2: Thomas - bur: 24/Jan/1593(1594) - Salford Priors, Warwickshire, England
3: Nicholas - d: Apr-May/1566 - Abbots Salford,Warwickshire, England
4: Robert - d: Mar/1564(1565) - Salford Priors, Warwickshire, England
5: Joyn or Joan
The origin of the modern surname "Perkins" has been considered by a number of authors and researchers. As such, it is universally agreed that the first element of the name derives from "Piers" or "Pers", which are Middle English cognates with the modern French name, "Pierre". Of course, all of these descend from antiquity through the Latin form "Petrus", which in modern English becomes merely "Peter".1 Accordingly, the meaning is derived from the ancient Greek word "petros", which simply means "rock" or "stone". The common use of this word as a proper name derives from the famous incident related in the Gospels, cf., Matthew 16:18, Mark 3:16, Luke 6:14, and John 1:42, in which Jesus addressed his most prominent disciple, Simon, the fisherman, as "Cephas", that is to say, "rock" in the Aramaic language, which they actually spoke. The motivation was to emphasize the disciple's steadfastness and loyalty as in "solid as a rock", as might be said today. Subsequently, when the Gospels were written in the vernacular Greek of the first century, the name of the disciple, later apostle, became "Petros". Naturally, his role in the foundation of the Christian Church and, in particular, his traditional identification as the first Bishop of Rome, i.e., Pope and martyr, has insured usage of this name in its various forms down to the present time. The second element of the name is much more problematical; however, it is clearly derived from a patronymic form.2 Within this context, Mr. James Fulton Perkins suggests in a recent essay on the Perkins surname, that "kin" was used as a patronymic suffix to signify an eldest son. Accordingly, younger sons would be designated by the more common suffix "son", which has survived in many current surnames. This seems hardly likely. First of all, the high infant and child mortality rates prevailing in the Late Middle Ages would have meant that in many instances the favored first son did not survive to adulthood. This would further imply that to carry on such a tradition, a younger surviving son, thus, suddenly favored by primogeniture, would then be obligated to change his name from "son" to "kin". There is no evidence that this was ever a widespread practice. Furthermore, no less an authority than the Oxford English Dictionary makes no mention of the use of the suffix "kin" to form patronymics.3 Instead, it identifies the use of this suffix in the formation of medieval diminutives of masculine proper names. Indeed, the proper name "Perkin" explicitly appears in "Piers Plowman" and the works of Chaucer, which date to the fourteenth century and likely indicate common usage as early as the thirteenth century. Moreover, the writers of the Dictionary suggest that the English usage was derived from Flemish or Dutch forms which date as early as the tenth century. Therefore, Perkin literally means "Little Peter". However, within the usual cultural context, even at present diminutives are generally terms of endearment rather than purely descriptive. Thus, Perkin might better be rendered as "Dear Peter" or more impersonally as "Good Peter". Even so, it seems that usage of the "kin" suffix as a modifier of common masculine proper names fell out of fashion at the beginning of the fifteenth century. However, this was precisely coincident with the conversion of patronymics into true surnames. Generally, in England patronymic names were formed by the addition the suffix "son", but in Wales (and probably also in the western counties of England) they were commonly derived from the genitive form "'s" (obviously, surviving in the modern possessive form) for which the apostrophe (if it was used at all considering that spelling was highly variable and haphazard at best) tended, naturally, to be quickly discarded to leave merely a terminal "s". Therefore, Perkins quite logically derives from an English or Welsh patronymic having the meaning "son of Good Peter". In addition, Mr. Perkins makes a substantial point of stating that the common spelling of the surname became fixed in the late fourteenth century. However, this would be remarkable if it were true. In general, standardized spelling did not become prevalent until much later. As a consequence, the surnames "Perkins", "Parkins", "Parkyns", etc., are essentially spelling variations of the same original patronymic that became much later fixed traditions. Concomitantly, forms derived from the English patronymic are quite common (such as "Parkinson") and serve to emphasize the origin of all of these names. (Clearly, Parkinson would imply the highly unlikely use of a double patronymic form if "kin" had been actually used in this way.) For fairness, it should be stated that Mr. Perkins' essay is concerned primarily with the origin of a particular family which, it is believed, goes back to a common ancestor, Pierre de Morlaix, who is thought by some to have immigrated to Shropshire from Brittany in the fourteenth century. Accordingly, his name may have been anglicized to something like "Pierkyn Morley" and from this the surname "Perkins" developed in this lineage. However, as noted by Mr. Mansfield Parkyns it would be a mistake to suppose that all modern families bearing the surname "Perkins" descend from a single male ancestor.4 Indeed, he asserts with some emphasis that in the fourteenth century there were likely hundreds of individuals living in England having the proper name "Perkin" each of whom could have originated an ancestral lineage bearing the surname "Perkins" or one of its variants. Of course, this situation is not exceptional, but is the usual case for common English surnames derived from medieval patronymics. For completeness, it is worth considering the hypothesis that instead of the diminutive suffix, the second element of the name derives from the common English word "kin" meaning "clan" or "family". Again, citing the Oxford English Dictionary, this word is a derivative of an ancient Indo-European root that in Old English took the form "cyn(n)" and, thus, long predated usage of the suffix. Hence, "Perkins" would then be interpreted as a compound genitive noun meaning "of the clan of Peter". Even so, while this might seem logical, there does not appear to be any etymological support for such a reading.Source Notes and Citations:
It is likely that John Perkins was born about 1485 in Warwickshire. However, nothing definite is known including the name of his wife. Nevertheless, five children have been attributed to him.5 The only definite biographical detail known for John Perkins is that his will was proved on March 15, 1541 (1542 N. S.). In any case, he is the earliest verifiable ancestor of this branch of the Perkins family. In all probability, his ancestors had been resident in the locality later known generally by the name "Salford" for many centuries preceding.
1. Patrick Hanks (ed.), Oxford Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, periodically updated.
"English, Scottish, German, Dutch, etc.: from the personal name Peter (Greek Petros, from petra 'rock', 'stone'). The name was popular throughout Christian Europe in the Middle Ages, having been bestowed by Christ as a byname on the apostle Simon bar Jonah, the brother of Andrew. The name was chosen by Christ for its symbolic significance (John 1:42, Matt. 16:18); St. Peter is regarded as the founding head of the Christian Church in view of Christ's saying, 'Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church'. In Christian Germany in the early Middle Ages this was the most frequent personal name of non-Germanic origin until the 14th century. This surname has also absorbed many cognates in other languages, for example Czech Petr, Hungarian Péter. It has also been adopted as a surname by Ashkenazic Jews."
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"1. English: patronymic from Perkin, also found throughout mid and south Wales."
"English (mainly Yorkshire): from the Middle English personal name Perkin, Parkin, a pet form of Peter with the diminutive suffix -kin. (The change from -er- to -ar- was a characteristic phonetic development in Old French and Middle English.)"
"2. Dutch: patronymic from a pet form of Peer, a Dutch form of Peter."
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3. John Simpson (chief ed.), Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, continuously updated.
"The suffix (kin) has only a limited use in English. It appears to occur first in some familiar forms of personal (chiefly male) names, which were either adoptions or imitations of diminutive forms current in Flanders and Holland, where such forms appear already in the 10th c. The earliest ME. examples noted are Janekin, Malekin, Watekin, and Wilekin, found as early as 1250 (O.E. Misc. 188-191), and evidently then in familiar use. These and others of the kind were no doubt common in 13-14th c. (for Jankin and its variants see Nicholson Pedigree of 'Jack'), but are not prominent in literature till the second half of the 14th. The A-text of 'Piers Plowman' has Malkin and Perkin, the B-text adds Haukyn, and the C-text Watkyn; Chaucer uses Jankin, Malkin, Perkin, Simkin, and Wilkin; and in the 'Tournament of Tottenham' there occur Dawkyn, Hawkyn, Jeynkyn, Perkyn, and Tymkyn. The 'Earliest English Wills' have Idkyne (1397), Jankyn (1417-22) and Watkyn (1433). As Christian names these seem to have mostly gone out of fashion shortly after 1400, though instances occur later (e.g. Wilkin in Lyndesay's "Satyre", 2180); most of them have, however, survived as surnames, usually with the addition of -s or -son, as Jenkins, Watkins, Wilkinson, Dickens, Dickinson, etc."
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4. D. W. Perkins (ed), The Perkins Family in ye Olden Times - The Contents of a Series of Letters by the Late Mansfield Parkyns, Esq., privately published, Utica, NY, 1916: pgs. 7-9. (Reprint available from the Higginson Book Co., 148 Wash. St., P. O. B. 778, Salem, MA, 01970)
"... the origin of the well-known English Christian names ending in kin, such as Parkyn (or Perkin), Simpkin, Wilkin, Jankyn (Jenkin), Watkin, etc., ... were early English forms or diminutives of the more classical Peter, Simon, William, John, Walter, etc., the kin being of Flemish origin. Possibly even of British origin, for they seem more common in Wales and in the Marcher Counties, where Jenkin and Watkin are not uncommon baptismal names in the present day.
Peterkin and Fritzkin are (in German) diminutives applied playfully to children, as we might say Tommy, or Freddy, not at all to distinguish them from their fathers who might be named Carl or any other name. 'Perkyn' may be quite as ancient a Christian name as 'Parkyn' in some parts of England, depending on local pronunciation.
As a rule, ... English surnames derived from Christian names were either the name itself or with 's' or 'son' added. So, while the Welsh would be Ap Jenkin, the Scotch Mac, Jan, the English, would be Johns, Johnes, Jones, or Johnson.
Nearly all Welsh names are of two forms derived from Christian names either ending in 's' or with the old 'ab' or 'ap' changed into 'B' or 'P,' as Ab Evan, Bevan or Evans; Ap Howell, Powell or Howells;; Ap Harry, Parry or Harris, etc. So in the Midland Counties the 's' was not added for ornament, as has been suggested, but was the Welsh equivalent to the English 'son.'"
"Perkins and Parkins are merely Welsh (or western county) forms of Perkin's son, Parkin's son, and in England Parkinson. The word 'kins' has never ... been used in England, 'kin' being of itself plural, and in the sense of kindred or relatives.
And here is an authority: 'In England when the patronymic was used the word 'son' was usually affixed, as John Adamson. In Wales, on the contrary, no affix was used, but the paternal name was put in the genitive, as Griffith William's, David John's or Jone's, Rees Harry's or Harri's, etc.'
It is a mistake to suppose there was only one family of Perkins or Parkyns, Perkin or Parkyn being the commonest forms of the more classical Peter. There were and are, no doubt, hundreds of distinct families whose surnames, Parkyn, Perkin, Parkyns, Perkins, Parkinson, Perkinson, etc. derive from as many different ancestors who happen to have been named Parkyn or Perkin, as is the case with all surnames derived from Christian names, trades, etc. It would ... be hard to find a Parish Register in England without the name of some descendant of an ancient Perkin."
"The general change from 'ar' to 'er' and 'y' to 'i' ... appears to have begun from a pedantic passion for Latinizing everything in the reign of Elizabeth (1558-1603) and James I. (1603-1625)"
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5. The five known children were William, Thomas, Nicholas, Robert, and Joan. Of course, there may have been others that died young. Of these, Nicholas made his will April 4, 1566, which was proved the following May 22nd. Similarly, Robert made his will March 11, 1564(1565), which was proved the following 20th. (Paula Towne McRonald; database - :1950294; worldconnect.genealogy.rootsweb.com, 2002.)
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6. James Fulton Perkins, "Of the Distinguished Surname Perkins", homepages.rootsweb.com/~sonyapl/essay/perkins_essay_part_one.htm, 2001.
7. Paula Perkins Mortensen, English Origin of Six Early Colonists by the Name Perkins, Gateway Press, Baltimore, MD, 1998.
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