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Jenkins Family History
This is a surname seen in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, and derives from the given name Jenkin, which is itself a diminutive of John meaning 'god has graced me with a son'. The diminutive suffix '-kin' was added to indicate 'young John', or perhaps son or relative of John.
This surname has had a number of variant forms over the years including Jenkin, Jenkyn and Jenking, Jencken, Jinkin and Junkin, as well as the patronymic forms where an '-s' or '-son' has been added to those variants. In Wales there is also the added form 'Siencyn'.
It became fixed as a hereditary surname in England by the early 1400s. Early bearers of the surname in that country include Alicia Jonkyn and Robertus Jonkinson who appear in the 1379 Yorkshire Poll Tax, and an Adam Janekyn of Somerset who lived during the 14th century.
But in Wales it was much later, between the 16th and 19th centuries, that personal names became fixed as hereditary surnames. Up until and during that time, patronymics remained the predominant naming system, when we are therefore more likely to see references to 'ap Siencyn' or 'ap Jenkin' (son of Jenkin) in the records. The Jenkin/Jenkins surname is most frequently seen in the south of the country, and is far rarer in the north. It is also frequently seen in Cornwall.
It was probably introduced to Britain during the 12th century by Flemish settlers (from Flanders, Belgium), initially as a personal name. This may help to explain its popularity in south Wales (including southern Pembrokeshire) where there were communities of Flemish settlers.
- Richard Walter Jenkins, the birth name of the Welsh actor, Richard Burton (1925–1984). He was born in Pontrhydyfen, Glamorgan, and rose to become one of the most famous actors of his generation, appearing in films such as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Robe and Cleopatra. He was inducted posthumously into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2013.
- Karl Jenkins (b. 1944), Welsh musician and composer, best known for his works Adiemus and Requiem.
- Katherine Jenkins (b. 1980), Welsh mezzo-soprano, born in Neath, Wales, known for her operatic performances
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