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2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

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About the study

I began researching my father'€™s family in 1987 and, as the name was unusual, this soon developed into a One Name Study. I registered the name with the Guild in 1988. My original thought was that it would be quite a rare name, as I had never met anyone else with this surname other than my immediate family; however, although not a common name, there turned out to be far more Pooks than I had anticipated.

The aims of the study are :-

  • To collect and index all references to the surname and its variants worldwide and including place names and memorabilia.
  • To link references to the major Pook family trees that I have identified.
  • To provide relevant information to other Pook researchers and to put them in contact with anyone researching the same family tree.

Variant names

  • POOKE -€“ this derives directly from POOK, the E having, in many cases, been added to the surname in the 19th Century.
  • POOCK -€“ this is a rare form of the surname in Britain and is more common on the Continent and in North America.
  • POKE -€“ this is included in the One Name Study but it is not clear whether or not it is a variant or a separate name in its own right.
    It can occasionally be Interchangeable with POOK and with POAKE.
  • POAK(E) -€“ this is a rare surname in England but historically more common in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In both cases it appears to be a variant of POOK.

Name origin

The surname POOK historically occurs in Southern England, in the Low Countries and in Northern Germany. In the Middle Ages, the surname appears in Devon, in Sussex and occasionally in neighbouring counties. Surname dictionaries often point to a possible Dutch origin and, as the earliest Devon references are to town dwellers in Tiverton, a noted centre of the medieval wool trade, it is possible that the surname was brought over from the Continent by immigrants engaged in this trade. Sussex was also a centre for the medieval wool trade and the early occurrence of the name in this county might have arisen from a separate immigrants. The surnames POKE and POAK(E) do not appear on the continent.

The meaning(s) of the surname and its variants are :-

  • POOK(E) -€“ most British Surname dictionaries define the surname as meaning an elf, a sprite, a goblin or a puck. One dictionary defines it as "€œthe Puk"€- from the complexion of the hair or dress, being a colour between russet and black.
  • POOCK -€“ this as a spelling variation and originates from the Continent. Significantly, the word "€œpook"€ means a dwarf or a small person in North Germany.
  • POKE -€“ most surname dictionaries define this name as referring to a small bag or pouch. However, the name is most commonly found in Devon/Somerset and Sussex; in Devon a poke is a cock of hay and in Somerset a pook has the same meaning; in Sussex, to pook means to poke. It is therefore possible that the Poke surname arose from the mixing up of similar words.
  • POAK(E) -€“ I have not found this in any surname Dictionary and it is likely to be merely a variant of POOK(E).

Historical occurrences of the name

A selection of interesting holders of the surname includes :-

  • HESTER POOKS (1613 - 1678). She was the granddaughter of Flemish immigrants and she married the famous gardener John Tradescant the Younger in 1638. On his death in 1662, she became embroiled in an acrimonious Law Suit in Chancery over the ownership of the "€œTradescant Ark"€ collections against Elias Ashmole, subsequent founder of the Ashmoleum Museum, Oxford.
  • JAMES POOK ( C. 1764 - 1808) James, son of a seaman, was born in Paignton and joined the Royal Navy as a mariner, serving firstly on HMS Orion and then on HMS Temeraire, on which he was present at the Battle of Trafalgar. Sadly, he was 'lost at sea' in 1808.
  • EDMUND WALTER POOK (1851 -€“ 1920). He was the son of a Greenwich Printer and, in 1871, he was accused of the murder of Jane Maria Clousen, a former servant in the Pook household. He was tried at the Old Bailey and acquitted as the prosecution had no substantive evidence against him. The case was a "€œcause celebre"€ of its day and filled may columns of newsprint.
  • SAMUEL HARTT POOK (1827 -€“ 1901). He was an American and the son of Samuel Moore Pook, a Boston naval constructor. He became a noted designer of clipper ships in the mid 19th Century, including the celebrated Red Jacket which carried emigrants to Australia from Britain in the 1850s.
  • MARION LOUISE POOKE (1883 - 1975) Born in Natick Massachussets, she was the youngest daughter of Charles Augustus Pooke. She was educated at Walnut Hill School and Smith College and then went on to study at the Boston School of Fine Arts. She became an acclaimed artist, based at Fenway Studios, and also a teacher. and she belonged to the influential Boston School of Painting (1917 - 1925). She specialised in portraits and these still sell today for hundreds of dollars. She married Bernard Duits in 1923 and settled in Paris.
  • PERCY ROBERT POOK (1876 -€“ 1912). He was a ships steward who worked on the Titanic and who drowned when the ship sank in April 1912.
  • GREVILLE POKE (1912 -€“ 2000). He was the founding secretary and later chairman of the English Stage Company, which runs the Royal Court Theatre in London. He was a key figure in the Royal Court'€™s fight against theatre censorship.
  • PETER POOK (1918 - 1978) Peter Pook was the author of more than twenty humerous 'Pook' novels describing his exploits in various occupations. His real name was John Anthony Miller but his mother was born a Pook and came from a Portsmouth family which had its origins in Devon.
  • JOCELYN POOK -€“ She is an award winning composer of music for film, television, theatre, dance and concert platform. She composed the music for Stanley Kubrick'€™s last film "€œEyes Wide Shut"€ and the recent "€œMerchant of Venice"€ starring Al Pacino.

Name frequency

Although not a common name, it is certainly not as rare as I had originally thought and there continue to be a healthy number of POOK births each year. There are far fewer of the variants but, other than POOCK which has more or less died out in Britain, they remain strong.

I collected Telephone entries from Britain and from other parts of the world in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Using the multiplier 3.7 obtained from the Surname Atlas published around this time, I have come up with an estimated world population for the surname and its variants as follows :-

  • POOK 3800
  • POOKE 250
  • POOCK 750
  • POKE 800

   TOTAL 4600

Of the above, 34% of the entries come from the UK, 24% from West Germany, 22% from Commonwealth Countries and 20% from the United States. I have no telephone details for the Netherlands or Belgium or for former East Germany; however, my listing include 8 subscribers with the surname POOK from Singapore who appear top be of Chinese or Oriental origin. Any of the above factors could significantly alter the frequency of the surname.

Distribution of the name

Up until the 19th Century the British POOKs were largely confined to the Southern Counties of England and to London. The largest concentration occurred in Devon in the Exe valley and around the coast to Plymouth. A second large concentration occurred in East Sussex. From the mid 18th Century, several families moved to Portsmouth and by the 19th Century there was a substantial concentration of POOKs here.

POOKs could be found living in London from the 17th Century onwards and this accelerated in the 19th Century. They also moved in some numbers to Bristol and South Wales in the 19th Century as well as further afield to places such as Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Yorkshire and Durham. There have been a few POOKs in Scotland since the 16th century, possibly descended from an Edinburgh sheathmaker.

The POOCKs only arrived in England in the late 17th century and according to family legend they came over from Holland with William of Orange in or around 1689. The POOCKs were concentrated in Norfolk and the London area.

POKE has a similar distribution to POOK with the largest concentration being in Devon, but the surname also occurs in Sussex and, since the early 17th century, in London. The alternative POAK occurred in Scotland in the 17th and 18th centuries as well as in Devon.

From the 18th Century onwards, the name POOK and its variants has spread across the globe, mainly to English speaking countries. The POOKs and POKEs arrived in the United States in the 18th Century and were followed by the POOCKs from Germany in the 19th Century. Canada, Australia and New Zealand also saw the arrival of POOKs in the 19th Century and the large number of POKEs now in Tasmania all descend from one couple from Sussex.

According to the IGI, the surname POOK/POOCK has occurred in the Netherlands since at least the 16th century and in Northern Germany since the 17th Century.



  • England and Wales Births, Marriages and Deaths listings from 1837 -€“ 2005 inclusive.
  • Baptism, Marriage and Burial Indexes for UK and abroad
  • Telephone listings for the UK and abroad.
  • Details of Wills from 1858 -€“ 2005 inclusive.
  • Wills Indexes for UK prior to 1858.
  • Complete 1988 IGI printouts for UK and abroad.
  • Complete indexes of all Censuses from 1841 to 1911.
  • Index of over 100 POOK and variant researchers interested in 77 different families.
  • Information from Society of Genealogists holdings including Boyd'€™s Inhabitants of London, Apprentices, Owners of Land 1873 and the Great Card Index.
  • Miscellaneous POOK references, much of it indexed.
  • Details of World War I and II casualties, memorial inscriptions and campaign medals.
  • Index of references in UK and USA Trade Directories.
  • Many hundreds of individual Family Trees.
  • Many parish record details not available from the IGI.