Cleary History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Cleary 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.

Early Origins of the Cleary family

The surname Cleary was 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.

Early History of the Cleary family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cleary research. Another 96 words (7 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1636, 1450, 1507, 1507, 1781 and 1860 are included under the topic Early Cleary History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Cleary Spelling Variations

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 Cleary 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.

Early Notables of the Cleary family (pre 1700)

Another 42 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Cleary Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Cleary Ranking

In the United States, the name Cleary is the 2,478th most popular surname with an estimated 12,435 people with that name. [2] However, in Australia, the name Cleary is ranked the 615th most popular surname with an estimated 6,358 people with that name. [3]


United States Cleary migration to the United States +

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 Cleary or one of its variants:

Cleary Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Darby Cleary, who settled in America in 1736
  • John Cleary, who landed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1764 [4]
  • James Cleary, who arrived in New York in 1789 [4]
Cleary Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Edmund Cleary, who landed in America in 1806 [4]
  • William Cleary, who arrived in America in 1810 [4]
  • Andrew Cleary, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1816 [4]
  • Daniel Cleary, who landed in New York in 1820 [4]
  • Philip Cleary, who landed in New York in 1820 [4]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Cleary migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Cleary Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • John Cleary, who landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1749-1752
  • John Cleary, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • John Cleary, who arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1752
  • John Cleary, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1776
  • Richard Cleary, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1776
Cleary Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • James Cleary, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1822
  • William Cleary and his wife and five children who arrived in Quebec in 1825
  • James Cleary, aged 18, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833 aboard the ship "Britannia" from Sligo, Ireland
  • John Cleary, who landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1843
  • Miss. Ann Cleary, aged 3 who was emigrating through Grosse Isle Quarantine Station, Quebec aboard the ship "Albion" departing 19th April 1847 from Limerick, Ireland; the ship arrived on 18th June 1847 but she died on board [5]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Cleary migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Cleary Settlers in Australia in the 18th Century
  • Mr. John Cleary, (b. 1775), aged 18, Irish labourer who was convicted in Dublin, Ireland for 7 years for assault, transported aboard the "Boddingtons" on 15th February 1793, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [6]
Cleary Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Miss Elizabeth Cleary, (Eliza), (b. 1791), aged 22, Irish servant who was convicted in Cork, Ireland for 7 years, transported aboard the "Catherine" on 8th December 1813, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [7]
  • Mr. Denis Cleary, (b. 1803), aged 23, Irish farm labourer who was convicted in Tipperary, Ireland for 7 years for robbery, transported aboard the "Boyne" on 28th October 1826, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [8]
  • Mr. Thomas Cleary, British Convict who was convicted in Corfu, Greece for 14 years, transported aboard the "Canton" on 20th September 1839, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [9]
  • John Cleary, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Birman" in 1840 [10]
  • Joseph Cleary, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Hindoo" in 1848 [11]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Cleary 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:

Cleary Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. William Cleary, Cornish settler travelling from Launceston aboard the ship "Spray" arriving in New Zealand in 1851 [12]
  • Mr. H. Cleary, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Gwalior" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 14th June 1852 [13]
  • Ann Cleary, aged 18, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Seringapatam" in 1856
  • Miss Mary Cleary, (b. 1841), aged 23, British domestic servant travelling aboard the ship "Amoor" arriving in Lyttleton, South Island, New Zealand on 1st July 1864 [13]
  • Miss Bridget Cleary, (b. 1855), aged 18, Irish tailoress from Limerick travelling from Gravesend aboard the ship "Surat" going to Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand in 1873, the ship sunk at the Catlins River all the passengers were transported to Dunedin via various rescure vessels [12]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

West Indies Cleary migration to West Indies +

The British first settled the British West Indies around 1604. They made many attempts but failed in some to establish settlements on the Islands including Saint Lucia and Grenada. By 1627 they had managed to establish settlements on St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Barbados, but by 1641 the Spanish had moved in and destroyed some of these including those at Providence Island. The British continued to expand the settlements including setting the First Federation in the British West Indies by 1674; some of the islands include Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Belize then known as British Honduras. By the 1960's many of the islands became independent after the West Indies Federation which existed from 1958 to 1962 failed due to internal political conflicts. After this a number of Eastern Caribbean islands formed a free association. [14]
Cleary Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • George Cleary, who was on record in Barbados plantation between the years 1679 and 1680

Contemporary Notables of the name Cleary (post 1700) +

  • Beverly Atlee Cleary (1916-2021), née Bunn, an American writer of children's and young adult fiction with over 91 million copies of her books have been sold worldwide
  • Robert Barry Cleary (1936-2015), American gold medalist ice hockey player at the 1960 Winter Olympics
  • William J. Cleary (1870-1952), American politician from the U.S. state of Michigan
  • Thomas Cleary (b. 1949), American author & translator
  • Nikki Cleary (b. 1988), American singer
  • Jon Cleary (b. 1962), American musician
  • Brian P. Cleary (b. 1959), American humorist, poet and author
  • William John "Bill" Cleary (b. 1934), American gold and silver medalist hockey player
  • Robert J Cleary (b. 1955), American lawyer, lead prosecutor in the Unabomber case (1996-1998) and the US attorney for New Jersey in 1999-2001
  • Michael J. Cleary (1925-2020), Irish prelate, Roman Catholic Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Banjul, Gambia
  • ... (Another 18 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Prince of Wales


Suggested Readings for the name Cleary +

  • Clary (also Cleary) Genealogy by Ralph Shearer Rowland.

  1. ^ MacLysaght, Edward, Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7)
  2. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  3. ^ https://forebears.io/australia/surnames
  4. ^ 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)
  5. ^ Charbonneau, André, and Doris Drolet-Dubé. A Register of Deceased Persons at Sea and on Grosse Île in 1847. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, 1997. ISBN: 0-660-198/1-1997E (p. 69)
  6. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 25th October 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/boddingtons
  7. ^ Convict Records of Australia (Retreived 2nd January 2021, retreived from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/catherine
  8. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 27th October 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/Boyne
  9. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 17th December 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/canton
  10. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) BIRMAN 1840. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1840Birman.htm
  11. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) HINDOO 1848. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1848Hindoo.gif
  12. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  13. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  14. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_West_Indies
  15. ^ HMS Prince of Wales Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listprincecrew.html


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