The swan used for the Clarke crest and moto.

Folk before me:

The family of Richard Clarke

The home of Gregory Clarke in Bungay, Suffolk

Richard's ancestry

Most of the information in the following pages concerns the genealogy of the Clarke and Smith families. I have worked on it since 2008, but the end is not in sight, and probably never will be. As of 2020, there is a total of just under 5000 leaves on my tree. You will need to be a member of Ancestry to see the entire collection. The subset you can access here is just a few of the more immediate, important, interesting or better documented finds. Much of the spear side of this tree was researched by my grandfather, Alexander South Clarke, who bequeathed a very large, one-page tree, as well as numerous historical documents and a set of notes compiled up to WW2.

Badge for RACs Y-DNA test result.
Fig. 1: The Y-DNA test result for Richard Alexander Clarke and, by implication, the Clarke's of Henstead, Suffolk.

Research to date has concentrated largely on the Roberts/Stephens lines as well as the Smith/Ewington ones. Fellow genealogists will appreciate that few tasks in life bring less joy than my pursuit of Fred Smith across 19th century London. Do not ask how many birth certificates I purchased before enjoying the reward of a 'eureka moment'. A needle in a haystack would be a doddle in comparison :-(
'Clarke' is marginally easier to work with, but not in East Anglia where it is still possible to select at random some Joe from the street and address him as 'Mr. Clarke' with a better than even chance of accuracy. Gt4 through gt6 grandfathers were plain 'John Clarkes'. Which parish register did not list two in a week?

As far as ongoing research is concerned, stick a pin in the phone directory and I will probably be investigating a fourth cousin by the so chosen name. Brick walls, however, now pop up at a horrifying rate. These are always frustrating, but especially so with Langan. Were they for real? Who knows? Who were the Howes? The ancestry of Alexander Browne is mostly a mystery, so I don't fully understand how my middle name is derived. Grrr.

The autosomal DNA approach was tried in 2015, and it supported the Roberts (Cornwall), Smith (Hertfordshire), Pitts (East London) and Flower (Sommerset) lines. The Clarkes (East Anglia) did not show up until 2020 with the discovery of 3Cs in Australia and 5Cs in Dorset. So I do a Y-DNA test. That will sort out the paternal line, right? Wrong. I get haplogroup R-S885: a subgroup of R-M269 - just about the most common that there is, Grrrr.

The tree extends to before 1837 in places. The Clarke legend begins in 1503 with one Joan, who died in that year. Around 1765 we married into the Welham line; a Norman era dynasty. As a middle name, or as a double barrel, this is still going today. Indeed, the latter is the only other Clarke line remaining in this country. The Ewingtons married into the Warner family in Hertfordshire, who are stretched back into the mid 17th century by someone on Ancestry. So it goes.

Seize Quartiers

Alexander South Clarke Richard John Clarke Charles Clarke
Anne Browne
Elizabeth Anne Borrett John Borrett
Mary Boult
Thomasine Roberts William Roberts James Roberts
Jane Jewell
Annie Matilda Stephens William Stephens
Thomasine Kernick
Cecil Howe Smith Frederic William Smith James Howe Smith
Frances Ewington
Alice Helena Mayhew John Mayhew
Ellen Langan
Florrie May Pitts Charles Joseph Pitts John Pitts
Emma Ashdown
Julia Flower George Flower
Ann Withey
Fig. 2: Richard's Seize Quartiers

At right is my seize quartiers . On my maternal grandfather's side, this is entirely original research; so comes with the usual caveats. The same applies to the Ashdowns, whose mention elicits only blank looks from the generation above me. Otherwise, what you see is family legend, documented or not, as verified by the conventional techniques.

The Coat of Arms

The Clarke Coat of Arms, showing three swans on a bend gules.
Fig. 3: The Clarke Coat of Arms.

This is not a design registered with the College of Arms. It represents one of the many 'presumptive armorial bearings' aquired by even minor Suffolk families in the 18th century. The Reverend Alfred Inigo Suckling, in Volume 2 of his book 'The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk', shows these arms along with his genealogical notes on the Clarke family. In Volume 1 he says that they appear on Gregory Clarke's (1642-1725) gravestone in St. Mary's Church , Bungay.

Argent, on a bend gules between three pellets, as many swans proper.

The motto is translatable as 'One and the same'. Your scribe denies that he shares the faults or virtues of any other Clarke.