Show ContentsBerkley History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Berkley is a name whose history on English soil dates back to the wave of migration that followed the Norman Conquest of England of 1066. The Berkley family lived in the county of Gloucestershire, where the family held the distinguished title of the Lords of Berkeley Castle. [1]

Early Origins of the Berkley family

The surname Berkley was first found in Gloucestershire where the family name is descended from Thomas de Berkeley, Lord of Berkeley Castle, who was descended from Robert FitzHarding, a Viking of royal blood, and one of the companions at Arms of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

"The first tenant of Berkeley after the conquest was Roger, who in 1086 held lands in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. He bequeathed his lands to his nephew William (Pipe Roll 31 Hen. I, p. 133), founder of the Abbey of Kingswood. By this time probably a Norman castle had been built at Berkeley; for Henry spent Easter there in 1121 (Anglo-Saxon Chronicles) and Roger, the son and successor of William, having fallen into the hands of Walter, the brother of Miles, earl of Hereford, in the time of the anarchy, was cruelly tortured to make him give up his castle." [2]

Other early records of the name include: Robert de Berkeley, 3rd feudal Baron Berkeley (c.1165-1220); Thomas I de Berkeley, 4th feudal Baron Berkeley (c.1170-1243); and Maurice II de Berkeley, 5th feudal Baron Berkeley (1218-1281.) This line continued with: Thomas II de Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley (1245-1321); Maurice III de Berkeley, 2nd Baron Berkeley (1271-1326); Thomas III de Berkeley, 3rd Baron Berkeley (1293-1361); Maurice IV de Berkeley, 4th Baron Berkeley (1330-1368); and Thomas IV de Berkeley, 5th Baron Berkeley (1352/53-1417.)

"From the fertility of the soil, and its contiguity to the river Severn, it was always a place of considerable importance; and at a very early period it gave name to the great manor of Berkeley, which during the heptarchy was held of the crown, at £500. 17. 2. per annum, by Roger de Berkeley, a near relative of Edward the Confessor, and lord of Dursley, from whom the earliest authentic pedigree of the Berkeley family is deduced. Berkeley, notwithstanding the residence of the oldest branches of the family in their castle at Dursley, was a market-town; and had a nunnery endowed with the large manor. A few years afterwards, William the Conqueror, professing high regard for all the relatives of Edward the Confessor, granted the manor of Berkeley to Roger Berkeley, of Dursley, by whose descendants it was held till the reign of Henry II." [3]

The parish of Slimbridge in Gloucestershire was also an early home to the family. "The parish is bounded on the north by the Severn, and comprises by measurement 3392 acres, of which the greater part is the property of the Berkeley family. The Gloucester and Berkeley canal and the Gloucester and Bristol railroad intersect it." [3]

Wooton Under Edge, again in Somerset was another ancient family seat. "On the erection of the new town, a market and fair, with various municipal privileges, were granted by Henry III. to Maurice, Lord Berkeley, in 1254, which laid the foundation of its subsequent importance. During the civil war of the 17th century, a garrison was maintained here in the interest of the king." [3]

Early History of the Berkley family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Berkley research. Another 127 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1219, 1554, 1944, 1530, 1534, 1613, 1579, 1661, 1614, 1579, 1667, 1626, 1640, 1575, 1611, 1604, 1611, 1599, 1668, 1621, 1668, 1601, 1658, 1654, 1630, 1665, 1602, 1678, 1605, 1677, 1610, 1685, 1753 and are included under the topic Early Berkley History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Berkley Spelling Variations

Anglo-Norman names are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. When the Normans became the ruling people of England in the 11th century, they introduced a new language into a society where the main languages of Old and later Middle English had no definite spelling rules. These languages were more often spoken than written, so they blended freely with one another. Contributing to this mixing of tongues was the fact that medieval scribes spelled words according to sound, ensuring that a person's name would appear differently in nearly every document in which it was recorded. The name has been spelled Berkley, Berkeley, Berkely and others.

Early Notables of the Berkley family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Sir Maurice Berkeley of Bruton in 1530; Henry Berkeley, 7th Baron Berkeley (1534-1613), an English peer and politician, Lord Lieutenant and Vice-Admiral of Gloucestershire, the grandfather of George Berkeley, 8th Baron Berkeley; Richard Berkeley (1579-1661) was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons in 1614; Sir Henry Berkeley (1579-1667), an English politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1626 and 1640, supporter of the Royalist side in the English Civil War; Sir Thomas Berkeley (1575-1611), the son and heir apparent of Henry Berkeley, 7th Baron Berkeley, and a...
Another 119 words (8 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Berkley Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Berkley Ranking

In the United States, the name Berkley is the 6,932nd most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [4]

Ireland Migration of the Berkley family to Ireland

Some of the Berkley family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 89 words (6 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Berkley migration to the United States +

For many English families, the political and religious disarray that plagued their homeland made the frontiers of the New World an attractive prospect. Thousands migrated, aboard cramped disease-ridden ships. They arrived sick, poor, and hungry, but were welcomed in many cases with far greater opportunity than at home in England. Many of these hardy settlers went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations in which they landed. Among early immigrants bearing the name Berkley or a variant listed above were:

Berkley Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • John Berkley, who arrived in Virginia in 1622 [5]
  • Richard Berkley, who landed in New Haven Connecticut in 1651 [5]
  • Anthony Berkley, who arrived in Maryland in 1678 [5]
Berkley Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Jane Berkley, who settled in Maryland in 1722
  • Anna Berkley, her husband, and two children settled in Philadelphia in 1733
  • Maria Magdalena Berkley, aged 16, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1733 [5]
  • Barbara Berkley, aged 3, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1733 [5]
  • Catherina Berkley, aged 6, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1733 [5]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Berkley Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Anna, Barbara, Catherine, Christopher, Dorothea and Elizabeth Berkley who, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between 1733 and 1851
  • Anna, Barbara, Catherine, Christopher, Dorothea and Elizabeth Berkley all, who settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between 1733 and 1851

Canada Berkley migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Berkley Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Mr. A. Berkley U.E. who settled in Williamsburg [South Dundas], Ontario c. 1783 [6]
Berkley Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Miss. Eliza Berkley, aged 5 who was emigrating through Grosse Isle Quarantine Station, Quebec aboard the ship "Goliah" departing 21st May 1847 from Liverpool, England; the ship arrived on 18th July 1847 but she died on board [7]

Australia Berkley migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Berkley Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Eliza Berkley, aged 18, a domestic servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1852 aboard the ship "Medina" [8]
  • Margaret Berkley, aged 19, a domestic servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1852 aboard the ship "Medina" [8]
  • Joshua Berkley, aged 19, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1856 aboard the ship "Nimroud"

Contemporary Notables of the name Berkley (post 1700) +

  • Busby Berkley (1895-1976), highly influential Hollywood movie director and musical choreographer
  • Miriam Berkley, American prominent author photographer
  • Seth Franklin Berkley (b. 1956), American medical epidemiologist, current President, CEO and founder of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI)
  • Elizabeth Berkley (b. 1972), American actor
  • Shelley Berkley, U.S. Congresswoman
  • William Norris Berkley, American Republican politician, Mayor of Alexandria, Virginia, 1868-69, 1872-74; Postmaster at Alexandria, Virginia, 1874-78 [9]
  • Shelley Berkley (b. 1951), American Democratic Party politician, U.S. Representative from Nevada 1st District, 1999-; Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Nevada, 2000, 2004, 2008 [9]
  • Richard L. Berkley, American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from Missouri, 1964; Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, 1979-81 [9]
  • Fred Berkley, American Republican politician, Candidate for Missouri State House of Representatives from St. Louis City 13th District, 1964 [9]
  • Austin Berkley (b. 1973), English former professional footballer
  • ... (Another 2 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Pan Am Flight 103 (Lockerbie)
  • Alistair David Berkley (1959-1988), American Professor Of Law from London, England, who flew aboard the Pan Am Flight 103 from Frankfurt to Detroit, known as the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 and died [10]

  1. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  3. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  4. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  5. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  6. Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X
  7. Charbonneau, André, and Doris Drolet-Dubé. A Register of Deceased Persons at Sea and on Grosse Île in 1847. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, 1997. ISBN: 0-660-198/1-1997E (p. 65)
  8. South Australian Register Tuesday 3 February 1852. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) MEDINA 1852. Retrieved
  9. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 4) . Retrieved from
  10. Pan Am Flight 103's victims: A list of those killed 25 years ago | (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from on Facebook