Pope Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Pope Meaning
In the early Christian Church, the Latin papa
or “father” was first used as a
title of respect for male clergy of every rank. In
the western Church it gradually came to be
restricted to bishops, and then only to the Bishop of Rome – i.e. the
As a surname Pope might not even apply to a man
of the church. It could have been adopted
by someone who had played the part of the pope in a pageant or play. Some have suggested that it might also have been
used as a nickname describing an austere or vain man.

Pope Resources on

Pope Ancestry

Pope has been a surname of southern England – both SW England and SE

SW England. The Pope name appeared at an early
time in the town of Gloucester. In the late 14th century John
was a prominent goldsmith there and other Popes were
manufacturers. Four Popes represented
Gloucester in a total of ten Parliaments between 1376 and 1397.
In 1388 two
of them, John and Stephen, were returned together

The Pope name had extended by the 15th century:

  • west to Devon and Exeter – where Walter Pope was mayor in
  • and east to Hampshire and
    Fordingbridge – where
    John Pope was born in 1461.

It was said
that some of the early Popes in Fordingbridge had been head foresters. John Pope died there in 1530 a wealthy
man. Many of his descendants were to prosper in the next century.
Some of them moved to Hertfordshire and
some to
Sussex. Both produced emigrants to
in the 17th century

There was a Pope family at Dorchester in Dorset dating
back to Alexander Pope in 1589. As
Pope & Co Ltd, they took over the local brewery in 1870. These Popes had a distinguished World War One record.
They acquired the Wrackleford estate
outside of Dorchester which remains with descendants today

SE England.
There were early sightings of the Pope name in Suffolk. Hugh le
Pope appeared in the 1273 Suffolk hundred rolls. Ralph Pope was
recorded at Bentley in 1316. Gentleman Henry Pope was born in
Mildenhall in 1465. He made his home in Oxford; as did his

A Pope family had migrated
to Oxfordshire from Kent around the year 1400. They
were small
landowners until Sir Thomas Pope became one of the richest commoners in
as treasurer of the Court of Augmentations during the time of the
Dissolution of
Monasteries in the 1530’s. Much of his
wealth went to
the foundation of Trinity College in Oxford
. The Pope line
which followed descended from his brother John Pope of Wroxton.

Alexander Pope
the 18th century English poet considered himself to have
this Oxford ancestry. His father Alexander was a London linen

The Popes, or Papes or Paips, were one of the prominent families in
Sutherland in the north of Scotland – from the 17th to 19th centuries. Family tradition has it that the first Pope
in the area was a clergyman, a “stranger” named Pope, who had arrived
in the
late 1400’s.

William Pape or Pope was first recorded in that locality in 1580. He and his brothers Thomas and Charles were
involved in a brawl at Durnosh in 1608 that came to be
known as the Pope Riot. Many descendant Popes were clergymen,
most notably the
Rev. Alexander Pope of Reay.

“In 1732 Alexander Pope travelled by pony all the
way to Twickenham in London to meet his namesake Alexander Pope the
poet. Although he at first got a cool
the two men eventually became friends and the poet presented the Rev.
Pope with
a subscription copy of the Odyssey.”

of these Popes emigrated to Australia in the 19th century

Ireland. Popes were to be found in Waterford in the late
1700’s and possibly earlier. Alexander
and Richard Pope had a large shipping business at that time and made a
shipping wine during the Napoleonic embargo.
Their home was at Sion Hill House in Ferrybank.

Another Alexander
Pope, born in Cork, was an actor on the London stage in the late 1700’s. As was his wife Maria. But
her life was tragically cut short at the
age of 28 when she died of a stroke in 1803.

origins in England for two early Pope arrivals in New England and one
early arrival in Virginia are

New England. John
Pope, a weaver
by trade, was first recorded in 1624 in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Later
Popes of his line started a sawmill there, which then expanded into a
larger timber
and shipbuilding operation at East Machias in Maine (and subsequently
relocated to the West Coast). Another
line established itself in Hartford, Connecticut where
Albert Pope began
manufacturing bicycles in the 1870’s
The family was covered in Charles Pope’s 1888 book A
History of
the Dorchester Pope Family

, a cooper, came to Plymouth in 1627 and moved to Dartmouth
around 1673. His son Seth was a
leading merchant
there. The book record here was Dora
Pope’s 1917 book Genealogy of Thomas Pope.

Another Pope of uncertain origins was
Pope, first mentioned in Maryland in 1637. He affixed a mark to
writings, so he was probably illiterate at that time.
He migrated to Westmoreland county, Virginia
in 1651 where he prospered as a planter and merchant. His oldest
daughter Anne
married Colonel John Washington and was thus the great grandmother of
George Washington.

the time of his death in 1660 Nathaniel Pope was among the county’s
residents. The Pope and Washington
families were bound there by more than blood.
County documents are filled with their business and legal ties.”

His line
in America was first covered in G.W. Beale’s 1904 book Colonel
Nathaniel Pope and His Descendants.

There were many Nathaniels among his
descendants, including two Nathaniel
grandsons that have often been confused
John Pope, the son of a Nathaniel one generation later, toured
southern states in 1790 and wrote a book of his travels (A
). He died in Georgia
in 1795. He has sometimes been confused
with his cousin John Pope who moved with his family to Wilkes county,
in 1800.

Other lines of this Pope family led to Kentucky where Colonel William
Pope first laid out the town of Louisville.
One son John, known as “One Arm Pope,” became a US Senator for
in 1807, another son Nathaniel a federal judge in Illinois and friend
Abraham Lincoln.

Another Virginia Pope line began with James Pope
of Northumberland county, first recorded there in 1657.
moved with his parents to Georgia in 1790 and then
purchased land
around Big Spring in Alabama in 1809 where Huntsville now stands. His mansion there, Poplar Grove, was
one of the earliest brick structures in Alabama and remains a prominent
Huntsville landmark.

William Pope came
to Nansemond county sometime in the 1650’s.
A subsequent William, a Quaker, migrated to Edgecombe county,
Carolina in the 1730’s. A century later
Dempsey Pope migrated to Tennessee and then to Illinois.

German. One line of Popes was
originally Pabst from
Germany and came to Berks county, Pennsylvania in the 1730’s. Pope descendants moved first to North
Carolina and then to Cherokee county, Georgia

. Thomas Pope was a Devon timber
merchant who sent three of his sons – John, William and Joseph – to
Edward Island in 1818 in search of timber.

Joseph Pope remained
there. Through his farm and shipyard at
Bedeque he became one of PEI’s most important merchants.
His son James was an influential PEI
politician, serving as premier of the colony in the 1860’s and in 1873
when the
island joined the Canadian confederation. Another
son Henry, also a proponent of confederation, had
been the
editor of The Islander

Pope stayed in PEI for a
while but then returned to Devon as a merchant in 1826.
His two sons followed different directions –
George as a Christian missionary who spent forty years in southern
India and
William as a Methodist theologian in Devon.
third in PEI meanwhile, William
Pope, ended up as a surveyor in Liverpool

A Pope family from the Isle of Wight were assisted immigrants who
arrived in NSW on the William Metcalf
in 1838. In 1846 George Pope became the
postmaster at Ryde, a position he was to hold until his death in 1871.

assisted immigrant was Samuel Pope from Devon who came to Melbourne on
the Royal Consort in 1844. A
year later he had moved to Gawler, South
Australia where he farmed and ran the Wheatsheaf
. He lived there until his death
in 1892. The Rev. Henry Pope from Cornwall was a later arrival in
Australia, around 1867. He was a
Methodist minister, first stationed at Moonta and Kapunda where many
were miners.


Pope Miscellany

John Pope of Gloucester.  John Pope appears to have been the forebear of the Popes of Gloucester.  Born in 1313, he
was a goldsmith there who, although
ordered to be superseded as coroner in 1367, still occupied the office in 1370.  He was bailiff of the town in 1372 and in 1379.  A churchwarden of Trinity church, he was still
alive in February 1381.

Pope was possibly his brother.  He was elected an MP to Parliament in
1376 and in the next
year was chosen as the town bailiff for the first of four annual terms
brother is believed to have been Stephen.  He
was appointed Gloucester’s coroner in 1384.
Meanwhile John’s son Thomas was an MP in
Parliament in 1393 and again in 1397.

Alexander Pope the Poet.  Alexander Pope was born in 1688 to a wealthy Catholic linen merchant, Alexander Pope, and his second wife, Edith
Turner.   At the age of twelve, he
contracted spinal tuberculosis, which left him with permanent physical
He never grew taller than four and a half feet, was hunchbacked, and
daily care throughout adulthood.

His irascible nature and unpopularity in the
press are often attributed to three factors: his membership in a
minority, his physical infirmity, and his exclusion from formal
education.  However, Pope was bright,
precocious, and
determined and, by his teens, was writing accomplished verse.

An acknowledged
master of the heroic couplet and one of the primary tastemakers of the
age, Alexander Pope was a central figure in the Neoclassical movement
of the
early 18th century.  He was known for
having perfected the rhymed couplet form of his idol John Dryden and
turned it
to satiric and philosophical purposes.

His mock epic The
Rape of the Lock 
derided elite society, while An
Essay on Criticism 
(1711) and An
Essay on Man 
articulated many of the central tenets of 18th century aesthetic and
philosophy.  Pope was also known for his
involvement in public feuds with the writers and publishers of low-end
Grub Street
which led him to write The
(1728), a scathing account of
England’s cultural decline at the time.

The Popes of Dorchester in World War One.  The Popes of Dorchester had one of the most
remarkable records of any family in the First World War.   Alfred Pope of the Eldridge, Pope and Co
brewery had fourteen children and three more in-laws who all saw some
service in the War.

Ten of Alfred’s sons saw active duty; and three of them

Alec, the second eldest son, fought in both the Boer War
and the First World War and was awarded the DSO in 1917.  But due
to excessive exposure to the cold, he succumbed to severe
bronchial attacks in early 1918 and had to be invalided out.  He
lived to see the Armistice.  But a year later the bronchial
attacks recurred and he died.

Of Alfred’s four daughters, three of them were actively
involved with the Red Cross and nursing in Dorchester.  The other
daughter, Violet, became a war widow after her husband was killed in
action towards the end of the war.

special commemorative book was privately published in 1919, with a
foreword by
Thomas Hardy.  Only two copies of the book are now
available in libraries and
archives in the UK.

Thomas Pope of Plymouth and Dartmouth, Massachusetts.  Thomas Pope, born about 1608, came
to the Plymouth, Massachusetts colony in 1627 on the Mary
and John
.  He was an able man of decided opinions and overall
independent positive character.

received a grant of land, served in the colonial army, was a surveyor,
constable, and served on the jury. However, his tendency to express his
opinions freely, together with his ready temper, involved him in
disputes which
led to arrests and fines on several occasions.

In 1673 he removed himself with his
family to Dartmouth.  He landed on the
shores of the river Acushnet
where he negotiated with the Wampanoag Indians for one hundred and
seventy two
acres of land.  This became the Pope
homestead.  Thomas willed this homestead
to his youngest son Isaac on his death ten years later.
Today it comprises the larger portion of the
site of the city of Fairhaven, Massachusetts.

Nathaniel Pope Confusions in Virginia.  Confusingly,
two Nathaniel Popes lived in the same area of Westmoreland county,
Virginia around
the year 1700, both being grandsons of the original landowner Nathaniel

Pope alias Bridges married Jane Brown around 1690 and had become
established Westmoreland attorney by 1705.
A Pope family artifact unearthed at George Washington’s
birthplace – a
wine bottle seal marked “N. Pope 1715” – probably belonged to this

the mariner/merchant Nathaniel Pope was first recorded as married in
1704.  Nathaniel alias Bridges’ son John
married his
cousin Elizabeth Pope, daughter of the mariner/merchant Nathaniel,
making the
identification by alias important.  This
John was listed as a planter in 1728 when he sold his mill at the head
of Popes
Creek to Augustine Washington.

Leroy Pope the Father of Huntsville.  For many
years Colonel Leroy Pope has been known as the father of Huntsville.  Local children learn it at school.  And Pope’s image is at the center of a
two-story mosaic in the Madison county courthouse.

The mansion built by Leroy Pope, completed in
1814, sits high atop Echols Hill.  It could have had commanding
views of downtown
Huntsville.  But another man in the town,
Joshua Cox, had different ideas.  When he
built his home below the bluff, he made sure that the ceilings were
extra tall
so that his two-story home blocked Pope’s view of downtown Huntsville.  It was known thereafter as the Spite

Joshua Cox was not to have the last word.
Apparently he did not have clear title to his property.  The man who did was Leroy Pope.
In a firestorm of anger and bitterness Cox
was evicted from the house and the Spite House became the new home of

Joseph Pope on Prince Edward Island.  Joseph Pope was born in Plymouth in 1803, the sixth of
Thomas and Elizabeth Pope’s sons.  In
1818, at the age of just fifteen, he made a trip to Prince Edward
Island in
Canada to visit his elder brothers John and William.
They had been sent there by their father
Thomas to buy lumber. In time John and William returned to England.

But Joseph remained.  Through his farm and
shipyard at Bedeque he became one of PEI’s most important merchants.  In 1830 he was elected to the Provincial
Legislature and was to remain there for twenty three years, twice being
speaker of the House.

In 1853, disillusioned about the political situation in
PEI, Joseph decided to leave the colony.
He and his third wife Eliza departed aboard a schooner he
had fitted out
“in elegant style” with the intention of moving to Australia. However, his wife’s seasickness forced a
premature end to the voyage at Liverpool where his brother William
worked as a
surveyor.  Joseph was to remain there for
fifteen years.

In 1868 Joseph Pope returned
to a Prince Edward Island in which the politics of confederation was
dominant issue.  By then his two sons
James and William had forged successful political careers and both
were pro-confederation.  Joseph lived on
and died in Charlottetown in 1895 in his ninety third year, outliving
them both.



Pope Names

  • Sir Thomas Pope founded Trinity College in Oxford in 1555.
  • Alexander Pope was the 18th century English poet best known for his satirical verse.
  • John Pope, known as One-Arm Pope, was the US Senator for Kentucky from 1807 to 1813.
  • Generoso Pope was the Italian-American businessman who acquired The National Enquirer tabloid in 1952.

Select Pope Numbers Today

  • 17,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 23,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Pope and Like Surnames.

These surnames might suggest the high and mighty of the medieval world.  Instead, they were probably the actors in a village medieval pageant who adopted the name of the character they were playing.



Leave a Reply