Friday, April 29, 2011

Surname Saturday: The 11,360th most Common Name in America

On a national or even worldwide basis, Jerkins is quite a rare name.  According to statistics from the 2000 U.S. census, Jerkins is the 11,360th most common surname in the United States.  That means that the Smiths, Joneses, Browns, and, 11,357 other surnames in the U.S. have more family members using the names than there are people using the name Jerkins.  All of the Jerkins in America add up to less than 0.001% of the U.S. population.  And in November of 2000, a check of the white pages in England, where the name is said to have originated, showed a listing of fewer than 50 families.  That makes the Jerkins name sufficiently rare that when any two Jerkins from the southeastern U.S. meet, there is a very high likelihood that they are at least distantly related.  This is true even if the two are complete strangers and have never seen or heard of one another before.

The New Dictionary of American Family Names by E. C. Smith,  (Harper and Row, 1973), claims that Jerkins is a surname of English origin.  It also says that Jerkins is a patronymic from the name Jeremiah.  Patronymics are last names based on or created from the first name of the father.  They 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.  He is the son of William) or Tom Richards (Tom.  He is the 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 that probably meant “the son of Jeremiah”, or perhaps Jeremy – which itself was already a name derived from Jeremiah.


  1. Very interesting! You made me curious so I had to check out my own surnames. My maiden name, Kuhn, is the 1,053rd most reported surname. My married name, Roelker, does not appear at all! It is interesting to see all the name options.

  2. A very interesting post. I know several of our surnames are also uncommon. It makes researching fun a way that, like you mentioned above, the ones we do come across are likely to end up related to us in some fashion.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)