Starbuck Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Starbuck Surname Meaning

The Starbuck name is believed to have originated from the village of Starbeck, a hamlet between Ripon and Knaresborough in north Yorkshire and, in medieval times, within the royal hunting forest of Knaresborough.

Its earliest appearance as a surname was a Robertus Starbok in the poll tax returns for Yorkshire in 1379. Starbeck and Starbok over time became Starbuck.

Starbuck Surname Resources on The Internet

Starbuck Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Leicestershire and Lincolnshire)
  • to America

England. The Starbuck name came from Yorkshire.  There are still traces of the name in Wakefield, but little elsewhere in the county.  The Starbuck name distribution in England has instead been mainly centered further south, around the counties of Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, with some spillover into Lincolnshire and Derbyshire.

Leicestershire.  The Starbuck name was to be found in Leicestershire in the mid 1600’s in the village of Lubenham near Market Harborough.  These Starbucks apparently earned their living from the river trade. The name appeared later in villages in the vale of Belvoir such as Long Clawson, Stathern,, Harston, and Branston.  One Leicestershire line began in 1687 with Joseph Starbuck from Hose.

Lincolnshire.  John Starbuck was born in Deeping St. James, Lincolnshire in 1810.  Another John Starbuck started a photography business in Boston, Lincolnshire in the 1850’s.  A third John Starbuck, from Sutton St. Edmond in Lincolnshire, emigrated with his family to Australia in the 1850’s.

Kent   There has been a Starbuck outpost in the southeast, in Gravesend in Kent.

J&R Starbuck is a family business of ship chandlers founded soon after 1634 when William Starbuck, a Quaker, arrived in Gravesend from Leicester.  The earliest documentary evidence of the business is recorded in the Gravesend archives in February 1718 when Will’s grandson Isaac took on an apprentice ropemaker, William Bland, from the workhouse.  J&R Starbuck has continued and passed to Sally Starbuck in 1993.

America.  Edward Starbuck from Derbyshire brought his name to America and New England in 1635. Tradition has it that Edward Starbuck was a man of commanding presence, very adept in dealing with the local Indians.

He and Tristram Coffin sailed to Nantucket island off Cape Cod in 1661 with other settlers to establish a colony there. His son Nathaniel married Tristram’s daughter Mary.  It was Mary Coffin Starbuck, sometimes called “the Great Mary,” who introduced Quakerism into the island.

The late 18th century saw Nantucket’s rise as a whaling port. Joseph Starbuck was perhaps the richest and most successful whale oil merchant of his time.  He built three identical federal style mansions on Main Street for his three sons.  His story is narrated in Will Gardner’s 1948 book Three Bricks and Three Brothers. The overall genealogy of the Nantucket Starbucks was covered in James Carlton Starbuck’s 1984 book Starbucks All.

When the whaling industry began to decline, some Starbucks moved from Nantucket to North Carolina and then onto Indiana.  One line has been traced there to Wayne county, another to the town of Salem.

There were also Starbucks in Tennessee and Missouri by the 1850’s and 1860’s.  William H. Starbuck was a 19th century railroad financier from New York.  It would appear that he gave his name to Starbuck, Minnesota and to Starbuck, Manitoba.

Starbucks.  Hermann Melville named one of his characters in Moby Dick Starbuck after the Nantucket Starbuck whaling family.  And the coffee chain Starbucks was then named after this Starbuck. It was not because Starbuck had any affinity for coffee.  Starbuck was in fact chosen after Pequod, the name of his ship, had been rejected by one of the co-founders of the chain.

In response Facebook spawned a “Starbuck is our name, not our coffee shop” group of Starbucks in Britain and America.

Starbuck Surname Miscellany

The Origin of Starbeck.  The name Starbeck in Yorkshire originates from the Norse word stor, meaning big or large, and bekkr, a stream or brook. There is an alternative reading for the suffix “-beck,” which is bokki or “river.”  The so-called “great river” could have described the nearby river Wharfe, a much bigger river at that time than it is today.

Starbucks in England.  While the Starbuck name may have originated in Yorkshire, this is not the place where most Starbucks in England are to be found.  That honor, according the the 1891 English census, fell to the counties of Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire in the middle of the country.

The table below shows the approximate numbers and distribution of the Starbuck name in England at that time.

County Starbucks Percent
Leicestershire   150    24%
Nottinghamshire   150    24%
Derbyshire    70    12%
Lincolnshire    40     7%
Lancashire    30     5%
London    30     5%
Yorkshire    20     4%
Elsewhere   110    19%
Total   600   100%

Reader Feedback – John Starbuck in Lincolnshire.  John Starbuck who had the photography business was born in Alford, Lincolnshire and set up his business in Market Rasen in Lincolnshire.  I am a direct relation to him.

Brian Starbuck (

J&R Starbuck.  By 1800 shipowning was an important part of the Starbuck business and the family owned a fleet of colliers, fishing vessels, a Leith smack and at least one Thames barge.  Robert Starbuck had a boatbuilding and repair yard facing the Thames where he constructed some of the famous Gravesend Bawley boats.

A vast loft housed the sailmaking and repairing business, which was so successful that by 1850 “there was hardly a ship on the Thames that failed to carry Starbuck’s stores.  They were the chandlers of the district!” Demand was so great that The Slopselling (clothing) and Chandlery side was run in the 19th century by John and Robert Starbuck from No.52 West Street.  They moved to its present site (then numbered 57) in about 1820. 

Reader Feedback – Edward Starbuck Sr.  There is no mention on your website about Edward Starbuck Sr. who has born in the year 1584. He was married to Anne Barns around the year 1603.  Their son Edward Starbuck Jr. who married Katherine Reynolds was the Starbuck from all the Starbucks in the US are descended.

Is anyone doing research on Edward Starbuck’s Sr’s parents?  It would be fantastic to go farther back in history and actually see when the Starbuck name came into England.  Supposedly it came from William the Conqueror’s time and from Denmark.

PS. My husband is a direct descendant of Edward Starbuck Sr.

Rachél Ivarsson Starbuck (

Reader Feedback: My husband is a direct descendent of Edward Starbuck. Crystal (

Mary Coffin Starbuck and the Quakers.  Throughout the 17th century, English Nantucketers resisted all attempts to establish a church on the island, partly because a woman by the name of Mary Coffin Starbuck forbade it.  It was said that nothing of consequence was done on Nantucket without Mary’s approval.

Mary Coffin and Nathaniel Starbuck had been the first English couple to be married on the island, in 1662, and had established a lucrative outpost for trading with the Wampanoag.  Whenever an itinerant minister came to Nantucket looking to establish a congregation, he was firmly rebuffed by Mary Starbuck.

Then, in 1702, Mary succumbed to a charismatic Quaker minister named John Richardson.  Speaking before a group assembled in the Starbucks’ living room, Richardson succeeded in moving Mary to tears.  It was Mary Starbuck’s conversion to Quakerism that established the unique fusion of spirituality and covetousness that would make possible Nantucket’s rise as a whaling port.

For several years, town meetings were frequently held in the “great fore-room” of Mary’s home, which became known as “Parliament House.”  John Richardson said of her: “The islanders established her a judge among them, for a little of moment was done without her advice.”  She held religious meetings in her home, being herself a Quaker preacher of power and eloquence.

Quakerism gradually became the dominant religion of Nantucket’s ruling elite and a majority of island residents during the most prosperous days of the whaling industry.  It effectively served as the official faith of the small maritime community that would become the whaling capital of the world.

Starbuck in Moby Dick.  In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Starbuck was the young first mate of the Pequod.  He was a thoughtful man, an intellectual Quaker from Nantucket.

This was how Melville described him:

“Uncommonly conscientious for a seaman and endued with a deep natural reverence, the wild watery loneliness of his life did therefore strongly incline him to superstition; but to that sort of superstition, which in some organization seems rather to spring, somehow, from intelligence than from ignorance.

His far-away domestic memories of his young Cape wife and child, tended to bend him from the original ruggedness of his nature and open him still further to those latent influences which, in some honest-hearted men, restrain the gush of dare-devil daring, so often evinced by others in the more perilous vicissitudes of the fishery.

‘I will have no man in my boat,’ said Starbuck, ‘who is not afraid of a whale.’  By this, he seemed to mean, not only that the most reliable and useful courage was that which arises from the fair estimation of the encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward.”

Starbuck in Manitoba.  Starbuck is a small town in Manitoba along the La Salle river formed in 1885 when the railroad came through. There is a long held fable of Starbuck being named after two oxen, Star and Buck, who drowned in the La Salle river (formerly the Stinking river) where the community is now.  However, this story is similar to how Starbuck, Minnesota got its name.  More likely, Starbuck was named after the New York railroad financier, W.H. Starbuck.

Reader Feedback – Chez Starbuck.  Another famous recent Starbuck is Chez Starbuck, a Disney star.  Lorelei Starbuck.

Starbuck Names

  • Valentine and Obed Starbuck were early 19th century whalers from the Nantucket Starbuck family.
  • JoJo Starbuck from California won Olympic gold in pair figure skating in 1968 and 1972.

Starbuck Numbers Today

  • 1,300 in the UK (most numerous in Leicestershire)
  • 800 in America (most numerous in Vermont)

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Written by Colin Shelley

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