Locke Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Locke Meaning
Lock and Locke
are the surname spellings
today, which were rendered in earlier times as Loc or Lok. The
principal derivation seems to have been
the Old English word loc. This
could mean a “lock” or “fastening” and
might therefore describe someone who lived by an enclosure that was
locked; or it
could also possibly describe a locksmith.
It might in addition mean a “lock of hair” and therefore be a
for someone with curly hair.
Locke can also reflect Chinese origins, from Lok the
Cantonese pronunciation of the
Chinese surname Luo.
Select Locke Resources on The Internet

Locke Ancestry

and Locke have been
very much west country names. We find a
very early reference in the 9th century with Ethelbrett of Loxton Loc. Loc here was not a surname, just a locational
abbreviation for a place-name near East Brent in Somerset.
However, his line would appear to have
descended to the Lok and Locke family found in London from the 15th

West Country. William
Locke was recorded in Somerset and Robert Locke in Wiltshire around the
1350. One
line dated back to the early 1500’s.
Edward Locke lived at Canning’s Court in Buckland-Newton parish
in the
1550’s. His son Nicholas moved to
Pensfold in Somerset where he was a clothier.
Nicholas’s grandson, born in this area in 1632, was the great
philosopher and political theorist John Locke

Family histories in the west country began

  • William
    Lock who was born in West Bagborough, Somerset in 1530.
    Many of his descendants are still living in
  • Leonard
    Lock who was born in Ilminster, Somerset in 1658 and emigrated to
    around the year 1685. His line was
    recounted in Dr. J.R. Peacock’s 1998 book Leonard
    Lock and Descendants
  • and
    Lock of Dorchester in Dorset who married Frances Brown in 1707.

Coming from
Wiltshire were the Lok mercers – John Lok who was Sheriff of London in
his son Thomas, and his grandson Sir
William Lok
, Sheriff of London in 1548 and a gentleman usher to
Henry VIII. Sir
William, married twice, was the father of nineteen children and the
forebear of
a larger Locke family
. By
second wife Catherine came:

  • John
    born around 1520, who was a merchant and traveler.
    There were reports of him traveling to
    Jerusalem and commanding a ship bound for Guinea in West Africa.
  • Henry
    Lok, born around 1525, who was a London
    mercer. His wife Anne was a poet and
    translator, as was his son Henry.
  • and
    Michael Lok, born in 1532, who was a London-based merchant and traveler
    and a
    principal backer of Frobisher’s unsuccessful search for a Northwest
    passage to
    Asia. In 1579 he described himself as
    having a wife and fifteen children. From him came
    Bristol merchants. Another of his
    descendants Lewis Locke, who was born in
    Somerset in
    1606 and died there in 1692, exceeded his total in both wives and
four wives he had thirty five children, most of whom lived to be men
women. What is more remarkable is that
his eldest son
born in 1625, was fifty nine years of age when his
youngest son
was born at Taunton in 1684. It was reported in the family that
John had a
great grandson as old as his younger brother.”

in London led to Sir John Lock, a merchant importing luxury goods from
in the 1660’s. His son George invested
in property along St. James’s Street in London and in 1676 the
company that became James Lock &

was started there. It still operates on
the same premises today.

Another London line had obscure origins. William Lock, said to
have been the son of a broker, got rich as a merchant in London in the
1730’s. His line was perpetuated by his mistress Mary Wood and
their son William who both assumed the Lock name on his death in
1761. Son William could afford to buy the Norbury Park estate in
Surrey in 1774 and both he and his son Charles could spend their lives
as art connoisseurs.

Gypsy Locks.
These Locks were a Romany family who were first recorded travelling
between Devon and Gloucestershire in the mid/late 1700’s. Eric
Trudgell’s pamphlet The Family Tree
of Matthew and Merrick Lock
began in the 1780’s. In the
19th century their area of roaming had widened. One Lock branch
were renowned fiddlers who travelled the circuit of Herefordshire,
Shropshire and Staffordshire.

Scotland. The Lock name
appeared at an early time on the Scottish borders.
John Lock of Roxburghshire was recorded in
the Ragman’s Roll in 1296 as rendering homage to the English king. He was probably the John Lok who was
a juror there in 1303. However, Lockie has
been the more common spelling in that region and neither Lock nor Locke
has been
found much as a surname in Scotland

Ireland. The spelling in
Ireland has tended to be Locke. The name has been spread across
the country, but in no great numbers. The best-known Lockes were
the small-time merchants from Kildare who bought the Kilbeggan whiskey
distillery in Westmeath in the 1840’s. They made Locke’s a
popular whiskey brand in Ireland.

and Elizabeth Locke, said to have been of Scots Irish heritage, were
living in
Antrim in the 1820’s. Their son John and
his wife Mary emigrated to Iowa in 1854.
Charles Locke left Belfast for South Africa around 1900. He was the father of the South African golfer
Bobby Locke.

America. There
were two main early Locke lines that came to America:

  • the
    first line was attributable to William
    Locke, possibly an orphan, who came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony on
    the Planter in 1634 at the age of six.
    He settled in Woburn around 1650 and died
    there in 1720 at the grand age of 92. He
    was the focus of one of the early genealogical books, John Goodwin
    Locke’s Book of the Lockes, written in 1853.
  • then
    Captain John Locke arrived
    in Dover,
    New Hampshire from Yorkshire around the year 1644.
    Here the early
    reference book was Arthur Locke’s 1917 book A
    History and Genealogy of Captain John Locke
    . This book was
    updated in
    1979 and again in 2002

New Hampshire.
Locke and three of his brothers had migrated from New Hampshire to
in 1720 and he was a captain of the state militia during the
Revolutionary War. William
Locke, a church deacon, remained in New Hampshire.
His descendant John Locke, known as “honest
John the miller,” set up a saw mill and grist mill at Locke’s Fall near
Barrington after the War.

Calvin Locke of the Massachusetts William Locke line
was also in New Hampshire after the War.
His eldest son Calvin ended up in Texas, another son Luther in
California. His line was covered in
Samuel Gerould’s 1900 book The
Descendants of Calvin Locke

Other Lock and Locke Arrivals. Leonard
thought by some to have been a descendant of Lewis Locke, came to
Philadelphia from
Somerset around the year 1685, first settling in Pennsylvania and then
to Bladen county, North Carolina. His
descendants were to be found in North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.

There were
Locks in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania by the 1740’s.
Tradition has it that the first arrival was John
Lock who had been running a line of immigrant ships between London and
Philadelphia. By the 1750’s they had
moved to North Carolina. Matthew Locke,
a general during the Revolutionary War, came from this family. So too did Francis Locke, another general who
turned the tide of the war in the south.
His son Francis was very briefly US Senator for North Carolina
in 1814. Some Lockes moved to Georgia and,
after the
Civil War, to Texas.

Heading West. Dean Locke, born in New
Hampshire and the son
of Luther Locke of the William Locke line, headed for California at the
time of
the Gold Rush. He became a farmer in the San Jaoquin valley
the town of Lockeford there was named after him.

George W. Locke from New Hampshire and the
Captain John Locke line there also came to California as a young man,
in Sacramento in 1852 where he became a merchant. He
was the owner of land along the San
Jaoquin river delta south of Sacramento and built his family home, an
and packing house there. That land would
be known as Lockeport in the 1890’s and later as Locke when it was an
early settlement
for Chinese immigrants to California. It
is now known as the Locke Historic District.

Canada. An
early settler of what had been known for a
long time as the Ragged Islands off Nova Scotia was Jonathan Locke from
Massachusetts, a descendant of Captain John
Locke. He had arrived there around
1761. His descendants became wealthy
from their proximity to rich fishing grounds.
The town that sprung up there was known as Lockeport.

Australia. Robert Lock, a carpenter,
had been convicted
for burglary in Norfolk and transported on the Grenada
to Australia in 1821.
Three years later, he was party to an extraordinary marriage –
the first
between an Englishman and an Aboriginal woman – whereby he was offered
to his bride Maria
but could be returned if she did not approve of him.
The couple were also promised a grant of
land and a cow, although it took many years for the promised land to

They raised nine children and Maria lived onto 1878.
Some of her grandsons and great grandsons
volunteered to fight in World War One.
Their story was told in Philippa Scarlett’s 2008 book The Lock Family in World War One. There
are estimated to be 7,000 descendants
of Robert and Maria Locke today.


Locke Miscellany

Lock and Locke Today.  Lock is more common than Locke in England today; but hardly appears at all as a spelling in either America or Canada.

Numbers (000’s) Lock Locke
UK    13     9
America     2    12
Elsewhere     4     7
Total    19    28

Sir William Lok and Henry VIII.  Even before
he was admitted to the Mercers’ Company in
1507, William Lok had
already supplied cloth of gold and silver to the King.
During the course of his visits as a mercer
to the annual markets in Antwerp and Bergen, he would also collect
to pass onto the King and his chief minister.

He was a Protestant and supported
Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon.
He went to Flanders and succeeded in his dangerous mission to
pull down
the copy of the Papal Bull (by
which the Pope had
excommunicated Henry
VIII for
his marriage to his second wife Anne Boleyn).
This was how the event was recorded in Holinshed’s

the year of Our Lord 1534 at
the suit of the Lady
Catherine the Dowager, a curse was sent from the Pope which cursed both
the King
and the realm. This curse was set up in the town of Dunkirk in
Flanders, for
the bringer thereof durst no nearer approach.

There it was taken down by Mr. Lok of London, mercer. Now
I, his
daughter Rose Throckmorton, reading this of my father, have thought
good to
leave to my children this addition to it, that for that act the King
gave him
£100 a year and made him a Gentleman of his Privy Chamber.

He was the King’s mercer and his Majesty
vouchsafed to dine at his house. Moreover he was knighted, although he
never Mayor, but only Sheriff of London.”

when she was eighty four years of age, Rose Throgmorton nee Lok had
written an
account of her early life.  This included
the story of her father pulling down the copy of the Papal Bull and of
bringing French translations of the Gospels and Epistles from the
continent for
Henry VIII’s second wife Anne Boleyn.

John Lock & Co.  Lock & Co. became the world-renowned hat-maker of today through the
merging of the Davis and Lock business interests in the 18th century.  It began with George James Lock, a London
trader in the family business of importing luxury goods from Turkey.  As the Plague and Great Fire took hold of the
city in the 1660’s, many businesses began to move west, away from the
devastation. With this shift George James Lock became the leaseholder
several properties on the affluent and royally-connected St. James’s

1676 a hatter from Bishopsgate named Robert Davis set up shop on the
street and
Davis and Lock were neighboring business owners for several years.  Robert’s son Charles took over the hat
business sometime before 1719.  Meanwhile
George Lock had a son named James with his wife Elizabeth and they in
turn had
a son, James Lock II.   Young James
became an apprentice to Charles Davis in 1747 at the nearby hatters.

was looking for a male heir to take over
the business and on the lookout for a suitable man to marry his
Mary.  James Lock II seemingly fit the
bill, being of a similar age, coming from a good family and already a
part of
Charles’ business.  They married three
years later and the two families were united in trade.

inherited the
business in 1759 and later acquired new premises across the road at 6
James’s Street.  There the firm remains
today, still run by descendants of Robert Davis and James Lock.  In its collection Lock has a hat made for the
Duke of Wellington.  It is said that the
company was in part responsible for the creation of the bowler hat in
the 1850’s. 

Captain John Locke and the Indian’s Nose.  The Locke
Family Association erected the following marker at Locke’s Point near
Rye, New
Hampshire in 1984.

Point was named for Captain John Locke who settled
here before 1665 with his wife Elizabeth Berry who was born in London
1627.  He arrived in Portsmouth around
1644 and according to tradition framed the first meeting house there
1654.  As captain of the militia he was
noted for his defensive actions against hostile Indians.
He was killed here on August 26, 1696 as he
worked his fields with only a sickle for defense.”

account explained why
John Locke was so hated by the Indians.

Locke was noted for his daring and
success with which he fought the Indians, foiling their many attempts
to foil
the settlers. On one of their raids from the east, landing on the coast
Locke’s Point, they concealed their canoes in the bushes and went
inland to
surprise their intended victims.  Locke
discovered their canoes and cut big slashes in them, but in a way that
was not
immediately apparent.  The Indians pushed
off, only to find themselves sinking and thereby losing all of their
and arms.”

following story about his death appeared in an 1892 edition of The Granite Monthly magazine.

was killed by Indians while reaping in his field.  Although
in the 70th year of his age, he made
a gallant fight.  When found, by his side
lay a broken sickle (now in the New Hampshire historical rooms) and
part of an
Indian’s nose which had been clipped from one of his assailants.

was said that a few years later one of
Locke’s sons, gunning along the beach between Portsmouth and Rye, met
an Indian
who had lost part of his nose.  Young
Locke inquired how he had lost it.  The
Indian replied: “Ole Locke cut it off at Rye.”
Instantly Locke raised his gun and fired, killing the Indian and
avenging the death of his father.”

Jonathan Locke of Lockeport, Nova Scotia.  Jonathan Locke lost his father
in 1731 when he was an infant and he was brought up by his maternal
grandparents.  He had married Abigail
Perry and they had one son Jacob in Massachusetts before he decided to
set off
in 1761 with Josiah Churchill for some islands off Nova Scotia known as
Raggedy Islands.  There was logic to his
departure. These islands were close to
some of the richest fishing grounds in the region.

Jonathan and his son Jacob
were known in early records there as “the old settlers.”  They
faced trying times at the time of the
American Revolutionary War.  Hundreds of
American privateermen harried the shoreline, robbing the homes and
and boats of the New England settlers, leaving havoc and distress
behind them.   Jonathan Locke himself was targeted in 1776 and
again in 1779.

was a Baptist and the first gospel service atLockeport was apparently
held in
his cabin there in 1782.  He became a
deacon of the famous black Loyalist, the Rev. David George, in the mid-1780’s.

lived to be 94 and died on the island in 1825 or thereabouts.

The Locke House in the San Jaoquin Valley.  Dean Locke,
a trainee physician back in Boston, had joined the Gold Rush to
California in
1849.  However, he quickly realized that
owning and farming land was a much more prosperous occupation than

In 1851 he and his brother Elmer built
a small ranch along the Mokelumne river in the
San Joaquin Valley.  On Pioneer Hill they
erected their log cabin.  Dean and Elmer
were soon joined by their brother George and father Luther from New
plus Dean’s new wife Delia.

Meanwhile other settlers were arriving and a town
was forming.  It’s
not certain when this
town started being called Lockeford.  The
first official town map labeled Lockeford was not filed until 1862. The
name is credited to Dean‘s wife Delia who suggested the name since
people were
calling the river crossing “Locke’s ford.”

Locke’s little cabin had been expanded to a
three-story brick house by 1865.  With
these additions, the house contained twenty-two rooms and accommodated
his wife, and their thirteen children.  It could also house the
visitor, relative, or a patient of Dr. Locke’s.

Recently the Locke House has
been restored and renovated by its current owners who are the
proprietors and
innkeepers of The Inn at Locke House.


Locke Names

  • John Locke was a 17th
    century English philosopher, commonly known as the “Father
    of Liberalism.”   
  • Francis Locke led the American
    Patriots in victory over the British at Rameur’s Mill in the
    Revolutionary War,
    turning the tide in the war in the south. 
  • Bobby Locke was a South African golfer who won the English Open championship four times in the 1950’s.
  • Gary Faye Locke was Governor of Washington state from 1997 to 2005, the first Chinese American ever to hold that office.

Select Locke Numbers Today

  • 22,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Hampshire)
  • 14,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 11,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



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