Select Peacock Surname Genealogy

Both the Peacock and Pocock names derived from the peacock bird.  These surnames probably developed initially as nicknames, possibly for someone who wore bright clothes or was seen as a vain strutting person.  It has also been suggested that the name was occupational, describing a breeder of peacocks, or locational, describing someone who lived by the sign of a peacock.

The Peacock spelling (which predominates) has tended to be found more in the north of England, the Pocock spelling more in the south – although there are no hard and fast rules on this.

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England.  The history here divides into Peacock and Pocock.

.  Peacock has tended to be a northern name, although there have been exceptions.  Reginald Pecock, the 15th century theologian, was probably born in Wales.  He was appointed Bishop of St. Asaph in 1444, but was then found guilty of heresy in 1457 and banished.   Stephen Peacock of the Haberdashers’ Guild was Lord Mayor of London in 1533.  He it was in his gown of crimson velvet who led Anne Boleyn on her way to being crowned Queen that year.

Generally, the Peacock name has been strongest in Yorkshire, extending north into Durham.  One early mention of the name was in 1536 when Anthony Peacock, the bailiff at
Arkengarthdale inear Swaledale, took part in the Pilgrimage of Grace.  The story did not end happily as Peacock was hanged in chains on Richmond Moor and then executed for his role in the uprising.

Peacock has been concentrated in Swaledale in this part of north Yorkshire that used to be called Richmondshire. There were 48 Peacocks living at Arkengarthdale in the 1881 census.  Peacocks were also at Marrick and Reeth near Grinton.  Thomas Peacock of Marrick was recorded at 102 years old on his death in 1762.

Lead mining
took place in this area in the 18th century and the Peacock name was to be found in mining villages such as Thwaite and Muker.  Ralph Peacock was a lead mining superintendent in Swaledale in the early 1800’s.  His son Richard made his mark as a railway engineer and co-founded in 1853 the locomotive company of Beyer-Peacock. 

It was clear that Peacock was a very familiar name in Swaledale as it cropped up in the local Beeth Bartle Fair ballad composed in the 1870’s.

.  The early spelling here appears to have been Pocok in Somerset and Pecok in Essex.

The Pocock name in Berkshire dates back to John Pocock who was buried at Hampsted Norris in the county in 1493.  Edmund and Laurence Pocock, vicars at Chieveley and Brightwalton in the late 1500’s, were probably brothers:
  • Edmund’s son, Dr. Edmund Pocock, was the great Oriental scholar at Oxford, the first scholar of Arabic of any stature in England.
  • Laurence’s line included the clergyman Thomas Pocock, also known as a diarist, and Sir George Pocock who had a distinguished naval career, defeating the French three times in Indian waters during the 1750’s.
“For these services he received the gratitude of the East India Company and a statue was erected of him outside India House.” 

His son George was created a baronet.

The Pococks in Bristol were thought to have been related to the Chieveley Pococks in Berkshire.  The first in their number was Nicholas Pocock, a respected mariner and merchant of Bristol who was made a freemen of the city in 1742.  One of his sons Isaac fought at sea and distinguished himself at the time of the American Revolutionary War; while another son Nicholas became well-known as a marine artist.  The line from Nicholas extended to Isaac, also a painter, and then to Nicholas, a cleric and historical writer.

.  Peacock is also a Scottish surname.  The Peacock name was first found in Dumfries and later in Edinburgh and Perthshire.  However, the main concentration of the name has been in the Glasgow area:
  • there is a preserved document of the last speech and confession of Alexander Peacock, shoemaker from Glasgow, who was executed in 1743 for the cruel and bloody murder of Margaret Marshall his wife.
  • while John Peacock was a rope manufacturer in Paisley in the late 1700’s.  William Peacock took over another rope business there in the 1840’s and this business continued under his name until 1990.
Ireland.  Peacocks in Ireland are likely to be of either Scottish or English ancestry, the former being mainly found in Antrim.

 The Peacocks in America may have English, Scottish or Irish origins.  Perhaps the first to arrive was William Peacock from England who came on the Hopewell in 1635 and settled in Roxbury, Massachusetts.  He had one son.  John Peacock, also from England, came to the New Haven colony in Connecticut in 1638.  But he had no male heir. 

Later arrivals were: 
  • John Peacock from Scotland who came in 1714 and made his home in Burlington county, New Jersey.  There are a large number of Peacocks in New Jersey descended from John Peacock.  
  • and Thomas Peacock from Ireland who came to Long Island in the 1760’s.  He fought in General Washington’s army during the Revolutionary War and afterwards settled in Newburgh, New York.  He died in 1828 at the advanced age of 98. 
Peacocks in the South.  The earliest arrival may have been Thomas Peacock from Scotland who came to Maryland sometime in the 1730’s and whose descendants settled in Loudoun county, Virginia.  Peacocks from Virginia and North Carolina spread across the South.  Many of these Peacocks are covered in the Peacock Family Association of the South - which began life after the publication of John J. Pierce’s 1979 book The Children of Levi Peacock.

The Rev. Levi Peacock, born in Wayne county, North Carolina in 1756, served in the North Carolina militia during the Revolutionary War and settled down around 1800 in Georgia.   Simon and Zilpha Peacock lived in Wayne county also at this time.  Their son Robert came to Georgia a little later and there are a large number of his descendants today in Thomas county

South Ahrica.  Richard and Maria Peacock from Kent were part of the Wilson party among the 1820 settlers to South Africa.  They made their home at Somerset East in the Eastern Cape.  Some of the later Peacocks moved to Queenstown where Alfred Peacock served as mayor.

Australia and New Zealand.  John Jenkins Peacock had been born in Sydney of convict parents in 1798.  An enterprising young man, he acquired a master’s ticket and involved himself in coastal trading where he worked hard and became very successful.  However, in 1843 he over-extended himself and was forced to sell off almost all of his assets. 

He and his son John moved to New Zealand the next year.  They made their base in Lyttelton, South Island.  Son John proved himself a successful merchant who managed to hold onto his money and retire early

Another Peacock family made good down under was begun by William Peacock from London, an early settler in South Australia in 1838.  He started a tannery and wool-brokering business which was carried on by his sons Joseph and Caleb.  Caleb was mayor of Adelaide from 1875 to 1877.

Select Peacock Miscellany

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

Select Peacock Names

Reginald Pecock was a leading English theologian of the 15th century who in later life was banished for heresy.
Dr. Edmund Pocock
pioneered Arabic studies in England in the 17th century.
Thomas Love Peacock
was an English novelist and poet of the early 19th century, a close friend of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Select Peacock Today
  • 25,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 7,000 in America (most numerous in Florida) 
  • 9,000 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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