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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016

Origins Available: English, Irish, Spanish

Clare is a name of ancient Norman origin. It arrived in England with the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Clare 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.


The surname Clare was first found in Suffolk where Richard fitz Gilbert (d. 1114) was referred to as "Richard of Clare" in the Suffolk return of the Domesday Survey. 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." [1] 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." [1]

Endless spelling variations are a prevailing characteristic of Norman surnames. Old and Middle English lacked any definite spelling rules, and the introduction of Norman French added an unfamiliar ingredient to the English linguistic stew. French and Latin, the languages of the court, also influenced spellings. Finally, Medieval scribes generally spelled words according to how they sounded, so one person was often referred to by different spellings in different documents. The name has been spelled Clair, Clare, Clere, O'Clear, O'Clair and others.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Clare research. Another 267 words (19 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1793 and 1864 are included under the topic Early Clare History in all our PDF Extended History products.


More information is included under the topic Early Clare Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the Clare family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 45 words (3 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


To escape the political and religious persecution within England at the time, many English families left for the various British colonies abroad. The voyage was extremely difficult, though, and the cramped, dank ships caused many to arrive in the New World diseased and starving. But for those who made it, the trip was most often worth it. Many of the families who arrived went on to make valuable contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. An inquiry into the early roots of North American families reveals a number of immigrants bearing the name Clare or a variant listed above:

Clare Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Tho Clare, who arrived in New England in 1634
  • Jo Clare, aged 26, arrived in Barbados in 1634
  • John Clare settled in Virginia in 1651
  • Mark Clare, who arrived in Maryland in 1651-1658
  • Walter Clare, who arrived in Virginia in 1655

Clare Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Francois Clare, who landed in Virginia in 1700
  • Katherine Clare, who landed in Virginia in 1701
  • George Clare, who landed in Mississippi in 1798
  • William Clare, who landed in Mississippi in 1798

Clare Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Bartholomew Clare, aged 26, landed in Pennsylvania in 1812
  • Michael Clare, who landed in New York, NY in 1817
  • Pierce Clare, aged 40, arrived in Missouri in 1847
  • Nicholas Clare, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1848
  • Mr. Clare, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1851

Clare Settlers in United States in the 20th Century

  • Henry Cristifer Clare, who arrived in Wisconsin in 1918

Clare Settlers in Canada in the 17th Century

  • Jean Clare, aged 35, landed in Canada in 1642

Clare Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • Joseph Clare, aged Emma, arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Somersetshire" in 1839
  • William Clare, aged 30, a carpenter, arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Telegraph"

Clare Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • Samuel Clare, aged 33, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Duchess of Argyle" in 1842
  • Comfort Clare, aged 31, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Duchess of Argyle" in 1842
  • Maria Ann Clare, aged 16, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Duchess of Argyle" in 1842
  • George Clare, aged 13, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Duchess of Argyle" in 1842
  • Mary Ann Clare, aged 11, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Duchess of Argyle" in 1842


  • Thomas "Tommy" Clare (1865-1929), English footballer
  • George William Burdett Clare (1889-1917), English recipient of the Victoria Cross
  • John Clare (1793-1864), English poet
  • Mr. William Clare (d. 1914), British Assistant Steward from United Kingdom who worked aboard the Empress of Ireland and died in the sinking on May 29th 1914
  • Ina Clare (1933-2010), British actress, best known for her role as the background character Ina Foot in the BBC soap opera EastEnders
  • Dustin Clare, Australian actor winner of the Logie award



  1. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.

Other References

  1. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  2. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin . Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8).
  3. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  4. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  5. Hinde, Thomas Ed. The Domesday Book England's Heritage Then and Now. Surrey: Colour Library Books, 1995. Print. (ISBN 1-85833-440-3).
  6. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  7. Markale, J. Celtic Civilization. London: Gordon & Cremonesi, 1976. Print.
  8. Lennard, Reginald. Rural England 1086-1135 A Study of Social and Agrarian Conditions. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959. Print.
  9. Bullock, L.G. Historical Map of England and Wales. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1971. Print.
  10. Burke, Sir Bernard. Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry: Including American Families with British Ancestry. (2 Volumes). London: Burke Publishing, 1939. Print.
  11. ...

This page was last modified on 8 March 2016 at 11:05.

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