The ancestry of explorer William Clark is difficult to trace, primarily because Clark is such a common surname. The earliest known Clark ancestor in America settled on the James River in 1630, very early in the settlement of the New World. Some traditions hold that he was Scottish.
On his mother’s side, William Clark was a Rogers (a name immortalized in history by Clark’s older brother, the swashbuckling George Rogers Clark). Amazingly enough, the Rogers family can trace its genealogy all the way back to the 12th century to no less than Roger II of Sicily. Roger (1095-1154) was the son of a Norman adventurer who operated in the Mediterranean a few years after his compatriots had conquered England. He inherited his father’s domains in Sicily, then went on to a remarkable career of his own, spending his life fighting wars to conquer and unite the many Norman areas of Italy under his own rule. Roger was truly one of the great kings of his era, and in his last years supported the Crusades and waged war well into Greece. His family continued to rule in the area for about 100 years.
Some 400 years later, one of Roger’s descendants, the Reverend John Rogers (1505-1555), was one of the early Protestant rebels in England. Rogers abandoned the Roman Catholic priesthood and was one of the conspirators working on a secret English translation of the Bible. Rogers was arrested by the government of Queen Mary and tried for heresy. He was burned at the stake for his crime.
Incidentally, the genealogy of Meriwether Lewis is very well documented. The Lewises hailed from Wales; the Meriwethers from either Wales or England. There was a funny statement written in an 1881 magazine article about the Lewises that stated, “The love of ancient ancestry is said to be laughably displayed by the Lewis family of England who are said to have in their possession a picture of the Ark with Noah emerging from it bearing a large trunk labelled ‘Papers belonging to the Lewis Family.’”
For more Lewis and Clark family genealogy, check out the very good website on Lewis and Clark’s roots, Anchored in the East.