Berkey History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms 

The surname is one of the Anglo-Norman names that came to Ireland in the 12th century. The surname Berkey is derived from the Old English word "burh," which is derived from the Old German word "burg," the common Germanic word for a fortification. It seems likely that the first family to bear this surname would have lived in or near a prehistoric fort situated on a hill. In the Norman fashion, surnames created from place names or geographic locations were prefixed by "de," which means "from" in French.

Early Origins of the Berkey family

The surname Berkey was first found in County Galway (Irish: Gaillimh) part of the province of Connacht, located on the west coast of the Island, where the family name is descended from the Norman noble William Fitzadelm de Burgo who went to Ireland in the Anglo- Norman invasion of Ireland and was the succeeded Strongbow as Chief Governor.

Great stretches of land were given to this family in the year 1177. Richard Oge de Burc, son of William, became the "Lord Justice of Ireland" under King Henry II in 1177 and was regranted the lands of his father the following year. [1]

Richard Mor de Burc, the older son of William, was the ancestor of the family name Bourke or Burke. They formed several septs, the two most important having been the MacWilliam Uachtar sept of county Galway, and the MacWilliam Lochtar sept of County Mayo.

It should be noted that not all of the family were in Ireland as some were found in Knaresborough, in the West Riding of Yorkshire in ancient times. "At the time of the Domesday Survey it formed part of the royal demesnes, and was given by the Conqueror to Serlo de Burgh, Baron of Tonsburg, in Normandy, who had accompanied that monarch into England, and by whom its stately castle, now a ruin, was originally built, on the rocky heights north of the river Nidd." [2]

Important Dates for the Berkey family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Berkey research. Another 140 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 1227, 1503, 1544, 1582, 1601, 1572, 1635, 1604, 1657, 1590, 1667, 1629, 1647, 1647, 1667, 1598, 1672, 1666, 1642 and 1722 are included under the topic Early Berkey History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Berkey Spelling Variations

Names were simply spelled as they sounded by medieval scribes and church officials. Therefore, during the lifetime of a single person, his name was often spelt in many different ways, explaining the many spelling variations encountered while researching the name Berkey. Some of these variations included: de Burgh, Burke, Bourke, Burk, Bourk, Gillick and many more.

Early Notables of the Berkey family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the family up to this time was Theobald Bourke, 8th Mac William Iochtar and lord of Lower (North) Connacht, died 1503; Ulick Ceann Burke (died 1544), 12th Clanricarde and 1st Earl of Clanricarde; Richard Sassanach Burke, 2nd Earl of Clanricarde (died 1582); Ulick Burke, 3rd Earl of Clanricarde, (died 1601), Irish peer; Richard Burke, 4th Earl of Clanricarde (1572-1635), an Irish nobleman; Ulick Burke, 1st Marquess of Clanricarde (1604-1657), was an...
Another 73 words (5 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Berkey Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Berkey migration to the United States

The Irish emigration during the late 18th and 19th century contributed to the melting pot of nationalities in North America, and the building of a whole new era of industry and commerce in what was seen as a rich, new land. Ireland's Great Potato Famine resulted in the worst economic and social conditions in the island's history. And in response to the hunger, disease, and poverty, during this decade the total number of emigrants to leave for North America rivaled all the previous years combined. Those from this decade that arrived on North American shores were not warmly welcomed by the established population, but they were vital to the rapid development of the industry, agriculture, and infrastructure of the infant nations of the United States and what would become Canada. Research into early immigration and passenger lists has shown many people bearing the name Berkey:

Berkey Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Rody Berkey, aged 20, who arrived in America, in 1892
  • J. A. Berkey, aged 34, who arrived in America, in 1897
  • Mrs. Berkey, aged 30, who arrived in America, in 1897
Berkey Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • John Albert Berkey, aged 44, who arrived in America, in 1904
  • Harvey C. Berkey, aged 37, who arrived in America, in 1908
  • F. C. Berkey, aged 38, who arrived in America, in 1909
  • Alice Berkey, aged 23, who arrived in America, in 1910
  • John Berkey, aged 30, who arrived in America, in 1910
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Berkey (post 1700)

  • Jean Berkey (1938-2013), American politician, Washington State Senator (Democrat) for the 38th District
  • John Berkey (1932-2008), American artist known for his space and science fiction-themed works
  • Jackson Berkey (b. 1942), American composer, pianist, and singer
  • William H. Berkey (1874-1952), American Republican politician, Delegate to Republican National Convention from Michigan, 1920 (alternate), 1940; Member of Michigan State Board of Agriculture, 1930-47 [3]
  • Peter Berkey, American politician, Member of Minnesota State House of Representatives 23rd District, 1872 [3]
  • Joshua H. Berkey, American politician, Prohibition Candidate for Governor of Wisconsin, 1896; Prohibition Candidate for Wisconsin State Assembly from Green County, 1902 [3]
  • John Albert Berkey (1861-1946), American Republican politician, Common Pleas Court Judge in Pennsylvania 16th District, 1920-29 [3]

You May Also Like


  1. ^ O'Hart, John, Irish Pedigrees 5th Edition in 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0737-4)
  2. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  3. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 4) . Retrieved from
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