Berks History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms
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The surname is one of the Anglo-Norman names that came to Ireland in the 12th century. The surname Berks 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 Berks family
The surname Berks 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.
"Robert de Burgh, Earl of Moreton in Normandy, son of Harlowen de Burgh, by Arlotta, his wife, mother of William the Conqueror, participated with his half-brother in the triumph at Hastings, was created Earl of Cornwall, and received, as a further recompense, grants of seven hundred and ninety-three manors. His son, William Earl of Cornwall, who, rebelling against the Henry I., joined Robert of Normandy, and led the van at the battle of Tenchebray. He fell into the hands of his opponents and was sent prisoner to England, where he was treated with much cruelty, and detaining him in captivity for life. He left two sons: I. Adelm, from whom descended the Burghs, Earls of Ulster, the noble House of Clanricarde, and the various families of Burke, so widely scattered over the south west district of Ireland; and II. John, whose son, Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent, was Justiciary of England, temp. Henry III., and one of the greatest subjects in England." 
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. 
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." 
Another noted source confirms Knaresborough as a point of origin, but has a different Norman baron: " 'Burgh' must here stand for Serlo de Burgh, a powerful Northern baron in the time of the Conqueror, who built Knaresborough Castle, and appears to have taken his name from the manor of Burgh, in Yorkshire. " 
Early History of the Berks family
This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Berks 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 Berks History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Berks Spelling Variations
It was found during an investigation of the origins of the name Berks that church officials and medieval scribes often spelled the name as it sounded. This practice lead to a single person's being documented under many spelling variations. The name Berks has existed in the various shapes: de Burgh, Burke, Bourke, Burk, Bourk, Gillick and many more.
Early Notables of the Berks 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 Berks Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Migration of the Berks family
Irish immigration to North American began in the late 18th century as many Irish families desired to own their own land. This pattern of immigration grew slowly yet steadily until the 1840s. At that time, a failed crop and a growing population in Ireland resulted in the Great Potato Famine. Poverty, disease, and starvation ravaged the land. To ease their pain and suffering the Irish often looked upon North America as a solution: hundreds of thousands undertook the voyage. Their arrival meant the growth of industry and commerce for British North America and the United States. For the individual Irishman, it meant survival and hope, and the opportunity for work, freedom, and ownership of land. The early immigration and passenger lists revealed many bearing the name Berks: Ann Burk who settled in Virginia in 1647; James and Tobias Burk settled in Barbados in 1680; with their servants; Elizabeth Burk settled in Maryland in 1774.
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The Berks Motto +
The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.
Motto: Ung roy, ung foy, ung loy
Motto Translation: One king, one faith, one law.
- ^ Burke, John Bernard, The Roll of Battle Abbey. London: Edward Churton, 26, Holles Street, 1848, Print.
- ^ O'Hart, John, Irish Pedigrees 5th Edition in 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0737-4)
- ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
- ^ Cleveland, Dutchess of The Battle Abbey Roll with some Account of the Norman Lineages. London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1889. Print. Volume 1 of 3