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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016

Origins Available: English, Scottish


Although the Clerke surname has long been born in Scotland, the name itself is Anglo-Saxon in origin. It is derived from the Old English "clerec," which is itself derived from the Latin "clericus," meaning "priest." The term "clerec" originally denoted a member of a religious order; however, as these were the only people who were taught to read and write, the term eventually came to refer to any literate man. Thus, the name Clerke may have originally referred to a scholar, a scribe, a secretary, or a member of a religious order. The name in Gaelic was Mac a' Chleirich. Even today, the word and profession "clerk" is typically pronounced "clark" throughout the United Kingdom.

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Spelling variations of this family name include: Clark, Clerk and others.

First found in the counties on both sides of the border between England and Scotland. There is a record of a James the Clerk, witnessing a charter in Dumfriesshire in 1249. The Clarks were not a full-fledged clan; rather they were probably a sept of the ecclesiastic Clan MacPherson, although the Camerons also show a tie with the Clarks and Clarksons. Even though Clerk or Clark was primarily a name given to those of a specific occupation, the Celtic Church of the north would undoubtedly have assumed an order that was very clan-like. The Clarks would also have been amongst the most educated and wise people to have lived in Scotland, and as conveyors of the Christian faith their power and authority would have often matched that of chiefs. The Feudal System initiated by Ceanmore in southern Scotland, was more fully implemented by the Norman King David I, who often made abbots as powerful as Chiefs, granting them extensive tracts of land and power. Clarks, then, would have certainly held a special role of authority as individuals, if not as a clan.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Clerke research. Another 209 words (15 lines of text) covering the years 1296, 1406, 1599, 1675, 1683, 1729, 1770, 1775, 1838, and 1859 are included under the topic Early Clerke History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 88 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Clerke Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Clerke family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 275 words (20 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Clerke Settlers in United States in the 17th Century


  • Richard Clerke, who landed in Virginia in 1646
  • Robert Clerke, who landed in Virginia in 1650
  • Wm Clerke, who arrived in Virginia in 1652
  • Joseph Clerke, who arrived in Virginia in 1652
  • Mary Clerke, who arrived in Virginia in 1652


Clerke Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century


  • Mr. Francis Clerke U.E who settled in Eastern District [Cornwall], Ontario c. 1783

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  • Mr. Arthur Roy Clerke (d. 1941), British Ordinary Seaman, who sailed in to battle on the HMS Prince of Wales and died during the sinking


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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: In Deo speravi
Motto Translation: In God have I trusted.

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  1. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  2. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  3. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  4. Moncrieffe, Sir Ian of That Ilk and David Hicks. The Highland Clans The Dynastic Origins, Cheifs and Background of the Clans. New York: C.N. Potter, 1968. Print.
  5. Moncrieffe, Sir Ian of That Ilk and Don Pottinger. Clan Map Scotland of Old. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1983. Print.
  6. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  7. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  8. Barrow, G.W.S Ed. Acts of Malcom IV 1153-65 Volume I Regesta Regum Scottorum 1153-1424. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1960. Print.
  9. Holt, J.C. Ed. Domesday Studies. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987. Print. (ISBN 0-85115-477-8).
  10. Prebble, John. The Highland Clearances. London: Secker & Warburg, 1963. Print.
  11. ...

The Clerke Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Clerke Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 18 February 2015 at 13:15.

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