Recorded in several form as shown below, this is an Anglo-Scottish surname, but one ultimately of Viking pre 7th century origins. It can be either topographical denoting residence near a church, or occupational for someone employed in a church. The derivation of the name in both cases is from the Northern Middle English word "kirk", church, from the Old Norse "kirkja". Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. While job-descriptive surnames originally denoted the actual occupation of the namebearer, and later became hereditary. In England the surname development has included: Richard Attekirck (1301, Yorkshire); Adam Ofthenkirke (1308, Suffolk); and Robert de Kirkhus (kirk house) in the Poll Tax rolls of Yorkshirein 1379. In Scotland the surname is first recorded in 1456, in the Register of the Abbey of Aberbrothoc, where Sir Patrick Kyrk appears as chaplain of the altar of St. Mary in Perth, while Alexander Kirke was bailie of St. Andrews in 1520. A coat of arms associated with the name has the blazon of a red shield charged with a gold crosier and silver sword saltireways, on a gold chief a green thistle. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Reginald Attekireke, which was dated 1209, in the Fines Court records of Lincolnshire, during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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