This surname WELK was an occupational name 'the WHELK' one who fished for welks and winkles. The name is also spelt WHELK, WHELKER, WELKSHORN and WELCKER. The earliest of the name in England appears to be Matilda le WELKE, who was recorded in County Cambridge in 1273, and William WELKESHORN, was documented in County Suffolk in 1279. Many of the modern family names throughout Europe reflect the profession or occupation of their forbears in the Middle Ages and derive from the position held by their ancestors in the village, noble household or religious community in which they lived and worked. The addition of their profession to their birth name made it easier to identify individual tradesmen and craftsmen. As generations passed and families moved around, so the original identifying names developed into the corrupted but simpler versions that we recognise today. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error. Among the humbler classes of European society, and especially among illiterate people, individuals were willing to accept the mistakes of officials, clerks and priests as officially bestowing a new version of their surname, just as they had meekly accepted the surname they had been born with. In North America, the linguistic problems confronting immigration officials at Ellis Island in the 19th century were legendary as a prolific source of Anglicization. A notable member of the name was Friedrich Gottleib WELCKER (1784-1868) the German philologist and archaeologist, born in Grunberg (Hessen). He was professor at Giessen, Gottingen and Bonn, and was notable for his works on Greek history and literature.
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