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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Where did the English Cork family come from? What is the English Cork family crest and coat of arms? When did the Cork family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Cork family history?

The notable Cork family arose among the Cornish People, a race with a rich Celtic heritage and an indomitable fighting spirit who inhabited the southwest of England. While surnames were well-known during the English medieval period, Cornish People originally used only a single name. The way in which hereditary surnames came into common use is interesting. As the population of medieval Europe multiplied, people began to assume an extra name to avoid confusion and to further identify themselves. Under the Feudal System of government, surnames evolved and they often reflected life on the manor and in the field. Patronymic surnames were derived from given names and were the predominant type of surname among the Celtic peoples of Britain. However, the people of Cornwall provide a surprising exception to this rule, and patronymic surnames are less common among them than other people of Celtic stock, such as their Welsh neighbors. This is due to the greater influence of English bureaucracy and naming practices in Cornwall at the time that surnames first arose. This type of surname blended perfectly with the prevailing Feudal System. One feature that is occasionally found in Cornish surnames of this type is the suffix -oe or -ow; this is derived from the Cornish plural suffix -ow. is a patronymic surname that came from the Welsh personal name which occurred variously as Corc, Gouch, or Coch and is of uncertain origin. It is said to have been born by an early chieftain of the area.

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Cornish surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The official court languages, which were Latin and French, were also influential on the spelling of a surname. Since the spelling of surnames was rarely consistent in medieval times, and scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings of their surname in the ancient chronicles. Moreover, a large number of foreign names were brought into England, which accelerated and accentuated the alterations to the spelling of various surnames. Lastly, spelling variations often resulted from the linguistic differences between the people of Cornwall and the rest of England. The Cornish spoke a unique Brythonic Celtic language which was first recorded in written documents during the 10th century. However, they became increasingly Anglicized, and Cornish became extinct as a spoken language in 1777, although it has been revived by Cornish patriots in the modern era. The name has been spelled Cork, Corke, Corc, Corr, Coch, Gough and others.

First found in Cornwall where they had been anciently seated from about the 11th century, some say even before the Norman Conquest of England by Duke William in 1066. Although, on the surface, there seems to be an immediate connection with the city of Cork in southern Ireland, historians believe this to be an old Celtic surname descended from Corc, Gouch or Coch, a chieftain of some renown who lived prior to the 11th century and was probably Welsh.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cork research. Another 148 words(11 lines of text) covering the year 1580 is included under the topic Early Cork History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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More information is included under the topic Early Cork Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Investigation of immigration and passenger lists has revealed a number of people bearing the name Cork:

Cork Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century


  • George Cork who settled in Jamaica in 1685

Cork Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • John Cork settled in Charles Town [Charleston], South Carolina in 1772
  • John Cork, who arrived in South Carolina in 1772

Cork Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • Charles Cork, who landed in New York in 1815
  • William Cork settled in New Orleans La. in 1820
  • Ann Cork settled in New York State with five children in 1823
  • I M Cork, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1850

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  • Dominic Cork (b. 1971), English cricketer
  • General Edward Creagh of Cork,


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  1. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  2. Cook, Chris. English Historical Facts 1603-1688. London: MacMillan, 1980. Print.
  3. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  4. Hitching, F.K and S. Hitching. References to English Surnames in 1601-1602. Walton On Thames: 1910. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0181-3).
  5. Mills, A.D. Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4).
  6. Shirley, Evelyn Philip. Noble and Gentle Men of England Or Notes Touching The Arms and Descendants of the Ancient Knightley and Gentle Houses of England Arranged in their Respective Counties 3rd Edition. Westminster: John Bowyer Nichols and Sons, 1866. Print.
  7. Humble, Richard. The Fall of Saxon England. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-88029-987-8).
  8. Thirsk, Joan. The Agrarian History of England and Wales. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 7 Volumes. Print.
  9. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  10. Hinde, Thomas Ed. The Domesday Book England's Heritage Then and Now. Surrey: Colour Library Books, 1995. Print. (ISBN 1-85833-440-3).
  11. ...

The Cork Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Cork Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 27 October 2010 at 13:28.

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