Show ContentsClerk History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Clerk is part of the ancient legacy of the Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. The name was taken on by someone who worked as a person who concerned himself with matters of scholarly importance or of religious orders or as a secretary. The surname Clerk originally derived from the Latin form clericus. Even today, the word and profession clerk is typically pronounced clark throughout the United Kingdom.

The name may have been Norman in origin, having descended from the name Le Clerc and generally means "a learned person-that is, one who could in old times read and write-accomplishments. " [1]

Indeed, the name was seen in early rolls in both Normandy and England. "Twenty of the name occur in 1198; of these, nine also occur in England 1199; and the families of the name generally seem to have had members in both countries." [2]

Early Origins of the Clerk family

The surname Clerk was first found in Hampshire where Richerius clericus was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086. A few years later, Willelm le Clerec was listed in Somerset in 1100 and Reginald Clerc was listed in the Curia Rolls of Rutland in 1205. [3]

"Absent in Wales, and scarce in most of the counties on the Welsh border. Best represented in Buckinghamshire, Essex, Leicestershire, Rutlandshire, and Nottinghamshire. " [4]

"As a surname, Clarke appears frequently to have aliased some other appellative; for instance the Baronet family, Clarke of Salford, originally Woodchurch, from the parish of that name in Kent, soon after the Conquest became Clarkes (Le Clerc) in consequence of a marriage with an heiress, and the family for some generations wrote themselves "Woodchurch alias Le Clerc," and vice versa." [1]

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 proved the widespread use of the name in both Latin and early English forms: Boniface Clericus, Lincolnshire; Thomas le Clerk, Lincolnshire; Batekyn Clericus, Essex; Gilbert le Clerk, Oxfordshire; and Tomas le Clerck, Buckinghamshire. [5]

Yet just over one hundred years later, the "Le" prefix was dropped and the Latin form of the name was deprecated as seen in the Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379 which listed: Robertus Clarke; Beatrix Clerc; and Henricus Clerk. [5]

Early History of the Clerk family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Clerk research. Another 76 words (5 lines of text) covering the years 1599, 1639, 1655, 1659, 1669, 1675, 1683, 1689, 1693, 1695, 1700, 1704, 1714, 1729, 1735 and 1890 are included under the topic Early Clerk History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Clerk Spelling Variations

Before English spelling was standardized a few hundred years ago, spelling variations of names were a common occurrence. Elements of Latin, French and other languages became incorporated into English through the Middle Ages, and name spellings changed even among the literate. The variations of the surname Clerk include Clark, Clerk and others.

Early Notables of the Clerk family

Distinguished members of the family include

  • William Clerk, LL.D. (died 1655), an English civil lawyer

Clerk Ranking

In the United States, the name Clerk is the 16,999th most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [6]

Ireland Migration of the Clerk family to Ireland

Some of the Clerk family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 107 words (8 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Clerk migration to the United States +

A great wave of immigration to the New World was the result of the enormous political and religious disarray that struck England at that time. Families left for the New World in extremely large numbers. The long journey was the end of many immigrants and many more arrived sick and starving. Still, those who made it were rewarded with an opportunity far greater than they had known at home in England. These emigrant families went on to make significant contributions to these emerging colonies in which they settled. Some of the first North American settlers carried this name or one of its variants:

Clerk Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Mr. John Clerk, (Clark) aged 19, who arrived in Virginia in 1634 aboard the ship "Bonaventure" coming via St. Domingo [7]
  • Robert Clerk, who arrived in Maryland in 1637 [8]
  • Eleanor Clerk, who arrived in Maryland in 1641 [8]
  • John Clerk, who arrived in Virginia in 1654 [8]
  • Tho Clerk, who landed in Virginia in 1654 [8]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Clerk Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Robert Clerk, who landed in Virginia in 1701 [8]
  • Eliza Clerk, who arrived in Virginia in 1701 [8]
  • Benja Clerk, who landed in Virginia in 1701 [8]
  • Jane Clerk, who landed in Virginia in 1703 [8]
  • Edward Clerk, who arrived in Virginia in 1703 [8]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Clerk Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Margaret Clerk, who landed in New York, NY in 1850 [8]
  • Ann Clerk, aged 5, who arrived in New York, NY in 1850 [8]

Canada Clerk migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Clerk Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • John Clerk, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Mr. James Clerk U.E. who settled in Eastern District [Cornwall], Ontario c. 1783 [9]

Australia Clerk migration to Australia +

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

Clerk Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. George Clerk, English convict who was convicted in Newington, London, England for 7 years, transported aboard the ""Blenheim"" on 24th July 1850, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) and Norfolk Island, Australia [10]

New Zealand Clerk 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:

Clerk Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Alexander Clerk, British settler travelling from Gravesend, UK aboard the ship "Dinapore" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 5th August 1857 [11]
  • Mr. David Clerk, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Robert Henderson" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 3rd September 1860 [12]

Contemporary Notables of the name Clerk (post 1700) +

  • J. A. Clerk, American Democratic Party politician, Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Mississippi, 1916 [13]
  • John Clerk (1757-1832), Lord Eldin, Scotch judge, the eldest son of John Clerk of Eldin [14]
  • John Clerk of Eldin (1728-1812), Scottish author of an essay on naval tactics, seventh son of Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, educated at the grammar school of Dalkeith [14]
  • Sir George Clerk (1787-1867), Scottish statesman, elder son of James Clerk, by his wife, Janet, daughter of George Irving of Newton, Lanarkshire, and grandson of Sir George Clerk Maxwell [14]
  • Sir Dugald Clerk (1854-1932), Scottish engineer
  • James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), Scottish physicist

The Clerk 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: Fortitudo
Motto Translation: Fortitude.

  1. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X)
  3. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  4. Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  5. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  6. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  7. Pilgrim Ship's of 1600's Retrieved January 6th 2023, retrieved from
  8. 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)
  9. 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
  10. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 25th October 2020). Retrieved from
  11. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  12. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from
  13. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 23) . Retrieved from
  14. Wikisource contributors. "Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900." Wikisource . Wikisource , 4 Jun. 2018. Web. 30 June 2020 on Facebook