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

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

Surnames of Irish origin have experienced many changes in their spellings and forms. Before being translated into English, McNamara appeared as Mac Conmara, which means "hound of the sea" or "warrior of the sea."

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During the Middle Ages, attempting to record a Gaelic name in English was a daunting task. Most names were spelt by scribes solely based on how it sounded, one's name could have been recorded many different ways during the life of its bearer. Numerous spelling variations were revealed in the search for the origin of the name McNamara family name.Variations found include McNamara, McNamar, McNamarra, McNamard, Sheedy and many more.

First found in County Clare (Irish: An Clįr) located on the west coast of Ireland in the province of Munster, where MacConmara or MacNamara was chief of the territory of Clan Caisin, now the barony of Tullagh. The family was also sometimes styled chiefs of Clan Cuilean; derived from Cuilean, one of their chiefs in the eighth century. This ancient family have traditionally held the high office of hereditary marshals of Thomond.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McNamara research. Another 271 words(19 lines of text) covering the years 1402, 1426, 1402, 1797, 1768 and 1826 are included under the topic Early McNamara History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 71 words(5 lines of text) are included under the topic Early McNamara Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Irish immigrants began to leave the English-controlled Ireland in sizable numbers during the late 18th century. Many of these Irish immigrated to British North America or the United States in the hopes of gaining their own tract of farmland. This pattern of migration grew steadily until the 1840s when the Great Potato Famine caused a great exodus of immigrants to North America. These immigrants differed from their predecessors in that they were desperately fleeing the disease and starvation that plagued their homeland, and many were entirely destitute when they arrived in North America. Although these penniless immigrants were not warmly welcomed when they arrived, they were critical to the rapid development of the United States and what would become known as Canada. Many went to populate the western frontiers and others provided the cheap labor the new manufacturing sector and the building of bridges, roads, railways, and canals required. A thorough examination of immigration and passenger lists has revealed some of the earliest people to arrive in North America with name McNamara or one of its variants:

McNamara Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • Peter McNamara, who arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1766

McNamara Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • George McNamara, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1838
  • Charles McNamara, aged 27, arrived in Missouri in 1841
  • Stephen McNamara, who landed in Mobile County, Ala in 1845
  • John McNamara, who landed in Tippecanoe County, Ind in 1846
  • Eliza McNamara, aged 26, arrived in New York, NY in 1850


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  • Robert Strange McNamara (1916-2009), American business executive, the eighth United States Secretary of Defense and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Maggie McNamara (1928-1978), American actress
  • John Joseph McNamara Jr. (1932-1986), American banker, athlete, and author, who won a bronze medal for sailing in the 1964 Summer Olympics
  • Eileen McNamara, American Pulitzer Prize (1997) winning metro columnist for the Boston Globe, journalism professor at Brandeis University
  • Margaret Craig McNamara (1914-1981), American founder of the nonprofit children's literacy organization Reading is Fundamental, wife of the United States Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Patrick Vincent McNamara (1894-1966), American politician, United States Senator from Michigan (1955-1966)
  • Mark McNamara (b. 1959), American former professional NBA basketball player
  • Sean Patrick Michael McNamara (b. 1962), American film director, film producer, actor, and screenwriter
  • William West McNamara (b. 1965), American actor
  • Kevin McNamara (1926-1987), Irish Roman Catholic academic and bishop, Archbishop of Dublin

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  1. 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).
  2. Tepper, Michael Ed & Elizabeth P. Bentley Transcriber. Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Philadelphia 1800-1819. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986. Print.
  3. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  4. Donovan, George Francis. The Pre-Revolutionary Irish in Massachusetts 1620-1775. Menasha, WI: Geroge Banta Publsihing Co., 1932. Print.
  5. Somerset Fry, Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry. A History of Ireland. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993. Print. (ISBN 1-56619-215-3).
  6. Fitzgerald, Thomas W. Ireland and Her People A Library of Irish Biography 5 Volumes. Chicago: Fitzgerald. Print.
  7. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  8. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  9. Fairbairn. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  10. Read, Charles Anderson. The Cabinet of Irish Literature Selections from the Works of the Chief Poets, Orators and Prose Writers of Ireland 4 Volumes. London: Blackie and Son, 1884. Print.
  11. ...

The McNamara Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The McNamara 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 16 June 2014 at 16:25.

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