GURKIN[Soundex code G/J625] Information gathered by Jane Stubbs Bailey as of September 1994 SPELLING

Variations on spelling found in North Carolina Records: Jearkin Jerkin, Jerken, Jurkin, Jukin, Gerken, Gerkin, Ghurkin, Gherkin, Ghuerkin, Girkin, Girken, Girking, Gurkins, Gurken. In later records, Jerkin often turns out to be Jenkin.


Origin of name a puzzle. The name could be Slavic, German, and possibly Irish. Germans from the Palatine area of the Rhine, Germany, settled in Dublin area and other parts of Ireland in 1709. Our Gurkin family was already in North Carolina by then. [Margaret Dickson Foley, Irish and Scotch-Irish Ancestral Research, 2 volumes. Balt Gen Pub Co, 1981. V. I p 358-59]

Were they Germans?

Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, volume 6 says that Girkin is the obsolete form of Gherkin [cucumber]. Girking is a variant of Jerkin, a kind of Hawk. Gherkin may be a Dutch modification, Gurke, the German form of cucumber, and Gurka the Swedish form. All the above forms probably originated from the Slavic language.

Elsdon C. Smith's New Dictonary of American Family Names, Harper and Row, 1956, 1973, p. 256, points out that Jerkins is an English word standing for the son of Little Jeremy, Jeremiah, Jerome and Gerald. Gerke, Gerk, Gerken is German for a Descendant of Little Ger [spear] [p. 178] Gurka, Gurko, Gurke is Polish for Dweller near or on a small hill. [p. 202]

Letter to John Gurkin in 1984 from Heritage Travel, 3699 Ira Road, Bath, Ohio 44210 indicates that the Clan Gurkin is of Ireland. They offer a trip to "old Gurkin strongholds-as well as towns and villages where Gurkins live today."

When inquiries were made in 1993 to 1994 as to the background of William David Gurkin, age 20, a weaver who came to Washington, NC in 1833 on the ship Lady of the Lake Greenock, from Londonderry, Northern Ireland, the reply from the Chief Herald Genealogical Office, Dublin Ireland, advised that records in Ballina were destroyed and that they could find no reference to the Gurkin name in Ireland.

Ballina is District #4 encompassing the 3 counties Mayo, Leitrim, and Sligo, except the Baronies of Mohill, Carrigallen and Leitrim. Mayo County has 28 parishes. Leitrim County has 9 parishes, Sligo County has 5 parishes. [Foley, v. 1, p739]


The name of Zachery Jerkin surfaced in North Carolina in 1695.

Information on the first Gurkin in North Carolina comes from miscellaneous papers found in the court house at Edenton, North Carolina by J. R. B. Hathaway who from 1900 to 1903 researched documents in that courthouse for his North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register. "HEAD RIGHTS." He says that "on the back of a paper bearing date 1695, the following items appear." [He doesn't say what is on the other side!] "Jo Walker & his wife Eliza Walker and * * * * and her 3 husbands Wm Lambert Nicholess Brightman, Zachary Jerkin, Wm Wilkison in one warrt by Chew. Jo Walters hired Servt for himself." [****are Hathaway's] "Edward Bioxam and his wife Ann and her child Wm Sutur desires ye proof of their rights, by Pollock, James Harlow's rights for 15 last March hee came into ye country, Edwd Jarviss desires rights for 4 persons to be sent by Porter, Wm Hooker for 6 rights by Major Swann." [Hathaway, volume 3, #1, page 153]

The lack of punctuation and missing sections show the difficulty of proving relationships. Yet further deeds and wills give credence to the fact that Elizabeth may have been married to William Lambert, Nicholas Brightman, Zachary Jerkin, and John Walker. In addition she may have married a Darling and her last husband was Solomon Jordan.

Colonial spelling and style of writing make the deciphering of records a challenge. Early clerks often spelled a word as it sounded to them. Remembering this variation in spelling is important in tracing the Gurkin family. At times the name is spelled in different ways within the same document.

The meaning of words has changed since the Colonial era. Son-in- law, daughter-in-law, father-in-law & mother-in-law had 2 meanings. One was the conventional one we use today. The second meant step-son, step-daughter, step-father, step-mother. Cousin often meant niece or nephew.

Even the calendar has changed since the Colonial era. Until 1752 North Carolina used the Julian calendar. The first day of the year was March 25. Researchers often use means such as "1733/34" to indicate that in present calendar use the date would be 1734.

A strong support in believing that Zachary Jerkin was one of the husbands of Elizabeth, as stated in the 1695 document Hathaway found in the court house in Edenton, NC, is the fact that their son Zachariah Gerkin [Garkin], witnessed the will of Elizabeth's next-to-the-last husband, John Walker, in 1709.

1709 Jan 12. Will of John Walker. Albemarle County Son John, plantation I now live on at Kendricks Creek Son Benjamin, plantation where he now lives "Pollocks" Wife Elizabeth. River Side plantation for life that is called Barses Neck after wife's death Son Thomas the half that joins the Great Swamp Son James the River Plantation after Elizabeth's death Children to live with wife until they are 16 years of age Daughter Sarah, household goods Exec: Elizabeth, if she alters her condition then Mr. Robert West and Thomas West Wit: Elizabeth Powell, Zachariah Garkin, Will Mitchell.
Dr. Stephen E. Bradley, Jr., Early Records of North Carolina, Volume 1V:: Wills 1663-1722, Keysville, Virginia, 1993, #530.

Later support for the relationship between Zachariah Gerkin and his mother Elizabeth_______Jerkin Walker Jordan is a 1734 deed involving John Walker's son, Benjamin Walker. Zachariah Gerkin's wife Hannah is a witness to the deed.

John Adderly [resident of Tyrrell County] to Benjamin Walker. 100 acres back of Coneby Creek. March 12, 1733/34. Test: Hannah Jearkin, Wm Stilly. [From "Abstracts of Conveyances" Original in Court House at Edenton, N.C., vol 2 page 453 of J. R. B. Hathaway's North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register, July 1901.

We hope other Gurkin researchers will correct and add to the research we have done.

  Copyright 1998.Jane Stubbs Bailey. All Rights Reserved.

The following added by James Lewis Gurkin;

It's difficult to determine the origin of a name when the original spelling can't be determined. Our best efforts disclosed the following;

The earliest spelling found was about 1695 when Zachary JERKIN was the third husband of Elizabeth "Brightman". In 1715 Zachary's son Zachariah's name was spelled JURKIN in two documents. A year later in 1716 it was spelled JURKIN, JIRKIN and then GERKIN twice in four documents. It was spelled GERKIN when he was deeded 60 acres by his father-in-law in 1718, then GIRKEN when he died in 1754, with various spellings in between including GIRKIN, GIRKINGS and GERKINGS. Signing documents with his mark indicated he could not write, so the name was spelled as it sounded. In Colonial handwriting samples the written or cursive capital G and the written or cursive capital J are hard to distinguish from each other.

The name was spelled GIRKIN when Zachariah's son Benjamin came to near Pinetown in 1758. The first time it was spelled GURKIN was in 1780 when Benjamin witnessed a deed. Then in 1788 the State of North Carolina granted land (100 acres) to Jeremiah GURKIN. From that time on the name was spelled GURKIN fairly consistently in deeds and wills, with few exceptions. You can't go by the census records because it was spelled as it sounded to the census taker.

A little perspective here:  The lost colony was discovered to be lost in 1597. The first permanent English settlement in America was in 1607 at Jamestown, Va. The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Mass. in 1620. Our ancestor, Zachary Jerkin, was in North Carolina in 1695, but although a study of the earliest spelling, the time, the location, the neighbors, and the associates of Zachary Jerkin indicates that our name may be of English origin, we are reminded that in addition to the French in Canada, a number of them were in North and South Carolina by 1700. Germans and Swiss were around in isolated patches at first but in increasing numbers as the 1700's went on.

Each of us, individually, after studying all the research at this Web Site, and any other research or information available to us, must decide, for ourselves, our origin. Our earliest known ancestor, Zachary Jerkin, could have been an indentured servant to an English settler.  He could have deserted a ship. There are any number of possibilities; He could have been Irish, Dutch, German, Swiss, or Russian. The only thing known for certain is that he could not write his name. Although I cannot document my assumption, I personally think he was of English origin. My father had no documentation, but thought he was Welsh, from Wales, England. In the event someone has, or discovers, information which could help establish our origin, all Gurkin descendants would appreciate your sharing it with us.

                      The following on the origin of the name “Gurkin” from:

                             “ Jack V. Butler@worldnet.att.net” (Jack Butler):

I have been researching the descendants (and origins) of Zachariah Jerkins - the one referred to as the Pensioner - for the past couple of years. I was looking through The Gurkin Family History website again today and I re-read the "Origin of the name" info. I thought that I would pass along what I have found for consideration. I apologize for its length, but it is a complex subject.

If the Gurkins do descend from the Jerkins - which from reading the website again does not appear to be a proven fact, since the first folks who spelled it that way have not been shown to be connected to the earlier Jerkins - then they almost definitely came to America from England.

I also saw where the site sponsor’s father thought he was Welsh. There is an English company that makes its money selling those fancy "Surname" scrolls complete with coats of arms, etc to unsuspecting or otherwise gullible Americans - that company says that Jerkins is a Welsh name and that it first appeared in the records in Monmouthshire in the 11th century. What we know for sure is that the name is British. Maybe English, maybe Welsh - but definitely from the island of Great Britain. The New Dictionary of American Family Names by E. C. Smith, (Harper and Row, 1973 indicates that Jerkins is a patronymic, an British surname based on or created from the first name of the father. Patronymics are very common in English-speaking countries, and were frequently achieved by adding an "s" to the father's first name, creating names like John Williams (John, son of William) or Tom Richards (Tom, son of Richard). In other cases, the ending "son" was added so that you get Davidson, Richardson, or Anderson (son of Andrew).

Sometimes, as in our case, the suffix "kin" was used in these surnames as a diminutive - so Tompkin meant "Little Thomas", Wilkin was "Little William" and Perkin was "Little Peter". Adding the letter "s" to the kin suffix was a double diminutive that usually meant "son of".  Jerkins, therefore, was a  British name of either English or Welsh origin, which simply meant "the son of Little Jeremiah, Little Jeremy, Little Jerome or Little Gerald/Jerrold. Jeremy and Jerome are themselves names that were derived from Jeremiah. Jerrold and Gerald are from the old Germanic word Jarl, meaning spear. So it seems likely that we are either sons of Little Jeremiah or sons of Little Spear.

Also, there were Gurkings in Gloucestershire, and Gerkins in Westmoreland Co, England in the 1680's, and Garkins/Garkings in Shropshire, England in the 1660's. Gurkins also showed up in Buckingham Co, in the 1660's, where there were also several Jerkins at the time.

                                               The Jerkins/Judkins Conundrum:

In some records, our Jerkins were listed as Judkins, and for once we believe that there is more to this version of the name than the simple spelling differences that created the Jerkins name variations. In a property deed recorded in 1784 in Halifax County, North Carolina, Zachariah Jerkins is referred to as Zachariah Jurkins one place in the document and as Zachariah Judkins in another place. When we first came across this, we dismissed it as the simple kind of spelling error that is frequently encountered in old records. Some clerk, we thought, simply heard it wrong and wrote it down the way that he thought that he had heard it.

As we continued to research, however, we found Zachariah and several of his sons referred to in additional records as Judkins. Zachariah appears as a Judkins in some tax records in Hancock County, for example, and is a Judkins on the 1820 Federal Census of Hancock County, GA. When old Zack's son, Zachariah Jerkins, Jr., married Martha Faision in 1822, he was recorded in the Hancock County marriage books as Zachariah Judkins. Nine years later, in 1831, when he filed for divorce from Martha in Leon County, FL, he did it as Zachariah Jerkins. Likewise, old Zack's son Richard was named as a Jerkins in his uncle's 1810 will, but was called Richard Judkins in several newspaper legal notices stemming from the will.

Furthermore, as we expanded our research across North Carolina and Virginia, we began to find that from the late 1600's until about 1850, many men thought of as Judkins by their modern descendants were frequently listed in the early records as Jerkins. William Judkins, originally of Surry County, VA, was frequently listed as William Jerkins in the property and militia records of Granville County, NC. Edmund and Gray Judkins of Beaufort County, NC were identified as Jerkins in the 1800 Census, Judkins in the 1810 Census, and as Jerkins again in 1820. Charles Judkins of Edgecombe County, NC had the same thing happen to him in the census, and he was named as a Jerkins in his father-in-law's will. Even the sons of Samuel Judkins of VA (considered by Judkins researchers to be the founder of the southern Judkins branch), Robert Judkins and Samuel Judkins, were listed as Jerkins on separate 1685 property deeds in Surry County, Virginia. There are numerous other examples.

So why did this happen? The answer appears to be phonetic spelling - the spelling of the name just as it sounds - just like when the clerk wrote Jurkins when he heard Jerkins. This obviously was a result of how the names were pronounced. When the clerks wrote a Judkins' name down as Jerkins, he was clearly hearing an "R" sound being pronounced. Likewise, when a Jerkins was recorded as a Judkins, a "D" sound was being heard in the pronunciation of the name.

Further evidence of this phenomenon was recorded in a small article in the October, 1999 issue of the Judkins Family Journal, the official quarterly magazine of the Judkins Family Association. The story related how a New England woman named Susan Judkins who died in 1844 insisted that her name be spelled JURDKINS on her tombstone, despite the fact that the town records listed her, her parents, and all of her siblings as Judkins. In the introduction to the article, the editor of the Judkins Journal asked "Whatwas wrong with these people? Did they sometimes forget who they were?" The answer is no, they never forgot who they were. I suspect, however, that we often do forget who they were.

Our ancestors were British, and when they came to this country they brought their accents with them. It seems clear to me that when Susan Judkins insisted that her name be put on her stone as Jurdkins, she was just asking that her name be written the way that she had heard it said her entire life. Our early American ancestors - both Judkins and Jerkins - obviously pronounced the name pretty much as she spelled it. I am reminded of an Englishman that I knew many years ago when I was in the Army. One of the oddities of his accent was that he intruded the letter "r" into words that didn't actually contain an "r". After all of these years, the most memorable example is that he pronounced the word yes as "yurse". I wish that I could remember what part of England he was from.

It is our belief that the Judkins and Jerkins may very well come from a common source and may have once been the same family. A quick search of the British IGI, shows more early Judkins records than Jerkins with the early Judkins showing up in Warwick County, England in the 1540's. The first Jerkins show up in the IGI in about 1615 and by that time the Judkins and Jerkins are showing up in the same counties: Northampton, London, Lincoln. The Jerkins/Judkins riddle raises some fascinating questions, and requires more study.

Just food for thought. Jack V. Butler

For the benefit of those of us who wonder if we may be of Irish descent, the following information is posted on this Web Site exactly as it was furnished me:                             

                                INFORMATION on the name GURKIN

                                           from 'More Irish Families'
                                           by Edward MacLysaght
                                Printed- O'Gorman, Ltd., Republ.of Ireland-Galway, 1960

                                          Quirke/MacGurk--pp 201-202
                                          in Munster region- Tipperary

           The name Quirke is found only in families of Munster origin: the great majority of these belong and have belonged for many centuries, to Co. Tipperary. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, before the Anglo-Norman invasion, the leading family of O'Quirke--O Cuire in Irish-- was of kingly rank, ruling as it did over a considerable territory in the barony of Clanwilliam in south-west Tipperary, then known as Muscraighe Cuire, anglice Muskerry Quirke and sometimes called Quirke's country. An early form of the name in English was O'Curk; the Archbishop of Casgel was charged in 1295 with having sheltered a robber named Murchard O'Curk (and was acquitted). Carew in 1592 calls them O'Kirke. As Quirle, Quoyrke and Cork, the name is of frequent occurrence 'in the records of Clonmel, and there are families of Quirke in the Co. Tipperary Hearth rolls of 1664-1666.
            In that century we also find them located in Connacht, for two Quirkes of Co. Galway were transplanted thence as Irish Papists under the Cromwellian regime. Quirkes were in Ormond's army in 1649 and in the Irish army of the 1670's (more than half of whom were of English birth) and again 20 years later in James 11's army,. The most noteworthy was the Dominican Father Thomas O'Quirke, a priest of exceptional eloquence who was chaplain-in-ordinary to the Supreme Council of the Confederation of Kilkenny. Another Dominican Father Quirke was prior of St. Savior's, Limerick, in 1627.
          Somewhat strangely, since the name is a simple one both in Irish and English, a remarkable number of synonyms have been used for Quirke. These include Oates (by mistranslation--oats in Irish is coirce), Kirk and Quick in Co. Cork, and MacCarthy in north Connacht (perhaps by reason of its southern origin). The great majority of people called Kirke, who are numerous in Uster but not elsewhere in Ireland, are of British stock.
          MacQuirke is also found in the Fiants and today, but this has no racial connection with O'Quirke, being a misspelling of the Ulster surname MacGuirk or MacGurk. The latter is the more usual modern spelling. Woulfe states that in Irish it is Mag Cuire or Mac Cuire and thus philologically akin to OCuire, both, he thinks, being derived from the forename Core (core is a middle-Irish word meaning heart). I prefer, however, to accept Mr. T.O. Raifeartaigh's view that MacGuirk has no philological connection with O'Cuire, the spelling in the genealogies being Mag Oirc. He mentions that Ballygurk, near Magherafelt, is called Baile 'ig Oirc in Irish. He further tells me that the family, who were of the Cenel Binnigh descended from Niall Naoighiallach, were hereditary joint keepers of St. Colmeille's bell (now in Edinburgh Museum). The name appears frequently in the Hearth Money Rolls both for Co. Armagh and Co. Monaghan; it is now chiefly found in Co. Tyrone and in Belfast. The parish of Termonmahuirk of which they were erenaghs, is in the barony of Omagh, Co. Tyrone, in the extreme north-west of the arch- diocese of Armagh. The MacGuirks were hereditary tenants of the archbishop there until the property was lost in 1624 following the Plantation of Ulster. A notable member of this family, bom there in 1622, was father brian MacGurk; at the age of 90 he was captured by the notorious priest-hunter Dawson and died in prison the next year. Further afield is another place the name of which commemorates the family-- carrickmacguirk, near Grannard.


Gurkin- a variant of Durkin, MacGurk, MacGuirk, MacDurken, Dorcan, O'Duarcain, MacDuarcain. Sometimes anglicized as Gurkin, numerous in N. Connacht.

McGurke- in the Ulster region. Areas found: Antrim County, Tyrone, and Dublin.

                                 Passengers on Ships to Virginia from London

William Querke, aged 30, in the Marmaduke, 1625, servant of Francis Mason.
          from New Gemological Atlas of Ireland by Brian Mitchell
         Geneol. Publ. Co. Inc., Baltimore 1986