Pollock/Polk Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Pollock/Polk Meaning
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

Petrus de Pollock.  Petrus de Pollock, who inherited the lands of Pollock from his father
Fulbert in 1163, was the first to use Pollock as a surname.  One
surviving document charters the lands to Petrus through Walter
Fitzalan, the High Steward of Scotland.

Petrus (or Peter) was apparently a man of eminence and a law unto
himself.  He was of the Crusade knights and a supporter of the
struggle to free the Church of the Holy Sepulchre from the
Moslems.  He was widely known for “valor on the field of battle
and prowess in the chase.”  Many minstrel lays were written about

In the 1170’s he granted the churches of Pollock and (through his
brother Helias) Mearns in his lands to the monastery of Paisley.
Petrus died his lands passed to another brother Robertus, through whom
Pollocks are descended, as Petrus himself had no male heir.

There is a cast of a
seal used by the Robertus’s son, which shows a
boar crossed with a dart.  This seal is in the British Museum and
from around 1200.

Pollock History.  The  lineage of the family of Pollock-of-that-Ilk was first recorded by George Crawford in his General Description of the Shire of Renfrew, originally published in 1710 and revised by George Robertson in 1818.

A more modern source of Pollock information has been that
developed by Kennet Pollock in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  When Kennet
died in 1968, his information passed onto his eldest son David who in
turn died in 1982.  Much was thrown away at that time.  But
much remained.  Two large cardboard boxes and three carrier bags – crammed full of folders, letters, papers, pedigrees, photographs and written histories – have proved to be a fascinating hoard of Pollock family history.

This material, now available in eight Pollock family
books, covers the Pollock families of Over Pollok and Balgray in
Scotland, those of Newry and Balleyedmond in Ireland, related families,
and other material on the Pollocks in England and America (including a
pedigree for James Polk, the 11th President of the United

The Pollock Medal.  The Pollock Medal has been a prize awarded to the best army cadet of
the season, first at the East India Company’s Military Seminary and
then at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst.

The medal came about because, in 1844, the British
residents of Calcutta had raised a subscription of 11,000 rupees – to
commemorate the victories of Sir George Pollock’s in Aghanistan after
the disastrous retreat of the British army from Kabul in 1842.

The original gold medal, valued at sixteen guineas, was
first presented in December 1847.  It had the following

“To commemorate the eminent services of Major-General
Sir George Pollock K.C.B. Bengal Artillery, Kabul 1842.  Treachery
avenged; British honor vindicated; disasters retrieved; British
captives delivered; Khyber Pass forced; Jellalabad relieved; victories
of Mamoo Khail, Jugdulluck, Tezeen Istalif.”

Early Polks and Pollocks in America

Name Birth Life Span
Robert Polk  c. 1625 from Ireland to Maryland (died
there in 1703)
progenitor of many Polks in
Thomas Pollock   1654 from Scotland to North Carolina
(died there in 1722)
colonial Governor of North
Robert Poage  c. 1700 from Ireland to Virginia
(died there in 1773)
Captain Charles Polk   1732 from Pennsylvania to North
Carolina (died there in 1821)
Oliver Pollock   1737 from Ireland to Mississippi
(died there in 1823)
financier for the Revolutionary
Robert Pollock  c. 1740 from Ireland to Tennessee (died
there around 1805)
Captain William Polk  c. 1744 died in Virginia in 1805
John Pollock  c. 1750 from Scotland to Ohio (died
there in 1819)
Samuel Pollock  c. 1756 from Pennsylvania to Ohio

Polk’s Folly: An American Family History.  As a young boy growing up in Texas in the 1930’s, William Polk listened
excitedly to stories from his aging grandmother Molly Harding
Polk.  Molly was a child and later bride of the American Civil War
and had grown up listening to stories from her grandfather born during
the Revolutionary War.  “So in just two memories,” William
related, “I had laid out for me tales of the entire history of the
United States.”

In his book Polk’s Folly: An
American Family History
published in 1999, William Polk has
sketched the exhausting Polk saga, from Robert Pollok’s 1680 arrival in
what became Somerset county, Maryland to stirring accounts of various
Polks’ heroism in World War Two.  The story also included an
Indian trader, an early drafter of the Declaration of Independence,
heroes and rascals on both sides of the Civil War, Indian fighters, a
World War One diplomat, and Polk’s own brother, a journalist who
reported on the Nuremberg trials.  The book’s center of gravity,
however, is the meticulous diary kept by America’s 11th President James
Polk, never intended for publication, which provided a
behind-the-scenes account of the Mexican War.

As one reviewer commented:

“Named for the parcel of swampy land
where the Polks first settled in America, Polk’s Folly says as much about one
family’s adventures and misadventures as it does about the grand
processional of American history.”

Lou Pollock of Asheville, North Carolina.  Lou Pollock was well-known as a merchant in the
Asheville community and the President of Pollock Inc.  He went
into business in the city in 1910, by his own account with only sixty
dollars in capital.

His shoe store on Patton Avenue in Asheville was opened in 1920 and he
was joined there by his brother Ben as his partner.  That same
year he also started a store in Greenville, South Carolina and he
followed that with a store in West Palm Beach, Florida.   He
is perhaps best remembered for the annual Christmas party for needy
children which he prepared each year.  During the party, Pollock
gave away hundreds of pairs of shoes to children who had no means to
purchase the shoes.

The Jewish presence in this part of western North Carolina had been was
early and was pervasive.  Lou himself was held in regard and
esteem in the community. An expression of this, in 1949, was that the
name of the Mount Sinai Jewish Cemetery in Asheville was changed to the
Lou Pollock Memorial Park.


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 illustrious Polk family in America.
  • James Polk 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 Pollock/Polk Numbers Today

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


Select Pollock/Polk and Like Surnames 

These are surnames from the Scottish Lowlands.  Some are clan names; some – like Gordon, Graham and Hamilton – have Anglo-Norman antecedents that crossed the border into Scotland; and some – like Douglas and Stewart – were very powerful in early Scottish history.  Stewart in fact became the royal Stuart line.




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