Menu Check out your Irish Roots and get help with your genealogy research

Irish Surname - Clark or Clarke

The name Clery / O'Clery, often anglicised to Clarke or Clark, is one of the oldest surnames in Ireland.

The surname is believed to derive from cleric, clerk, or scholar - one who can read and write. The Gaelic "Mac a' Chlerich/Cleireach", means son of the cleric or, sometimes, clerk. During the Middle Ages, a common pronunciation of 'er' was 'ar', so the man who kept the books might have been referred to as the 'clark'. At that time almost the only people who were able to read and write were members of religious orders and some of these minor orders were allowed to marry and have families. It was therefore natural that the term 'clark' or 'clerk' would come to be used of any literate man, particularly the professional secretary and the scholar.

One of the first native Gaelic O'Cleirigh clans were initially located in County Galway but soon dispersed to other parts of the country especially Counties Donegal and Dublin where the majority of descendants can still be found.

In 1890 Clarke was the 32nd most common surname in Ireland and there were approximately 15,400 people with this name. Counties in which this surname is most commonly found: Antrim, Cavan, Dublin, Louth and Mayo.

The family Coat of Arms is a blue shield, with a gold fess between a gold castle in chief, and a gold crescent in base.

The Clarke Motto: In Deo speravi - "In God have I trusted".

Alternate Surname Spellings

Clarke, Clerk, Clerke

Researching Irish Surnames

We have researched many sources for the origins of Irish surnames and extracted a fair representation of the origins of each. As there are many variations we have compiled a representative, but by no means exhaustive, selection.

Ireland Roots Message Board

Leave a message on our Facebook page if you're researching this surname