Select Locke Surname Genealogy

Lock and Locke are the surname spellings today, which were rendered in earlier times as Loc or Lok.  The principal derivation seems to have been the Old English word loc.  This could mean a “lock” or “fastening” and might therefore describe someone who lived by an enclosure that was locked; or it could also possibly describe a locksmith.  It might in addition mean a “lock of hair” and therefore be a nickname for someone with curly hair.

Locke can also reflect Chinese origins, from Lok the Cantonese pronunciation of the Chinese surname Luo

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Select Locke Ancestry

England. Lock and Locke have been very much west country names.  We find a very early reference in the 9th century with Ethelbrett of Loxton Loc.  Loc here was not a surname, just a locational abbreviation for a place-name near East Brent in Somerset.  However, his line would appear to have descended to the Lok and Locke family found in London from the 15th century onwards.

West Country
.  William Locke was recorded in Somerset and Robert Locke in Wiltshire around the year 1350. 
One Dorset line dated back to the early 1500’s.  Edward Locke lived at Canning’s Court in Buckland-Newton parish in the 1550’s.  His son Nicholas moved to Pensfold in Somerset where he was a clothier.  Nicholas’s grandson, born in this area in 1632, was the great English philosopher and political theorist John Locke.

Family histories in the west country began with:
  • William Lock who was born in West Bagborough, Somerset in 1530.  Many of his descendants are still living in Somerset.
  • Leonard Lock who was born in Ilminster, Somerset in 1658 and emigrated to Pennsylvania around the year 1685.  His line was recounted in Dr. J.R. Peacock’s 1998 book Leonard Lock and Descendants.  
  • and William Lock of Dorchester in Dorset who married Frances Brown in 1707.  
London.  Coming from Wiltshire were the Lok mercers – John Lok who was Sheriff of London in 1461, his son Thomas, and his grandson Sir William Lok, Sheriff of London in 1548 and a gentleman usher to Henry VIII.  Sir William, married twice, was the father of nineteen children and the forebear of a larger Locke familyBy his second wife Catherine came: 
  • John Lok, born around 1520, who was a merchant and traveler.  There were reports of him traveling to Jerusalem and commanding a ship bound for Guinea in West Africa.  
  • Henry Lok, born around 1525, who was a London mercer.  His wife Anne was a poet and translator, as was his son Henry.  
  • and Michael Lok, born in 1532, who was a London-based merchant and traveler and a principal backer of Frobisher’s unsuccessful search for a Northwest passage to Asia.  In 1579 he described himself as having a wife and fifteen children.  From him came Bristol merchants.  Another of his descendants Lewis Locke, who was born in Somerset in 1606 and died there in 1692, exceeded his total in both wives and children.
“By four wives he had thirty five children, most of whom lived to be men and women.  What is more remarkable is that his eldest son John, born in 1625, was fifty nine years of age when his youngest son Christopher was born at Taunton in 1684.  It was reported in the family that John had a great grandson as old as his younger brother.”

A line in London led to Sir John Lock, a merchant importing luxury goods from Turkey in the 1660’s.  His son George invested in property along St. James’s Street in London and in 1676 the hat-making company that became James Lock & Co was started there.  It still operates on the same premises today.

Another London line had obscure origins.  William Lock, said to have been the son of a broker, got rich as a merchant in London in the 1730's.  His line was perpetuated by his mistress Mary Wood and their son William who both assumed the Lock name on his death in 1761.  Son William could afford to buy the Norbury Park estate in Surrey in 1774 and both he and his son Charles could spend their lives as art connoisseurs.

Gypsy Locks.  These Locks were a Romany family who were first recorded travelling between Devon and Gloucestershire in the mid/late 1700's.  Eric Trudgell's pamphlet The Family Tree of Matthew and Merrick Lock began in the 1780's.  In the 19th century their area of roaming had widened.  One Lock branch were renowned fiddlers who travelled the circuit of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire.

Scotland.  The Lock name appeared at an early time on the Scottish borders.  John Lock of Roxburghshire was recorded in the Ragman’s Roll in 1296 as rendering homage to the English king.  He was probably the John Lok who was a juror there in 1303.  However, Lockie has been the more common spelling in that region and neither Lock nor Locke has been found much as a surname in Scotland.

Ireland.  The spelling in Ireland has tended to be Locke.  The name has been spread across the country, but in no great numbers.  The best-known Lockes were the small-time merchants from Kildare who bought the Kilbeggan whiskey distillery in Westmeath in the 1840's.  They made Locke's a popular whiskey brand in Ireland.

John and Elizabeth Locke, said to have been of Scots Irish heritage, were living in Antrim in the 1820’s.  Their son John and his wife Mary emigrated to Iowa in 1854.  Charles Locke left Belfast for South Africa around 1900.  He was the father of the South African golfer Bobby Locke.

America.  There were two main early Locke lines that came to America:
  • the first line was attributable to William Locke, possibly an orphan, who came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony on the Planter in 1634 at the age of six.  He settled in Woburn around 1650 and died there in 1720 at the grand age of 92.  He was the focus of one of the early genealogical books, John Goodwin Locke’s Book of the Lockes, written in 1853. 
  • then Captain John Locke arrived in Dover, New Hampshire from Yorkshire around the year 1644.  Here the early reference book was Arthur Locke’s 1917 book A History and Genealogy of Captain John Locke.  This book was updated in 1979 and again in 2002.
New Hampshire.  Timothy Locke and three of his brothers had migrated from New Hampshire to Rhode Island in 1720 and he was a captain of the state militia during the Revolutionary War.  William Locke, a church deacon, remained in New Hampshire.  His descendant John Locke, known as “honest John the miller,” set up a saw mill and grist mill at Locke’s Fall near Barrington after the War.

Calvin Locke of the Massachusetts William Locke line was also in New Hampshire after the War.  His eldest son Calvin ended up in Texas, another son Luther in California.  His line was covered in Samuel Gerould’s 1900 book The Descendants of Calvin Locke.

Other Lock and Locke Arrivals
.  Leonard Lock, thought by some to have been a descendant of Lewis Locke, came to Philadelphia from Somerset around the year 1685, first settling in Pennsylvania and then moving to Bladen county, North Carolina.  His descendants were to be found in North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.

There were Locks in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania by the 1740’s.  Tradition has it that the first arrival was John Lock who had been running a line of immigrant ships between London and Philadelphia.  By the 1750’s they had moved to North Carolina.  Matthew Locke, a general during the Revolutionary War, came from this family.  So too did Francis Locke, another general who turned the tide of the war in the south.  His son Francis was very briefly US Senator for North Carolina in 1814.  Some Lockes moved to Georgia and, after the Civil War, to Texas.

Heading West
.  Dean Locke, born in New Hampshire and the son of Luther Locke of the William Locke line, headed for California at the time of the Gold Rush.  He became a farmer in the San Jaoquin valley and the town of Lockeford there was named after him.

George W. Locke from New Hampshire and the Captain John Locke line there also came to California as a young man, settling in Sacramento in 1852 where he became a merchant.  He was the owner of land along the San Jaoquin river delta south of Sacramento and built his family home, an orchard and packing house there.  That land would be known as Lockeport in the 1890’s and later as Locke when it was an early settlement for Chinese immigrants to California.  It is now known as the Locke Historic District.

An early settler of what had been known for a long time as the Ragged Islands off Nova Scotia was Jonathan Locke from Massachusetts, a descendant of Captain John Locke.  He had arrived there around 1761.  His descendants became wealthy from their proximity to rich fishing grounds.  The town that sprung up there was known as Lockeport.

  Robert Lock, a carpenter, had been convicted for burglary in Norfolk and transported on the Grenada to Australia in 1821.  Three years later, he was party to an extraordinary marriage – the first between an Englishman and an Aboriginal woman – whereby he was offered to his bride Maria but could be returned if she did not approve of him.   The couple were also promised a grant of land and a cow, although it took many years for the promised land to come through.

They raised nine children and Maria lived onto 1878.  Some of her grandsons and great grandsons volunteered to fight in World War One.  Their story was told in Philippa Scarlett’s 2008 book The Lock Family in World War One. There are estimated to be 7,000 descendants of Robert and Maria Locke today.

Select Locke Miscellany

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

Select Locke Names

John Locke was a 17th century English philosopher,commonly known as the "Father of Liberalism.”
Francis Locke
led the American Patriots in victory over the British at Rameur’s Mill in the Revolutionary War, turning the tide in the war in the south.
Bobby Locke was a South African golfer who won the English Open championship four times in the 1950’s.
Tony Lock was a left-arm spinner in the English cricket teams of the 1950’s.
Gary Faye Locke
was Governor of Washington state from 1997 to 2005, the first Chinese American ever to hold that office

Select Lockes Today
  • 22,000 in the UK (most numerous in Hampshire)
  • 14,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 11,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Select Surnames

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 500 surnames.

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