Select Wilkinson Surname Genealogy

The personal name plus the diminutive “kin” has been a common surname formation in England, in the patronymic “s” suffix form in the south of England and “son” in the north.  Examples are Wilkinson, Watkinson, Atkinson. Dickinson, Hopkinson and Hodgkinson.  Of these, Wilkinson – coming from William – has been the most common.  It is a name of the north of  England.

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Select Wilkinson Ancestry

EnglandThe name Thomas Wilkynson appeared in the Cumberland rolls of 1332 and Adam Wylkynson in the Yorkshire rolls of 1379.  Many of the early traceable Wilkinsons, however, have been in Durham and Northumberland.

Durham.  Wilkinsons at Harperly Hall on the banks of the river Wear in Durham date from about 1500.  Family tradition has it that they were originally Wilkersons and were Danish. 

Lawrence Wilkinson, a Royalist captain at the time of the Civil War, was forced into exile in America.  But other Wilkinsons remained.  William Wilkinson coined money in the 1650’s because of the shortage of coins for trade at that time.  Later Wilkinsons were to be found in Durham and London.  In 1847, when the Wear Valley railway opened, a private station was built at Harperly Hall where George Hutton Wilkinson, the chairman of the line, lived.  Harperly Hall today has passed out of family hands and is a police training establishment. 

Wilkinson families were to be bound in Durham in the 17th century at Barton St. Mary, Nether Buston, Norton, and Washington.  The last-named was the birthplace of Isaac Wilkinson, the first of the Wilkinson ironmasters.  His son John “Iron Mad” Wilkinson made a lot of money which was then dissipated after his death. 

“While much of John Wilkinson’s wealth can be ascribed to his ingenuity and enterprise, his legacy was undermined by a liaison that produced a crop of illegitimate children.  His will was challenged and a long legal battle ensued, which consumed all of the Wilkinson fortune and led both his heirs and their challengers into bankruptcy.” 

Yorkshire.  Larger numbers of Wilkinsons were and are to be found in Yorkshire.  The Wilkinsons were recorded at Crowder House in Ecclesfield from 1402 until its sale in 1859. 
Roger Wilkinson was a tanner living in Barnsley in the late 1400’s.  The Wilkinsons of Bolton upon Dearne near Rotherham were granted a Coat of Arms in 1563 and there appears to have been a link between this family and later Wilkinson families at Pontefract, Manningham, and Blackwell in Derbyshire.

Joshua Wilkinson, the son of a Leeds clothier, moved to London in the 1750's and did well at Moorfields as a furniture dealer, cabinet maker and house broker.  The business was handed down to his sons and grandsons over the next hundred years.  The actor Tom Wilkinson was born in Leeds in 1948 from a long line of urban farmers there.

America.  Early Wilkinsons in America were to be found in New England and Maryland.

New England  Lawrence Wilkinson was captured by Parliament forces in Newcastle in 1644 and had his lands confiscated.  He was offered the opportunity to depart for America and came to Rhode Island with his family the following year. 

His Rhode Island line included the Quakers Jeremiah Wilkinson, an inventor and the first to make cut nails, and the prophetess and “Universal Friend” Jemima Wilkinson.  The family history was recounted in the Rev. Israel Wilkinson’s 1869 book Memories of the Wilkinson Family in America.  Later descendants have included Henry Wilkinson, the architect of Harperly Hall in New York, and Mary Wilkinson, the mother of the actress Meryl Streep. 

A very distant relation, Lewis Wilkinson (the descendant of a union between William Wilkinson and a servant girl), came to New Milford, Connecticut in 1721.  A line of this family later moved west to Ohio and Indiana.  Meanwhile Christopher Wilkinson from Durham came to South Carolina around 1710.  His son Edward Wilkinson, sometimes Wilkerson, was an agent with the local Cherokee Indians.

Maryland  Captain Joseph Wilkinson was a London merchant who came to Maryland in the early 1700’s.  He acquired Stoakley Manor in Calvert county and was a tobacco farmer.  By the time his grandson James was born in 1757, however, the family was very much in debt.  

General James Wilkinson rose to prominence during the Revolutionary War, but had a murky reputation afterward.  He was called the “Spanish pensioner” as it was believed that he was an agent of the Spanish government.  Yet he had the support of President Jefferson because of his strong anti-federalist stance.  He was appointed the first Governor of Louisiana territory in 1805.  His story was narrated in Andro Linklater's 2009 book An Artist in Treason

James's niece Jane Long nee Wilkinson moved to Texas with her husband in the early 1820’s and owned there boarding houses and a plantation.  She became known as the "mother of Texas.

Australia.  Wilkinson is an important name in the Australian wine industry.  The Rev. Frederick Wilkinson, an early Methodist missionary from Martindale in Westmoreland, began growing vines on his Hunter valley property in 1825, one of the first to do so.

A more serious wine venture began in 1866 when two Wilkinson brothers - Frederick and John from a well-to-do family in Surrey - bought land at Pokolbin in the Hunter valley and started planting vines there. Frederick's son Audrey, who took over the vineyard in 1892 at the tender age of fifteen, gave the Wilkinson name its international reputation.  Audrey ran the vineyard until his death in 1962.

Wilkinson Homestead in Gosnells near Perth was built in 1912 and named after John Wilkinson, a tailor from Ballarat who moved west and tended a large citrus orchard there.  The homestead remained in Wilkinson family hands until 1963.

Select Wilkinson Miscellany

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

Select Wilkinson Names

John Wilkinson was an English industrialist who pioneered the use and manufacture of cast iron in the Industrial Revolution.
James Wilkinson started the Wilkinson Sword Company into sword production in the early 1800’s.
George Wilkinson won three Olympic gold medals, in 1900, 1908 and 1912, and is considered the world’s first great water polo player.
Jonny Wilkinson
was an English rugby player and the man who, with the last kick of the game, won the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

Select Wilkinsons Today
  • 64,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 22,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 21,000 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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