Origin, Meaning, Family History and Stark Coat of Arms and Family Crest
Stark Surname Name Meaning, Origin, History, & Etymology
This is Anlgo-Saxon last name, primarily English and Scottish, derived from the Old English word strearc or the Middle English word stark, meaning firm, severe, strong, or unyielding, that developed as a nickname for a person whose personality of physicality demonstrated such qualities. In some instances, the name is German in origin, deriving from the Middle High German word stark, meaning strong or brave, and hence shares the same etymology as its English/Scottish counterpart. The name may also have Scandinavian roots, as the word appears as sterk-r in Old Norse and as stœrk in Dano-Norwegian. In his book Dictionary of American Family Names (1956), Eldson Coles Smith states this name is German, and means “Descendant of Starco”, which is a pet form of the name Starculf, meaning strong and/or wolf. In Britain, the family first appeared in Sussex. In Germany, the family had an early presence in Westphalia where the name was borne by as noble family seated (owned lands and titles) near Bochum.
Some spelling variants or names with similar etymologies include Starke, Sterk, Starkey, Starkie, Starks, and Strack.
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Stark ranks 823rd in popularity in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks particularly high in the following four states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Nebraska.
The surname Stark frequency/commonness ranks as follows in the British Isles: England (1,616th), Scotland (475th), Wales (1,600th), Ireland (4,790th) and Northern Ireland (5,630th). In England, it ranks highest in counties Durham and Somerset. In Scotland, the surname ranks highest in Kinross-shire.
In Wales, it ranks highest in Monmouthshire. In Ireland, it ranks highest in county Limerick. In Northern Ireland, it ranks highest in county Tyrone. The name is also present throughout the remainder English speaking world: Canada (1,213th), New Zealand (972nd), Australia (1,073rd), and South Africa (2,109th).
Early Bearers of the Surname
The earliest documented bearer of this last name was Rannulf Stark who is listed in the Pipe Rolls of Suffolk in 1222 AD. William Stark is recorded in the Fine Court Rolls of Essex in 1314 AD. Richard Starke owned the lands of Estirbalbretane in 1376 AD. William Stark was a tenant in Castalstairs in 1540 AD. A Beatrix Stern was documented in Glasgow, Scotland in 1544 AD. An early marriage involving this surname was John Starke to Honour Paterson at St. George, Hanover Square in 1757. Another was Francis Stark to Martha Orom at St. George’s Chapel, Mayfair.
Stark Family Tree & Stark Genealogy
Stark-Christie of Teasses
This branch of the Stark family tree claims descent from Alexander Robertson of Strowan, chief of Clan Robertson who died in 1506 or 1507. According to tradition, Alexander was the younger son of Paul, was part of a family feud, the result of which ended up with him being found guilty of manslaughter, whereupon he fled to the Scottish Lowlands, where he acquired the estate of Ballindean, changing his name to Stirk, later spelled Stark. Generations later, Robert Christie, Esquire, son of James of Durie and Mary Turner, in 1829, married Mary Butler, daughter of James Stuart, thereupon assumed the surname Stark, and had the following issue prior to his 1861 passing: 1) James Henry Robinson, 2) Robert Lindsay Bruce (married Julianne Cockburn, daughter of Captain A. Scott, of Scotts of Malleny), 3) Thomas (of Ballindean, born 1840, Justice of the Peace), 4) John Boswell, 5) Margaret Isabel (married Major General Hugh Lindsay, son of Charles, and had issue named Charles Robert, Mary Agnes, and Hughina Margaret). He died in 1862 and was succeeded by his eldest son, James Henry Robertson Stark-Christie, of Teasses, county Fife, Advocate at the Scottish Bar, M.A. of Trinity College Cambridge, born in 1830. In 1860, James married Marion Jane, youngest daughter of Archibald Young Howison of Hyndford, county Lanark, and had issue with her as follows: 1) Henry Robert, 2) Lindsay Bruce, 3) Arthur William, 4) Eliza Margaret, 5) Mary Harriet, 6) Agnes, and 7) Gertrude Emily. He died in 1875 and was succeeded by his eldest son Henry. Henry Robert Stark-Christie was an Esquire of Teasses, county Fife, born in 1868. This family was seated at Teasses, Largo, county Fife, Scotland.
© 2002 by Jeffrey L. Thomas
Starke of Laugharne Castle
The genealogy of lineage of this family traces back to Richard Starke, Esquire of Epsom, county Surrey, England, who for many years, was the governor of Fort St. David, Madras. He married Mary, daughter of Isaac of Banstead, and had three issue with her: Louisa, Mary Anna, and Richard. His son, Richard Isaac Starke, was an Esquire of Epsom and a Lieutenant-Colonel in the army. In 1798, he married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Colonel Ravenscroft of Burwood, county Chester, and Laugharne, county Caermarthen, Wales and Sarah, daughter of Pennoyre Watkins of Pennyore, and had the following children with her: 1) James Ravenscroft (see below), 2) Richard Isaac Hughes (married Clara Dixon), 3) John Francis Theophilus (Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, married Caroline Anne, daughter of Charles Claude Clifton of Tymaur), and 4) Eliza Ravenscroft (married William Robert FitzGerald in 1831). James Ravenscroft was an Esquire of Laugharne Castle, county Caermarthen, who was born in 1810. In 1839, he married Alicia, daughter of Reverend Hugh Ellard, the Vicar of Kilfinane, county Limerick, Ireland, and had the following issue with her: James Ravenscroft (1849), Elisabeth Frances (1852), Emily Mary, Margaret Maria, Anne Matilda, Alicia Ellard, and Amy Louise.
Major-General William Starke
His arms were as follows: Quarterly 1 and 4, azure, a chevron argent, between a bull’s head erased and two acorns in chief, and in base a key fessewise, wards downwards or (Stark); 2 and 3, gules, a martlet between three cinquefoils argent, a bordure embattled or (Hamilton). Crests: 1) A dexter hand proper, gripping by the lug and the horn a bull’s head downwards, erased or, distilling drops of blood proper; 2, an antelopes head proper, gorged and attired gules. Mottos: Fortiorum fortia facta (Stark), Invia virtutis pervia (Hamilton); and below the shield “Auxilio Dei”. He was the only surviving son of James Starke of Troqueer Holm.
Other Branches of the Stark Family Tree
Thomas Muirhead was born in Lauchope, Scotland in 1340 AD. He married Janet Finlay and they had a son named William. Sir William Muirhead was born in the same town in Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1380 AD. In 1414, he married Jean Hay, and had the following issue: William, Andrew, Vedestus, Janet, and Jean. His son William was born in 1415 AD and he later married Lady Mariota Hamilton, Baroness, and had two sons: John and Richard. His son John was born in Castle Lauchope in 1443 AD. He married Margaret Hepburn and had one son with her: John. This son, born John Lauchope Muirhead in 1466 AD. John assumed the surname and arms of Stark. In 1487, this John Stark married Margaret Borthwick, and had two issue with her: James and William Dulluttur. William Dulluttur Stark was born in Dumbarton, Dunbartonshire, Scotland in 1520. He married Marie Fleming and had a son named William. This son, William Auchenstarry Stark was born in Auchenvole in 1450. He married Margaret Hamilton and had a son with her named John. This John Stark I was born in Killermont, Clyde River, in 1575. He married Margaret Cunningham and they had a son named John II. John II was born in the same town around 1604. He married Margaret Naper and had a son with her named John III. John III was born in Glasgow around 1635. He married Isabell Weir and had a son with them named John IV. John Stark IV was born in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1665 AD. He married twice: Elizabeth Thornton and Susanna Elizabeth Archibald. He went to colonial America. He had two sons: James and John V. John Starke V was born in King and Queen, Virginia in 1715. In 1735, he married Anna Wyatt. He owned 400 acres of land along the north fork of the Moreman River, 379 acres on Ducking Hole Swamp, and 292 acres on Dirty Swamp. He had the following children: Elizabeth Wyatt, Anne, Thomas, Wyatt, John VI, Lucy, Wyatt, Fannie, Mary, Joseph, Sally, Jane, and Anne. His son Wyatt was born in 1747. He married Mollie Broffard and had a son with her named John. John was born in 1777. He married Sallie Whiteside and had the following issue with her: Addison, Milton, Allen, Wyatt, John, Dryden, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Creed Taylor. His son Milton Starke was born in Virginia in 1805. He married a woman named Sarah in 1840 and had the following issue: John Harden, Creed, Roxolene (Aultman), Hypaisia, Charles Boatright, Milton Hiram, and Sarah Melvina. His son John Harden Starke was born in 1841 in Cooper County, Missouri. He served in the Civil War as a Corporal in the 45th Regiment of Infantry from the Missouri Volunteers. In 1866, he married Elizabeth Susannah Koontz and had the following children: Sallie Christena, William Alexander, Wilson Milton, Charles, George Sydney, and John Dave. His son, Charles L. was born in the 1870s. He had the following children: Djalma, Letha, Avis, John, Doyt, DeLoss, and Joe.
Early American and New World Settlers
Some settlers in colonial America bearing this surname include: William Stark (Massachusetts 1641), Israel Stark (Delaware 1793), Mary Stark (Virginia 1715), Archibald Stark (New England 1720), and Jacob Stark (Philadelphia 1750). In Canada, one of the first settlers bearing this last name was John Stark, who came to Quebec in 1825. In Australia, Richard Stark, a baker by trade, came to New South Wales around 1830. In 1839, Alexander Stark came to Adelaide aboard the Lady Bute. In New Zealand, a family of this name came to Bluff aboard the Christian McAusland in 1875, James and Rosina Stark, assumedly husband and wife, both years old, along with their small children James, Robert, and John.
Early Americans Bearing the Stark Family Crest
Charles Bolton’s American Armory (1927), Matthew’s American Armoury and Bluebook (1907), and Crozier’s General Armory (1904) do not contain any entries for this last name.
I have identified two Stark family mottoes:
1) Fortiorum fortia facta (The brave deeds of brave men)
2) Auxilio Dei (With the help of God)
3) Pelasgi (The Pelasgi, the name of ancient inhabitants of Northern Greece)
We have 5 coats of arms for the Stark surname depicted here. These 5 blazons are from Bernard Burke’s book The General Armory of England, Ireland, and Scotland, which was published in 1848. The bottom of this page contains the blazons, and in many instances contains some historical, geographical, and genealogical about where coat of arms was found and who bore it.
Major General John Stark (1728-1822), veteran of American Revolution and French & Indian War
There are hundreds of notable people with the Stark surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include: 1) John Stark (1728-1822) who was an American General during the American Revolution who was known for his heroism at the Battle of Bennington, born in Londonderry, New Hampshire, 2) Benjamin Stark (1820-1898) was a merchant for served as US Senator from Oregon from 1861-1862, born in New Orleans, Louisiana, 3) Monroe Randolph Stark (1885-1924) who was a professional baseball player from Ripley, Mississippi who played in the MLB from 1909-1912 and also coached the Mississippi A&M Aggies, 4) Harold Rainsford Stark (1880-1972) who was a US Navy Officer during both the First and Second World Wars, born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, nicknamed “Betty”, 5) James R. Star (1943) who was a Rear Admiral in the US Navy who served in both the Vietnam and Yugoslav Wars, born in Arlington Virginia, 6) William Edwin Starke (1814-1862) who was a Gulf Coast businessman and Brigadier General in the Confederate States of America who died at the Battle of Antietam, born in Brunswick County, Virginia, 7) Peter Burwell Starke (1813-1888) who was an American political and Brigadier General in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States, and was the brother of the previously mentioned William E., 8) Rodney William Stark (1934) who is an American sociologist of religion born in Jamestown, North Dakota who has authored over 30 books, including The Rise of Christianity, 9) Fortney Hillman “Peter” Stark Jr. (1931) who was a member of the US House of Representative from California from 1973-2013, 10) Lloyd Crow Stark (1886-1972) who was the 39th Governor of Missouri from 1937-1941, and 11) Melissa Stark (1973) who is an NFL Network reporter from Baltimore, Maryland.
Starks in the American Revolution
There are numerous bearers of this surname who served in the Revolutionary War. A handful are listed below:
1) Sergeant David Stark of New York
2) Private James Stark of Connecticut
3) Ephraim Stark of Connecticut
4) Caleb Stark of New Hampshire
5) Benjah Stark of Vermont
6) Private Leman Stark of Massachusetts
7) Private Timothy Stark of Connecticut
8) Second Lieutenant Richard Stark of Virginia
9) Captain William Stark of Virginia
10) Private Phineas Stark of New Hampshire
Stark Coat of Arms Meaning
The following is a statement from Sir George Mackenzie regarding this surname and its the meaning/origin of its coat of arms (mistakenly called family crest by some): “Stark beareth azur a chevron argt. between three acorns in chief or. and a bulls head erased of ye 2nd. in base. These of ye name are descended of one John Muirhead, 2nd. son of ye Laird of lachop, who at hunting one day in ye forest of Cumbernauld seeing King James ye 4 in hazard of his life by a bull hottly w’th ye hounds, stept in betwixt ye King and ye bull and griping ye bull by ye horns, and by his strenth almost wrung ye head from him, for which he was called Stark and his posteritie after him, and bears ye rugged Bull’s Head in theire armes. Ye old sword of ye family has on it Stark alias Muirhead”.
The two main symbols depicted within the Stark family crest are the acorn and bull, each with their own unique meaning. Bulls, and their close relations, cows, calves, oxen and the buffalo are relatively recent additions to the art of heraldry (and it is not always possible to distinguish between them in their renderings). They can be found in a variety of poses and may have horns, hooves and collared in a different color. The writer Guillim noted that the presence of a bull could signify “valour and magnanimity”. The bull can also represent male fertility (believed by the Druids/Celts). As the bull was a sun god in some cultures, it represented the power of the king. It should also be noted that in Greek mythology, the Minotaur, son of King Minos of Crete, was a creature that had the head of a bull and body of a man.
Among the natural objects depicted on a coat of arms, trees feature frequently, either in whole or as individual branches and leaves or fruit. The acorn, often represented in its early state as vert (green) can be associated of course with the mighty oak, signifying, according to Wade, “antiquity and strength”, for obvious reasons. It is interesting to note that in Princess Kate Middleton’s coat of arms, the three acorns, according to Time.com, represent “the three Middleton children (Kate, Pippa and James), and invoke the oak tree—a symbol of west Berkshire, where the family has lived for 30 years”. In Scandinavia and Celtic culture, acorns can represent perseverance, fertility, and immortality. According to this website, “The oak tree was also sacred to Thor, the hammer wielding thunder god of Norse mythology. Donar’s Oak, Old German for Thor’s Oak, was a sacred tree of Germanic pagans near Hesse, Germany. Sacred trees like Donar’s oak were widely esteemed, and many scholars have linked it to the “world tree” of Norse mythology, Yggdrasil. In the eighth century, Donar’s Oak was cut down by Anglo-Saxon Christian missionary St. Boniface. Wood from the sacred oak was then used to build a church on the site dedicated to St. Peter.”