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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2015

Where did the Scottish Shanks family come from? What is the Scottish Shanks family crest and coat of arms? When did the Shanks family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Shanks family history?

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.

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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.

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.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Shanks research. Another 213 words(15 lines of text) covering the years 1426, 1489, 1490, 1620, 1630, 1636, 1643, 1725, and 1823 are included under the topic Early Shanks History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 42 words(3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Shanks Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Shanks family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 264 words(19 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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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
  • John Shanks settled in Virginia in 1650
  • Abigail Shanks, who landed in Maryland in 1650

Shanks Settlers in United States in the 18th Century


  • Edward Shanks, who landed in Jamaica in 1706-1707
  • John Shanks arrived in Virginia in 1734
  • Mathew Shanks settled in Charles Town, in 1766
  • Mr. Shanks 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
  • William Shanks, who landed in New York, NY in 1815
  • Hugh Shanks, who arrived in Arkansas in 1889

Shanks Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century


  • Andrew Shanks, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750

Shanks Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century


  • George Shanks, aged 30, a farmer, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1834 aboard the brig "Ann & Mary" from Cork

Shanks Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


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

Shanks Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • Gavin Shanks arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Cairngorm" in 1863
  • Elizabeth Shanks arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Cairngorm" in 1863
  • Agnes Shanks arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Cairngorm" in 1863
  • Robert Shanks, aged 22, a labourer, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Helenslee" in 1864
  • Jane Shanks, aged 22, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Helenslee" in 1864


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  • 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
  • Mrs. Shanks, Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the Halifax Explosion on 6th December 1917
  • Mr. John  Shanks, Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the Halifax Explosion on 6th December 1917
  • 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

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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: Spero
Motto Translation: I hope.

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  1. Catholic Directory For Scotland. Glasgow: Burns Publications. Print.
  2. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  3. Fulton, Alexander. Scotland and Her Tartans: The Romantic Heritage of the Scottish Clans and Families. Godalming: Bramley, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-86283-880-0).
  4. Innes, Thomas and Learney. Scots Heraldry A Practical Handbook on the Historical Principles and Mordern Application of the Art and Science. London: Oliver and Boyd, 1934. Print.
  5. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  6. Innes, Thomas and Learney. Socts Heraldry A Practical Handbook on the Historical Principles and Modern Application of the Art of Science. London: Oliver and Boyd, 1934. Print.
  7. Le Patourel, John. The Norman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-19-822525-3).
  8. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  9. Bowman, George Ernest. The Mayflower Reader A Selection of Articales from The Mayflower Descendent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  10. Prebble, John. The Highland Clearances. London: Secker & Warburg, 1963. Print.
  11. ...

The Shanks Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Shanks 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 31 August 2015 at 12:01.

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