Birks 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 Birks 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 Birks family

The surname Birks 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]

Early History of the Birks family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Birks 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 Birks History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Birks 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 Birks. Some of these variations included: de Burgh, Burke, Bourke, Burk, Bourk, Gillick and many more.

Early Notables of the Birks 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 Birks Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


Australia Birks migration to Australia +

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

Birks Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Birks, English convict from Stafford, who was transported aboard the "Adelaide" on August 08, 1849, settling in Van Diemen's Land and Port Phillip, Australia [3]

New Zealand Birks migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Birks Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • John Birks, aged 35, a carpenter, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Wild Duck" in 1873

Contemporary Notables of the name Birks (post 1700) +

  • Brigadier-General Hammond Davies Birks (1896-1973), American Commandant of the War Department Personnel Center (1945-1946) [4]
  • Thomas Rawson Birks (1810-1883), Professor, theologian and controversialist at Oxford, born on 28 Sept. 1810 at Staveley in Derbyshire [5]
  • Ms. Gillian Sara Birks B.E.M., British recipient of Medallist of the British Empire Medal 29th December 2018 for services to the community in Glusburn, North Yorkshire [6]
  • John Birks, modern jazz player
  • Peter Birks (1941-2004), Regius Professor of Civil Law at the University of Oxford
  • Henry Birks (1840-1928), Canadian businessman and founder of the Canadian jewelry store, Birks
  • Gerald Alfred Sigourney Birks (1894-1991), Canadian fighter ace in World War I
  • Frederick Birks (1894-1917), Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross


The Birks 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.


  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. ^ State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2014, November 17) Adelaide voyage to Van Diemen's Land and Port Phillip, Australia in 1849 with 303 passengers. Retrieved from http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/adelaide/1849
  4. ^ Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2011, October 6) Hammond Birks. Retrieved from http://generals.dk/general/Birks/Hammond_Davies/USA.html
  5. ^ Wikisource contributors. "Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900." Wikisource . Wikisource , 4 Jun. 2018. Web. 24 Jun. 2019
  6. ^ "Birthday and New Year Honours Lists (1940 to 2019)." Issue 62507, 28 December 2018 | London Gazette, The Gazette, Dec. 2018, www.thegazette.co.uk/honours-lists


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