Pollock/Polk Surname Genealogy

is a Scottish place-name in Renfrewshire (near present-day Paisley),
derived from the Gaelic poll
meaning “pool” or “pit.” The family which received these lands in
the 12th century took Pollock as their name. The name spread to
Ireland in the 17th century. The main spelling variants
have been Pollok, Polloc, Polk, and Pogues.
Pollock can also be a form of the German or Jewish Polak, describing someone from
Poland. But the Americanized version is generally Pollack.
The shortened version of Pollock, Polk, is common in America. Its
use started with Robert Polk, the forebear of the many Polks
prominent in its early history. Today there are almost
as many Polks as Pollocks.

Resources on

Pollock/Polk Ancestry

Pollock is one of the oldest family names in Scotland. The
Pollocks can
trace their origin to Fulbert the Norman (or possibly Breton) who had
come north in the service of Walter Fitzalan, the High Steward
of Scotland. Fulbert’s son Petrus de Pollock was granted
lands in 1163 in Renfrewshire in recompense for his father’s
service. When Petrus died without male issue, the lands passed to
his brother Robertus from whom later Pollocks have been descended.

The Pollocks divided their Pollock estate with the Maxwell clan.
Known as Pollock-of-that-Ilk, they remained major landowners in the
area. John Pollock forfeited some of his land for supporting Mary
Queen of Scots in the fighting during the 1560’s. But other
Pollocks acquired estates nearby in the following century.

Pollock, who had made money as a merchant in Glasgow, bought Balgray
House in 1684 (his son Thomas became a colonial governor in North
Carolina); and Alan Pollock took over Arthurlie in 1695 (his son Thomas
building Arthurlie House soon after). Robert Pollock of Pollock
was made a baronet in 1703. However, his line ended with the
death of his grandson in 1783.

The Pollock name extended into Ayrshire. For instance, the
firm of Stephen
& Pollock, booksellers, was for years one of the best-known stores
in Ayr. Hugh Pollock of this family was the
first husband of the children’s writer Enid Blyton.

England. David
Pollock of Berwick came down from Scotland to London in 1739 and was
Saddler to King George III. His line was covered in Alexander
Pollock’s 1939 book Family of David
. David had three distinguished sons:

  • the eldest, Sir David, who became a judge of the High Court in
  • Sir Frederick, the eminent lawyer and Lord Chief Baron of the
    Exchequer (forebear of a notable line of judges)
  • and Sir George, the field
    marshal who won his victories in
    Afghanistan (commemorated by the Pollock Medal).

Pollocks also drifted south into northern England. Robert Pollock
from Ayrshire, for instance, married in Yorkshire in 1776, stayed, and
lived and worked and raised a family in Wakefield. Other Pollocks
in the 19th century headed for industrial Lancashire.

Ireland. The first
Pollock in Ireland is thought to
have been the Robert Pollock who took a large grant of land near
Coleraine in county Derry in 1608. His family later became
Presbyterian and settled in Donegal. A number of repressive
measures were taken against these Presbyterians after Charles II’s
restoration in 1660. To escape this situation, some of them planned
emigration to America – including a certain Robert Pollock.

John Pollock, a soldier with Cromwell’s army, is thought to have
settled in Newry, county Down. Later Pollocks became prominent
there in the linen trade. There were also Pollocks in Bangor and
Cumber nearby. It was said that two Pollock brothers came to
Donegal in the
early 1700’s, settling on land just north of Stranorlar. A
Pollock family has been resident (and still is) in Mountainstown Lodge,
since 1780.

From the
mid 1700’s for various reasons, there began a Scots Irish exodus to
America. This included many Pollocks. A number had
been in Ireland for generations, others – like John Pollock below – for
a much shorter time.

“Family tradition says that John Pollock eloped with the
step-daughter of Lord Russell and fled from Scotland to Northern
Ireland. They lived in Northern Ireland for about thirty years
before coming to America in 1800 and settling in Ohio.”

There were
early Pollocks and Polks in America
, as well as variations
on those names. The Rev. Horace Hayden’s 1883 book Pollock Genealogy traced that of
Oliver Pollock, US agent in New Orleans and Havana from 1776 to 1784.

The first Pollock in America appears to have been the Robert
Pollock in 1680 who settled on land granted to him in Somerset county,
Maryland. This Robert Pollock (or his son William) shortened the
family name to Polk and they were the forebears of the illustrious Polk
family of America. Their history was covered in William H. Polk’s
1912 book Polk Family and Kinsmen
and retold in William Polk’s 1999 book
Polk’s Folly: An
American Family History

Descendants have included:

  • many patriots of the
    War (Polk county, North Carolina was named after Colonel William Polk)
  • the 11th President of the United
    States, James Knox Polk
  • the Confederate general
    Leonidas Polk (the son of Colonel William Polk)
  • and Senator Trusten Polk of Missouri (expelled from his seat in
    1862 for his support of the South).

The Polk name distribution in the United States showed a typical Scots
Irish pattern, initially into Virginia and the Carolinas, inland to
Kentucky and Tennessee, and then south to Mississippi and Texas.
Jeffferson Polk, born in Kentucky, headed out to Iowa in the
1850’s. He was one of Des Moines early settlers and pioneered its
street transportation system.

“In the 1890’s he substituted
electricity for horse motive power and gave Des Moines the second
electric railway in the United States and the fastest railway service
in the country.”

Pollocks in America are a mixture of immigrants from Scotland, Ireland,
and, later, Jewish
mainly of Polish origin.


Robert and Agnes Pollock had emigrated to Australia from Glasgow on the Portland in 1838. They
raised four sons and six daughters in Araluen, NSW. These
brothers combined in business in 1883 to form Pollock Bros, cordial
manufacturers. However, there would appear to have been family
disagreements because, within five years, three of the brothers had
departed to set up their own manufacturing plants.

Irish Pollocks came to Australia as well, including convicts such as
William Pollock from Newry in 1840 and settlers such as Alexander
Pollock and his wife Mary
Jane from
Stranorlar in 1870. Alexander and Mary Jane settled in the
Goulbourn valley in Victoria and five of their
sons later bought land in the Balldale area.

South Africa. South
Africa has
had a Pollock cricketing dynasty of recent vintage – batsman Graeme,
bowler Peter, and Peter’s son allrounder Shaun. An earlier
Andrew Maclean Pollock, had been a Scottish doctor who had settled in
South Africa.

Select Pollock/Polk Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Pollock/Polk Names

Robertus de Pollock was the forebear
of the Pollock clan in Scotland.
Robert Polk who came to
Maryland from Ireland in the 1680’s was the forebear of the illustious
Polk family
in America.
was the 11th
President of the United States (from 1845 to 1849).
Jackson Pollock was a
well-known American abstract expressionist painter. He was
brought up in Wyoming where his father had taken the Pollock name from
a neighbor who had adopted him.
Sam Pollock of the Montreal
Canadiens was one of the most successful NHL executives of all time,
leading his side to nine Stanley Cup wins during his fourteen year
Graeme Pollock was an
outstanding South African cricketer of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Select Pollocks/Polks

  • 9,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Stirling)
  • 15,000 in America (most numerous
    in Texas)
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).




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