Select Larkin Surname Genealogy

There are two very different origins of the name Larkin, one Irish and the other English.

The Irish Larkin is an anglicization of the Gaelic Lorcan, a personal name meaning "rough" or "fierce."  The progression to Larkin from the original Ui Lorcain or O'Lorcain name began after the Norman invasion.  Under the English influence the O was discarded to leave the name Lorcan or Lorkin.  By the 18th century the name had become anglicized to the more common Larkin.

The English version of Larkin is a diminutive of Lawrence, to which has been added the suffix "kin," meaning "relative of."  Its first appearance as a surname was in 1250 in the village of Chiddingstone in Kent where Theobald and Barthomew Lovekyn paid rents for Lovekynesgardyn (or what was to become known as Larkins farm).

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Ireland.  The O'Lorcain name (followers of Lorcan) was in early times spread across Ireland.  Five distinct groups, for each of the five provinces of Ireland at that time, had adopted the surname by the 10th century, namely:
  • the O'Lorcain of Leinster.  Their base was SE Wexford.  They were dispossessed of their original lands at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion but remained in Wexford and nearby Kilkenny. 
  • the O'Lorcain of Oriel.  This sept was based in county Armagh and Larkins are still numerous there.
  • the O'Lorcain of Ui Maine.  Their original lands were on the borders of Munster, Tipperary and Meath. However, Cromwell's policy of dispersal drove many west to Galway.
  • the O'Lorcain of Meath.  This has always been a small sept in numerical numbers, due perhaps to its proximity to the capital city Dublin.    
  • and the O'Lorcain of Tipperary.  This was an ecclesiastical family in Tipperary.
The O'Lorcain of Ui Maine have been the most numerous.  At the time of Griffith's Valuation in the 1850's, more than half the Larkin population in Ireland belonged or were connected with this sept.  By that time, these Larkins were mainly to be found in Galway.  The Larkins of Meelick date back to the mid 17th century; and there was also a cluster of Larkins at Ballinastoe, a market town on the main road between Galway and Dublin.

Larkin emigration from Ireland began in the 18th century and picked up pace in the second half of the 19th. Among those who left at that time was Edward Larkin from Roscommon.

"Edward was never going to inherit the family farm at Shanderry.  So at the age of twenty he left for America.   His younger sister Anne never saw him again.  In a letter she wrote in 1912 fifty years later, she recalled the small bible he had given her as a going away present."
England.  The English surname "Larkin" and the variant "Larkins" have been mainly concentrated in the county of Kent.  "Larkin" stretched a bit into east Sussex and "Larkins" into East Anglia.  But the numbers in Kent were larger.

Kent  Chiddingstone on the Kent/Surrey border was an early place for Larkin (Larkins brewery is located there now).  But the main sightings have been further east, along the Medway.  The name appeared in title deeds in Chatham and Gillingham in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.  Charles Larkin from Gillingham was honored by the Larkin Memorial for his stand on parliamentary reform in 1832.  And there was a well-known Larkin family among the stall-holders in Canning Town in the early 1900's. 

However, the most famous Larkin family in Kent was the one that was completely fictitious, the Larkin family that was created by the writer H.E. Bates and made into a TV series as The Darling Buds of May.

Lancashire  By the late 19th century, the largest number of Larkins in England was to be found in industrial Lancashire. This was undoubtedly due to the influx of Irish Larkins crossing to England in search of jobs.  But for many Ireland was never far away. 

Michael Larkin was one of the Manchester martyrs hanged in 1867 for seeking to free the Fenian leader.  Big Jim Larkin was born in Liverpool of Irish parents from Armagh in 1876.  He later returned to Ireland and threw himself into trade union organizing there.

America.   Edward Larkin was an early settler in Massachusetts Bay colony, with his name to be found in Charlestown records from 1634.  John Larkin, a tea merchant in Charleston at the time of the American Revolution, is said to have lent the horse for Paul Revere's ride.  A later descendant, Thomas Larkin, was one of the founding fathers of the state of California.

"New England-born Thomas Larkin was among the first Americans to pursue the California dream.  In 1832, as a young man without a formal education, he travelled to desolate Mexican California in search of his fortune.  First as a merchant in Monterrey, then as the American consul to California, and later as a land speculator in booming San Francisco, he became an extremely weathy man."

Another Edward Larkin was to be found in Newport, Rhode Island by 1655.  A descendant, W.H. Larkin, traced the family history in 1935 in Chronicle of the Larkin Family.  A more modern undertaking has been Elizabeth Larkin's 2004 book Edward Larkin of Rhode Island.

Clarence Larkin was a noted Biblical scholar and writer of the early 20th century.  Genealogically, he came from a long line of Larkins in eastern Pennsylvania.  Some have attributed the line to Quaker immigants from England in the 1600's.  Others have said that the line came to Pennsylvania from Maryland and that a John Larkin, innkeeper in 1644 in Ann Arundel county, was the progenitor of this line.   

Irish Larkins  However, if you are a Larkin in America, there is a 70/30 chance that your forebears would have come from Ireland (that is, on the basis of the country of origin when they arrived in America).   By 1920 the largest number of Larkins were to be found in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania - points of immigration for Irish Larkins in the second half of the 19th century.

Among those who travelled further afield were:
  • Michael and Mary Larkin from Galway, who arrived in upstate New York in the 1850's and then went onto Rock Island, Illinois.  Michael was a blacksmith.  His son Charles became a prominent local builder.   
  • William Larkins, also from Galway, who came to Boston in the 1850's.  He and his family later headed west to San Francisco where William established his carriage-building business, Larkins & Co.
Canada.  One Larkin family from Massachusetts were Loyalists who moved to Pubnico, Nova Scotia after the Revolutionary War.  Larkins still live there today.  Later came Larkins from Ireland.  John Larkin and his family arrived in 1825 and were pioneer settlers in the Ottawa area.  

Australia and New Zealand.   For many Irish, their first experience of Australia was as a convict.  No fewer than fourteen Larkins from Galway were transported to that country.  Tom Keneally vividly described their treatment in his book The Great Shame, an account of Hugh Larkin his great grandfather-in-law.

The Rev. Patrick Larkin from Wexford was an Augustinian priest during the pioneering days of North Queensland.  He drowned in the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1902.  The Rev. James Larkin, another Augustinian, stayed and built churches there.

William Larkin was an Irish priest who arrived in Queensland in 1862 and then moved onto New Zealand four years later.  There he started up The New Zealand Celt, where his advocacy of the Irish cause got him into trouble.

"The trouble which arose during his ministry in New Zealand highlighted the intensity of nationalism among small groups of Irish colonists.  It also revealed the persistence of prejudice against the Irish among some English migrants."

Leon Uris's Redemption is a fictional account of an Irish revolutionary Conor Larkin who migrates to New Zealand to pursue the nationalist cause from there.     

Select Larkin Miscellany

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

Select Larkin Names

Ua Lorcain
, abbot of Killeigh in the 11th century, was the first recorded chief of the O'Lorcain of Ui Maine sept.
Thomas Larkin arrived in California in 1832 and was one of the founding fathers of the state.
Big Jim Larkin, born into the slums of Liverpool, was an Irish trade union leader and activist of the early 1900's.
Peter Larkin was a Canadian businessman and political patron of the early 1900's.
George Larkin was a star of silent movies in the 1920's who lost out when sound arrived.
Philip Larkin is widely regarded as the greatest English poet of the second half of the 20th century.

Select Larkins Today
  • 12,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 9,000 in America (most numerous in New York).
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland).

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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