Jenkins Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Jenkins Meaning
surname Jenkins comes from the personal name Jenkin, which contains the
elements Jen, a pet name for
John, and -kin, a dimunitive
Thus Jenkin might describe the younger John, the son of John, or little
John. John, meaning “God has granted me with a son,” was
introduced by returning Crusaders from the Holy Land in the 12th

Resources on

Jenkins Ancestry

Wales. Jenkins in one of those “-kins”
, like Hopkins and Watkins, that
established itself in Wales. According to H. Harrison’s Surnames of the
United Kingdom
, the Jenkins name might have been
brought to Wales by Flemish immigrants who were settled in
Pembrokeshire in the
12th century.

There were increasing references to Jenkin as a personal name from the
13th century, mainly in south Wales. It was pronounced and
sometimes spelt as
“Siencyn.” The old Welsh patronymic style was still in place in
the 16th century
(thus Richard Roberts of that time was the son of Robert Jenkin).
But it was beginning to
be displaced by English-style surnames. In this process, Jenkin
became Jenkins with the suffix adoption of “s” as “son of.”

Judge David Jenkins
, the son of
Jenkin Richard, was born in
House in the vale of Glamorgan in 1582 (the house was said to have been
built by the judge’s great grandfather). He himself was a fervent
Royalist who narrowly survived the Civil War. Another
Royalist, born nearby, was Sir Leoline Jenkins. He made his mark
as the Principal for Jesus College in Oxford.

A Jenkins who also went to Jesus College was the cleric and antiquary
John Jenkins – from the Jenkins family of Llangoedmor in
Cardiganshire. In 1807 he was appointed the vicar of Kerry in
Montgomeryshire. There he adopted the name Ifor Ceri and began
to promote Welsh singing and bardic skills through local eisteddfods.

By the late 19th century, the Jenkins population in Wales
had become
fairly heavily concentrated in Glamorgan, in particular in the
industrial belt of west Glamorgan around Port Talbot and Neath.
From this working class area came the coal miner’s son Richard Jenkins
who became the
actor Richard Burton
and the trade union
leader Clive Jenkins:

“His family had a small terraced house
with an outside toilet and ‘no carpet, just coconut matting.’
They bathed once a week in front of the fire in an old zinc tub,
sharing the same water.”

The mezzo-soprano opera singer Katherine Jenkins grew up in a council
house in Neath.

England. The Jenkin name
began in England in its southwest
corner, in Cornwall. There were some early suggestions that the
Cornish were of short stature, hence the “little Johns.” Jenkin
has persisted in Cornwall without the “s” suffix.

Cornwall One
Jenkin family has been traced to St. Stephen in Brannel in the
1600’s. They moved to St. Austell in the early 1800’s to work in
the tin mines but then emigrated when the work there stopped.

“James Jenkin went to Australia to meet
his brother Edward; but by the time he had arrived Edward had already
left for the US. So the two never met. James was killed in
a mine accident in Australia, leaving a wife and nine children.”

Jenkins were also to be found in Magdon north of Penzance from the
1650’s. They were for many generations village blacksmiths.
The family emigrated to South Africa in 1911. Other Jenkins
in Cornwall stayed, notably the historian Kenneth Hamilton and the
Richard, both very much committed to the Cornish cause.

Devon There were
Jenkins in the neighboring county of Devon. The Jenkins of
Hartland near Bideford in
Devon in fact date back to the 1550’s.

Scilly Isles The
first Jenkins
came to the Scilly Isles in the 1730’s. John Jenkins, born in
1723, was one of the early arrivals. His grand-daughter was named
Elizabeth and there is a photograph of her that still remains, taken in
her old age sometime in the 1860’s. Over the years the Jenkins
numbers grew and the Jenkins today in the Scillies
represent a significant proportion of the population of the Tresco and
Bryher islands.

Kent Kent has
been a Jenkins outpost. The Jenkins of Kent date from
the time that William Jenkin was mayor of Folkestone in the
1550’s. Their most illustrious family member was probably the
Victorian inventor Fleeming Jenkin who came up with the idea of the
aerial tramway. Descendants have been the politicians Patrick and
Bernard Jenkin.

John Jenkins, who arrived from England in the
1660’s, was one of the earliest settlers in North Carolina. He
served as governor of the colony at various times during the
1670’s. William Jenkins, born in Virginia in 1675, was the
forebear of the
plantation-owning Jenkins family
of Cabell county in what is
now West Virginia. Another Jenkins Virginia family settled
in Gaston county, North Carolina.

Three well-documented Jenkins families began with immigrants from Wales
the late 1600’s and early 1700’s:

  • William Jenkins came to Maryland and his descendants were to be
    found in Baltimore county for many generations. They later moved
    to South Carolina and then onto Georgia and Texas.
  • David Jenkins settled in Chester county, Pennsylvania. The
    old Jenkins homestead at Churchtown there remained with the family in
    succeeding generations. The family history has been traced in
    Robert Jenkins’ 1904 book The
    Jenkins Family Book
  • the Quaker John Jenkins came around 1730 and settled in
    the Welsh community of Gwynedd, Pennsylvania. A
    19th century descendant Howard Jenkins was a local
    newspaper publisher.

Another Jenkins family from Maryland
included a Captain Thomas Jenkins who owned a number of sea-going
vessels. He transported arms, at considerable peril to himself,
to the patriots during the Revolutionary War. His
was traced in Edward F. Jenkins’ 1985 book Thomas
Jenkins of Maryland

Lewis Jenkins fought in the War and received bounty land in North
Carolina. In the 1820’s he moved his family to Georgia.
Charles J. Jenkins left South Carolina for Georgia a little
later. He served as Governor of the state during
Reconstruction. Jenkins county in Georgia is named in his

and other Jenkins appear in the
Jenkins’ version of Battle
Hymn of the

Canada. Nicholas
Henckel from Hesse in Germany took the name of Jenkins from his English
wife. He and his family arrived in the
maritime province of Prince Edward Island in 1783, describing the place
then as
“a wilderness.” He has had a large number
descendants, many apparently in the Little Pond area.
Doug MacDonald’s 2009 book A Genealogy of the
Jenkins Families of
Prince Edward Island
has traced this genealogy.

In 1820 the Rev. Louis Jenkins, bound for Quebec, was driven by
contrary winds to Charlottetown in PEI where he assumed the rectorship
of St. Paul’s. His descendants ran the Upton farm near
Charlottetown. Dr. Jack Jenkins was a cattle breeder and farmer
in the 1920’s and his wife Louise one of the first female pilots in

South America.
There are
Jenkins in Argentina. Aaron Jenkins and his family
were part of a
group of Welsh colonists who came to Patagonia in 1865 to settle and
farm. Sadly he was murdered in 1879. Alfred Jenkins was an
orphan from Bristol who arrived in Argentina in 1907 as a Christian
missionary. He married there but died young in his forties.

Australia and New Zealand.
Jenkins have come from Wales, Cornwall, England and even from Ireland
and America.
John Jenkins from Kent had arrived in NSW as a convict in
1821. His initial years were harsh. But his wife and children joined him in 1827
and he received his Ticket of Leave two years later.
They later settled in Berrima, NSW where John
died in 1886 at the ripe old age of 97.

Among later Jenkins
arrivals were:

  • Robert Jenkins, who arrived in Tasmania from Worcestershire in
    1835. One of his sons PW Jenkins was a pioneer grazier at
    Nimmitabel in the Monaro region of NSW. He lived until 1954 on his Clifton farm
  • William Jenkins known as “Bill the Steward,” who came to Kapiti
    island in New Zealand from Kent in 1836. He was a whaler but
    later settled down to farm and run an accommodation house at Te Uruhi.
  • John Jenkins, who came to Victoria from Cornwall during the gold
    rush times of the 1850’s
  • and Joseph Jenkins, a tenant farmer from mid-Wales who in 1868
    suddenly abandoned his home and family to seek his fortune in
    Australia. He didn’t find this fortune. But he left behind
    a series of diaries which, after his death, have been published and

Kay Jenkins’ 2002 book From the
Mountains of Wales: Jenkins Family History
traced a Jenkins
family from Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire to Australia.


Jenkins Miscellany

Jenkins 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,
most notably Jenkins.  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. 

Judge David Jenkins.  Judge Jenkins was a man of great force of character, nicknamed “Heart
of Oak” and “Pillar of the Law.”  Being a staunch Royalist he took
an active part against the Parliamentarians during the Civil War,
condemning many to death for activities deemed treasonable.  Then
he was captured in 1645 and sent to the Tower of London.  He was
impeached for high treason but survived.  After the restoration of
the monarchy under Charles II he was liberated in 1656 and returned to
his estates in Glamorgan.

The Jenkins of Kent.  Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a memoir of his friend
Fleeming Jenkin in which he had this to say about his family ancestry:

“In the reign of Henry VIII, a family of the name of
Jenkin were to be found settled in the county of Kent.  It may
suffice that these Kentish Jenkins must have undoubtedly derived from
Wales and, being a stock of some efficiency, they struck root and grew
to wealth and consequence in their new home.

William Jenkin was mayor of Folkestone in 1555 and, no
less than twenty three times in the succeeding century and a half, a
Jenkin – William, Thomas, Henry or Robert – sat in the same place of
humble honor.  Of their wealth we know that in the reign of
Charles I Thomas Jenkin of Eythorne was more than once in the market
buying land; and notably in 1633 he acquired the manor of Stowting
Court near Folkestone.

Stowting Court became the anchor of the Jenkin family in
Kent.  Though passed on from brother to brother, held in shares
between uncle and nephew, burdened by debt and jointures, and at least
once sold and bought back again, it has remained to this day in the
hands of the direct line.”

Leading Welsh Counties with Jenkins.  The table below shows the leading Welsh counties with Jenkins in the
1881 census.

County Numbers
1. Glamorgan    8,973
2. Monmouthshire    2,694
3. Cardiganshire    2,226
4. Carmarthenshire    1,892
5. Pembrokeshire    1,594

The War of Jenkins’ Ear.  England and Spain went to war in 1739 over what came ot be called “the war of Jenkins’ ear.”

Returning home from the West Indies in command of the brig Rebecca in 1731, Jenkins’ ship was
stopped and boarded by the Spanish.  The Spanish commander had
Jenkins bound to a mast and he sliced off one of his ears with his
sword.  He was said to have told him to say to his King: “The same
will happen to him if caught doing the same.”

When Captain Robert Jenkins returned to England, he spoke of
his affront but it received little attention. However, the story was
printed in The Gentleman’s Magazine
and in 1738 he repeated his story before a committee of the House of
Commons.  In a bellicose atmosphere the House decided to initiate
maritime reprisals against Spain.  A naval war formally started
the next year.

The Jenkins Plantation House in West Virginia.  Built by slaves in the 1830’s for Captain William Jenkins, the Jenkins
Plantation House was also the home of Confederate Brigadier General
Albert Gallatin Jenkins.   At the height of their prosperity
this family was one of the largest landowners in what is now West
Virginia, owning more than 4,000 acres.

The story of the Jenkins plantation is also the story of more than
fifty slaves who worked and lived at Green Bottom, within yards of
potential freedom.  Their years of hard labor, death, confinement
and possible poor treatment on the plantation could have left an
ineffaceable mark on the environment of the home and land.

Over the years there have been numerous reports of “paranormal
activity” at the Jenkins plantation.   Most commonly, people
report seeing the apparitions of two young children playing in the
front yard.  People have seen men in Civil War clothing standing
and sitting around in the yard.  People have also seen a man,
believed to be Colonel Jenkins, riding a misty gray horse.  And
there have been other apparitions at the plantation house and at the
hollow where the slave shacks are thought to have been.

The plantation house has survived and has recently been restored.

The Jenkins Battle Hymn of the Republic

ancient plan of Jenkins
raised their standard to the sky:
held her name in honor and their aims were ever high:  They always did their duty and were not
afraid to die.


Virile, worthy, brave and loyal!
Let us sing ”
Pergesed Cau-te!”
The clan goes marching on!

Richard, John and Seth for
fathers of our clan;
Posterity of David and Benjamin never ran.
Joseph was quite
virile, Thomas was a sturdy man.
The clan goes marching on!

fathers dwelt in England, Scotland, Ireland and
in Wales;
Where English tongue is spoken now the Jenkins name prevails.
How could the
nations but advance when Jenkins never fails!
The clan goes marching on!

“Richard was in Parliament – he was among the
Thomas was High Sheriff – of his foes he had no fears;
Henry Jenkins
lived a hundred-nine-and-sixty years.
The clan goes marching on!

was a
guide to Washington and with him at Yorktown; With famous man of Georgia, Charlie’s name is written down;
Albert was
in Congress and, in Dixie of renown.
The clan goes marching on!

Jenkins Clan
is mighty with a hundred thousand strong;
In Seventy-six, four-hundred Jenkins
fought to right a wrong.
Seven towns bear Jenkins name. Sure, let us sing that
The clan goes marching on!

danger threatened country for a battle to
be won,
Our righteous causes need defenders or work to be done,
Brave Jenkins
were right there, and never did a Jenkins run.
The clan goes marching on!

Jenkins sons have courage any task or foe to face;
The Jenkins girls are lovely
with their beauty, charm and grace;
The Jenkins leaven is a blessing to the
human race.
The clan goes marching on!”

Aaron Jenkins in Argentina.  Aaron Jenkins and his family were from Mountain Ash in mi-Glamorgan and
they arrived with 152 other Welsh settlers on June 28 1865 to what is
today the city of Puerto Madryn.  The sea journey took two months.

The first few years were the hardest since the majority of settlers
weren’t farmers and the desert made the wheat crops fail.  It was
Aaron’s wife Rachel who worked out a form of irrigation, diverting
water from the Chubut river.  In March 1868 the first crop of
wheat was successfully grown.

In 1879 Aaron, who was one of the most popular of the colonists, was
murdered.   The Welsh decided to take the law into their own
hands and caught and killed the murderer.  Since that time, it was
said, they were never bothered by “the mixed race Indian-Argentines
that frightened the area.”  Aaron Jenkins was buried in the
cemetery in Gaiman.

How Richard Jenkins Became Richard Burton.  Richard Burton was born Richard Jenkins in the village of Pontrhydyfen
near Port Talbot in Wales.  He grew up in a working class,
Welsh-speaking household, the twelfth of thirteen children.
His father was a short, robust coal miner, a “twelve-pints a-day man”
who sometimes went off on drinking and gambling sprees for weeks.
Richard later said:

“He looked very much like me.
That is, he was pockmarked, devious, and smiled a great deal when he
was in trouble.  He was also a man of extraordinary eloquence,
tremendous passion, and great violence.”

Richard Jenkins was less than two years old in 1927 when his mother
died after giving birth to her 13th child.
His sister Cecilia and her husband Elfed took him into their
Presbyterian mining family in nearby Port Talbot.  He said later
that his sister became “more mother to me than any mother could have
ever been.”  His father rarely visited.

Richard showed a talent for literature at grammar school and, inspired
by his schoolmaster, Philip Burton, he excelled in school play
productions.   At the age of sixteen, he left school for
full-time work.  But when he joined the Port Talbot squadron of
the Air Training Corps as a cadet, he re-encountered Philip Burton.

This time Burton, recognizing Richard’s talent, adopted him as his ward
and Richard returned to school.  Philip
Burton tutored his charge intensely in school subjects and also worked
at developing the youth’s acting voice.  In 1943, at the age of
eighteen, Richard Burton, who had by now taken his teacher’s surname,
was allowed into Exeter College, Oxford for a special term of six
months study.

Paul and Ruth Jenkins’ Farm in the Scillies.  Paul and Ruth Jenkins will be pleased to welcome
you to their farm.  Paul was born on Bryher and his family history
goes back several generations in 1735.

Their farm is a working farm in the center of Bryher.  In spring
and summer they sell vegetables, salad crops, soft fruit, cut flowers,
and free range eggs from their roadside stall.  All produce is
fresh and available to guests and islanders to purchase.



Select Jenkins Names

  • David Jenkins was a Royalist judge in Glamorgan who survived the
    upheavals of the Civil War.
  • Fleeming Jenkin was the Victorian inventor who came up with the idea of the aerial tramway.
  • Richard Jenkins was the given name of the actor Richard Burton.
  • Roy Jenkins was the Labor
    politician from Monmouthshire who served as British Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer
    in the 1960’s and 1970’s and later defected to start the Social Democrat party.
  • Katherine Jenkins is a Welsh
    mezzo-soprano singer, popular for her crossover music.

Select Jenkins Numbers Today

  • 58,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Merthyr Tydfil)
  • 74,000 in America (most numerous
    in Texas)
  • 33,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).


Select Jenkins 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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