People did not start using surnames in Europe until somewhere around the 10th Century. Last names came about as the population expanded and it became necessary to distinguish individuals who lived in the same area with the same given name. The earliest surnames were actually not inherited by children as they are today. Surnames were simply a descriptor to distinguish the individual, and there were differing methods used as the descriptor; often differing for the same individual on different documents.
One very common descriptor used to distinguish an individual was using the father's name after the given name, which is known as patronymics. As an example, if William had a son named John, he would become "John, son of William." If "John, son of William" then had a son named Edward, he would become "Edward, son of John".
The other two most common types of descriptors that were used to distinguish individuals were place names and occupation names. Place names would indicate where the person is from and could be the name of a town, a region, an estate, or even a geographical feature, such as a hill, e.g. - "John, by the hill". Similarly, if John were a miller, he might also be referred to as "John, the miller".
A fourth type of descriptor that was not quite as common was a personal characteristic. For example, if John had red hair, he could be referred to as "John the red".
Using varying descriptors such as these for surnames took place for centuries. Things began to change in the early 1400s when King Henry V of England began the process for standardizing the surname within a family. By the mid 1500s, surnames for a family lineage had become quite consistent, except for spelling variations.
About Our Name
I have defaulted to the spelling "Hamrick" as the family surname simply because that is how my branch of the family spells it. There are, however, many spelling variations within other branches of the family such as Hambrick, Hamric, Hamerick, Hanrick and more, There was no consistency at all in spelling the name up until a century or two ago. Various scribes wrote the name in various different documents according to the way they heard the name. Spelling variations of a surname are not at all unique to the Hamrick family. Almost every genealogy researcher encounters spelling variations of a name over time. In fact, there were no spelling rules for any word until dictionaries started being published in the mid 18th century. Eventually, as our family spread out geographically, standardized methods of spelling the surname evolved within the different branches of our family. So, even though you may spell your name as "Hambrick" or any of the other variations, we all tie back to the same lineage at some point,
The Earliest Hamricks
There is a great amount of speculation as to the origin of the Hamrick family and its name, but the reality is, there are varying expert opinions, and no one really knows the origin for sure. What we do know for sure is that Patrick Hamrick (1684 - 1764) was the first Hamrick to arrive in America. We also know the ship that brought Patrick to America left Europe from Bristol, England. But where did he and his ancestors come from? Having completed extensive research regarding Patrick's life in America and my lineage from Patrick, answering this question is my current focus.
Many Hamricks believe Patrick came from County Clare, Ireland, and while it's possible, I personally don't think it's probable. English ships did sometimes stop in Ireland on their way to America, although most often those that did set sail from Liverpool. However, the Irish ports where they generally stopped were along the eastern or southern coast of Ireland, while County Clare is located on the western side. Stopping at a port on the west side of Ireland would cause a northern detour on a journey destined for Virginia, which is to the southwest. Nonetheless, I have conducted some research in Ireland, but so far I have not found any crumbs of evidence that the ship Patrick was on stopped at any port in Ireland.
The main reason that it is so widely believed that Patrick came from Ireland is because of a broadly circulated Name History with a Coat of Arms document produced and sold by Swyrich Corporation (doing business as HouseOfNames.com). While Swyrich Corporation has certainly done a significant amount of name history research (for many family names) and the published document for the Hamrick name certainly has nuggets of information that can be used as clues for specific research, it's a big stretch to assume Patrick descended from Hamricks in Ireland based on this document.
The Swyrich Corporation name history for the Hamrick family at one point discusses how many families migrated to Ireland from England during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries because of religious and political injustices and the hope of finding land in Ireland. It states, "The Hamrick family settled in County Clare in Ireland, and took over Bunratty Castle." There is no timeframe indicated within the Swyrich name history as to when this occurred. My exploratory research into Bunratty Castle does not reveal any take over of the castle by the Hamrick family. I did, however, find that Thomas Amory bought Bunratty Castle and 472 acres of land for £225 and an annual rent of £120 in 1712 and subsequently sold it in 1720. Patrick Hamrick had been in America for over a decade when Amory bought the castle. ("Landed estates database: Studdert (Bunratty)". NUI Galway. Retrieved July 18, 2016.)
The significance of Thomas Amory's ownership though is that the Swyrich Corporation's name history indicates that the Hamrick name originated as the Old French name "Amauri" in Normandy (northern France) prior to the Norman conquest of England in 1066. The name began appearing in English historic records after the Norman conquest with a number of different spelling variations including Amory. It's important to realize here, however, that at the time of the Norman conquest, "Amauri" was a given name, not a surname. So, sometime between the Norman conquest in 1066 and 1712, most likely by the mid 1500s, it became the surname of Thomas Amory's ancestors via patronymics. But, there is nothing at all to indicate that Thomas Amory who owned Bunratty Castle is an ancestor within the Hamrick family. So, stating that the Hamrick family took over Bunratty Castle should not be taken as an absolute fact.
Nor can one conclude that every individual with the given name "Amauri" dating back to Normandy prior to the invasion of England or individuals with the surname Amory (and spelling variations) during the 17th Century in England or Ireland is an ancestor within the Hamrick family. It is merely a clue that can be used for further investigation. Specifically, the name Amory (and spelling variations) should not be overlooked when checking the manifest of the ship that brought Patrick to America in 1699, if the manifest is ever located.
Another distinct possiblity regarding the Hamrick family origin is Germany. In fact, the Swyrich name history indicates that "Amauri" was actually derived from the Old Germanic name "Amalric". Ernst Förstemann, on page 95 of a book called Altdeutsches namenbuch (1900), indicates the name "Emelric" was a variant of "Amalric". The Family Crests and Coats of Arms company in the UK states that "Haimerich", "Emmerich" and "Emerick" are other variants. These names are all somewhat phonetically similar to "Hamrick".
In addition, the Family Name History published by The Historic Research Center (HRC) states, "The surname Hamrick is the angelicized form of the German surname Hammerich, which is of toponymic origin." Toponymic origin means a surname based on a place, and indeed, research shows there are several places in Germany with the name "Hammerich". The HRC name history indicates it refers to Hammerich near Oldenburg, which is located as shown on the adjacent map.
The HRC name history states that name variants such as Hammerich, Hemmerich, Hendrich, Heimerick and others can be found in documents dating back to the 1300s. Heinrich Heymrick lived in Vollmarshausen in 1368. Arnold Heymerick resided in Xanten in 1424. Andreas Hemmrich lived in Schweinfurt in 1562. Of particular note is the fact that each of these individuals already had a surname at that time similar to our modern name, Hamrick. Also of interest is the fact that Emmerich, Germany is very near Xanten.
According to the Stadtebund die Hanse website (www.hanse.org) Emmerich was first documented as Villa Embrici in the year 828. The city was chartered as Emmerich on May 31, 1233 by the Roman Emporer Friedrich II and King Heinrich (VII) of Germany (Friedrich II's son). So, it is very feasible that our surname evolved toponymically from this location and the family eventually migrated to England.
Another very distinct possiblity for the Hamrick family origin is England and considering we know Patrick's ship set sail from Bristol, England, it cannot be overlooked. Particularly because Hambrook, England is to this day a small village located only 6 miles northeast of Bristol.
Hambrook is within Winterbourne Parish, and it has existed for many centuries. In fact, its history goes back to Saxon times, before the Norman Invasion and well before the advent of surnames. At least during the last part of King Edward's reign, just prior to the Norman Invasion, Hambrook was a small manor held by a Saxon lord named Algar.
According to H.W.N. Ludwell in A History of Winterbourne (1972) there are three manors listed in the Domesday Book (1086) for the Parish: 1) The Manor of Winterbourne; 2) The Manor of Hambrook; and 3) The Manor of Sturden. The Domesday Book is a record of properties held, which was ordered by King William the Conquerer after the Norman Invasion for the purpose of tax collection. It is actually referred to as "Hanbroc" in the Domesday Book. The entries show that after the Norman Invasion, Algar was dismissed and King William handed Hanbroc over to one of his Norman followers, Geoffery, Bishop of Coutances as tenant-in-chief. Since the Bishop lived in Normandy, he, in turn, put a Saxon named Olaf in charge in his name. (The Origins and Development of Winterbourne, Hambrook and Frenchay by S.A. Cairns, Frenchay Museum Archives, retrieved July 19, 2016) The Domesday Book indicates that the Manor of Hambrook consisted of 480 acres under cultivation and 6 acres of meadowland for grazing. There were two velleins (tenant farmers) and two serfs.
Of course, this was long before Patrick's time, but the subsequent history of Hambrook up until Patrick's time in the late 1600s is certainly worth further investigation. Perhaps there are extant parish records or manor records that could prove to be helpful. The search for such records, along with the search for the manifest of the Bengal Merchant of Bristol that brought Patrick to America, is the immediate focus of my current research. If it is found that Patrick did originate in this area, it's also interesting to note that several buildings in the area were there during Patrick's time.
There is actually some very intriguing information I have discovered in the Bristol Record Office about possible ancestors in the general area of Hambrook as early as 1429. Richard Hambroke witnessed a deed on February 12, 1429 (Ref no AC/D/6/45) and another on April 7, 1434 (Ref no AC/D/6/47) in nearby Henbury. Then, on November 30, 1443, John Hambroke witnessed a deed in Henbury. (Ref no AC/D/6/50) Robert Hambroke was involved in a Deed of Gift on August 4, 1482 at All Saints Compton Greenfield Church. (Ref no P.Hen/Ch/1/1) Jn. Hambrok son and heir of Robt. Hambroke was involved with Deeds of Gift involving the church on May 24, 1502 (Ref no P.Hen/Ch/1/2) and on October 8, 1513. (Ref no P.Hen/Ch/1/5) Any records with similar names between this timeframe and Patrick's timeframe have not yet been found in the area. Another intriguing fact, however, is that a general purusal of names in the area just prior to Patrick's birthdate turns up some very familiar family names that were known to Patrick in Virginia. These include Day, Cox, Ingles (Ingless), Eaves, Melton, Davis, Hart (Horte), and Bridges, among others. While none of this is proof that Patrick came from this area, they are facts that can be further investigated.
If anyone has more information that might be useful or knows of specific sources that might be helpful, please contact me,