Select Jenkins Surname Genealogy

The surname Jenkins comes from the personal name Jenkin, which contains the elements Jen, a pet name for John, and -kin, a dimunutive suffix.  Thus Jenkin might describe the younger John, the son of John, or little John.  John, meaning "God has granted me with a son," was introduced by returning Crusaders from the Holy Land in the 12th century.

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Wales.  Jenkins in one of those "-kins" surnames, like Hopkins and Watkins, that established itself in Wales.  According to H. Harrison’s Surnames of the United Kingdom, the Jenkins name might have been brought to Wales by Flemish immigrants who were settled in Pembrokeshire in the 12th century.

There were increasing references to Jenkin as a personal name from the 13th century, mainly in south Wales.  It was pronounced and sometimes spelt as "Siencyn."  The old Welsh patronymical style was still in place in the 16th century (thus Richard Roberts of that time was the son of Robert Jenkin).  But it was beginning to be displaced by English-style surnames.  In this process, Jenkin became Jenkins with the suffix adoption of "s" as "son of." 

Judge David Jenkins
, the son of Jenkin Richard, was born in Hensol House in the vale of Glamorgan in 1582 (the house was said to have been built by the judge's great grandfather).  He himself was a fervent Royalist who narrowly survived the Civil War.  Another Royalist, born nearby, was Sir Leoline Jenkins.  He made his mark as the Principal for Jesus College in Oxford. 

A Jenkins who also went to Jesus College was the cleric and antiquary John Jenkins - from the Jenkins family of Llangoedmor in Cardiganshire.  In 1807 he was appointed the vicar of Kerry in Montgomeryshire.  There he adopted the name Ifor Ceri and began to promote Welsh singing and bardic skills through local eisteddfods.

By the late 19th century, the Jenkins population in Wales had become fairly heavily concentrated in Glamorgan, in particular in the industrial belt of west Glamorgan around Port Talbot and Neath.  From this working class area came the coal miner's son Richard Jenkins who became the actor Richard Burton and the trade union leader Clive Jenkins:

"His family had a small terraced house with an outside toilet and 'no carpet, just coconut matting.'  They bathed once a week in front of the fire in an old zinc tub, sharing the same water."

The mezzo-soprano opera singer Katherine Jenkins grew up in a council house in Neath.
England.  The Jenkin name began in England in its southwest corner, in Cornwall.  There were some early suggestions that the Cornish were of short stature, hence the "little Johns."  Jenkin has persisted in Cornwall without the "s" suffix. 

Cornwall  One Jenkin family has been traced to St. Stephen in Brannel in the 1600's.  They moved to St. Austell in the early 1800's to work in the tin mines but then emigrated when the work there stopped. 

"James Jenkin went to Australia to meet his brother Edward; but by the time he had arrived Edward had already left for the US.  So the two never met.  James was killed in a mine accident in Australia, leaving a wife and nine children."

Jenkins were also to be found in Magdon north of Penzance from the 1650's.  They were for many generations village blacksmiths.  The family emigrated to South Africa in 1911.  Other Jenkins in Cornwall stayed, notably the historian Kenneth Hamilton and the politician Richard, both very much committed to the Cornish cause.

Devon  There were Jenkins in the neighboring county of Devon.  The Jenkins of Hartland near Bideford in Devon in fact date back to the 1550's.  

Scilly Isles  The first Jenkins came to the Scilly Isles in the 1730's.  John Jenkins, born in 1723, was one of the early arrivals.  His grand-daughter was named Elizabeth and there is a photograph of her that still remains, taken in her old age sometime in the 1860's.  Over the years the Jenkins numbers grew and the Jenkins today in the Scillies represent a significant proportion of the population of the Tresco and Bryher islands.

Kent  Kent has been a Jenkins outpost.  The Jenkins of Kent date from the time that William Jenkin was mayor of Folkestone in the 1550's.  Their most illustrious family member was probably the Victorian inventor Fleeming Jenkin who came up with the idea of the aerial tramway.  Descendants have been the politicians Patrick and Bernard Jenkin.    

  John Jenkins, who arrived from England in the 1660's, was one of the earliest settlers in North Carolina.  He served as governor of the colony at various times during the 1670's.  William Jenkins, born in Virginia in 1675, was the forebear of the plantation-owning Jenkins family of Cabell county in what is now West Virginia.   Another Jenkins Virginia family settled in Gaston county, North Carolina.

Three well-documented Jenkins families began with immigrants from Wales in the late 1600's and early 1700's:
  • William Jenkins came to Maryland and his descendants were to be found in Baltimore county for many generations.  They later moved to South Carolina and then onto Georgia and Texas.
  • David Jenkins settled in Chester county, Pennsylvania.  The old Jenkins homestead at Churchtown there remained with the family in succeeding generations.  The family history has been traced in Robert Jenkins' 1904 book The Jenkins Family Book
  • the Quaker John Jenkins came around 1730 and settled in the Welsh community of Gwynedd, Pennsylvania.  A 19th century descendant Howard Jenkins was a local newspaper publisher.
Another Jenkins family from Maryland included a Captain Thomas Jenkins who owned a number of sea-going vessels.  He transported arms, at considerable peril to himself, to the patriots during the Revolutionary War.  His line was traced in Edward F. Jenkins’ 1985 book Thomas Jenkins of Maryland

Lewis Jenkins fought in the War and received bounty land in North Carolina.  In the 1820's he moved his family to Georgia.  Charles J. Jenkins left South Carolina for Georgia a little later.  He served as Governor of the state during Reconstruction.  Jenkins county in Georgia is named in his honor.

These and other Jenkins appear in the Jenkins’ version of Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Canada.  Nicholas Henckel from Hesse in Germany took the name of Jenkins from his English first wife.  He and his family arrived in the maritime province of Prince Edward Island in 1783, describing the place then as “a wilderness.”  He has had a large number of descendants, many apparently in the Little Pond area.  Doug MacDonald’s 2009 book A Genealogy of the Jenkins Families of Prince Edward Island has traced this genealogy.

In 1820 the Rev. Louis Jenkins, bound for Quebec, was driven by contrary winds to Charlottetown in PEI where he assumed the rectorship of St. Paul's.  His descendants ran the Upton farm near Charlottetown.  Dr. Jack Jenkins was a cattle breeder and farmer in the 1920's and his wife Louise one of the first female pilots in Canada.

South America.  There are Jenkins in Argentina.  Aaron Jenkins and his family were part of a group of Welsh colonists who came to Patagonia in 1865 to settle and farm.  Sadly he was murdered in 1879.  Alfred Jenkins was an orphan from Bristol who arrived in Argentina in 1907 as a Christian missionary.  He married there but died young in his forties.

Australia and New Zealand.  Jenkins have come from Wales, Cornwall, England and even from Ireland and America.
John Jenkins from Kent had arrived in NSW as a convict in 1821.  His initial years were harsh.  But his wife and children joined him in 1827 and he received his Ticket of Leave two years later.  They later settled in Berrima, NSW where John died in 1886 at the ripe old age of 97.  

Among later Jenkins arrivals were:
  • Robert Jenkins, who arrived in Tasmania from Worcestershire in 1835.  One of his sons PW Jenkins was a pioneer grazier at Nimmitabel in the Monaro region of NSW.  He lived until 1954 on his Clifton farm
  • William Jenkins known as "Bill the Steward," who came to Kapiti island in New Zealand from Kent in 1836.  He was a whaler but later settled down to farm and run an accommodation house at Te Uruhi.
  • John Jenkins, who came to Victoria from Cornwall during the gold rush times of the 1850's
  • and Joseph Jenkins, a tenant farmer from mid-Wales who in 1868 suddenly abandoned his home and family to seek his fortune in Australia.  He didn't find this fortune.  But he left behind a series of diaries which, after his death, have been published and acclaimed.
Kay Jenkins' 2002 book From the Mountains of Wales: Jenkins Family History traced a Jenkins family from Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire to Australia.

Select Jenkins Miscellany

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

Select Jenkins Names

David Jenkins was a Royalist judge in Glamorgan who survived the upheavals of the Civil War.
Fleeming Jenkin was the Victorian inventor who came up with the idea of the aerial tramway.
Richard Jenkins was the given name of the actor Richard Burton.
Roy Jenkins was the Labor politician from Monmouthshire who served as British Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1960's and 1970's and later defected to start the Social Democrat party.
Katherine Jenkins is a Welsh mezzo-soprano singer, popular for her crossover music.

Select Jenkins Today
  • 58,000 in the UK (most numerous in Merthyr Tydfil)
  • 74,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 33,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).

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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