This is an ancient and honourable surname. It is or rather was, an occupational surname for an educated person, a scribe or secretary. Derived from the pre 7th century Olde English word "clerec", meaning a priest, it originally denoted a member of a religious order, but in time it came to be used of any literate person, particularly a professional secretary or scholar. The surname was first recorded in the early 12th Century (see below), and other early recordings include: Reginald Clerc, in the Curia Regis Rolls of Rutland in 1205, and John le Clerk, in the "Transcripts of Charters relating to the Gilbertine Houses", of Lincolnshire in 1272. In the modern idiom the surname can be found as Clark, Clarke, Clerk, Clerke, and the very rare diminutives Clarken and Clarkin. Richard Clarke was a passenger on the pilgrim ship "Mayflower" bound for the New World in 1620, James Clarken or Clarkin was recorded at St Martins in the Field, Westminster, in 1728, whilst Lawrence Clark, together with his wife, Margaret, and son Thomas, were Irish famine emigrants who sailed on the ship "Shenandoah of Liverpool", bound for New York in March 1846. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Willelm le Clerec,. This was dated 1100, in "The Old English Byname Register of Somerset", during the reign of King Henry 1st, and known as "The Lion of Justice", 1100 - 1135. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to develop, often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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