Clair History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Clair is a name that was carried to England in the great wave of migration from Normandy following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Clair family lived in Suffolk. The family was originally from Clere, in Vexin, Normandy. The family de Clare were Norman lords who were descended from Richard fitz Gilbert, who accompanied William the Conqueror into England during the Norman Conquest. The family received huge estates including Clare, now a small town Suffolk; and Tonbridge, now a market town in Kent for their efforts. [1]

The parish of St. Cleer in Cornwall is an important location for the family. "The name of this parish is derived from a celebrated female saint called Clare, to whom the church is dedicated, and who is presumed to be its tutelar guardian. She was born of an honourable family in Italy, and having rendered herself famous for the austerity of her manners, she set up a college of virgins, which, after her name were called the order of the Poor Clares of St. Benedict, under the solemn vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity, according to the rule of St. Francis. St. Clare died in the year 1252, aged 70. Now by the death of St. Clare, St. Francis, and St. Benedict, says Hals, may be nearly computed the ages of those churches dedicated to them, and bearing their names in this county. From this parish was denominated an ancient family of gentlemen surnamed De St. Cleare, from whence are descended the St. Cleares of Tudwell, in Devonshire." [2]

Early Origins of the Clair family

The surname Clair was first found in Suffolk where "Richard de Clare (d. 1090) held no less than ninety-five lordships in Suffolk, all attached to his chief lordship of Clare in the same county. To this family we owe the name of an English town, an Irish county, royal dukedom (Clarence), and Cambridge college." [3]

Richard fitz Gilbert (d. 1114) was referred to as "Richard of Clare" in the Suffolk return of the Domesday Survey.

By the time of the Hundredorum Rolls of 1273, a branch of the family was found in Cambridgeshire as that rolls listed Alan filius Clare as holding lands there at that time. The same rolls also listed: Bogo de Clare in Oxfordshire; Gilbert de Clare in Bedfordshire; Richard de Clara in Somerset; Thomas de Clare in Lincolnshire; and William de Clare in Norfolk. [3]

In 1379, the Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls was complied and it listed the name as both a surname and a forename: Isabella Clare; Clara Dey; and Clare Schepard. [3]

Another source confirms the wide migration of the family by the 13th century: "Clare is an ancient Oxfordshire name. In feudal times the De Clares were a very powerful family in southern England. In the 13th century the name of De Clare or De Clar' was established in Oxfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Somerset." [4]

Some of the family were found at Waldingham in Surrey in ancient times. "This place appears to be mentioned in Domesday Book under the appellation of Wallingham; it was held at the time of the survey under Richard de Clare, and lands here were possessed by the Clares for some time subsequently." [5] And another branch was found at Yeddingham in the East Riding of Yorkshire. "In 1163, Roger and Helwysia de Clere founded a priory here for nine nuns of the Benedictine order, dedicated to the Virgin Mary." [5]

Early History of the Clair family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Clair research. Another 134 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1793, 1864, 1577, 1628, 1677, 1604, 1605 and 1618 are included under the topic Early Clair History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Clair Spelling Variations

Before English spelling was standardized a few hundred years ago, spelling variations of names were a common occurrence. Elements of Latin, Norman French and other languages became incorporated into English throughout the Middle Ages, and name spellings changed even among the literate. The variations of the surname Clair include Clair, Clare, Clere, O'Clear, O'Clair and others.

Early Notables of the Clair family (pre 1700)

Another 36 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Clair Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Clair family to Ireland

Some of the Clair family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 73 words (5 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Clair migration to the United States +

In England at this time, the uncertainty of the political and religious environment of the time caused many families to board ships for distant British colonies in the hopes of finding land and opportunity, and escaping persecution. The voyages were expensive, crowded, and difficult, though, and many arrived in North America sick, starved, and destitute. Those who did make it, however, were greeted with greater opportunities and freedoms that they could have experienced at home. Many of those families went on to make important contributions to the young nations in which they settled. Early immigration records have shown some of the first Clairs to arrive on North American shores:

Clair Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Casper Clair, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1748 [6]
Clair Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • John Clair, aged 36, who landed in Mobile, Ala in 1849 [6]
  • John T Clair, who arrived in Mobile County, Ala in 1851 [6]
  • Louise Clair, aged 52, who immigrated to the United States from Paris, in 1898
Clair Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Chaudet Clair, aged 19, who settled in America from Vassieu, in 1903
  • Livinia Clair, aged 3, who immigrated to America from Portleven, in 1906
  • Louis Clair, aged 25, who landed in America from Paris, France, in 1907
  • Maxime Clair, aged 28, who landed in America from Paris, France, in 1907
  • Caroline Clair, aged 26, who immigrated to the United States from Rougemont le Chateau, France, in 1907
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Clair migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Clair Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Frances Clair, aged 19, a servant, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Stately" in 1851
  • Miss Fanny Clair, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Stately" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 1st June 1851 [7]

Contemporary Notables of the name Clair (post 1700) +

  • Dick Clair (1931-1988), American television producer, actor and television and film writer
  • Jessica St Clair (b. 1977), American actress, writer, sketch comedian, and comedy improviser
  • Carl St Clair (b. 1952), American conductor
  • Alex St Clair (1941-2006), American musician
  • Ethlyne Clair (1904-1996), American actress
  • Eugene G. St. Clair (b. 1847), American Republican politician, Member of Michigan State House of Representatives from Marquette County 2nd District, 1891-92 [8]
  • Edward St. Clair, American Republican politician, Secretary of Illinois Republican Party, 1910 [8]
  • Donna St. Clair, American Republican politician, Candidate for West Virginia State House of Delegates from Fayette County, 1954, 1960 [8]
  • Clency C. St. Clair (1871-1957), American Republican politician, Delegate to Republican National Convention from Idaho, 1912 [8]
  • Cecil T. St. Clair, American Democrat politician, Candidate in primary for Delegate to Michigan State Constitutional Convention from Wayne County 2nd District, 1961 [8]
  • ... (Another 21 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)


  1. ^ The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X)
  2. ^ Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  3. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  4. ^ Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  5. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  6. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  7. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  8. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 5) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html


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