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The Surname MATLOCK
Is there a link between the place and the surname?
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If you are trying to trace the Matlock surname and its origins, you may be interested in some references to the surname within Derbyshire, England, which is where the town named Matlock is situated. However, we should note the following:

  • People living in the early Middle Ages did not have a surname as we would recognise it; instead, it was common for them to insert the name of the parish where they were born after their Christian name as a method of identifying themselves when they went somewhere else.

  • Surnames did not develop until the mid-thirteenth century, so from approximately 1250. An example is given below with the reference taken from a book by J. Charles Cox; he identifies a Gilbert de Matlock, which means Gilbert of Matlock. In later centuries, this man would have become simply Gilbert Matlock, just as John the Smith became John SMITH, though in the latter case John was named after his occupation of smith rather than the place he was born. There were two additional ways surnames originated - from the father's name (patronymic) and from nicknames.

It therefore isn't unreasonable to suppose that those who were and are born with the surname of Matlock should originate from the early inhabitants of the place known as Matlock in Derbyshire, England.

What is the evidence?

There's little to go on at present, despite knowing that people with the surname de Matlock owned land in Matlock in the mid thirteenth century. But then there weren't all that many people with the surname Matlock around anyway (see below for the number of Matlock's alive in Britain in the nineteenth and early twentieth century census returns).

Nevertheless, a few references linking the surname and the town called Matlock have been found and are reproduced here. Of course, if you have any more references from recognizable sources, I would be delighted to include them. I haven't found the surname Matlock in any English surname dictionaries, unfortunately, though MATTOCK is given as a derivation of MADDOCK or MADOC.

Known references from old books on Derbyshire and some documents, arranged chronologically.

1. Robert de Matloc[k] is named in an undated document amongst the Wolley documents (Wensley deeds)[1].

2. "1388. Gilbert de Matlock".
J. Charles Cox found the name under the Institutions to the Chantry of the Blessed Virgin for the church at Dronfield, Derbyshire[2]. The Guild of the Blessed Virgin was founded within the church at Dronfield in the year 1349 and Gilbert's name was the first on the list. Cox used as his source the Lichfield Episcopal Registers, vol. vi., fo. 104 and Addy's "Beauchief Abbey", pp.119-122. "Gilbert de Mateloc, chaplain, and his companions, enfeoffed Johanna widow of Robert Bretonne of Woodhouse, for life ..." (p.122)

3. This was also repeated by the Eley's in 1910: "From the particulars of the 'Gild of Our Blessed Lady of Dronfield' we get the fact that "Gilbert de Mateloc, chaplain, and his companions enfeoffed Johanna, widow of Robert Bretone" ...[3]'
Although the Eley quotation is undated, it is clearly the same Gilbert as that found by Cox.

4. In 1840 William Adam wrote[4]:

"The following singular circumstance was communicated to the Author by a respected inhabitant of Matlock Bath, who conversed with the party named:-

A person engaged in Mercantile affairs in New York came to Liverpool on business, in 1816, and finding himself on his arrival, not far distant from Matlock, he felt exceedingly desirous to visit it, being the birthplace of his ancestors, and from whom, in his youth, he had heard some wonderful things respecting it. He came accordingly. On conversing with the parties here, he stated that he always understood that hot water flowed out plentifully at the foot of the hill where his ancestors resided. He gave his name as Timothy Matlock. This name being singular, and no one recollecting such a name, search was made in an old Parish Register, where the following entries were found -

"Richd. Filius Thos. Matlock, Baptised April 28th 1660.
Grace the daughter of Richd. Thos. baptised May 1st, 1661" [sic]

It would appear that the place alluded to was the Upper Wood, a small hamlet, as all the hot springs issue out at the foot of the hill below it ; and this somewhat confirms the idea already thrown out, that this was the original Metesford".

[Written in a footnote at the bottom of page 25]:
"Filius" means son of.

Adam also noted that Mestesford or Nestford was assumed to have derived from the Nester Mine as Nestes or Nestus was the name originally given to the Heights of Abraham. There was supposedly also a ford across the river below this.

However, he was misinformed about the parish register entry for Richard, son of Thomas Matlock. The entry on that date is for Richard son of William Walker and the year was 1661 - see PR transcripts for the year.

5. "In an early volume of The Reliquary there are recorded a series of Matlock deeds, in which occur the names of Henry de Matlock and Maud, relict of John de Matlock" (Benjamin Bryan[5]). There are more deeds where the surname occurs shown on Charters and Early Deeds.

6. Bryan also wrote of the possibility of people being named after the place they lived, as I have discussed above. He too mentioned the story recounted by Adam, though changing the parish register finding slightly to Grace, daughter of Thomas [Matlock][5]. Indeed, the baptism of Grace Matlock is recorded in the parish register which supports the claims, although the year in that is given as 1662 - see PR transcripts for the year.

Grace is the only Matlock found in Matlock parish register to date and there seems to be no documentary evidence to suggest that people with the surname Matlock were in residence for any length of time. There were also a few Matlocks said to have been recorded in Bonsall's parish register, but these have now been removed from the IGI, although three burials remain[6]. There is also a somewhat misleading marriage licence for a Grace Matlock of Matlock who married at Marston on Dove in 1743; whilst the bond shows her as Grace Matlock, close examination of the grant and further research show her to have been Grace Pearson of Matlock - see Strays, Surnames P. This was a clerical error! Vicars did, and still do, sometimes make mistakes.

7. Bryan also mentions the Memorial Inscription in All Saints' Church, Derby :-
"Near this place lies the body of Robert, only child of Robert and Sarah Matlock, who was born October 26th, 1726, and departed this life October 25th, 1730[7]".
This clearly refers to the son of Robert Matlock who married Sarah Partridge at Duffield, DBY on 6th February 1725/6.
See: So how many Matlocks were there in the area?

8. Matlock's church warden, the photographer W. N. Statham[8], wrote a history of the parish church. The book includes details from the Domesday Book and its author then discusses the various early forms of Matlock (i.e.Meslach, Mathlac and Matlok).

Extract from early twentieth century publication by the church historian W. N. Statham[8]:

"In the list of Rectors who held the living of Matlock[Note 1] it will be found that two possessed the name of Matlock, vix.: William de MATLOKKE in 1325[Note 2] and Robert de MATLOKKE in 1397, these were undoubtedly the eldest sons of the descendants of the first Knight of Matlokke or Meslach, or Mathlac, who undoubtedly must have owned at that time the greater part of the land and possessions round about the Parish Church and would in all probability hold and live at the Manor House. In all cases where an individual's Christian name followed by de and the name of the place where he lived is recorded, the meaning is that his title would be Sir of Knight of that place. [Note 3]

It may be of interest to the readers of this history that within the last few years I have seen communications from two heads of families living in America who are descendants of the de Matlock's, and are seeking any information respecting their ancestors that can be obtained; one of these took a very prominent part in the government of that country at the time of the Declaration of Independence and lived to a good age of between eighty and ninety, thus showing that Derbyshire stock is of an enduring kind and full of grit.

I believe one branch of the family eventually became Quakers[Note 4] and would possibly leave this country at the time, those holding that belief were more or less persecuted, with a view to stamp out the denomination. It is just possible therefore the American families are descendants of these emigrants from Matlock; there are still in existence old Deeds recording the transfer of lands from the de Matlocks of long ago".

Comments on the extract:

This is very interesting, as Statham has made some fascinating points, though he did not provide documentary evidence for any sources he may or may not have used.

[Note 1]
Disappointingly for those researching the name, this statement cannot be verified. No Matlock rectors have been found with the name de Matlock, though there was a William de Matlok, clerk, living in the 14th century. It is not known what, if anything, he had to do with Matlock's parish church.

[Note 2]
There is documentary confirmation of William, son of Richard de MATLOKKE [i.e.not Robert], living in the fourteenth century. He would have been the same William identified in Note 1.

[Note 3]
This interpretation of "de Matlock" gives more importance to the rank of people with the surname than was the case, although the de Matlocks certainly held land within Matlock.

[Note 4]
Statham's belief can only be proved by the examination of the names of early emigrants from England to the United States and in Quaker records, but it seems unlikely that anyone named Matlock emigrated to the New World directly from Matlock itself although Matlock families (Ludlam and Bowne) were amongst the early settlers.

References for the above notes can be found in:
Rectors from St. Giles Church
The Manor of Matlock | Charters and Early Deeds | Ancient Deeds - from the reign of Edward I to the reign of Philip & Mary | The Wolley Manuscripts.

Jana Black, who provided the Statham material[8], wrote some years ago to say that researchers in the United States have traced their origins to John Matlock, known to have been born in England between 1560 and 1580 in the adjacent county of Nottinghamshire. From what we know so far, it is quite possible that early inhabitants of Matlock, known by the name de Matlock in the fourteenth century, moved from Derbyshire to Nottinghamshire. But this is pure speculation at the present.

So how many Matlocks were there in the area?

Unfortunately, neither marriages (1637-1837) nor burials (1662-1812) for people with the surname Matlock have been found in the Matlock Parish Registers apart from the christening of Grace[9]. Nor are Matlocks to be found in the registers of other parishes in the district. For example, in Wirksworth's Parish Registers the nearest match and only entry is for a marriage on 9 Oct 1689 between Mary Mattock and John Shore, though Mattock could be a spelling variant of Matlock[10].

Richard Matlock is found a Poll taken of Derbyshire Freeholders in 1734; his name was under the Morliston and Litchurch Hundred[11]:

Name and Abode Where their Land lye Votes cast for Candidates: Lord Charles Cavendish Sir Nathaniel Curzon, Bart Henry Harpur Esq
Matlock, Rich, Derby Ilkeston   - 1 1

Only one probate document for the surname is listed at the Staffordshire R O (formerly Lichfield), where many Derbyshire Wills are held. This is for the administration of the estate of Richard Matlock of Derby (named above), an Inn Holder who was a widower with no children and who was buried at All Saints', Derby on 27 Jul 1751. Richard's two brothers Robert and Matthew, both of whom were Writing Masters, administered the estate[12]. Although there are traces of both these brothers in the registers for All Saints, Robert moved to Nottingham and Matthew was in Lichfield. Robert died in Nottingham in 1754[13].
Robert is mentioned above. See: Known references from old books on Derbyshire and some documents, arranged chronologically, item 7.

Matlocks found in U.K. in census returns.

In the first full census, that of 1841, there were just 69 people with the surname Matlock in England and Wales. The number dropped to 53 Matlocks in 1851, but a further 6 Mattlocks were living in Martock in Somerset. By 1861 the number had increased to 138 persons. Twenty years later, at the time of the 1881 census, 173 people with the surname of Matlock were living in England, Wales and Scotland though none had been born in Derbyshire. Henry and Rose Matlock were the only Matlocks living in the county in 1881 and they were at Litchurch near Derby. A further five Matlock's were in neighbouring county of Nottinghamshire.

The oldest and youngest Matlock's alive in 1881 were both female. Mary Matlock, a widow, was the oldest and aged 72; she was living alone in Essex at Workhouse Cottage, Peldon. The youngest, Fanny Matlock, only 2 weeks old, was in the "Union Work House", Union Place, Loughborough, Leicestershire. She was with her mother Elizabeth, brother, sister and 21 other people were also inmates. The oldest male was 70 year old gardener Joseph Matlock of In The Park, Trumpington, Cambridge.

By 1891 the numbers had declined to 168 Matlocks; Henry Matlock (49), Rose Matlock (50) and Sarah Ann Matlock (7) were living in Derby St Werburgh. In 1901 Henry and Rose were in Derby Workhouse; Henry died later that year but Rose lived until 1915. Sarah Ann's fate is unknown at present although she might have married John Salt in 1901 at Derby Register Office. The 1901 census lists 199 Matlock's in England, Wales and Scotland. In 1911, the last census currently in the public domain, there were 173 Matlocks in England and Wales[14].

Areas for further research

Local newspapers have occasionally featured requests from people with the surname for information about the town. For example, I have a copy of The Derbyshire Times of 21 March, 1958 which featured a photograph of a letter from Maryland requesting a copy of the paper's latest issue.

Additional Information
  • Matlock Churches

  • References to early forms of spelling the place name, such as Meslach and Mathlac are to be found in Volume XXIX of the English Place-Name Society Series:
    Cameron, Kenneth (1959) "The place-names of Derbyshire". Cambridge University Press, Part II. See: pp.388-339

  • The MATLOCK Family Association Website. Shaun Matlock and Jana Black collaborated on "Matlocks in America". It was last updated in 2015 and the link no longer works si will be taken down shortly.
    All Rootsweb Mailing Lists were shut down on April 6, 2023.
  • There is information about other Derbyshire surnames elsewhere on the Internet, though it doesn't include the surname MATLOCK.
    What's in a Name?

Please note:
Whilst I've attempted to establish the link between the surname and the parish, none of my own known ancestors had the surname of Matlock.

Quite a few people who live in the United States have been told their ancestors were originally from Matlock in Derbyshire and there are now entries in the IGI (FamilySearch) for an early Matlock marriage as well as baptisms that supposedly took place in Matlock, but these have no source. At one time, one example recorded a given birth year of 1643 in Matlock followed by a death given as 1778 but it clearly cannot be correct.

I would very much like to hear from anyone who has definitely traced their Matlock surname ancestry back to the town or knows of further references or documents which point to people with the surname of Matlock living in the parish in early times (go to Contact Ann in the footer).

Researched and written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured hyperlinks are to transcripts elsewhere on this website):
All books below are also referred to on: Old Books & Other Publications

[1] Indexes to the Wolley Manuscripts are on this web site. See Volume 6669 f.24 [85]. This refers to a Robert de MATLOC s son of Thomas de LINDESAYA.

[2] J Charles Cox (1879) "Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire" Chesterfield: Palmer and Edmunds, London: Bemrose and Sons, 10 Paternoster Buildings; and Derby. Volume 4, p.459. Addenda.
Also Addy, Sidney Oldall (1878) "Historical memorials of Beauchief Abbey", James Parker and Co., Oxford and London

[3] R. P. Ely, W. S. Ely and D. B. Ely (1910) "Ely, Revell and Stacye families" Fleming H. Revell Company, New York, Chicago, Toronto, London, Edinburgh, p.98

[4] W. Adam [1840] "The Gem of the Peak" by pub. London; Longman & Co., Paternoster Row.
Richard Matlock, mentioned by William Adam, does not appear in the IGI (FamilySearch).
See the link to FamilySearch on our Useful Sources page.

[5] Benjamin Bryan (1903) "History of Matlock - Matlock, Manor and Parish": London by Bemrose & Sons, Limited, pp.116-117. The heirs of Henry Matlock are mentioned in the Indexes to the Wolley Manuscripts: See Volume 6666 ff.154-6.
A transcript of "The Reliquary", mentioned by Bryan, is now available on this web site: Ancient Deeds - from the reign of Edward I to the reign of Philip & Mary

[6] The Bonsall parish register entries were listed in the IGI (Family Search) but some names seem to have been removed or corrected; it is quite possible that a transcriber misread the surname as there were people in Bonsall with the surname Maddock (e.g. Will of William Maddock[e], Bonsall, 1615) but this has not been checked.

[7] Bryan would possibly have extracted the MI from Stephen Glover (1833) "History & Gazetteer of the County of Derby", pub. Derby, p.467

[8] "History of Matlock Parish Church", W. N. Statham, (1925) Printed by Geo. Hodgkinson, pp.5-7. With thanks to Jana Black who used to manage the Rootsweb Matlock-L

[9] St. Giles Church Hatches, Matches and Dispatches - baptisms, marriages and burials at the Parish Church.

[10] With thanks to the late John Palmer for the Wirksworth information.

[11] A Copy of a Poll Taken for the County of Derby: The 16, 17, and 19 Days of April [crossed through] May. Anno Dom, 1734 before George Moore Esq: High Sheriff of the said County. Published Nottingham.

[12] Administration of the estate of Richard Matlock granted 1751, 24 Sept. Document held by Staffordshire Record Office. Richard Matlock had married Ann Moore at All Saints', Derby on 8 May 1731. She was buried there on 20 Aug 1737.

[13] Some children of Robert and Matthew Matlock were christened at All Saints'. Robert Matlock was also buried at All Saints' on 20 Nov 1753. The Will of Robert Matlock of Nottingham was proved in 1754 (Prerogative & Exchequer Courts of York Probate Index, 1688-1858).

[14] U.K. census information is available on the Find My Past web site (the link will open in a new tab or window).