Park Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Park Surname Meaning

In medieval times the park, from the French parc, was a fenced-in hunting area, kept specially for the use of royalty and nobility. The keeper of the park held a position of status and trust as he had the powers of arrest and punishment.

This occupation has supplied the surnames Park, Parks and Parkes.  Parkes has been the main version in England, although Parks and Park are also found.  Parks has tended to be the American spelling; while Park is found in both Scotland and America. 

Park is as well the third most frequent Korean surname, traditionally dating back to King Hyeokgeose Park.

Park Surname Resources on The Internet

Park, Park and Parkes Surname Ancestry

  • from England, Scotland and Korea
  • to America, Canada and Australia

England. England has Parkes, Parks, and Park – Parkes in the West Midlands, Parks in SE England, and Park in northern England.

Parkes.  The Parkes name in three West Midlands counties – Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire – accounted for over 60% of all the Parkes in England in the 1881 census. The first record of the name here was Henry del Parck in the assize court rolls of Staffordshire in 1272.

Parkes was a landowning family in the 1600’s in Wednesbury, south Staffordshire. Thomas Parkes was a staunch Parliamentarian at Willingsworth Hall who paid for and raised his own troop of cavalry during the Civil War. Later the Parkes profited from the coal mines in the area. Richard Parkes acquired Oakeswell Hall in 1689. When he died he left four daughters, but no sons.

Parkes were evident in Halesowen, Worcestershire from the early 1500’s. Harry Parkes was born there in 1792, the son of a curate at the parish church. He prospered as an iron-master and moved into Birchills Hall. However, in 1833 he was killed instantly when the carriage in which he was riding overturned. His memorial reads as follows: “Sacred to the memory of Harry Parkes of Birchills Hall who was accidentally killed on August 3, 1833 aged 42, leaving three children to deplore their early loss.”  

His son Harry left for Asia in 1841 where he did well – acting Consul in Canton, Consul General in Japan, and British minister for Korea.

The Parkes name was common in Dudley, Warwickshire by the early 1700’s. Richard Parkes, born around 1742, was a baker in the town. From him was descended Josiah Parkes who founded the Parkes family lock business at Willenhall in the mid-19th century.

Henry Parkes was born in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire in 1815 and had a tough upbringing before he emigrated to Australia in 1839 and made his mark there.

Parks.  The Parks name was mainly to be found in East Sussex and Kent. The Parks family of Haywards Heath were well-known. Brothers James and Harry played cricket for Sussex in the 1930’s. James’s son Jim Parks was an England batsman and wicket-keeper in the 1960’s.

Park.  The Park name has appeared in Cumberland and Durham near the border with Scotland and also in Lancashire. Two from Lancashire emigrated to America in the 1600’s – Robert Parke from Preston in 1630 and Roger Parke from Cartmel in 1678.

William Park was a yeoman farmer at Thurnham near Lancaster in the mid-1700’s. His descendants were also farmers in the Lancaster area, although son James and grandson Joseph were recorded as well as publicans – James of the Dalton Arms at Glasson Dock and Joseph of the Green Dragon in Galgate.

Scotland. John of Perk was presbyter of the Glasgow diocese in 1433 and a Park family held the lands of Park in Erskine parish in Renfrewshire in the late 1400’s. The name also appeared at an early time in the northeast in Aberdeen where Thomas de Perk held land in 1445.

Mungo Park the African explorer was born in Selkirkshire on the Scottish borders in 1771. His family had been tenant farmers there for close on a hundred years. And there were two later Mungo Parks, father and nephew, who came from a famous Park family of Scottish golfers at Musselburgh in East Lothian.

America.  The arrival names may have been Parkes or Parke. But the spelling later tended to become standardized as Parks.

New England.  Robert Parke was an early arrival in New England on the Arabella with Winthrop’s fleet in 1630. He settled in Mystic, Connecticut in 1649. His son Thomas later made his home in New London.  Frank Parks’ 1906 book Genealogy of the Parke Families of Connecticut covered the descendants of this family.

There were two Parks lines that migrated from Connecticut to upstate New York in the mid/late 1700’s:

  • Elijah Parks established his family at South Glens Falls in the mid-1700’s. Elijah was killed there during an Indian raid in 1777, however.
  • while William Parks moved in 1789 to Sullivan county and what became known as Parksville. Many family stories were recounted by William’s great grand-daughter Cora who died in 1972 at the grand age of 103.

Virginia.  There were early Parke and Parkes in Virginia. Colonel Daniel Parke from Essex made his home in New Kent county. He died in 1679 and there is a large tablet to his memory on the wall of Bruton church in Williamsburg where he was a vestryman. Meanwhile Charles Parkes was a gunsmith recorded in Northampton county in 1675.

John Parks arrived in Virginia in 1658. His son Thomas settled in Albemarle county in an area known as Ballengers Mountain, his grandson John in Wilkes county, North Carolina. Through another grandson Thomas via North Carolina came the Parkes of Moore county, Tennessee.

Elsewhere.  William Parks arrived in Maryland from Shropshire in 1726 and started a print shop in Annapolis. He became Maryland’s official printer and then Virginia’s and left a substantial estate on his death in 1750. But this was mostly devoured by debt and litigation fees.

Roger Parke from Lancashire came to Hopewell near Trenton in New Jersey in 1678. There he was a Keithian Quaker and a respected physician specializing in herbal medicine learnt from the Indians. Some of Roger’s descendants settled in Hampshire county, Virginia and one line later in Preble county, Ohio.

According to the family story, eleven Scots Irish brothers named Park came to America in the mid/late-1700’s, one of whom, Captain Parks, fought in the Revolutionary War and made his home in North Carolina. Son Joseph Parks migrated to Sumner county, Tennessee. He and his family were devoted members of the Cumberland Presbyterian church, one son Hamilton later becoming a Presbyterian minister.

Canada. Cyrenius Parke, a descendant of immigrant Robert Parke, was a Loyalist who departed for Canada in 1784 and was granted land at Napanee in Ontario. He married twice and sired eighteen children who reached adulthood. The Parke Bible which listed these offspring has been preserved.

William Parks, Scots Irish, had come from Ireland to New Brunswick in 1822 and soon became a leading Saint John merchant. His home there, built around 1850 on Parks Street, still stands.

Australia. John Parkes from Halesowen in Worcestershire had been shipped out to Sydney on the Barwell as a convict in 1798. After a spell working in the Government dockyards, he secured some land to gather lumber along the Cooks river. This area became known as Parkestown. His son Bill became a champion bare-knuckle boxer.  

“In 1846 Bill Parkes went to England to challenge Nat Latham. The fight lasted 62 rounds and only ended when in a clutch they both fell and Bill suffered a broken arm.”  

Sir Henry Parkes who arrived from Warwickshire in 1839 was a larger-than-life character. He was according to The Times of London “the most commanding figure in Australian politics.” With five terms to his credit, he remains the longest-serving premier of New South Wales. And he led the cause for federation and nationhood.

He was married three times and fathered twelve surviving children. Following his first wife’s death in 1888 he married his long-time mistress Nellie Dixon. The couple already had three children and two more were to follow. After Nellie’s untimely death from cancer in 1895, he then married the family’s housekeeper Julia Lynch and gave her legal responsibility for his five young children.

Park, Parks and  Parkes Surname Miscellany

Park, Parks, and Parkes Today

Numbers (000’s) Park Parks Parkes Total
UK    16     3    16    35
America    28    33    61
Elsewhere*    13     4     6    23
Total    57    40    22   119
  • Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The Parkes at Wednesbury.  The Parkes family once possessed part of the Wednesbury tithes in south Staffordshire.  Their benefactions to the parish were numerous and their monumental tombs may still be found in the Old Church.

In the Hall’s latter days they seem to have attended the Wednesbury Old Church regularly.  There was a straight carriage drive from their Hall to the Church, in the line of Wellcroft Street.  A set of steps from a churchyard gate led up to the north entrance. This road was sheltered by a splendid avenue of trees.  Yet it was so straight, according to tradition, the servants at the Hall could see when the Squire and his party left the church gates after Divine service on Sunday and accordingly be prepared to serve their dinner.

Sir Henry Parkes’ Upbringing.  Henry Parkes had been born in 1815 at Moat House Cottage in Canley, which was then part of the Stoneleigh estate owned by the Leigh family.  For at least a century the Parkes family had been tenant farmers there, growing wheat, barley, and other arable crops.

When Henry was seven, his family was thrown off their land, no longer able to pay their rent.  What had begun as a ‘normal’ rural life took a dramatic turn. Henry wrote:

“From the time my father left Stoneleigh, I might date the commencement of suffering and hardship which soon resulted in bleak and lasting destitution.”

The Parkes family was forced to find work wherever they could. From the age of ten, Henry worked alternately making ropes in a factory, breaking rocks to build roads, making and carrying bricks.  The physical hardship continued for several years before he finally found work as an apprentice ivory turner in Birmingham where he stayed for eight years.

In 1836, at the age of 21, he married Clarinda Varney. They moved to London in 1838 where making a living continued to be a struggle before they decided to emigrate to Australia in 1839 to make a fresh start.

Lacking any formal education, through poverty, the imprisonment of his father and forced separation of his family, the deaths of his first two children with Clarinda and further financial hardship, this was the man that ultimately went on to become a great Australian politician and statesman who has been called the father of Australian Federation.

The Park Family of Golf at Musselburgh.  James Park, a ploughman, and his wife Euphemia had moved in 1834 to Cottage Lane on the road that ran along the south of Musselburgh golf links.  Golf had been played on these links as early as 1672.

Four of James’s children took to golf – Archibald, Willie Sr, Dave, and Mungo Sr.  Willie and Mungo both won the Open.  Dave came a close second to Willie in 1866.  When Mungo won in 1874, the prize money was eight pounds.  Archibald briefly became a golf ball maker who went away to sea and then started a laundry business with his wife and daughter.  Another son James became a footman to Lord Meadowbank and later a butler.

The next generation had Willie’s sons as golfers – Willie Jr and Mungo Jr. Willie Jr. was the Open champion in 1887 and 1888 and a golf course designer.  Willie’s great grandson is the architect and golf historian Mungo Park.

Parkes to Parks in America.  The following was the statement made by Rufus Parks of Lynchburg, Tennessee to his son Roy in 1924.

“My name is Rufus Alonzo Parks. The proper spelling of the name is “Parkes.”  My grandfather, Allen W. Parkes, always spelled the name with the “e.” My father, Rufus Burton Parks, son of Allen W. Parkes, was the first in my family to drop the “e” from the name, and I have followed after him.”

Rufus Burton Parkes was born in Moore county, Tennessee in 1827. But his son, born in 1849, was Rufus Alonzo Parks. 

The Parks Family of South Glens Falls.  Elijah Parks, patriarch of the family, came to the South Glens Falls area in upstate New York from Connecticut.  He and his five sons had built a sawmill on the Hudson river prior to the Revolution.

In 1777 the Tories and a group of Indian raiders burned his home.  Elijah and his son Elisha were both killed.  It became known as the “Parks Massacre.”  His son Isaac was captured and carried to Canada.  Son Daniel escaped capture and later with a band of militia was responsible for receiving the keys to Fort George at its surrender.  Daniel and his family of 8 children had a one-room log cabin less than a mile from the burned family home that was not damaged during the raid.

The Parks’ property ran along the Hudson river from the connection to Glens Falls all the way to Fenimore at Baker’s Mills, present day Hudson Falls.  The Parks ran a ferry across the river at this point.

Local lore would have you believe that a tunnel went from the house to the river as part of the Underground Railroad. Older visitors who played in the yard as children confirmed the tunnel.  But since it was in the oldest part of the house, it is believed that it was an escape for the family in case their home was attacked, as was the home of Elijah, and not part of the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves.

A descendant Solomon Parks became rich in the lumbering industry and had a very nice home on Park Street in Glens Falls.  He gave his home to become the first community hospital, but he died one month before it was to open.  However, that may have been a good thing. The public refused to go there, believing that the doctors were conducting experiments on patients.

Park, Parks and Parkes Names

  • Mungo Park was a famous Scottish explorer of the late 18th century who led two expeditions to find the source of the Niger river in Africa. 
  • Sir Henry Parkes was an Australian politician of the late 19th century who has been called the father of Federation. 
  • Gordon Parks was an American photographer and film director. He was a pioneer among black filmmakers, being the first African American to produce and direct major motion pictures. 
  • Rosa Parks was an activist in the civil rights movement, best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott. 
  • James Park is a Korean American tech entrepreneur. He co-founded and is CEO of Fitbit.

Park, Parks and Parkes Numbers Today

  • 35,000 in the UK (most numerous in West Midlands)
  • 61,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 23,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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Written by Colin Shelley

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