Last name: Clerk

This interesting name, with variant spellings Clerc, de Clerk, De Cler(c)q and (De) Klerk, is a Flemish or Dutch form of the English name Clerk, itself an occupational name for a scribe, secretary, or member of a minor religious order. The word "clerc", deriving from the Old English "cler(e)c", (Old French "clerc"), both ultimately from the Late Latin "clericus", originally denoted a priest, but since the clergy of minor order were permitted to marry and so found families the surname could become established. During the Middle Ages virtually the only people who could read and write were members of religious orders, and because the clergy frequently undertook scribal duties, the term "clerc" came also to be used of any literate man, especially the professional secretary. The surname de Clerck was introduced into England by Flemish Huguenots fleeing from religious persecution in their own county. On April 17th 1597, Iscar de Clerck and Lucynken Van Mierbeke were married in London, and on June 24th 1600, Pieter de Clerck and Lynken Engebusche were married by civil licence in that city. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Cahtelyne de Clerck, (marriage to Pieter T'Loers), which was dated July 25th 1591, in London, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

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