Pascoe Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Pascoe Surname Meaning

Cornish people are said to be of Celtic and Iberian stock. They had their own language; and their own distinctive surnames as this ditty would suggest:

  • “By Ros-, Car-, Lan-, Tre-, Pol-, Pen-
  • Ye may know most Cornish men.”

Pascoe is very much a Cornish name. Pascoe ranks as No. 6 amongst the most common surnames in Cornwall. The name came from the Latin Pascal and means Easter child. Early spellings included Pascowe and Pascow.

Pascoe Surname Resources on The Internet

Pascoe Surname Ancestry

  • to England (Cornwall)
  • to Australia, America, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand

England. The Cornish economy was closely intertwined with its mining industry, first of copper and then of tin. The 18th and early 19th century marked its peak as a producer. It was estimated that some 30 percent of the county’s workforce was employed in mining. The principal mining center, with a population of 9,000 in 1780, was Wendron in south Cornwall.

While the Pascoe surname was to be found elsewhere in Cornwall, its main concentration appears to have been in this Wendron mining district. One family line begins with John Pascoe, born there around 1533. The will of Bennet Pascoe was recorded in Wendron in 1621.

The numbers there grew in the next two centuries. Zacharias Pascoe, born in Wendron in 1747, was a notable tin miner of his day.

But not all of these Pascoes were miners. Some were yeomen farmers. One Pascoe joined the Royal Navy and, as a lieutenant on the Victory, was said to have recommended to Nelson his famous “England expects” signal before the battle of Trafalgar. There was also an established Pascoe family in Penzance who lived in Alceston House and were lawyers and local magistrates.

Charles Pascoe, a seaman from the village of Breage, was one of the lucky survivors of the wreck of the Titanic in 1912.

Pascoe is also a Cornish Christian name. Three prominent Cornishmen with Pascoe as a forename were

  • Pascoe Ellis, the mayor of Penzance in 1622,
  • Pascoe Thomas, the author of A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas in 1745
  • and Pascoe Grenfell the Cornish copper baron of the early 19th century.

Exodus.  With the collapse of the Cornish mining industry in the nineteenth century, the place was soon gripped by a culture of emigration, a belief that the only way to get ahead was to get out of Cornwall. Between 1860 and 1900, it is estimated that 20 percent of the male working population left. Many took their trade, hard rock mining, with them overseas. Others just sought a new chance. The Pascoe exodus included a number to America; but more to Australia.

Australia. The Cornish and Pascoe influx into Australia began in the 1840’s when the copper mines in South Australia began to be developed.

The first of these, Kapunda, now boasts a “Cornish miner” statue. The Burra Burra mine attracted the largest number of Cornish immigrants, including Pascoes such as James Pascoe (on the Norfolk), John and Grace Pascoe (on the Aboukir), and Francis and Elizabeth Pascoe. Eliza Pascoe married James Hawke in Kapunda and their grandson went on to be the Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke.

By the 1870’s, some Cornish miners were heading north to the new mining prospects in northern Queensland. There is a Pascoe river near Cape York (perhaps named after William Pascoe who prospected for gold in this area).

Later on, we find the Pascoe name, for an as yet unexplained reason, linked to Australia’s Aboriginal population.  Bruce Pascoe, part Cornish and part Aborigine, has emerged in recent years as a recognized Australian writer.

New Zealand. Sam and Jane Pascoe came on the Carisbrooke Castle to New Zealand via Belfast in 1875. They settled in Waikato, North Island. One line of descendants became boat-builders there.

James Pascoe meanwhile started a jewellery store in Auckland under his name in 1906. Still family-owned, the stores now number thirty seven.

Pascoe Surname Miscellany

The Wendron Mining District.  Wendron mining district has one of the longest histories of copper and tin working of any district in Cornwall. By the 1580’s, underground mining was well advanced within the district.  Two of the most important mines were Roselidden and Porkellis.  Two centuries later, Wendron was the most populated district in the region, with 9,000 inhabitants.

Many of the rich but often shallow copper mines had been abandoned by the 1840’s.  Fortunately tin had been found.  Due to the mineral zoning, some of these mines also had tin deposits.  But miners had to go deeper.  Then tin was discovered in Australia in 1872 and new production was coming from Malaya and Bolivia.  The era for tin in Cornwall was over.

Two books have been published on the mining industry in the district: Wendron Tin by A.K. Hamilton Jenkin, commissioned by the Poldark Mine in 1978, and The Tin Steamers by Justin Brooks in 1994.

Early Pascoe Wills

Date Name Place
1621 Bennet Pascow Wendron
1624 William Pascowe Wendron
1662 John Pascoe St. Hilary
1671 Erasmus Pascoe Phillack
1677 John Pascoe Phillack
1684 Nicholas Pascoe St. Hilary
1691 James Pascoe Phillack

One Pascoe family traces their lineage back to John Pascoe who married Elizabeth Edwards in Wendron in 1564.

Pascoe as a Cornish Surname.  Pascoe has ranked as No.6 among the most common surnames in Cornwall.  The table below shows the top ten from the 1881 UK census.

1881 census Surname Number
1. Rowe   4,541
2. Stephens   3,864
3. Martin   3,205
4. Mitchell   2,967
5. Hosking   2,210
6. Pascoe   2,083
7. Hocking   2,073
8. Bowden   1,559
9. Harvey   1,498
10. Bray   1,418

Reader Feedback – The Story of Zacharias Pascoe, Cornish Tin Miner.  My great great great grandfather Zacharias Pascoe Pascoe was born in Wendron parish around 1747.  He was a tin miner and tin streamer all his life. He ended up on Dartmoor where he led the Chagford tinner’s riot of 1793.

He was married in Wendron church in 1768 and died in Tavistock in 1843.  His death certificate said that he was 96 then. His wife was called Jane Libat. We think that she was from a French family as there are many Libats in the Bayonne region. With a lot of trade between Helston and Bayonne in wine, fish, tin etc, Zacharias and Jane moved up to Plymouth around 1772 after their first daughter was born and christened in Helston.

There was a depression in the price of copper at that time and many miners sought work elsewhere. With the expansion of the dockyard there was a lot of tunneling and other work.

By 1793 Zacharias was working at Vitifer mine on the moor near the Warren. But when some of their Cornish mining companions were reprimanded and locked up in Chagford for drinking too much, they all left the mine armed to the teeth with crowbars and sledge hammers. They descended on Chagford and threatened to level the town in about two weeks if their friends weren’t released.

Meanwhile their friends had been taken to the magistrate’s house in Cheriton Bishop where they were locked up in a cellar. The miners were rounded up and then taken to Exeter Bridewell. Some were press ganged and sent to join the navy at Dartmouth.

Zacharias Pascoe soon ended up back on the moor and lived near Princetown in his own cottage called Pascoe’s Cottage with its own supply of water called Pascoe’s Well. His sons and grandsons all became stone masons. In the 1841 census he was still listed as a tin miner. My suspicion is that around 1810 he also looked after the prison leat when the prison was full of French and then American prisoners.

Zacharias died in the newly constructed poor house in Tavistock at the top of Bannawell St. Cause of death was natural decay. Pascoe’s cottage near Rundlestone was lived in until the 1960’s and the ruins can still be seen today.

James Pascoe Crowden (

Pascoe Emigrants.  In 1881 it was estimated that one third of Cornwall’s mining population had emigrated.  The extent of this exodus, known as the Cornish Diaspora, was typified by the parish of Crowan which had lost nearly half of its population between 1851 and 1901.

“Cousins Jacks and Jennys” were the slang terms for these Cornish migrants.  Many took their mining skills and their customs with them. continuing to celebrate the Feast of St. Piran, the patron saint of Cornish miners, and St. John’s Day (Midsummer’s Eve) when logs and hundredweights were exploded. The following were some of the Pascoes who left:

To Canada

  • Richard Pascoe left Truro for Oxford in Ontario (where he married Harriet Greenway and they had three children).

To America

  • Jeremiah Pascoe for Georgia (he died in Cherokee County in 1867 and his descendants moved onto Arkansas)
  • William and Mary Pascoe to Illinois in 1845 and then onto California during the Gold Rush.

To Australia

  • James Pascoe to Sydney in the 1830’s
  • various Pascoes heading for the South Australian copper mines in the 1840’s
  • John and Christina Pascoe and their two sons on the Sea Quest to South Australia
  • Michael Pascoe on the Elgin to Sydney in 1854
  • Henry and Grace Pascoe from St. Keverne to Australia in 1865
  • and Martin Prist Pascoe from Wendron to Victoria in 1867.

To New Zealand

  • Hugh and Harriet Pascoe from Truro in 1872 as part of Brogden’s navvies to build the railways.  They settled in Herbert, Otepopo in South Island.

To South Africa

  • John Richard Reed Pascoe was born in Cork where his Cornish father, Henry, was working in the Allihies mines.  He and his brothers emigrated to South Africa in 1879 and settled in Pietermaritzburg.
  • John Pascoe from Helston arrived two years later and started a branch of the Salvation Army.  He and his family were among the pioneers who trekked northwards to Rhodesia in 1891.

John and Kate Pascoe – Missionary Pioneers.  The Salvation Army followed the London Missionary Society and the Jesuits in sending missionaries to Africa.

John Pascoe led a group of Salvationists by ox wagon to Fort Salisbury in what was then Mashonaland.  The early going was tough.   They faced a major insurrection in 1896 when many died.  John and his wife Kate and their growing family decided to stay.  John supplemented his tiny Army income with work as a builder. Kate, a true pioneer, was Mayoress of Salisbury in 1905.  There are descendants still in Harare.

Reader Feedback – Pascoe in California.  I am in California and would love some source info from Cornwall regarding my probable ancestors William and Mary Pascoe who went to Illinois in 1845 and then onto California during the Gold Rush.

Kent Pryor (

Reader Feedback – Pascoes in Utah.  There was a Francis James Polkinghorn Pascoe that moved to Utah sometime in the latter half of the 1800’s.

Daniel Pascoe (

Bruce Pascoe’s Identity.  Bruce Pascoe, author of Convincing Ground and member of the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative, told The Australian of the creation of his identity.

“My life was like a plane wreck.  It was 1982 and I’d just moved from Mallacoota to Melbourne to work as a drama resource teacher.  My relationship was imploding.  I had no money, and I’d just started the Australian Short Stories magazine.  And at the same time I was trying to track down my Aboriginal heritage.

I tend to bite off more than I can chew.  Under pressure I blame everyone else but myself.  So I grab my swag and take myself off walking or camping somewhere.  It might seem like a Koori instinct to go walkabout, but I suspect it’s a human instinct.

Mine is only a remote Aboriginal heritage, going back to my mother’s grandmother.  But ever since I was a boy, Aborigines have asked me who I was.  I always said: ‘I’m Alf Pascoe’s son.’  It wasn’t until I was eighteen that i realized that wasn’t what they were asking.”

A Pascoe Fisherman From Newlyn.  For the third generation of a Newlyn fishing family, fishing is a way of life for Andrew Pascoe.  As a young boy there was nothing else he wanted to do.  As soon as he could walk, all his spare time was spent messing about in boats and around Newlyn harbor.

As one of Cornwall’s younger fishermen, he understands the need for sustainable fishing, to respect and conserve fish stocks and to sell a quality product.  Far from the perceived image of a fisherman who spends weeks at sea indiscriminently trawling the ocean floor, he has spent his life developing a range of methods that suit the seasons and the abundant and diverse range of fish and shellfish found around the Cornish coast.  “Sustainability is the way forward, and it has to be really,” he says.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Andrew Pascoe has two boats. The first is Cynthia, a small 18 foot cove boat open to the elements, which he uses for handlining.  The second, the 38 foot Lamorna, he owns jointly with his brother James.  This boat is used for netting, fishing for crawfish, lobster, monkfish, and turbot in the summer, along with handlining for pollack.  Later in the year they switch to fishing for tope and ling.  The static nets have large mesh sizes that virtually eliminate any by-catch of undersized fish.

Pascoe Names

  • Pascoe Grenfell was a Cornish copper baron of the early 19th century. 
  • John Pascoe is a New Zealand photographer. His most recent exhibition has been Songs of Innocence – Photographs of a New Zealand Childhood. 
  • RW Pascoe, based in Brisbane, is one of the largest fruit and vegetable wholesalers in Australia. 
  • Bruce Pascoe, part Cornish and part Aborigine, is a recognized Australian writer.

Pascoe Numbers Today

  • 3,500 in the UK (most numerous in Cornwall)
  • 1,000 in America (most numerous in Michigan).
  • 5,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Pascoe and Like Surnames

Many surnames originated from SW England, the principal counties there being Devon and Cornwall, Somerset and Gloucestershire.  These are some of the prominent and noteworthy surnames that you can check out.




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Written by Colin Shelley

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