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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Where did the Irish McClary family come from? What is the Irish McClary family crest and coat of arms? When did the McClary family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the McClary family history?

The name McClary originally appeared in Gaelic as O Cleirigh, from the word "cleireach," which means "clerk" or "cleric." The name denotes a descendant of Cleireach, who was born around 820 AD, and descended from Guaire the Hospitable, the famous king of Connacht.

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Lacking standardized spellings, scribes and church officials recorded people's name according to how they sounded. This practice often led to the misleading result of one person's name being recorded under several different spellings. Numerous spelling variations of the surname McClary are preserved in the archival documents of the period. The various spellings of the name that were found include Clery, Cleary, Claree, Clarey, Cleare, Clearey, Clerey, O'Cleary, O'Clery, Macchlery, Clerkin, Clark and many more.

First found in County Galway. A descendent of Guaire, Cleireach, the namesake of the O'Clerys, was born around 820 AD, about two hundred years before hereditary surnames came into general use. [1] However, the name O'Clery first appeared around 950 AD, making it one of the earliest recorded hereditary surnames. The O'Clerys were the dominant sept in what is now the diocese of Kilmacduagh in the county of Galway, but declined in power until they were forced out of their original territory by the mid-13th century. The most important branch of the family settled in Counties Derry and Donegal and became prominent historians and poets. The branch that settled in County Cavan has seemingly all but vanished. However, the English surname Clarke has been widely substituted for O'Clery there, following the Plantation of Ulster, and many Irish Clarkes may actually be O'Clerys, rather than descendants of English settlers. Another branch is still fairly common in the counties of Kilkenny, Waterford, and Tipperary. The name is presently found mostly in Munster and Dublin.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McClary research. Another 191 words(14 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1636, 1450, 1507, 1507, 1781 and 1860 are included under the topic Early McClary History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 67 words(5 lines of text) are included under the topic Early McClary Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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A great wave of Irish migration occurred during the 19th century as a direct result of English colonial rule and tight-fisted absentee landlords. Many of these Irish immigrants boarded passenger ships bound for North America. Those who migrated early enough were given land in either British North America or the United States; those who came in the late 19th century were typically employed in industrial centers as laborers. At whatever age they undertook the dangerous passage to North America, those Irish immigrants were essential to the speedy development of the two infant nations to which they arrived, whether they broke and settled land, helped build canals, bridges, and railroads, or produced products for consumer consumption. An examination of immigration and passenger lists has uncovered a large number of immigrants bearing the name McClary or one of its variants:

McClary Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • Andrew McClary, who arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1727
  • David McClary, who landed in New England in 1751

McClary Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • Edward McClary, aged 21, arrived in New York, NY in 1803
  • Thomas McClary, who landed in America in 1811
  • John McClary, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1827
  • Hugh McClary, aged 22, landed in New York, NY in 1833

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  • Susan McClary (b. 1946), American musicologist
  • Thomas Calvert McClary (1909-1972), American writer of science fiction and westerns
  • Thomas McClary (b. 1949), American musician, former member of The Commodores
  • Samuel McClary (1816-1875), American politician
  • Major Andrew McClary, American officer killed in the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill, eponym of Fort McClary, a former defensive fortification at Kittery Point, Maine
  • Charles McClary (1833-1904), Lower Canada-born, farmer and politician who represented Compton in the Legislative Assembly of Quebec from 1894 to 1897
  • George B. McClary (b. 1947), father of Nelson McClary, British mate on the Port of Beaumont during the Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition, 1947-48, and contributor to the mission, eponym of the McClary Glacier and the McClary Ridge, Antarctica


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  1. ^ MacLysaght, Edward, Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7)

Other References

  1. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  2. Bullock, L.G. Historical Map of Ireland. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1969. Print.
  3. Grehan, Ida. Dictionary of Irish Family Names. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, 1997. Print. (ISBN 1-57098-137-X).
  4. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  5. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992. Print.
  6. McDonnell, Frances. Emigrants from Ireland to America 1735-1743 A Transcription of the report of the Irish House of Commons into Enforced emigration to America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1331-5).
  7. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  8. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  9. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  10. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  11. ...

The McClary Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The McClary Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 22 July 2013 at 10:42.

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