This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 22nd March 1993, reproduced by kind permission of the author, the late Desmond Holden.

The “What's in a Name” series was a regular feature in the Advertiser over the period 1993‑2004, taking a refreshing look at the derivation of some typically Derbyshire surnames.

Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames, and do not indicate any particular interest on Desmond's part in the genealogy, descent, or family history of individuals bearing the surnames featured.

Editor's Note: Articles are provided for general interest and background only. They are not intended to provide an exhaustive treatise for any individual family history - investigations of which may yield quite different results. Or, in Desmond's own words:

“In the end it must remain with individual bearers of the names to draw upon family traditions and to seek out such documentary evidence as is available to decide the matter for themselves.”

WHAT'S IN A NAME … Are you called JENKINSON?

Names which end in "-son" invariably show descent: that is to say, they would have told us that somebody was the "son of so-and-so". In the case of "Jenkinson" the original bearers of the name would have been identified as being "the son of Jenkin". This name is, itself, a pet or familiar way of referring to somebody called "Jen" and "Jen" is a shortened version of "John".

The name "John" has always been a popular name for a boy and it has gone through many permutations. In those parts of North-western, Europe which we would now call Belgium and Holland, the form "Jan" evolved and to it was often added the diminutive suffix "-kin" which gives us "Jenkin". Note the connection between "-kin", meaning "little" and corresponding words in German and Dutch for "child".

Because there was a great deal of trade, largely based on wool, between the people of that part of the Continent and this island, many of them crossed over and settled here. They introduced new words and phrases among which was the word "-kin". Its use spread quite rapidly, particularly in the Eastern regions and in the London area. Curiously, enough, although it could have been an extremely useful element in the development of modern English, it is rarely found otherwise than as a tag to a personal name. Once it was so extremely widespread that names ending with "-kin" existed in their own right. Old poems and plays are filled with characters who are called "Jenkin", "Perkin", "Watkin" and "Wilkin" and so forth. However, after about the year 1400 the practice seems to have fallen into disuse and has survived principally in surnames.

There are innumerable variations in this surname, ranging from "Jenks" through "Jenkins", finally to "Jenkinson". The forms, such as "Jenkyns" as in Mrs. Gaskell's 'Cranford' where the principle character is a Miss Matty Jenkyns, simply reflect old-fashioned spelling.

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 22nd March 1993.

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