Shakespear History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Norman Conquest of England in 1066 brought many new words to England from which surnames were formed. Shakespear was one of these new Norman names. It was specifically tailored to its first bearer, who was a confrontational or argumentative person. The name was originally derived from the Old English schakken, meaning to brandish, and speer, meaning spear.

Early Origins of the Shakespear family

The surname Shakespear was first found in Cumberland where some of the earliest records of the name include "John Shakespeare, who in 1279 was living at 'Freyndon,' perhaps Frittenden, Kent." [1] and "Henry Shakespere who was a holder of a ploughland in the parish of Kirkland in the year 1350." [2]

The author continues on that as the name was a "Border" name (one on the Scottish/English borders), it no doubt had "its rise in those feuds." And later on, he notes that the previous "earliest" record was of "Thomas Shakespeare, who was officially connected with the port of Youghal, in Ireland, in 1375. " The surname is clearly not Irish as confirmed by MacLysaght and O'Hart, which begs the question how did such an early entry of the name get there?

The famed dramatist and poet William Shakespeare's (1564-1616), ancestry "cannot be traced with certainty beyond his grandfather. The poet's father when applying for a grant of arms in 1596, claimed that his grandfather and the poet's great-grandfather received for services rendered in war a grant of land in Warwickshire from Henry VII." [1]

However, we do know that "Adam Shakespeare, a tenant by military service of land at Baddesley Clinton in 1389, was great-grandfather of one Richard Shakespeare, who held land at Wroxhall in Warwickshire in 1525." [1]

Early History of the Shakespear family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Shakespear research. Another 69 words (5 lines of text) covering the years 1564, 1616, 1774, 1858 and 1805 are included under the topic Early Shakespear History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Shakespear Spelling Variations

A multitude of spelling variations characterize Norman surnames. Many variations occurred because Old and Middle English lacked any definite spelling rules. The introduction of Norman French to England also had a pronounced effect, as did the court languages of Latin and French. Therefore, one person was often referred to by several different spellings in a single lifetime. The various spellings include Shakespeare, Shakspeare and others.

Early Notables of the Shakespear family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was William Shakespeare (1564-1616), the English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. He is often called England's national poet, and the "Bard of...
Another 38 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Shakespear Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Shakespear family to Ireland

Some of the Shakespear family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 39 words (3 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Shakespear migration to the United States +

Many English families left England, to avoid the chaos of their homeland and migrated to the many British colonies abroad. Although the conditions on the ships were extremely cramped, and some travelers arrived diseased, starving, and destitute, once in the colonies, many of the families prospered and made valuable contributions to the cultures of what would become the United States and Canada. Research into the origins of individual families in North America has revealed records of the immigration of a number of people bearing the name Shakespear or a variant listed above:

Shakespear Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Issachar Shakespear, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1874 [3]
  • Samuel Shakespear, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1878 [3]

Australia Shakespear migration to Australia +

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

Shakespear Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Sarah A. Shakespear, aged 21, who arrived in South Australia in 1849 aboard the ship "Emily" [4]
  • Margaret Shakespear (aged 18), a servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1856 aboard the ship "Gomelza"

New Zealand Shakespear 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:

Shakespear Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Shakespear, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Phoenix" in 1860
  • Miss Edith Shakespear, British settler travelling from London, UK aboard the ship "Benvenue" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 24th February 1878 [5]
  • Mr. W. Shakespear, British settler travelling from London, UK aboard the ship "Benvenue" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 24th February 1878 [5]
  • Mrs. Shakespear, British settler travelling from London, UK aboard the ship "Benvenue" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 24th February 1878 [5]

Contemporary Notables of the name Shakespear (post 1700) +

  • John Shakespear (1774-1858), English Orientalist, born at Lount, near Ashby, Leicestershire, the son of a small farmer
  • Sir Richmond Campbell Shakespear (1812-1861), Indian-born British Indian Army officer, youngest son of John Talbot Shakespear, of the Bengal civil service
  • Olivia Shakespear (1863-1938), born Olivia Tucker, a British novelist, playwright, and patron of the arts

The Shakespear 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: Non sanz droict
Motto Translation: Not without right.

  1. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  2. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  3. ^ 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)
  4. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) The EMILY 1849. Retrieved from
  5. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from on Facebook
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