Select Hawkins Surname Genealogy

The root of Hawkins appears to be the Old English word hafoc meaning "hawk," which was said to be still in use in the 13th century.  The surname might be descriptive of a hawk-like person.  More likely, it comes from the place name Hawking (from hafocing or "hawk place") near Folkestone in Kent. 

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Select Hawkins Ancestry

England.  Kent is believed to be the starting point for the Hawkins name.  It then moved to the west country.

Kent  The first Hawkins on record in Kent was Osbert de Hawking who was said to have acquired the Hawking manor in the late 12th century for his services as warden of Dover castle.  By the 14th century, these Hawkins had acquired through marriage the Nash Court estate near Faversham where the family was to remain for the next five hundred years.

Cornwall  It is thought that branches of this family brought the Hawkins name to the west country.  The strongest connection was with the Hawkins of Cornwall who established themselves at Trewinnard and later at Trewithen.  This line included Sir Christopher Hawkins, the Cornish mine-owner, and his younger brother John Hawkins, a writer and geologist who helped found the Royal Horticultural Society

Devon  Some considered that the Hawkins of Devon were also a branch of the Kent family.  But there is no direct evidence that this was so.  The first of the Devon line was John Hawkins of Tavistock, who was born around 1475.  His son William made his name as a sea captain.

"Old master William Hawkins of Plymouth, a man for his wisdom, valor, experience and skill at sea causes much esteemed and beloved of King Henry VIII, and being one of the principal sea captains in the west parts of England in his time, not contented with the short voyages commonly then made only to the known coasts of Europe, armed out a tall and goodly ship of his own of the burden of 250 tons called the Paul of Plymouth, wherewith he made three long and famous voyages unto the coast of Brazil, a thing in those days very rare especially to our nation."

His son Sir John Hawkins, patriarch of the "Sea Dogs" under Queen Elizabeth, was even more famous.  He is remembered for having built the English fleet which defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588.  He was also a pioneer of the English slave trade; while his son Sir Richard, another "Sea Dog," was best known for his acts of piracy against the Spanish.  Descendants of Sir John Hawkins the admiral are said to be numerous.

Dorset  One Hawkins family in Dorset can trace their history back to Elizabethan times:

"The story of the Hawkins at Martinstown begins with William Hawkins, whom local and family tradition remembers as 'Hawkins from over the hill.'  A feature of the family's 500 year recorded history has been their extreme reluctance to stray more than a few miles from their ancestral roots."

The Hawkins, together with the Savages, were clockmakers in Exeter in the 17th and early 18th centuries. The Hawkins of Kelston in Somerset were distinguished surgeons, Sir Caesar Hawkins being surgeon to both George II and George III.  He built a new mansion for himself at Kelston Park in the 1760's. 

Elsewhere  From Hertfordshire came that criminal judge of Victorian times, Sir Henry Hawkins, and his cousin the writer Anthony Hawkins (who wrote under the pen name of Anthony Hope).  One of Sir Henry's famous cases, that of the fraudster who claimed to be the missing heir Sir Roger Tichborne, was the inspiration behind Anthony's best-selling novel of deception, The Prisoner of Zenda

The late 19th century Hawkins surname distribution showed one concentration east around London and Kent and another larger concentration west in a line running from Devon through Somerset to Gloucestershire. 

Ireland.  Hawkins in Ireland can be either of English or of Irish origin. 

The English Hawkins may be found in county Down.  The McGuinness castle at Rathfriland passed to William Hawkins of London in 1641.  The Hawkins family stamped their authority on the town and the Hawkins name still lives on there today.  There were also English Hawkins in Loughrea, Galway by 1649. 

Meanwhile, the Irish Haughan from the Gaelic O'hEachaidhin, a fairly common name in Antrim, has sometimes transposed to Hawkins. 

America.  Three early immigrants to America claimed descent from Sir John Hawkins, the admiral: 
  • Robert Hawkins who arrived on the Elizabeth and Ann in 1635 with his wife Mary and settled in Charleston, Massachusetts.  Some of these Hawkins were later in Derby, Connecticut.  Descendants of Samuel Whitman Hawkins were pioneer settlers in Kankakee county, Illinois in the 1830's. 
  • William Hawkins who emigrated to York county, Virginia in 1637 and began a plantation along the New Poquoson river.  Joshua Hawkins of this family headed south to Greenville, South Carolina.  There were other lines to Tennessee and Kentucky.
  • and John Hawkins who came to Essex county, Virginia with his sisters in 1705.  John was a lawyer and his name cropped up often in Essex county records.
North Carolina.   Philemon Hawkins arrived there with his family from Devon around 1715 and ran a plantation in what was then Granville county.  Benjamin Hawkins was a member of George Washington's staff during the Revolutionary War and was later appointed as Indian agent for all tribes south of the Ohio river.  His family then were prosperous North Carolina planters and they ran other businesses as well, including sawmills, banks, and, after the Civil War, phosphate manufacturing.  They were also politically influential, with Ben's nephew William becoming Governor of the state in 1811.

Texas.  There was Indian blood in the Hawkins that headed east to Texas - first in Ben's son Benjamin Hawkins and his wife Rebecca who got there as early as 1833 and then in a female line that went via Ben's daughter Cherokee to Georgia Lawshe Woods (the subject of Janice Woods Windle's family saga True Women).  Both Rebecca and Georgia ended up in charge of plantations at the time of the Civil War.

Another Hawkins who made the trek from North Carolina to Texas was James Boyd Hawkins.  He came in 1846 with his wife Ella and a retinue of slaves to lower Caney Creek in Matagorda county.  There he built himself a large colonial-style plantation house out of cypress and embarked on large-scale sugar cultivation. These Hawkins survived the Civil War and ran their plantation afterwards on convict labor.

Hawkins in the African American vernacular is a word for a cold malevolent wind.

Canada.  Hawkins in Canada may be of American, English, or even of Irish origin.  There were Protestant Hawkins from Ireland who settled in the Irish community of Lanark county, Ontario.  Hawkins from Wexford came in 1819, Hawkins from Wicklow some twenty-to-thirty years later.  Samuel Hawkins from Wicklow headed west in 1889 and opened up a harness-making shop in Roundthwaite, Manitoba.

  Thomas Hawkins had captained the Berwick during the Napoleonic Wars but, after his ship was decommissioned, he sought a new start in Australia.  He arrived in 1822 and received a land grant and a position in the interior in Bathurst, NSW.  He and his family were soon firmly established there as gentry settler householders. 

Another early Hawkins settler was William Hawkins who arrived with his wife Ann from Sussex in 1848.  They headed out to farm at Wollombi in the Hunter valley.

Select Hawkins Miscellany

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

Select Hawkins Names

Admiral Sir John Hawkins was a buccaneering naval commander, privateer, and slaver trader of the Elizabethan era.
Benjamin Hawkins was an Indian agent from North Carolina and a delegate to the Continental Congress.
Sir Henry Hawkins was a distinguished Victorian criminal judge.
Coleman Hawkins was a highly acclaimed jazz tenor saxophonist.  He was best known for his rendition of Body and Soul in the 1930's.
Jack Hawkins was a well-known English film actor of the 1950's and 1960's.
Jeffrey Hawkins was the inventor of the Palm Pilot and the founder of Palm Computing.

Select Hawkins Today
  • 40,000 in the UK (most numerous in Hampshire)
  • 49,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 26,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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