Show ContentsShakespeare History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Shakespeare is an ancient Norman name, that would have been used in Britain soon after the Conquest of the island in 1066. This name was given to a person 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 Shakespeare family

The surname Shakespeare 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 Shakespeare family

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

Shakespeare Spelling Variations

Multitudes of spelling variations are a hallmark of Anglo Norman names. Most of these names evolved in the 11th and 12th century, in the time after the Normans introduced their own Norman French language into a country where Old and Middle English had no spelling rules and the languages of the court were French and Latin. To make matters worse, medieval scribes spelled words according to sound, so names frequently appeared differently in the various documents in which they were recorded. The name was spelled Shakespeare, Shakspeare and others.

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

Ireland Migration of the Shakespeare family to Ireland

Some of the Shakespeare 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 Shakespeare migration to the United States +

Because of this political and religious unrest within English society, many people decided to immigrate to the colonies. Families left for Ireland, North America, and Australia in enormous numbers, traveling at high cost in extremely inhospitable conditions. The New World in particular was a desirable destination, but the long voyage caused many to arrive sick and starving. Those who made it, though, were welcomed by opportunities far greater than they had known at home in England. Many of these families went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Analysis of immigration records indicates that some of the first North American immigrants bore the name Shakespeare or a variant listed above:

Shakespeare Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Issacher Shakespeare, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1874 [3]
  • Geo. Shakespeare, aged 27, who landed in America from England, in 1892
Shakespeare Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Francis Shakespeare, aged 36, who landed in America, in 1904
  • Annie Shakespeare, aged 32, who immigrated to the United States from Goldthorpe England, in 1906
  • Daniel Shakespeare, aged 64, who settled in America from Wednesbury, England, in 1906
  • John D. Shakespeare, aged 30, who immigrated to the United States from Brierley Hill, England, in 1907
  • Emma Shakespeare, aged 58, who immigrated to America, in 1910
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Shakespeare migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Shakespeare Settlers in Canada in the 20th Century
  • Eliza Jane Shakespeare, aged 71, who immigrated to Victoria, Canada, in 1911

Australia Shakespeare migration to Australia +

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

Shakespeare Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Sarah A. Shakespeare, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Emily" in 1849 [4]
  • Mr. Benjamin Shakespeare, (b. 1825), aged 41, English coal miner who was convicted in Stafford, Staffordshire, England for 20 years for wounding with intent, transported aboard the "Corona" on 13th October 1866, arriving in Western Australia, Australia, he died in 1902 [5]

New Zealand Shakespeare 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:

Shakespeare Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Edmund Shakespeare, British settler travelling from Portsmouth aboard the ship "Duke of Portland" arriving in Lyttelton, Canterbury, New Zealand on 13th October 1851 [6]

Contemporary Notables of the name Shakespeare (post 1700) +

  • Francis J. "Frank" Shakespeare (1925-2022), American diplomat and media executive, President of CBS Television, United States Ambassador to Portugal from 1985 to 1986 and the United States Ambassador to the Holy See from 1986 to 1989
  • Stanley C. Shakespeare (1963-2005), American football wide receiver
  • William Shakespeare (1869-1950), American inventor of the level-winding fishing reel, founder of Shakespeare Fishing Tackle
  • William Valentine Shakespeare (1912-1975), American football player, inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (1983)
  • Percy Shakespeare (1906-1943), English painter
  • James Shakespeare (1840-1912), English-born, Australian organist
  • Craig Robert Shakespeare (b. 1963), English former professional footballer and coach
  • Clive Richard Shakespeare (1947-2012), English-born, Australian pop guitarist, songwriter and producer, best known for his co-founding of the pop, rock group Sherbet
  • Sir Thomas "Tom" William Shakespeare (b. 1966), 3rd Baronet, English geneticist and sociologist
  • Sir William Geoffrey Shakespeare (1927-1996), 2nd Baronet Shakespeare of Lakenham, general practitioner in Aylesbury
  • ... (Another 8 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Prince of Wales
  • Mr. Shakespeare, British Cook, who sailed into battle on the HMS Prince of Wales (1941) and survived the sinking [7]

The Shakespeare 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. Lower, 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. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 24th March 2021). Retrieved from
  6. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  7. HMS Prince of Wales Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from on Facebook