This is an Anglo-Scottish surname which is ultimately of Norwegian pre 7th century origins. Found originally in the north of England and in Scotland, it can be either a topographical name denoting residence near a church, or a metonymic occupational name for someone employed in a church. The derivation of the name in both cases is from the Northern Middle English word "kirk", church, from the Old Norse "kirkja". Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages.While job-descriptive surnames originally denoted the actual occupation of the namebearer, and later became hereditary. In England the surname development has included: Richard Attekirck (1301, Yorkshire); Adam Ofthenkirke (1308, Suffolk); and Robert de Kirke (1379, Yorkshire). In Scotland the surname is first recorded in 1456, in the Register of the Abbey of Aberbrothoc, where Sir Patrick Kyrk appears as chaplain of the altar of St. Mary in Perth, while Alexander Kirk was bailie of St. Andrews in 1520. A Coat of Arms granted to a Kirk family is a gold crosier, and silver sword saltireways, on a gold chief a green thistle, all on a red shield. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Reginald Attekireke, which was dated 1209, in the "Fines Court Records of Lincolnshire", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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