Select King Surname Genealogy

Those with the surname King are unfortunately not descended from a king.  King generally started as a nickname, for someone who had displayed himself in a kingly manner or who had played the Mayday King in one of the pageants that were so popular in medieval times.   Every village had its Mayday king and at the feast of the Epiphany one of the company was always elected king.

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England.  The first references to King as a surname appeared in Devon.  Aelwine se Cyng was recorded there in 1050.  Early spellings in Devon and Dorset were Kynge and Kinge.

Later Kings from SW England were:
  • Jerome King, a 17th century grocer and dry-salter originally from Glastonbury in Somerset.  His son Peter King, born in Exeter, rose to be Lord Chancellor of England in 1725 and was made Baron King.
  • John King, a 17th century yeoman in Manaccan, Cornwall.  His son John became an eminent churchman, the rector of Chelsea.
  • while Philip King was an 18th century draper in Launceston, Cornwall.  His son Philip came out to Australia with the First Fleet and stayed to be its third Governor.
The King surname later spread around the country.  The names John Kynge and James King appeared in Ticehurst, Sussex around 1550.  There were Kings in the southeast, from Hampshire to Essex, and in the north, in Yorkshire and Lancashire

.  King in Ireland could be an English import.  Sir John King from Yorkshire had been granted land in Roscommon by Queen Elizabeth for his anti-Catholic zeal in 1603 and these Kings became established in Ireland as the Earls of Kingston.  King House, their Georgian mansion, was built at Boyle in 1730.

The Kings of Enniskerry were a Protestant family in county Wicklow which can be traced back to John King, a bookseller there in the 18th century.  Later Kings the Rev. Luke White King and Sir Lucas White King - were clergymen and academic professors in Dublin.  Sir Lucas married the daughter of the newspaper tycoon, Lord Rothermere, and this gave their son Cecil King the entrance he needed into the English newspaper world.   As Chairman of Daily Mirror Newspapers, he was probably the most powerful figure in this industry during the 1960s.

Alternatively King in Ireland might be an anglicization of a number of Gaelic names, in particular O'Cionga, a family which in medieval times was seated on the isle of Inismor in Lough Ree, Westmeath.  Today there are sizeable number of Kings in county Cavan, with clusters around Athlone and Roscrea, and in county Galway.

Scotland.  King as a surname first appeared in Aberdeenshire in the 15th century.  Its best-known King was General James King who fought for Sweden in the Thirty Years War during the 17th century.  The King name is now more common in Scotland in and around Glasgow.

.  Early King arrivals were English.  William King and his family departed Weymouth on the Abigail in 1635 and settled in Beverly, Massachusetts.  The King homestead remained there until the early 1800s. 

John King from Kent came to New England sometime in the 1680s.  Son Richard who established himself as a successful merchant in Scarborough, Maine had two prominent sons: 
  • Rufus, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and later a Minister to Britain and a Presidential candidate.  He made his home in Jamaica, New York.  His sons and grandsons were all prominent in New York political life.  
  • and William, a proponent of Maine statehood who became its first Governor in 1820.  
Richard was a Loyalist (and had his house attacked by mobs), but his sons were American patriots during the Revolutionary War. 

Michael King from Norwich came via Ireland to Virginia sometime in the 1660s as an indentured servant.  He ended up in Nansemond county where he prospered as a plantation owner.  Later Kings of this line were to be found in Sampson county, North Carolina.  William King was very briefly in 1853 US Vice President. Suspected to be gay, he lasted only 25 days in office before dying. 

The largest number of Kings in America has come from Ireland.  And there have been German and Jewish King immigrants as well. 

The German King names would originally have been Koenig.  Early Koenigs/Kings in Pennsylvania were: 
  • George Koenig/King, one of the first settlers at Tulpehocken in Berks county in the early 1700s  
  • and Michael Koenig, later King, who came to Charlestown, Chester county around 1740.  
Charles Koenig, a baseball pitcher in the 1880s from St. Louis, was known as the Silver King. 

King could also be Jewish.  Carole King, the singer-songwriter, was born Carol Klein to a New York Jewish family.  Larry King, the talk show host, was born Lawrence Zeigler to Jewish immigrant parents also in New York

Canada.  John King from Aberdeen had come with the British army to Canada in the 1830s and helped to suppress the Upper Canada rebellion of 1837.  Four years later, he married Christina MacDougall in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario.  But he died of TB in 1843, four months before the birth of his son John.  This son John was a lawyer with a struggling practice in Berlin. 

His son William Mackenzie King rose the political ranks to become the dominant Canadian politician of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s serving during this period more than twenty one years as Prime Minister.  He never married and left no descendants.

South Africa
.  There were three related King families from Gloucestershire those of Philip, Joseph and Henry on-board the Kennersley Castle that arrived at the Eastern Cape in 1820.  Joseph was married three times and has a large number of descendants scattered over the Eastern Cape.  His eldest son Joseph King prospered in the gold and diamond boom and built himself a fine mansion outside Johannesburg

Select King Miscellany

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

Select King Names

Tom King, a friend of Dick Turpin, was an 18th century highwayman.
Rufus King was a prominent New York politician in the early 1800s and a US Presidential candidate in 1816.
Martin Luther King was the American civil rights leader assassinated in 1968.
Billy Jean King won 12 women's Grand Slam titles in tennis during her time at the top in the 1960's and 1970's.
Stephen King is a best-selling modern author.
B.B. King is an American blues guitarist and singer songwriter.

Select Kings Today

  • 161,000 in the UK (most numerous in Sussex)
  • 168,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 115,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Select Surname List

Adams Ellis Johnson O'Connor
Allen Evans Jones O'Sullivan Shaw
Anderson Fisher
Kelly Parker Simpson
Bailey Foster Kennedy Perry Smith
Baker Fox King Peterson Stevens
Barnes Fraser 
Lee Phillips Stewart
Bell Graham Lewis Powell Taylor
Bennett Gray Marshall Price Thomas
Brown Green Martin Reed
Griffiths Mason      
Reynolds Turner
Campbell Hall McDonald Richards
Carter Hamilton Miller  Richardson Walsh
Chapman Harris Mitchell Roberts Ward
Clark Harrison
Moore Robertson Watson
Collins Henderson Morgan Robinson White
Cook Hill Morris Rogers Williams
Cooper Howard Murphy Ross Wilson
Cox Hughes Murray Russell Wood
Davis Jackson Nelson Ryan Wright
Edwards James O'Brien 

For other surnames check the surnames2 page where there are to be found the history and genealogy for more than 800 surnames.

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