"Optimum Quad Primum"

In the process of researching this distinguished family name we also traced the most ancient grant of Arms from the branches which developed their own Arms. The most ancient grant of a Coat of Arms found was: Red with a Gold Crozier (crosier) crossed with a gold sword and at the top a green thistle. The Crest was: A crozier and a dagger crossed. The ancient family Motto for this distinguished name was: "Optimum Quad Primum".


History of the name .... Kirk

Though shrouded by the mists of time, the chronicles of Scotland reveal the early records of the Norman surname Kirk which ranks as one of the oldest. The history of the name is interwoven within the colorful plaid of Scottish history and is an intrinsic part of the heritage of Scotland.

Diligent analysis by professional researchers using such ancient manuscripts as the Doomsday Book (compiled in 1086 by William the Conqueror), the Ragman Rolls, the Wace poem, the Honour Roll of the Battle Abbey, the Inquisitio, the Curia Regis, Pipe Rolls, the Falaise Roll, tax records, baptismals, family genealogies, and local parish and church records shows the first record of the name Kirk was found in Cumberland where they were seated from very early times and were granted lands by Duke William of Normandy, their Liege Lord, for their distinguished assistance at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D.

Variable spellings of the name were typically linked to a common root, usually one of the Norman nobles at the Battle of Hastings. Your name, Kirk, occurred in many references from time to time, and variables included were Kirk, Kirkhoe, Kirkhaugh, Kirko, Kirkoe, and many more. Scribes recorded and spelled the name as it sounded. It was not unlikely that a person would be born with one spelling, married with another, and buried with a headstone which showed another. Preferences for different spellings were derived from a branch preference, to indicate a religious adherence or sometimes to show nationalistic allegiance.

The family name Kirk is believed to be descended originally from the Norman race. The Normans were commonly believed to be of French origin but were, more accurately, of Viking origin. The Vikings landed in the Orkneys and Northern Scotland about the year 870 A.D., under their King, Stirgud the Stout. Later, under their Jarl, Thorfinn Rollo, they invaded France about 940 A. D. The French King, Charles the Simple, after Rollo laid siege to Paris, finally conceded defeat and granted northern France to Rollo. Rollo became the first Duke of Normandy. Duke William who invaded and defeated England in 1066, was descended from the First Duke Rollo of Normandy.

After the Conquest, Duke William took a consensus of most of England in 1086, it became known as the Domesday Book. By 1070, William’s nobles were growing restive, dissatisfied with their grants of land. William took an army North, and laid waste to most of the Northern counties. King Malcom Canmore of Scotland offered refuge to these nobles, granting them land. Later, King David, about 1160, also encouraged his Norman friends to come North to join the royal court and obtain lands.

The surname Kirk emerged as a notable Scottish family name in the county of Cumberland where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated with manor and estates in that shire. The original name Kirkhaugh was acquired by the Viponts, a noble family which came from Vipont near Lisieux in Normandy. In 1258 William of Kirkhaugh assumed that name and the lands and estates. They moved North into Scotland to the lands of Tuchadam and Chappel in the barony of Dunscore in Dumfriesshire. They later acquired the Lands of Holywood and they intermarried with the Griersons of Barjarg and the name became shortened to Kirk and Kirke. Some branches of the name retained the name Kirkhoe. Sir Patrick Kirk of Perth had moved North and by 1600 even further North to Inveraray. They were registered as a border Clan in 1590 and in 1597. Of note amongst the family at this time was Sir Patrick Kirk of Perth.

The surname Kirk contributed much to local politics and in the affairs of England or Scotland. Later, in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries the country was ravaged by religious and political conflict. The Monarchy, the Church and Parliament fought for supremacy. The unrest caused many to think of distant lands.

Settlers in Ireland became known as the "Adventurers for land in Ireland". Essentially, they "undertook" to keep the Protestant Faith, and became known as "the Undertakers". In Ireland they were numerous in Ulster and county Louth and in the former became known as the Quirkes.

The news about the attractions of the New World spread like wildfire. Many sailed aboard the fleet of sailing ships known as the "White Sails". In North America, migrants which could be considered kinsmen of the surname Kirk, or variable spellings of that same family name included:

Chistopher and Judith Kirk settled in Virginia in 1635

John Kirk settled in New England in 1698

Grafton Kirk settled in Maryland in 1738

James Kirke settled in Virginia in 1656

Richard and John Kirke settled in Virginia in 1651

Thomas Kirke settled in Virginia in 1638

Christopher Kirke settled in the Barbados in 1663

From the port of arrival many settlers joined the wagon trains Westward. During the American War of Independence some declared their loyalty to the Crown and moved Northward into Canada and became known as the United Empire Loyalists. Meanwhile, the family name was noted in the social stream. There were many notables of this name, Kirk:

Grayson Kirk – American Professor

Peter Kirk – British Journalist

Roger Kirk – American Diplomat

Russell Kirk – American Writer

Samuel Kirk – American Professor of Education

Lucy Kirk – Dame

Alexander Kirk – U.S. Ambassador

Geoffrey Kirk – Greek Professor

Herbert Kirk – Northern Ireland Politician



Kirk – (kurk) n. 1. Chiefly Scottish. A church. 2. Capital K. The Presyterian church of Scotland. So called in England. [Middle English kirk(e), from Old Norse kirkja, from Old English cir(i)ce, CHURCH.]

Kirkwall – (kurk’wol). The county seat of Orkney, Scotland, and chief town of the Orkney Islands.

Domesday Book – (doomz’ da’, domz’ -). Also Dooms day Book (doomz’ -). The written record of a census and survey of English landowners and their property made by order of William the Conquerer in 1085-86,

William I – (wil’yem) known as the Conquerer. 1027-1087. King of England (1066-87); led the Norman Conquest (1066).

Cumberland – (kum’ber-land) 1. Abbr. Cumb a county of England occupying 1520 square miles in the Northwest. Population 294,000. County seat. Carlisle.

Hastings, The battle of – (ha’stingz). 1. A city and resort center of southeastern East Sussex, England, on the Strait of Dover, near the scene of the Saxon defeat by a Norman army under William the Conqueror (1066). Population, 67,000.

Norman – (nor’men). A masculine given name. [Middle English Norman, Old English Northman, "man living in or coming from the North",: north, NORTH + mann, MAN.}

Viking – (vi’king) n. Also Vi king. One of the Scandinavian mariners whose pirate bands attacked and pillaged coastal settlements of Northern and western Europe from the eighth through the tenth century. [Old Norse vikingr.]

Orkney Islands – (ork’ne). Also Ork neys (ork’nez). Abbr. Ork. A cluster of islands, 376 square miles in area, off the north-eastern coast of Scotland, of which they constitute a county. Population, 18,000. Capital, Kirkwall.

Jarl – (yarl) n. A great chieftain or nobleman of the medieval Scandinavians. [Old Norse, from Common Germanic erilaz (unattested), EARL.]

Thor – (thor). Norse Mythology. The god of thunder. [Old Norse thorr, thunder. See stene – in appendix.*].

Finn – (fin) n. 1. A native or inhabitant of Finland. Also called "Finlander." 2. One who speaks Finnish or a Finnic language. [Swedish Finne (superseding Old English Finnas, Finns), from Germanic Finnar (unattested).]

Rollo – Rol lo (rol’o’). Also Hrolf (hrolf, rolf). 860? – 931? Norse chieftan; first duke of Normandy.

Haugh – (hakh, haf) n. Scottish. A low-lying meadow, part of a river valley. [Middle English (Scottish) holch, hawch, Old English healh, corner of land. See kel- in Appendix*]

Dumfriesshire – Dum fries (dum-fres’). 1. Also Dumfries shire (-shir, -sher). A county occupying 1,073 square miles in southern Scotland. Population 88,000. 2. It’s county seat . Population 28,000.

Undertakers – (under-tak) v. 1. To take upon oneself; decide or agree to do. 2. To pledge or commit oneself to. 3. To make oneself responsible. Used with for. [Middle English undertaken, to accept, take in hand: UNDER + TAKE.]

Ulster – (ul’ster). 1. A former province of Ireland, of which the northern part is now officially Northern Ireland. 2. A province of the Republic of Ireland, occupying 3,393 square miles in the north. Population 217,000.

Louth – (louth) A county of the Republic of Ireland, occupying 307 square miles in the northeast. Population 67,000. County seat, Dundalk.

Quirk – (kwurk) n. 1. A sudden sharp turn or twist. 2. A peculiarity of behavior that eludes prediction or suppression. 3. An unpredictable or unaccountable act or event; vagary. 4. An equivocation; quibble; subterfuge.

Crozier – variant of Crosier (kro’zher) n. Also cro zier. 1. A staff with a crook or cross at the end, carried by or before an abbot, bishop, or arch –bishop as a symbol of office.

Optimum – (op’te-mem) n. The best or most favorable condition, degree, or amount for a particular situation. – adj. Most favorable or advantageous; best. [ Latin, from neuter of optimus, best].

Quad – Latin, what.

Primum – Medieval Latin primus, from Latin, first.

Optimum Quad Primum – best what first; "(The) best (is) what’s first" or What’s (Give your) best, first