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About the study

I have been collecting information on the Cammack family since about 1980 and formed a one-name study in 1983. I am trying to trace the genealogy of every person bearing the name Cammack, Cammock or Camac (and its variants). I collect all references to the name, in any part of the world. If anyone would like to know more about the family, or is interested in sharing research on their branch, please contact me using the details given below.

Variant names

The way a name is recorded changes over time to reflect regional, scribal and personal variations. In the period before widespread literacy, these 'variants' are a reflection of the education, experience and language of the scholar who wrote the record, as well as the individual who spoke the name to the scribe. This means that it is often difficult to establish familial connections between different spellings of a name, even if they appear geographically or etymologically related. Even worse, two distinct names can have identical variants. Thus, both Cammack and Cormack are sometimes rendered Carmack, although the families appear not to be related. This is where the genealogist can be of assistance; by demonstrating links between individuals and generations over time, the different variants can be established.

The Cammack name has many variants the most common of which are Cammock, Camac and Camak. The latter two are most common in Ireland and America. In the 18th century and before it was usually rendered Camock(e) or Cammock(e) and in the 16th century it was normally Camok(e).

Name origin

The records of Essex and Lincolnshire show that the name Cammack, was originally Cam(m)ock(e) in the 16th and early 17th centuries and Cam(m)ok(e) from the late 15th century. No earlier references have been found and it must be suspected either that the name was a new creation or it had evolved from another form. This is a notorious minefield for the amateur scholar. The wide variety of origins confidently given by different authors for the same surname suggests that the derivations are more subjective than generally supposed. The name Cammack is no exception, so what follows here is merely in the manner of Nennius 'a heap of all that I have found' .

There is some disagreement between the experts of the etymology of the name. However, Cammack or Cammock is usually thought to be a modern corruption of either:

? Cambeck (from the ancient British Cam meaning Crooked and Baco (from which we get the word Beck) meaning a stream or

? Camach, from the Celtic where Cam means a Ridge and Ach, means Great.

Both these theories place Cammock firmly in the category of a Local Name (one based on a place name or topographical feature) and indeed a glance through the indexes of the numerous volumes of the English Place Name Society and other volumes reveals many Hills, Rivers, Ridges and fields with similar names.

The earliest family to bear this name were the under-tenants of Kirk Cambeck in Cumberland, five miles north of Brampton. The settlements name is thought to derive from the Danish cam, a 'ridge' and baeck, a 'brook'. It lay in the ancient barony of Gilsland and is bisected by Hadrian's wall. In the time of Henry II the manor of Kirk Cambock was in the hands of Alfred de Cambock who was witness, in about 1200, to a grant of land to Wetheral Abbey by Walter Bayvin He was followed by Adam de Camboc, who is a signatory of the charter of Wetherall in c1214 Adam was succeeded by Walter de Camboc, a signatory between 1239 and 1247. Sometime between 1247 and 1295 the manor of Cambock passed from the De Camock family to the Tyrer family and it is possible the Cambock family left the area for Lincolnshire. The name Cambock appears in Lincolnshire from the early fourteenth century on lands formerly owned by the family of the wife of their tenant-in-chief in Cumberland

The earliest recorded use of the name Cammok is in 1405-1411 in the records of the Guild of Corpus Christi, Boston, Lincolnshire. In 1499, the name is first recorded in Essex in a rental for the Manor of Layer Marney. This family were later to register a coat of arms but the direct male line seems to die out in the 18th century, far away from Essex in the forests of Rappahannock, Virginia.

Historical occurrences of the name

The most famous person to bear the name was Captain George Camocke (?1660-1732). An Anglo-Irish royalist and a Jacobite, he joined the Royal Navy in about 1692 and rose to the rank of captain, stationed mainly in Ireland. Increasingly disenchanted with the Whigs, he allied himself with Ormonde and Bolingbroke, leaders of the High Tories. He became implicated in Bolingbroke's attempts to create an alliance between Spain, England and Savoy and to restore the Stuarts to the throne. Following a suspension from the Navy on trumped up charges, he was dismissed in August 1714, following the death of Queen Anne, a secret supporter of Bolingbroke's policy. The ascension of the Whigs left George in limbo. He could not hope to serve the Royal Navy of George I and believed he would be executed. After repeated memorials, he entered the service of Jacobites and King Philp V of Spain, to whom he had rendered services under orders of Queen Anne while in the Royal Navy from 1713-14. During the 1715 rebellion he failed to transport the Pretender to Scotland but accompanied the Duke of Ormonde on his abortive attempt to raise Cornwall in support of James III. Camocke was appointed a Rear Admiral in the Spanish navy, and fought at Cape Passaro (1718) when the Royal Navy under Byng destroyed the Spanish fleet. Suspecting him, correctly of passing information to England, but reluctant to act directly, the Spanish king requested that the inquisition imprison him to prevent him communicating with Stanhope. This they did, arresting him on charges of bigamy and imprisoning him in Ceuta, North Africa in 1722. He was released and returned to France, dying in poverty at Rouen in 1732, as he was contemplating a return to England.

Other well known family members were Thomas Cammock (c1540-1602) of Layer Marney who romantically eloped with Frances, the daughter of the Baron Riche. Her brother, Robert Riche, purchased in 1618 the title of the Earl of Warwick. The Riche family's colonial and privateering interests had a considerable influence on the Cammock family. One of Thomas's sons Thomas Cammock, jnr (1592-1643) settled in New England in 1629, while another Sussex Cammock (1600-1659) was a privateer of the coasts of South America, working for the puritan Providence Company before becoming the Captain of Landguard Fort, Harwich during the English Civil War. He is the basis of the old Pirate Captain Cammock in John Masefield's book 'Captain Margaret' (1933) and quite a lot of well researched material about his time in South America can be found in 'Providence Island 1630 - 1641 - The Other Puritan Colony' by Karen O Kupperman.

Another pirate was William Cammock, who served with Bartholomew Sharp, a British privateer in the West Indies. On 14 Dec 1681 William was buried at sea off the Chile coast. He died of 'a surfeit, gained by too much drinking on shore at La Serena on the bay of Coquimo, Chile which caused a calenture, or malignant fever & a hiccough.' The buccaneers were often English protestant & royalist prisoners, bonded slaves from West Indian tobacco plantations or deserting sailors.

In Ireland, several members of the Camac family from Lurgan, Co. Louth, went into service with the Honourable East India Company (HEICS) and made a considerable fortune in 18th century. One of these gentleman, Jacob Camac (1745-1784) commanded the 24th (Ramgarh) Infantry that subdued the districts of Ramgarh, Palamau and Chota Nagpur, over which the HEICS gave him political control. He brutally suppressed a sepoy rebellion and had an illegitimate daughter Eliza Marian Camac (1775-1804) by the Princess Marionissa of Mysore, niece of Hyder Ali and a cousin of Tippo Sahib. His maps of his campaigns in the North West of India are in the British Library. His father John Camac and brother Turner Camac (1751-1830) owned copper mines in County Wicklow, Ireland and in 1792 minted the 'Camac' Pennies, halfpennies and farthings. Turner Camac was also a founder and director of the Grand Canal Company in 1791, causing him to be commemorated by the still extant 'Camac Bridge' in Dublin. Turner Camac emigrated to Philadelphia in 1804 and was a volunteer sergeant in the 1812 War. This family sought to prove a connection to the armorial Cammock family of Layer Marney, Essex. They employed a genealogist and published two books to this end. These pieces of vanity publishing however did not prove the case to the satisfaction of the College of Arms.

In Lincolnshire, the ancient Cammock branch there followed mostly their traditional fenland ways of 'Fishing and Fowling' in the vicinity of Billinghay, until the 16th century when an urban branch developed, with representatives in Boston, New Sleaford, Grantham and Spalding. Of these, the most well known is the family of Leonard Cammock (1560-1638). He moved to Boston from Grantham in around 1590 and was made a freeman of Borough in Jan 1592 and elected to the Common Council in Sept 1594. The surviving borough records show a forthright character, who once declared 'he cared not a turde for the mayor'. Nevertheless he was made an Alderman in 1601 and was mayor of Boston three times in 1602, 1614 & 1624. His son, John Cammock (1582-1645) bought his freedom, Apr 1609 and was elected shortly after a Common Councillor. John was made Alderman, 1618, Mayor in 1623 and was Chamberlain, 1625-7. He was a successful merchant, trading with his brother Henry in grain, wine & vinegar with Amsterdam using small ships of between 40 to 60 tonnes. At this time, Boston was a fiercely protestant town and its vicar Thomas Wool was a notable puritan who made a cushion out of his surplice in protest against pomp and ceremony. He was forced to leave his post in 1612 but the town council sent John Cammock and another to Cambridge University to find a suitable man. They returned with their selection who was presented to the council his acceptance noted in the minutes on 24 June 1612: 'Mr John Cotton, Master of Arts, is now elected vicar of this borough'. The Bishop of Lincoln thought him unsuitable but the choice of this famous protestant divine by John was no accident. In 1621, two commissions inquired into a complaint that Boston's then Mayor, Thomas Middlecot had carried before him maces, which had been defaced by having their crosses chopped off. John Cammock sought to defend the puritans by bribing one of the informants Davye Lewis, to withdraw his statement. In 1640, the elderly John was again in trouble for his puritan beliefs, although he may also have been using the coat of arms of the Essex Cammock's, to which he was not entitled. Unfortunately for him, one of the ladies from that family had married George Smith of Boston and Firsby and in 1640, he was called before the Court of Chivalry by Mr Smith, a Royalist prestmaster, for 'words provocative of a duel'. This line dies out in Lincolnshire with the death of Leonard Cammock of Grantham (c1650-1702) although a branch established itself in London in the person of Ambrose Cammock.

Name frequency

The Office of National Statistics has maintained since 1998 a database of births and deaths in England, Wales and the Isle of Man. It contains over a million surnames, shared by 55.9 million people. An extract from this database, excluding names shared by fewer than five people, has been published. The list contains almost 270,000 surnames, shared by 54.4 million people. This shows Cammack to be ranked as the 8,556 most common surname with 720 individuals. Cammock is 22,515th with 184 persons.

Cammack is also the most common variant in the USA. Cammack is the 9,995th most popular surname in the United States with a frequency of 0.001%.

Distribution of the name

Historic Distribution Before the 18th century, the name rarely occurs outside Lincolnshire except for Essex, Hertfordshire and London. After this time, it appears in Ireland and Scotland. From the 1790's, it appears in Lancashire, where the catholic Edward Cammack (?1757-1826) founded a large branch based around Scarisbrick.

The name first appears in North America in about 1629 with the arrival of Thomas Cammock, formerly of Maldon Essex. Thomas left no descendants in America but his nephew, Warwick Cammock who arrived in 1663 in Spotsylvania possibly has Cammack descendants. Many more Cammack's emigrated during the next three centuries, mainly from Lincolnshire and Northern Ireland. Two Cammack convicts were deported from Lincolnshire to Australia in the early 19th century. A John Camac 'Shepherd, Late Agriculturalist' was given assisted passage to Australia, leaving England on The Planter, 23 Nov 1838 and arriving in Australia, 16 May 1839. Further voluntary emigrants went there from Lincolnshire, Lancashire, London and Ireland in the 19th century. The name also occurs in New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. Alexander Cammock (1841-1916) of Drumhirk, County Down Ireland travelled to New Zealand in about 1867 with his wife Esther Kelly and started a large family at Dannevirke.

Modern Distribution in England 1881-2003

An early attempt at surname distribution by Henry Guppy called 'Homes of family names in Great Britain' concluded in 1890 that Cammack was peculiar to Lincolnshire. The survey was limited because it was based on the surnames of farmers from trade directories, in the belief that farmers stay close to there ancestral home. The findings are however reasonably consistent with the 1881 census, which show that Lincolnshire, Lancashire and Middlesex had the greatest concentration of Cammack's.

More recently The 'Survey of Contemporary Surnames' was completed by the lexicographer Patrick Hanks, for the Oxford University Press's Dictionary of Surnames. It was based on surnames extracted from UK telephone directories between 1980 and 1996 and concluded that the highest frequency of the name was for the Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire district, where 23 subscribers were listed (a frequency of 14 per 10,000 subscribers. The area with the next largest density was Peterborough with 15 subscribers (a frequency of 10 per 10,000).


I hold extracts from hundreds of parish registers, wills, newspapers and deeds from throughout the UK and Ireland. In addition, I have census abstracts from America, Canada, Australia and Great Britain and a database containing over 10,000 individuals from the 14th century onwards. I also have copies of four books written on the family:

- 'Camac's of County Down' (1897) by Frank Owen Fisher Vol 1

- 'Camac's of County Down Vol. II (1913) by William Masters Camac

- 'The Camacs of Balhannah', B M Downey, Adelaide Australia, Nov 1984

- 'John and Margaret Purtle Cammack. Their Descendants and Connecting Lines' The East Texas Genealogical Society Press, Tyler Texas by Cecil C Cammack