Select Pollock/Polk Surname Genealogy

Pollock is a Scottish place-name in Renfrewshire (near present-day Paisley), derived from the Gaelic poll meaning "pool" or "pit."  The family which received these lands in the 12th century took Pollock as their name.  The name spread to Ireland in the 17th century.  The main spelling variants have been Pollok, Polloc, Polk, and Pogues.

Pollock can also be a form of the German or Jewish Polak, describing someone from Poland.  But the Americanized version is generally Pollack.

The shortened version of Pollock, Polk, is common in America.  Its use started with Robert Polk, the forebear of the many Polks prominent in its early history.  Today there are almost as many Polks as Pollocks.  

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Select Pollock/Polk Ancestry

Scotland.  Pollock is one of the oldest family names in Scotland.  The Pollocks can trace their origin to Fulbert the Norman (or possibly Breton) who had come north in the service of Walter Fitzalan, the High Steward of Scotland. Fulbert's son Petrus de Pollock was granted lands in 1163 in Renfrewshire in recompense for his father's service.  When Petrus died without male issue, the lands passed to his brother Robertus from whom later Pollocks have been descended.

The Pollocks divided their Pollock estate with the Maxwell clan.  Known as Pollock-of-that-Ilk, they remained major landowners in the area.  John Pollock forfeited some of his land for supporting Mary Queen of Scots in the fighting during the 1560's.  But other Pollocks acquired estates nearby in the following century. 

Thomas Pollock, who had made money as a merchant in Glasgow, bought Balgray House in 1684 (his son Thomas became a colonial governor in North Carolina); and Alan Pollock took over Arthurlie in 1695 (his son Thomas building Arthurlie House soon after).  Robert Pollock of Pollock was made a baronet in 1703.  However, his line ended with the death of his grandson in 1783.

The Pollock name extended into Ayrshire.  For instance, the firm of Stephen & Pollock, booksellers, was for years one of the best-known stores in Ayr.  Hugh Pollock of this family was the first husband of the children's writer Enid Blyton.
England.  David Pollock of Berwick came down from Scotland to London in 1739 and was appointed Saddler to King George III.  His line was covered in Alexander Pollock's 1939 book Family of David Pollock.  David had three distinguished sons:
  • the eldest, Sir David, who became a judge of the High Court in Bombay
  • Sir Frederick, the eminent lawyer and Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer (forebear of a notable line of judges)
  • and Sir George, the field marshal who won his victories in Afghanistan (commemorated by the Pollock Medal).
Pollocks also drifted south into northern England.  Robert Pollock from Ayrshire, for instance, married in Yorkshire in 1776, stayed, and lived and worked and raised a family in Wakefield.  Other Pollocks in the 19th century headed for industrial Lancashire.

Ireland.   The first Pollock in Ireland is thought to have been the Robert Pollock who took a large grant of land near Coleraine in county Derry in 1608.  His family later became Presbyterian and settled in Donegal.  A number of repressive measures were taken against these Presbyterians after Charles II's restoration in 1660. To escape this situation, some of them planned emigration to America - including a certain Robert Pollock.    

John Pollock, a soldier with Cromwell's army, is thought to have settled in Newry, county Down.  Later Pollocks became prominent there in the linen trade.  There were also Pollocks in Bangor and Cumber nearby. It was said that two Pollock brothers came to Donegal in the early 1700's, settling on land just north of Stranorlar.  A Pollock family has been resident (and still is) in Mountainstown Lodge, Meath since 1780.

From the mid 1700's for various reasons, there began a Scots Irish exodus to America.  This included many Pollocks.  A number had been in Ireland for generations, others - like John Pollock below - for a much shorter time.

"Family tradition says that John Pollock eloped with the step-daughter of Lord Russell and fled from Scotland to Northern Ireland.  They lived in Northern Ireland for about thirty years before coming to America in 1800 and settling in Ohio."          

America.  There were early Pollocks and Polks in America, as well as variations on those names.  The Rev. Horace Hayden's 1883 book Pollock Genealogy traced that of Oliver Pollock, US agent in New Orleans and Havana from 1776 to 1784.

The first Pollock in America appears to have been the Robert Pollock in 1680 who settled on land granted to him in Somerset county, Maryland.  This Robert Pollock (or his son William) shortened the family name to Polk and they were the forebears of the illustrious Polk family of America.  Their history was covered in William H. Polk's 1912 book Polk Family and Kinsmen and retold in William Polk's 1999 book Polk's Folly: An American Family History

Descendants have included:
  • many patriots of the Revolutionary War (Polk county, North Carolina was named after Colonel William Polk)
  • the 11th President of the United States, James Knox Polk
  • the Confederate general Leonidas Polk (the son of Colonel William Polk) 
  • and Senator Trusten Polk of Missouri (expelled from his seat in 1862 for his support of the South).  
The Polk name distribution in the United States showed a typical Scots Irish pattern, initially into Virginia and the Carolinas, inland to Kentucky and Tennessee, and then south to Mississippi and Texas.  Jeffferson Polk, born in Kentucky, headed out to Iowa in the 1850's.  He was one of Des Moines early settlers and pioneered its street transportation system. 

"In the 1890's he substituted electricity for horse motive power and gave Des Moines the second electric railway in the United States and the fastest railway service in the country."

Pollocks in America are a mixture of immigrants from Scotland, Ireland, and, later, Jewish Pollocks mainly of Polish origin. 

  Robert and Agnes Pollock had emigrated to Australia from Glasgow on the Portland in 1838.  They raised four sons and six daughters in Araluen, NSW.  These brothers combined in business in 1883 to form Pollock Bros, cordial manufacturers.  However, there would appear to have been family disagreements because, within five years, three of the brothers had departed to set up their own manufacturing plants.

Irish Pollocks came to Australia as well, including convicts such as William Pollock from Newry in 1840 and settlers such as Alexander Pollock and his wife Mary Jane from Stranorlar in 1870.  Alexander and Mary Jane settled in the Goulbourn valley in Victoria and five of their sons later bought land in the Balldale area.

South Africa.  South Africa has had a Pollock cricketing dynasty of recent vintage - batsman Graeme, bowler Peter, and Peter's son allrounder Shaun.  An earlier Pollock, Andrew Maclean Pollock, had been a Scottish doctor who had settled in South Africa.

Select Pollock/Polk Miscellany

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

Select Pollock/Polk Names

Robertus de Pollock was the forebear of the Pollock clan in Scotland.
Robert Polk who came to Maryland from Ireland in the 1680's was the forebear of the illustious Polk family in America.
James Polk was the 11th President of the United States (from 1845 to 1849).
Jackson Pollock was a well-known American abstract expressionist painter.  He was brought up in Wyoming where his father had taken the Pollock name from a neighbor who had adopted him.
Sam Pollock of the Montreal Canadiens was one of the most successful NHL executives of all time, leading his side to nine Stanley Cup wins during his fourteen year tenure.
Graeme Pollock was an outstanding South African cricketer of the 1960's and 1970's.

Select Pollocks/Polks Today
  • 9,000 in the UK (most numerous in Stirling)
  • 15,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 12,000 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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