool, the largest ironworks in the world at that time. In
more recent times there has been the actor Anthony Hopkins who was born in
Port Talbot.

England. In England, both Hopkins
and Hopkinson can be found as surnames, Hopkins more in the south and
and Hopkinson more in the north, although the numbers were about equal
Lancashire. Hopkins in Warwick date from
the late 14th century.

Hopkins can be
traced in Elizabethan times to Wortley in Gloucestershire, Lambourn in
Berkshire, and Coventry in Warwickshire.
In Coventry William Hopkins was a draper who rose to be mayor of
town in 1564. His descendants remained
civic leaders in Coventry for the next hundred and fifty years.

By the 19th century, there was, with the
exception of the Hopkins in Kent and London, a definite westward shift
to the
distribution of Hopkins.

Ireland. The Hopkins name
also cropped
up in Ireland
. The Gaelic name Mac Oibicin, mainly to be found in
Mayo, was often translated to Hopkins by English census takers.

There were 101 Hopkins in Mayo at the time of Griffith’s land valuation
of 1857. Hopkins was also to be found in Connacht and county
Longford, probably from English or Welsh settlers. One Hopkins
account writes of a Scots-Irish Presbyterian family who left for
America in the 1730’s. Many emigrated to Canada in the 19th

. Early Hopkins came to New England, Virginia and

New England.
Hopkins arrivals here were:

  • Stephen Hopkins and wife and
    children who came on the Mayflower.
    His daughter Constance married Nicholas Snow in Plymouth colony in
    1627. A headstone marker was placed by her descendants in Eastham
    in 1966.
  • John Hopkins who arrived in
    Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1634. His descendants are recorded in
    Timothy Hopkins’ 1932 book, John
    Hopkins of Cambridge Massachusetts.
  • Edward Hopkins, a London merchant, who was one of the founders of
    Haven, Connecticut in 1637. But he did not stay and returned to
    England in 1652.
  • Thomas Hopkins who arrived in Providence,
    Rhode Island in 1639. His great grandson Stephen became Governor
    of Rhode Island and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
  • and William Hopkins, a grave digger
    by profession, who arrived in Roxbury, Massachusetts some time in the

Descendants of these early immigrants spread across New England, to New
York state, and further afield. Mark Hopkins, a descendant of John
Hopkins, reached California in 1849 at the time of the Gold Rush.
He made his money there as one of the four principal investors in the
Central Pacific Railroad. He did not live long to enjoy his
wealth; but his wife Mary did and became renowned in San Francisco for
her extravagance.

Virginia and
. Thomas and Robert Hopkins
from Wales arrived at what came to be known as Hopkins Point in
Maryland in
1649. It was to remain the family home
for the next hundred and fifty years.
These Hopkins are believed to be related to the Hopkins who
settled in
Northumberland county, Virginia a few years later.
Hopkins descendants moved onto Illinois,
Kansas and Texas.

Dr. Arthur Hopkins came to Virginia from Ireland in 1705 with
brothers. From this line came Samuel Hopkins, a general in
the Revolutionary war and an early settler in Kentucky. Francis
Hopkins moved his family from Kentucky in 1823 to what became Red River
county in Texas. Around the same time, Cornelius Hopkins arrived
in Pike county, Kentucky from Virginia. In 2003, Bruce Hopkins
wrote Spirits in the Field:
An Appalachian Family History
, an account of this family’s

Earlier, Gerrard Hopkins had come from Kent in the 1660’s and settled
in the
Crofton area of Maryland. The family became Quakers and tobacco
farmers. They set free their slaves in 1807 and Johns Hopkins,
from this family, ventured into other businesses after the Civil War,
which made him very wealthy.

While the Quakers agonized over slavery, other denominations could
its practice.

The Rev. Rigby Hopkins, for instance, was a
slave-owner in nearby Talbot county who used to boast of the slaves he
whipped every Monday. General Francis Hopkins’ plantation was in
McIntosh county, Georgia. There are African American descendants
from “Daddy” Randal Hopkins, a slave on his plantation. John and
Sarah Hopkins’ plantation was located along the Congaree river in South
Carolina. Descendants still live in the house that was
built there in 1808.

Canada. Many of the
Hopkins who arrived in the first half of the 19th century came from
Ireland, such as:

  • William and Jane Hopkins from
    Wicklow who settled in Gloucester township, Ontario in 1829.
  • Nicholas and Mary Anne Hopkins
    who settled in Brockville, Ontario in 1840.
  • Richard and Martha Hopkins
    from Wicklow who settled in Bentinck township, Ontario in 1847.

Edward Hopkins was English, a chief factor for the Hudson Bay Company
in the 1860’s. His wife Frances accompanied him on his
travels and she sketched intensively. Her best-known works, made
into large paintings, depicted voyagers on their canoes.

. The name
Hopkins appears in the early history of Tasmania. Thomas Hopkins,
a servant of Governor Collins, established one of the first inns in
Hobart in 1807. But he didn’t stay long. Henry Hopkins, who
had arrived from Kent on the Heroine
in 1822, prospered as a shopkeeper and later as a wool merchant. He
built Hestercombe Chapel in 1833, the oldest Congregationalist church
in Australia, and is often credited with founding Congregationalism in


Select Hopkins Miscellany

Hopcyn Ap Tomas.  Hopcyn ap Tomas lived at Ynysdawy in the Swansea valley and was one of the
chief patrons of the bards of his time.  He commissioned a scribe
to copy much of the important Welsh writing available into one volume. The
resulting collection became known as The
Red Book of Hergest
, one of the treasures of ancient Welsh

In 1403, when Owen Glendower was at Carmarthen, messengers were sent by
the prince to fetch Hopcyn ap Tomas so that he might explain to Owen
what light was shed on his fate by the old bardic prophecies. Hopcyn
was known as a “Maister of Brut,” i.e. as an authority on the old
prophesies.  He was said by some to have been related to a Hopkins
which claimed descent from Rhodri Mawr.  But there appears to be
no foundation for such a connection.

In 1959 a memorial stone was raised to Hopcyn ap Tomas in Ynystrawe
Park after Henry Lewis, the professor of Welsh at Swansea University,
gave a talk about him to local residents.  The audience was so
impressed that a person with such a romantic history had lived in the
area that they decided to raise a memorial by public
subscription.  The money was collected and the monument raised.

The Maid of Cefn Ydfa.  Ann Thomas was the daughter of a local landowner in Llangynwyd who fell
in love with a thatcher, Will Hopcyn.  When her parents found out,
they were having none of it and locked her up in the farmhouse.
She still managed to sneak messages to Will through a servant who used
to hide them in a tree.   The story goes that her mother
found out and promptly banned Ann from using writing paper and
ink.  Ann persisted and sent messages written in her own blood

Time went by.  Will moved away to Bristol docks and Ann married a
gentleman by the name of Anthony Maddocks.  However, she pined
desperately for Will and eventually fell ill in her grief.  On her
death-bed she asked to see Will.  He was summoned and brought to
see her.  She saw him, the story goes, reached up to hold him, and

Will himself died early after falling off a ladder while thatching a
roof and both are buried in Llangynwyd churchyard.  Will has been
credited as being a poet.  But no verse of his has survived or is

The Maid of Cefn Ydfa was made
into a film in 1914 by William Haggar, one of the earliest film
producers in Wales.  A 38 minute section of this film has been
saved and now resides in the Welsh Film Archive in Aberistwyth.

Hopkin Hopkin the Dwarf.  One of Lewis Hopkin’s sons was Hopkin Hopkin, known as Hopcyn Bach, a
dwarf.  He was exhibited in London and Gentleman’s Magazine ran an account
of him in 1754.  He never weighed more than 17 pounds and is said
to have died of “mere old age.”  His suit, court coat, and
gauntlet are today in the National Museum of Wales.

Hopkins and Other “-kins” Names.  The suffix “-kins” is generally attached to a personal
name as a pet name, usually denoting “the little one.”  The suffix
was apparently a Flemish import which for some reason became popular in

Various “-kins” surnames also became popular in Wales,
including Hopkins.  The table below shows the main “kins” names
and their degree of penetration into Wales (the numbers here are taken
from the 1891 census):

Name Pet form of: Numbers (000’s) Share in Wales (%) Found in England
Atkins Adam      10  4   spread
Dawkins David       2  4   Southwest
Dickens Dick       3  3   West
Hopkins Hobb (from Robert)      19 23   spread
Jenkins John      35 56   Southwest
Perkins Peter      14  8   spread
Watkins Walter      16 38 West Midlands
Wilkins William      13 7 West Midlands

Many of these surnames added a “-son” suffix in the
north.  Thus Atkins became Atkinson.

Hopkins in Ireland Today.  A telephone directory survey in Ireland in 1992 revealed 270 Hopkins, of which:

  • 35% were to be found in Dublin
  • 18% in county Mayo
  • 12% in Belfast
  • and 35% elsewhere in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

These Hopkins represent a mix of English/Welsh and Irish stock.

Stephen Hopkins of the Mayflower.  Stephen Hopkins was aboard the ship Sea
which left for the Jamestown colony in Virginia in 1609.
The ship was wrecked by a hurricane off Bermuda and Stephen was one of
the 150 castaways who survived.

After about six months in Bermuda, Stephen began to challenge the
authority of the governor and organize a mutiny.  He was arrested,
put in chains, tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death.  But
the record stated: “So penitent he was and made so much moan, alleging
the ruin of his wife and children in this his trespass”  that he
was eventually pardoned.

Finally the castaways worked together to construct two ships and were
able to sail onto Jamestown. Stephen had contact with Indians there and
it is thought that the reason that he was a passenger on the Mayflower was because of his
experience in the New World.

Stephen and Elizabeth and two children from his first marriage and a
two year old child from their marriage sailed on the Mayflower.  In Plymouth,
Stephen was one of three men designated to advise Captain Standish on
the first land expedition.  He was deputized to meet the Indians
and act as an interpreter.  He was called “gentleman” in the
colony and served as assistant governor in 1633.

However, Stephen was not part of the inside religious clique and was
therefore thought of as a “stranger.”  This often got him into
trouble.  He was fined for several offences, most notably for the
sale of wine, beer, strong waters, and nutmeg at so-called excessive
prices.  Stephen lived onto 1644.

Johns Hopkins’ Bequests.  Johns Hopkins died without heirs on Christmas Eve, 1873.   He left
$7 million, mostly in Baltimore & Ohio Railroad stock, to establish
his namesake institutions.  This sum was the single largest
philanthropic donation ever made to educational institutions up to that

In his
will he articulated his wishes for a school of medicine, a university
press, an orphanage, and a school of nursing.  Among his
stipulations was that the hospital should treat anyone, regardless of
race, sex, age, or ability to pay.

Thus was
founded the Johns Hopkins Colored Children Orphan Asylum in 1875, the
John Hopkins University in 1876, the Johns Hopkins Press in 1878, the
Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in 1889,
and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1893.

Bruce Hopkins’ Spirits in the Field: An Appalachian
Family History. 
In 1997 the Kentucky Department of Transportation announced plans to
rebuild highway US-460 through Pike county to Virginia.  The new
route would cut a wide swathe through the mountains in the valley of
the Levisa and destroy the ancestral burial grounds of the Hopkins
family since before the Civil War,  For six years Bruce Hopkins
worked to discover the family secrets buried in the old cemetery and to
reclaim its heritage.  This book Spirits
in the Field
is the story
of his struggle with the Kentucky DOT and the unearthing of his family
history back to the first settlers who came there after the Revolution.

After the book was published, Bruce Hopkins wrote in Blue Ridge Traditions:

“Occasionally some of my readers have
asked me for pictures of Pike county, Kentucky.

They say they would like to see the field where Elisha Hopkins had his
final grand party in 1860 to celebrate the successful cotton crop, the
same celebration where he had the vision of death and destruction that
the Civil War would bring them.

They say that they would like to
see where Elisha was when the Indian boy frantically ran at him to
announce that the Union Army was advancing through Pike county in its
mission to destroy the Virginia saltworks that were sustaining the
entire South in 1864.

The field is still there, much changed of course, and changing
still.  But nearly all of that era is gone and has been gone for
140 years.”

Anthony Hopkins Growing Up.  A.R. Hopkins & Son was
a bakery in the South Wales town of Port Talbot.  Anthony Hopkins
was the “Son” on the sign, but he had little interest in baked
goods.   He was a poor student, dyslexic, and often in
trouble for his wandering attention in class.

He knew he wanted to be an actor from his first appearance on stage,
in local YMCA productions in his teens.  And he remembers well the
day a regular customer at the bakery brought her brother, Richard
Burton, into the shop for a pastry.  As Burton strolled away and
passers-by stopped to greet him, Hopkins decided that he would not only
be an actor, but a famous actor.


Select Hopkins

  • Hopcyn ap Tomas compiled in the late 14th century the first book of Welsh literature. 
  • Matthew Hopkins, the son of a Puritan minister, was a feared witch-hunter in East Anglia at the time
    of the English Civil War. 
  • Johns Hopkins was the richest man in
    America when he died in 1873. 
  • Gerald Manley Hopkins was a Jesuit priest and a poet whose 20th century fame established him posthumously among the leading Victorian poets. 
  • Harry Hopkins was Franklin Roosevelt’s closest advisor, one of the architects of the New Deal and a key policy maker during World War Two. 
  • Lightnin’ Hopkins was an acclaimed country blues guitarist from Houston, Texas.
  • Anthony Hopkins, born in Port Talbot in Wales, is one of the leading film actors of the present day. 
  • Bernard Hopkins, who grew up in the tough end of Philadelphia, held the middleweight boxing world
    championship for ten years through twenty title defenses.

Select Hopkins Numbers Today

  • 42,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Bristol)
  • 36,000 in America (most numerous
    in Texas).
  • 20,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Hopkins and Like Surnames  

Hereditary surnames in Wales were a post-16th century development.   Prior to that time the prototype for the Welsh name was the patronymic, such as “Madog ap Jevan ap Jerwerth” (Madoc, son of Evan, son of Yorwerth).  The system worked well in what was still mainly an oral culture.

However, English rule decreed English-style surnames and the English patronymic “-s” for “son of” began first in the English border counties and then in Wales. Welsh “P” surnames came from the “ap” roots, such as Price from “ap Rhys.”

These are some of the present-day Welsh surnames that you can check out.





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