Clark/Clarke Surname Genealogy


The surname Clark comes from the
Latin clericus and the French
le clerc and would denote
someone learned.Clerks were in fact originally the lower-level
orders of the clergy, such as the name Richerius Clericus which
appeared in the Domesday Book. They were usually the only ones in
the village who could read or write. In the Middle Ages, the
common pronunciation of “clerke” was “clarke” (as in Chaucer’s clerke
of Oxford). Clarke
became an
occupational name for a scribe or secretary. The
principal spellings today are Clarke and Clark.

In most of England, the surname pronunciation has tended to be
“clark.” But in the northeast it has often been “clerk” (as it
has been in America) and in Scotland sometimes “clack.”

Clark/Clarke Resources on

England. The
earliest Clarkes seem to have come from Kent and from Kingsdown Hall
there. These Clarkes later spread into other counties.

East Anglia. The
Clarke name has been particularly strong in East Anglia:

  • Clarkes appeared in the 1400’s in Norfolk and the Clarkes were an
    family in 17th
    century Norwich
    . Edward Clarke was an
    alderman in the town and his sons, Samuel and John, distinguished
    religious thinkers and clergymen.
  • John Clarke was a well-to-do
    yeoman in Finningham, Suffolk in the early 1500’s. From his
    family came early Clarke settlers in Rhode Island. One Suffolk
    family history began with the marriage of John and Elizabeth Clarke in
    Henstead in the 1760’s.

SW England.
The Clark name appeared in SW England.

A Quaker family of Clarks began in Somerset with
John Clark when he was imprisoned for his beliefs in Ilchester jail in
1662. Later Clarks made their home at
Street in
Somerset. It was in this town in 1825
that two Clark brothers, Cyrus and James, started a business making
rugs and slippers. Thus began Clark’s
Shoes which has continued to this day and is one of Britain’s largest
companies. The sixth generation
from James Clark and his son William remain major shareholders.

Clarks or Clarkes were recorded at Honiton
in Devon from the 1640’s. A Clark family
was brewing beer there in the mid-1700’s and became well-to-do
landowners in the
county. William Clark acquired the
Buckland manor in 1793.

Scotland. The MacChleirich name (“son of the clerk”) was often
anglicized to Clark. The name was once prominent in
Caithness. It
subsequently spread throughout Scotland.
There have been particularly prominent Clark families at
Edinburgh and
Paisley near Glasgow:

  • John Clark was a Montrose merchant who
    had prospered in the 17th century and bought the Penicuik lands near
  • while the
    family of Paisley
    , originally farmers at Dykebar, were
    pioneers in
    the cotton industry and from them descended the art historian Sir
    Kenneth Clark
    and his wayward son the MP Alan Clark.

Ireland. Clarke is the Irish spelling,
derived from the Gaelic sept O’Clerigh (meaning
“clerk”) in
Galway. Cleary appeared as the anglicized name in Derry and
Clarke in Cavan. Clarke was also
to Ireland by Scottish and English settlers. An early example was
Clarks of
Carrickfergus in county Antrim, many of whom were mayors of the town
1620 and 1678.

The name is mainly to be found in Dublin and Donegal today.

Many of the
early Clarks in New England originated from the English county of

  • first, the brothers John and Joseph Clarke who arrived in Boston
    in 1637. A year later they moved south to Rhode Island.
    John founded a Baptist church there and was a co-founder of the colony.
  • then Thomas Clark who came with his wife Jane around 1640.
    He also ended up in Rhode Island, dying in Newport in 1674.
  • and finally Richard and Ann Clark who arrived in the 1650’s and
    were among the first English settlers on Long Island (at Southold).

Some notable early Clarks were to be found in Virginia and
One Clark family, which was in Virginia by 1630, produced six sons who
officers in the Revolutionary War – including the eldest son George, a
Revolutionary War hero who headed the Kentucky militia, and the
youngest son
William, he of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition. James Clark,
another Virginia family, was Governor of Kentucky in the 1830’s.

Then there were Scots Irish Clarks. John Clark arrived in
Massachusetts from Ulster in 1720. These Clarks settled in Scots
Irish communities in Massachusetts and later in New York and Vermont
before venturing west to Indiana in 1815.

Another Clark
family came to America in the late 1700’s and
settled in a Scots Irish community west of the Allegheny mountains in
Pennsylvania. John Clark moved his
family further west to Iowa in 1856. His
son William A. Clark made a fortune in copper mining in Montana. He was said to have been, after Rockefeller,
the second richest man of his day. He is
commemorated today in Clark county, Nevada which is where Las Vegas
sits. His daughter Huguette Clark lived to be 104.

Canada. William Clark came to Flesherton
in southern Ontario in the 1860’s and, after working as a woodworker
several years, saved up enough money to buy his own farm.
He was the forebear of a notable journalistic

  • his son Joseph was editor first of the weekly Saturday
    and then of the daily Toronto Star.
  • Joseph’s sons Gregory and Joseph were both writers at
    the Toronto Star.
  • while the latter
    Joseph’s son Tom Clark has been a well-known Canadian broadcaster.

Clark/Clarke Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Clark/Clarke Names

Samuel Clarke who
worked with Isaac Newton was considered the greatest metaphysician of
his time.
William Tierney Clark was a
British pioneer in the design and construction of suspension bridges.
was the Clark of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition
crossed America overland for the first time to the West Coast.
William A. Clark was an
American copper baron of the late 19th century.
Kenneth Clark was the British
art historian and devisor of the TV series Civilization.
Arthur C. Clarke was the
renowned science fiction writer, most known for 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Jim Clark was the pioneer
internet entrepreneur and founder of Netscape.  Helen Clark has been New
Prime Minister.

Select Clarks/Clarkes Today
  • 297,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in West Midlands)
  • 212,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 193,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


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