Show ContentsKirkby History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Kirkby is a name that was brought to England by the ancestors of the Kirkby family when they migrated to the region after the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Kirkby family lived at Kirkby in Furness. The name Kirkby means village with a church.

Early Origins of the Kirkby family

The surname Kirkby was first found in Lancashire. One of the first recorded references to the name was John Kirkby (died 26 March 1290,) an English ecclesiastic and statesman. "John de Kirkeby, [was] Bishop of Ely in 1286, and founder of Ely Palace, Holborn." 1 He acted as keeper of the great seal during the frequent absences of the chancellor, Robert Burnell, during the reign of Henry III. He was Lord Treasurer from January 1284 to his death. On 26 July 1286, he was elected Bishop of Ely, a post he held until his death.

Another John de Kirkby (d. 1352) was Bishop of Carlisle, an Augustinian canon at Carlisle and later prior of the house.

Early History of the Kirkby family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kirkby research. Another 128 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1548, 1625, 1634, 1649, 1658, 1661, 1681, 1690, 1693, 1702, 1703, 1708, 1709, 1753 and 1816 are included under the topic Early Kirkby History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Kirkby Spelling Variations

Spelling variations in names were a common occurrence in the eras before English spelling was standardized a few hundred years ago. In the Middle Ages, even the literate regularly changed the spellings of their names as the English language incorporated elements of French, Latin, and other European languages. Many variations of the name Kirkby have been found, including Kirkby, Kirby, Kerribly, Kerwick, O'Kerwick and many more.

Early Notables of the Kirkby family

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was

  • Thomas Kirkby, rector of the church of St. Michael in Aughton, Lancashire in 1548 2; John Kirby (1690-1753), an English land surveyor and topographer, best known for his book The Suffolk Travelle...

Ireland Migration of the Kirkby family to Ireland

Some of the Kirkby family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. More information about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Kirkby migration to the United States +

For many English families, the social climate in England was oppressive and lacked opportunity for change. For such families, the shores of Ireland, Australia, and the New World beckoned. They left their homeland at great expense in ships that were overcrowded and full of disease. Many arrived after the long voyage sick, starving, and without a penny. But even those were greeted with greater opportunity than they could have experienced back home. Numerous English settlers who arrived in the United States and Canada at this time went on to make important contributions to the developing cultures of those countries. Many of those families went on to make significant contributions to the rapidly developing colonies in which they settled. Early North American records indicate many people bearing the name Kirkby were among those contributors:

Kirkby Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • John Kirkby, his wife Anne and two children, settled in New York State in 1774

Australia Kirkby migration to Australia +

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

Kirkby Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

Contemporary Notables of the name Kirkby (post 1700) +

  • John Kirkby (1929-1953), American footballer
  • Walter A. Kirkby, American Democratic Party politician, Candidate in primary for U.S. Representative from Michigan 2nd District, 1940 5
  • S. T. Kirkby, American politician, Member of South Dakota State House of Representatives 10th District, 1923-24 5
  • Elmer Kirkby, American Democratic Party politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Michigan, 1896, 1928 (alternate), 1932; Candidate for Michigan State Attorney General, 1930 5
  • John Kirkby (1705-1754), English divine, son of Rev. Thomas Kirkby, register of St. John's College, Cambridge
  • Stanley Kirkby (1878-1949), English baritone singer
  • Gordon Kirkby (b. 1958), Canadian politician and lawyer, member of the Canadian House of Commons from 1993-1997
  • Mr. Robert Kirkby, British sheriff, held the joint position of Sheriff of Nottingham, England from 1667 to 1668
  • Mr. William Kirkby, British sheriff, held the joint position of Sheriff of Nottingham, England from 1505 to 1506, he was also the Mayor in 1523
  • Dr. John Kirkby C.B.E., British Founder of Christians Against Poverty, was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire on 8th June 2018, for services to Poverty Relief 6
  • ... (Another 8 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Royal Oak
  • Desmond Ernest Kirkby (1922-1939), British Boy 1st Class with the Royal Navy aboard the HMS Royal Oak (1939) when she was torpedoed by U-47 and sunk; he died in the sinking 7

  1. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  2. 'Townships: Scarisbrick', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, ed. William Farrer and J Brownbill (London, 1907), pp. 265-276. British History Online [accessed 21 January 2017].
  3. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 14th July 2020). Retrieved from
  4. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 14th August 2020). Retrieved from
  5. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 27) . Retrieved from
  6. "Birthday and New Year Honours Lists (1940 to 2019)." Issue 62507, 28 December 2018 | London Gazette, The Gazette, Dec. 2018,
  7. Ships hit by U-boats crew list HMS Royal Oak (08) - (Retrieved 2018 February, 9th) - retrieved from on Facebook