Select 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."  

Select Clark/Clarke Resources on The Internet
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 important 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 sheepskin rugs and slippers.  Thus began Clark’s Shoes which has continued to this day and is one of Britain’s largest private companies.  The sixth generation descendants 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 Edinburgh.
  • while the Clark 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 Donegal, Clarke in Cavan.   Clarke was also brought to Ireland by Scottish and English settlers.  An early example was the Clarks of Carrickfergus in county Antrim, many of whom were mayors of the town between 1620 and 1678.

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

America.  Many of the early Clarks in New England originated from the English county of Suffolk:
  • 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 Kentucky.  One Clark family, which was in Virginia by 1630, produced six sons who were 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, from 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.

  William Clark came to Flesherton in southern Ontario in the 1860’s and, after working as a woodworker for several years, saved up enough money to buy his own farm.  He was the forebear of a notable journalistic family:
  • his son Joseph was editor first of the weekly Saturday Night 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.
Select Clark/Clarke Miscellany

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

Select 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.
William Clark was the Clark of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition which 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 Zealand's 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)

Select Surname List

Adams Ellis Johnson O'Connor
Allen Evans Jones O'Sullivan Shaw
Anderson Fisher
Kelly Parker Simpson
Bailey Foster Kennedy Perry Smith
Baker Fox King Peterson Stevens
Barnes Fraser 
Lee Phillips Stewart
Bell Graham Lewis Powell Taylor
Bennett Gray Marshall Price Thomas
Brown Green Martin Reed
Griffiths Mason      
Reynolds Turner
Campbell Hall McDonald Richards
Carter Hamilton Miller  Richardson Walsh
Chapman Harris Mitchell Roberts Ward
Clark Harrison
Moore Robertson Watson
Collins Henderson Morgan Robinson White
Cook Hill Morris Rogers Williams
Cooper Howard Murphy Ross Wilson
Cox Hughes Murray Russell Wood
Davis Jackson Nelson Ryan Wright
Edwards James O'Brien 

For other surnames check the surnames2 page where there are to be found the history and genealogy for more than 800 surnames.

Return to Main Page