The Clark name is derived from the Latin term ‘clericus’ and although it was originally applied to members of a religious order, it was later used as a general term to describe secretaries, scribes and scholars. It was not used as an inherited family name until the 15th Century.

Traditionally, families in Scotland were divided along clan lines. The word ‘clan’ in Gaelic means family or children and each clan was a large extended family group of geographically related people owing allegiance to a clan chief. It also included a large group of related families or ‘septs’ all of whom looked to the clan chief for their protection.

Historically, the Clarks were never a clan in their own right but they were often recorded as a sept of the Cameron and Macpherson clans. These two clans claimed North Argyll, the area north of the city of Glasgow, as their traditional clan lands. The Clark tartan is a modern variation of the Clergy tartan.

The Scottish Clan system was systematically dismantled following the second Jacobite Uprising and the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The Battle of Culloden was the last military clash in Scotland between the forces of the Jacobites, who supported the claim to the throne of Charles Edward Stuart, known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, and the Royal Army which supported King George II. The defeat at Culloden brought the Jacobite Rising of 1745 to a close and Charles Stuart never attempted to take the throne again. The rebellion also had an enormous impact upon the Highland Scots — the authority of the clan chiefs was officially restricted by the ruling lords, many traditional clan associations were forbidden and there were severe civil penalties for wearing the tartan or speaking Gaelic.

The Clergy Tartan

Without the protection of their clan chiefs, the clansmen were at the mercy of their landlords and many Highland clansmen were forced to emigrate to Canada and America following the Highland Clearances while other clan members and families moved away from their traditional lands in search of work. Our earliest known ancestors have been traced to the south west of Scotland in the modern day county of Dumfries & Galloway. Over the years, county names and boundaries have changed numerous times and the present day boundaries of the county of Dumfries & Galloway incorporate the old counties of Kirkcudbrightshire, to the west, and Dumfries, to the east.

The Highland Clearances

During what became known as the Highland Clearances, tens of thousands of men, women and children were evicted from their homes to make way for large scale sheep farming. Homes were burnt and tenants forced to leave at the point of a sword or musket, carrying little or nothing as they headed towards a life of poverty and hunger. Of the one million people living in Scotland at the start of the 18th century, 90% lived in small settlements and communities where the landlords held all the power. They began forcing tenants off the land by doubling and tripling rent and serving eviction notices and as a result, villages that had once been vibrant with life were torn down to make way for ranch style estates or simply for the grazing of sheep. Between 1760 and 1830, many tens of thousands of Lowland Scots emigrated, taking advantage of the new opportunities offered in Canada and the United States to own and farm their own land.

The earliest ancestors of this branch of the Clark family have been traced back to John Clark and Agnes Cuthbertson in the early 19th century in the county of Dumfrieshire.