Shanks History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancestors of the first family in ancient Scotland to use the name Shanks lived among the Boernicians. Shanks is a name for a person with long legs, or a peculiar manner of gait. Shanks is a nickname, which belongs to the category of hereditary surnames. Nicknames form a broad and miscellaneous class of surnames, and can refer directly or indirectly to one's personality, physical attributes, mannerisms, or even their habits of dress. It derives from the Old English word sceanca, which means shin bone, or leg. While this word has survived in Scotland, it has been replaced in England, by the Old Norse word leggr, which means leg.

Early Origins of the Shanks family

The surname Shanks was first found in Midlothian, where the family held a family seat from very ancient times. They were designated as 'Shank of that Ilk" meaning an ancient Clan who possessed lands of that same name. Murdoch Shank, son of the first recorded chief of the Clan of Shank in Mid Lothian, was granted the lands of Kinghorn in Fife by a Charter from King Robert the Bruce of Scotland in the year 1319 for his allegiance and loyalty of the clan in his fight for the crown of Scotland.

Early History of the Shanks family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Shanks research. Another 133 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 1426, 1490, 1489, 1490, 1643, 1725, 1636, 1620, 1630, 1635 and are included under the topic Early Shanks History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Shanks Spelling Variations

Over the years, Shanks has been written It appears under these variations because medieval scribes spelled names according to sound rather than by any over-arching set of rules. Shank, Shanke, Schank, Schanke, Shankis, Schankis, Shanks, Shanx, Schanx and many more.

Early Notables of the Shanks family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the family at this time was John Shank, also spelled Shanke or Shanks (died 1636), an actor in English Renaissance theatre, a leading comedian in the King's Men during the 1620s and 1630s. A long time resident in St. Giles's, Cripplegate, "he speaks...
Another 45 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Shanks Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Shanks family to Ireland

Some of the Shanks family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 60 words (4 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Shanks migration to the United States +

When these Boernician-Scottish settlers arrived in North America they brought little with them and often had restart their lives from scratch. Through time, much of their heritage was lost, and it is only this century through Clan societies and highland games that many have recovered their national heritage. Research into various historical records has revealed some of first members of the Shanks family to immigrate North America:

Shanks Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • John Shanks, who landed in Maryland in 1637-1640 [1]
  • John Shanks, who settled in Virginia in 1650
  • Abigail Shanks, who landed in Maryland in 1650 [1]
Shanks Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Edward Shanks, who landed in Jamaica in 1706-1707 [1]
  • John Shanks, who arrived in Virginia in 1734
  • Mathew Shanks, who settled in Charles Town, in 1766
  • Mr. Shanks, who settled in Boston in 1768 with his four children
Shanks Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Archibald Shanks, who landed in New York in 1808 [1]
  • William Shanks, who landed in New York, NY in 1815 [1]
  • Hugh Shanks, who arrived in Arkansas in 1889 [1]

Canada Shanks migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Shanks Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Andrew Shanks, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Lieut. James Shanks U.E. who settled in Carleton [Saint John City], New Brunswick c. 1784 he served in the Prince of Wales American Volunteers, became a Freeman in 1785 [2]
Shanks Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • George Shanks, aged 30, a farmer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1834 aboard the brig "Ann & Mary" from Cork, Ireland
  • Mr. William Shanks, aged 4 who immigrated to Canada, arriving at the Grosse Isle Quarantine Station in Quebec aboard the ship "Independence" departing from the port of Belfast, Ireland but died on Grosse Isle on 23rd July 1847 [3]

Australia Shanks migration to Australia +

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

Shanks Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Margaret Shanks, aged 19, a farm servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1853 aboard the ship "Epaminondas" [4]
  • William Shanks, aged 20, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1858 aboard the ship "Storm Cloud"
  • Thomas Green Shanks, aged 40, a farm servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1858 aboard the ship "Frenchman"
  • Thomas Shanks, aged 18, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1858 aboard the ship "Frenchman"
  • Mary Shanks, aged 16, a domestic servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1858 aboard the ship "Frenchman"

New Zealand Shanks 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:

Shanks Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Gavin Shanks, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Cairngorm" in 1863
  • Elizabeth Shanks, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Cairngorm" in 1863
  • Agnes Shanks, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Cairngorm" in 1863
  • Robert Shanks, aged 22, a labourer, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Helenslee" in 1864
  • Jane Shanks, aged 22, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Helenslee" in 1864
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Shanks (post 1700) +

  • Nelson Shanks (1937-2015), American artist and painter, perhaps best known for his portraits of Diana, Princess of Wales and President Bill Clinton
  • Don Shanks (b. 1950), American actor and stuntman
  • Daniel Shanks (1917-1996), American mathematician, best known for being the first to compute pi to 100,000 decimal places
  • Katrina Shanks (b. 1970), New Zealand politician
  • Howard "Howie" Shanks (1890-1941), former Major League Baseball player
  • Hershel Shanks (b. 1930), founder of the Biblical Archaeology Society
  • Edward Shanks (1892-1953), English writer
  • Donald Shanks AO OBE (b. 1940), Australian operatic bass-baritone
  • Don Shanks (b. 1952), British footballer
  • Charles G. Shanks (1841-1895), 19th century journalist and associate editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal
  • ... (Another 3 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Halifax Explosion
  • Mrs. Shanks, Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [5]
  • Mr. John  Shanks, Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [5]


The Shanks 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: Spero
Motto Translation: I hope.


  1. ^ 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)
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ Charbonneau, André, and Doris Drolet-Dubé. A Register of Deceased Persons at Sea and on Grosse Île in 1847. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, 1997. ISBN: 0-660-198/1-1997E (p. 55)
  4. ^ South Australian Register Monday 26th December 1853. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Epaminondas 1853. Retrieved http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/australia/epaminondas1853.shtml.
  5. ^ Halifax Explosion Book of Remembrance | Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. (Retrieved 2014, June 23) . Retrieved from https://maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca/what-see-do/halifax-explosion/halifax-explosion-book-remembrance


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