Zink Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Zink Surname Meaning

Zink, with its earlier spellings of Zinck, Zincke and Zinke, is a German-origin surname. The root here is likely to be the German word zinke meaning a “tip,” “point,” or “prong.” Here the name may have developed as a nickname for someone with a singularly pointed nose. Zinken today is German slang for a hooter.

Alternatively, the name may have derived from the personal name Sink, a Frisian form of Signand meaning “victory.”  Zink as a surname has no relationship with zinc. This metal was not discovered and named until after the Zink surname was in use.

Zink Surname Resources on The Internet

Zink and Zinke Surname Ancestry

  • from Northern Germany (Prussia)
  • to England, America, Canada and Australia

Zincke has been found in Prussia, Zinck in Denmark, while Zinke spread across northern Germany. Zink has become more common in Germany than Zinke, accounting for 70% of the 18,000 Zinks and Zinkes today. Zincke is little found now.

England.  Christian Zincke from Dresden came to London in 1706 and established himself there as the most successful miniaturist enamel painter of his era. His English descendant line in the 19th century represented a varied bunch:

  • from a literary forger in London who ended up in poverty
  • to a plantation owner in Jamaica whose financial position deteriorated. His son was a clergyman who married well and lived a gentleman’s life in England.

America. The surnames here have been Zink and Zinke, with Zink predominating at around 90% today. The early arrival point, as for other Germans, was Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania.  Gottlieb Zink arrived in Philadelphia in 1752 and owned considerable property there by the time of the Revolutionary War. After the war he moved to Abingdon, Virginia where he died in 1802. His line in America was covered in Dora Zink Kellogg’s 1933 book The Zink Families in America.

Gottlieb’s son Jacob was a Lutheran minister who died in 1829 in Indiana; another son Daniel Zink had four wives. The line from Daniel and his son Andrew led from Virginia through Indiana and Illinois to Missouri.

Other early Zink arrivals into Pennsylvania were:

  • Hiram Zink who came in 1755 from Baden and started an iron foundry, machine shop and later a gunpowder factory at Germantown, Philadelphia. His son Philip settled in Augusta, Virginia. 
  • and Leonardt Sink and his wife Ester who arrived sometime in the 1750’s and made their home in Berks county. The family name changed to Zink with the next generation.

Enoch Zink moved from Bedford county, Pennsylvania to Highland county, Ohio in 1813. And Samuel Zink left Pennsylvania for Ohio in 1841 and later settled in Fulton county, Illinois.

Samuel Zink of Lancaster county who had served in the War of 1812 was an early settler in Clarion county, arriving there around 1816. He was the father of eleven children. Joseph Zink who grew up in Clarion county had a mixed bag of jobs there. He fought in the Civil War and subsequently moved to Greene county, Missouri.

Elsewhere.  There were two Zink arrivals into upstate New York in the 1830’s:

  • Francis and Bridget Zink who came to Buffalo from Germany with their family in 1831, settling in Erie county. Francis and his son William, just three when they arrived, were farmers there.  
  • while John and Mary Zink from the Rhineland Palatinate came in 1837. They initially settled in the Niagara region of New York state, subsequently moving to Erie county and, much later with many of their children, to Monroe in Michigan. Starting in 1912, their descendants began to hold annual reunions.

In 1844 Nicolaus Zink and his wife emigrated to Texas from Bavaria. Three years later he founded a new German settlement at Sisterdale on the banks of Sister Creek in present-day Kendall county. Many liberal Germans were attracted there after the failure of the 1848 revolutions in Europe.

Zinke.  Zinkes appear to have arrived later in America. They were mainly to be found in the Upper Midwest, the largest number being in Wisconsin in the 1920 census. August Zinke arrived in Wisconsin from Prussia in 1866 and settled in Portage. John Zinke, born in Limora, Wisconsin in 1866, moved with his family to Walsh county in North Dakota in 1882.

Ryan Zinke, who was the US Secretary of the Interior from 2017 to 2019, had his roots in North Dakota and Montana.

Canada.  The Zink name in Canada has been very much associated with the town of Brandon in Manitoba:

  • William Zink was recorded there in the 1901 census.
  • William Zink and his family left Brandon for California in the 1920’s
  • and William Zink closed Zink’s Food Store in Brandon after his father’s retirement in 1980.

Australia.  It was in 1895 when German immigrant Gustav Zink first opened his tailoring shop on Oxford Street in the Darlinghurst district of Sydney.  The tailoring expanded and prospered in the 1920’s under his son Frank who lived a very extravagant lifestyle.  Now known as Zink and Sons, the business continues to operate as bespoke tailors.

Zink and Zinke Surname Miscellany

Christian Zincke and His Descendants.  Christian Zincke, whose grandfather Paul and father Christian were both goldsmiths in Dresden, trained in that profession as well.  But he also studied with the portrait painter Heinrich-Christoph Fehling.

In 1706 he moved to England at the invitation of the Swedish enamellist Charles Boit to collaborate on a large enamel commemorating the Battle of Blenheim. Zincke continued in London as Boit’s pupil, but soon outstripped his master and set up on his own as a miniaturist. He went on to become the most successful enamel painter of his era. Zincke was twice married. He had one son and one daughter by his first wife.  He died in 1767.

His grandson Paul Francis Zincke practiced in London as a copyist and forged various portraits of Shakespeare, Milton, and other celebrities. However, he died in miserable circumstances in London in 1830.

Another line led to Frederick Burt Zincke, born around 1786, who trained as a doctor and married Mary Lawrence in 1811.  He succeeded to the Lawrence sugar plantation at Eardley in Jamaica eight years later.  However, the family’s financial position declined in 1833 after the emancipation of the slaves and Frederick’s son Foster returned to England.

Foster became a clergyman and in 1853 was appointed one of the Queen’s chaplains.  He later married well and enjoyed an active life in travel and in local politics in Suffolk until his death in 1893. 

Daniel Zink and His Four Wives.  Daniel Zink was born in Pennsylvania in 1767 and died in Edgar county, Illinois in 1841.  He was married four times.

His first wife was Elizabeth (Betsy) Shelley whom he married in Abington, Virginia in 1791, his brother the Rev. Jacob Zink officiating. They moved in Indiana in the early 1800’s.  Daniel was to suffer two deaths there, his son John being killed during an Indian raid in 1812 and his wife Betsy passing away in 1817.

A short while later, he married his second wife Jane Shields.  However, this marriage did not last long.  She was said to have burst her bladder after she had alighted a horse which she had ridden all day.  Daniel later went back to Virginia to marry Elizabeth Cline. They journeyed to their new home in Edgar county, Illinois in the winter of 1827.

Daniel’s fourth marriage was to a woman, Margaret Stivers, that he had met on a steamboat trip.  The marriage was of short duration. This elderly couple separated because of their age, each going to live with their respective children. Daniel and his youngest son Andrew (born to Elizabeth Cline) lived with his daughter Susan Zimmerly.

Reader Feedback – Leonardt Sink in Pennsylvania.  Leonardt Sink is not the grandfather of Enoch Zink.

Enoch is the son of a John Sink who raised his family on a small plot of land across the river from what became Saxton, Hopewell Township in Bedford county, Ohio.  John was buried with his wife in the Old Saxton cemetery which was originally a Native American burial ground.  This John is only recorded in Bedford county records.  His parents are unknown.

A number of early Pennsylvania records are for Sink/Zink families living along the east coast as well as in the backcountry.  The 1800 Federal Census lists a John Sink and family in Elk Lick, Somerset county, just west of Bedford county.  Two adults enumerated in this record are both 24-44 years of age, meaning they could have been of the same age as Enoch’s father John.  Numerous Sinks are listed in the Chester Co. Pennsylvania and Philadelphia 18th century records.  There are Sink/Zink households in Frederick county, Maryland and in Augusta county, Virginia named in the 1790 census and in early 1800 deeds.

While Leonardt Sink of Berks county, Pennsylvania had a son named John, the 1790 Berks county census for this John states he had three sons under the age of 16 and one son over the age of 16.  Enoch’s father John had only three sons all under the age of 16 in 1790.  In fact they were all under 10 years of age.

Leonardt Sink was not the father of Bedford county John Zink.  They do not match.  I have had extensive Ydna testing done through a direct male descendant of John Zink.  A direct male descendant of Leonardt should test at FTDNA.  At the moment there is no Ydna record of Leonardt.

Tina Zink, direct descendant (cliffbox101@aol.com) 

Joseph Zink’s Struggles in Clarion County, Pennsylvania.  Joseph Zink, born in 1822, grew up in Clarion county, Pennsylvania.

At the age of nineteen he learned the cabinet maker’s trade, and worked three years for $37.50 per year, being able to cloth himself.  At the end of that time he had saved enough money to buy a suit of “store clothes.”  He then went into partnership with a man in the cabinet business.  However, within a year they were cleaned out financially and Zink was left without a dollar.

He then, with the help of a friend, started in trade and within two years was able to work five journeymen.   His health was later not so good and he engaged in the hotel business.

When the Civil War broke out, Joseph enlisted in Company F, 103rd Regiment of Pennsylvania volunteers, and during the course of the war was promoted from private to captain (he had been a major in the old state militia).  He was discharged in 1863 for disability.

After the war he moved with his family to Greene county, Missouri where he farmed.

August Zinke in Wisconsin.  August Wilhelm Zinke, born around 1814, had owned a large tailor shop in his native Prussia. He immigrated to America in 1866 and made his home in Portage, Wisconsin.

In Portage he was an ultra-stylish, stern, rather arrogant gentleman who was always stylishly dressed and who always carried a fine walking stick.  This was more for show than for use.  He was usually seen after his wife Dorothea died with his friend, a wealthy man, who had a daughter whom the two gentlemen thought would be a fine match for August’s son Herman.  But Herman had other plans.

August told stories about his Zinkes in Prussia and how they were supposed to have descended from the Kaiser’s court of noble blood lines.  He had a picture of Kaiser Wilhelm over the fireplace in his home as well as a sword with engraving on it.

Zinks in Brandon, Manitoba.  William Zink had immigrated into Canada in 1893 and was recorded in the 1901 Brandon census.

A William Zink later departed Brandon for Burbank, California where his two sons Ralph and Clarence became well-known Hollywood actors under the names of Donald Woods and Russ Conway.

There was a Zink who remained in Brandon – Albert Zink who started Zink’s Food Store in 1932 at the height of the Depression.  It remained a neighborhood landmark until Albert’s retirement in 1980.

Meanwhile another Zink had arrived in Brandon. Lubor Zink had fled his native Czechoslovakia when the Nazis invaded in 1939.  He went to Canada in 1958 with his wife and son and became the editor of the Brandon Sun.  His editorials won him a National Newspaper Award in 1961 and he moved onto the big-city Toronto Sun.

FW Zink in Sydney and His Aggrieved Women.  Everyone referred to Frank William (FW) Zink as Mr Zink. Mr Zink always had the latest motor car from America and owned a mansion on Lang Road in Centennial Park.

During his tailoring firm’s heyday in Sydney in the 1920’s and 1930’s there were annual events such as the staff and customer ball at the Trocadero on George Street and the cricket match at Redfern Oval between the tailors and a team put together by the Woolpack Hotel in Chalmers Street.

Mr. Zink himself was a regular defendant in court cases that were brought by aggrieved women.

In 1918 it was his wife Emily Emma on the grounds of desertion.  In 1920 it was a Gladys Lawson Inwood who wanted damages after Mr Zink broke their engagement after the wedding cake had been delivered. Miss Elwood’s lawyer told the court that “young Zink has behaved in a way which is simply scandalous.” For his part young Zink told the court that he’d done it because he wanted to see life and have a good time.

He was back in court in 1939 for divorce proceedings from his second wife Ina Mildred.

Zink Names

  • Christian Zincke established himself in London in the early 1700’s as the most successful miniaturist enamel painter of his time. 
  • Nicolaus Zink founded a new settlement for German colonists at Sisterdale in Texas in 1847. 
  • Jack Zink who died in 2005 built up a major business in Oklahoma in the manufacture of oil and gas combustion units. He was also well known for his involvement in Indy car racing and was inducted into the Auto Racing Hall of Fame.

Zink Numbers Today

  • 6,000 in America (most numerous in Ohio)
  • 600 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Zink and Like Surnames 

The first wave of German immigration into America came in the early 1700’s from the Rhine Palatine and Switzerland.  They were fleeing religious persecution at home.  Most ended up in Pennsylvania, bringing their Mennonite church with them.  Some went to the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York.  Their Germanic names often changed under English rule to English-style names.  Thus Fischer became Fisher, Schneider Snyder, Hubner Hoover and so forth.

The reasons for immigration were different in the 19th century – in search of a better life, sometimes to avoid the draft.  They came from all German states and went not just to Pennsylvania but all over as the middle and west of the country was opening up.  And they brought German skills with them, notably beer-making.

Here are some of the notable German surnames in America that you can check out.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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