Jim's Genie Jottings

A history of the Fleming, Jolliffe, Kessey and Murphy families of New South Wales - and their forebears



Origin of the Clarkson surname

The Clarkson surname originated with the occupation: clerk. A clerk was a scribe or secretary (in an era when few ordinary people could write). The word evolved from the Olde English clerec and the Old French clerc, both of which derived from the Latin clericus meaning scholar. The Latin word, in turn, had its origin in the Greek klerikos and kleros meaning inheritance or legacy. In medieval Europe, many scholars were priests, giving rise to the English word cleric.

The suffix, son, denotes descendent of – the clerk’s son. There are similar names in Holland (Klerk, De Klerk), France (Leclerc, Leclerq, Leclair) and Ireland (Cleary, McCleary).

There is also some research that suggests that the name comes from attempts to record into English an old Norse word for stone mason's son. Danish (derived from Norse) was brought to Yorkshire by the Vikings and is thought to be the origin of the distinctive Yorkshire accent. A clach was a stone or hearth and a clachair was a stone mason. The clachair's son thus became Clachairsson, Clachairson, Claxton, Clarkston and Clarkson.

Earliest known Clarkson people

Early instances of the surname in English and Scottish records are James the Clerk (1249 Dumfriesshire); Boniface Clericus (1273 Lincolnshire); Alan le Clerkissone (1306 Suffolk); Robert Clark (1379 Yorkshire); and Ralph Clarkson (1491 York). The name was well established in Yorkshire from early times.


Our Clarkson family were Catholics. In 1800 more than 88% of the English population were Anglicans and another 10% belonged to other Protestant faiths[1]. Catholics accounted for less than 1.5% of the population. Nevertheless, in Lancashire, more than 20% were Catholics despite several centuries of persecution.

The Clarkson clan had a long history of staunch Catholicism. In fact, Gordon and Barbara Faulkner[2] identified at least 15 English priests named Clarkson who were ordained between 1600 and 1906. Twelve of these were from Lancashire and another was from the Bedfordshire branch of a Lancashire family

[1] Source: Eighteenth-Century Religious Statistics, Clive D Field, 2012, British Religion in Numbers website, http://www.brin.ac.uk/eighteenth-century-religious-statistics/

[2] The Clarkson family of Lancashire, Gordon and Barbara Faulkner, www.faulkner-history.co.uk

Clarkson migration to Australia

Elizabeth Clarkson was born in 1834 in the English County of Lancashire. She married John Poulton on 1 May 1854 at Preston. Their first child (Thomas) was born a year later but died in infancy.

Their second son (John) was still in nappies when John and Elizabeth decided to leave England and emigrate to Australia. This was a decision made by numerous young couples in the area in the 1850s. The young couple emigrated from Liverpool on 13 November 1859 aboard Fitzjames. They were accompanied on their voyage to Australia by John’s sister (Hannah) and her husband John Ashworth.

It was, however, a tragic journey due to the death of their young toddler John en route to Sydney. It must have been a heavy burden for both parents to bear, particularly Elizabeth who was in the advanced stages of pregnancy.

The two young families arrived in Sydney on 20 February 1860 and soon found lodgings in Redfern. John and Elizabeth’s daughter, Alice Clarkson Poulton, was born there six weeks later.

Ten years after their arrival in Australia, Elizabeth left the family and disappeared from history. John died at Coonamble Hospital on 5 September 1887 of acute inflammation of both lungs

Clarkson pedigree

Our Clarkson ancestors include the following people. Click on any name to access a computer-generated page of information about that person and a list of the information sources.

Notable Clarkson ancestors

Click on the name of any of the notable ancestors listed below to read a short biography that I have written about them.

Clarkson family memorials

For centuries families have created memorials to honour their forebears, including headstones, church monuments, memorial cards, obituaries and much more. This website is, in a way, just another innovation in this regard. Each of the links below takes you to a memorial page that is dedicated to that particular deceased ancestor.

Clarkson stories and research reports

The following Clarkson research reports are published on this website.

Clarkson clan

The Clarkson clan descends from John Leeming and Isabel Dewhurst through their daughter Ann and her husband Thomas Clarkson.

  • Legend:
  • Subject
  • Daughter
  • Son
  • Spouse
John Leeming
(b. 1755, d. 1808)
Ann Leeming
(b. 1782)
Thomas Clarkson
(b. ca. 1786)
John Clarkson
(b. 1808)
Robert Clarkson
(b. 1809, d. 1881)
Alice Singleton
(b. ca. 1814, d. 1850)
Ann Clarkson
(b. 1833)
Elizabeth Clarkson
(b. 1834, d. Aft 1883)
John Poulton
(b. 1830, d. 1887)
Thomas Poulton
(b. 1856, d. 1856)
John Poulton
(b. 1858, d. 1860)
Alice C. Poulton
(b. 1860, d. 1927)
John H. Bowen
(b. 1853, d. 1902)
Mary Clarkson
(b. 1839)
Jane Clarkson
(b. 1842)
Thomas Clarkson
(b. 1845, d. 1845)
Alice Clarkson
(b. 1848, d. 1849)
Ann Poulton
(b. 1818, d. Bef 1881)
John Clarkson
(b. 1857)
James Clarkson
(b. 1860, d. 1860)
Mary Clarkson
(b. 1813, d. Bef 1816)
Ann Clarkson
(b. 1815)
Mary Clarkson
(b. 1816)
Thomas Clarkson
(b. 1816, d. Bef 1819)
Mary Leeming
(b. 1788)
John Leeming
(b. 1790)
James Leeming
(b. 1796)
  • Legend:
  • Subject
  • Daughter
  • Son
  • Spouse