Show ContentsHilary History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Hilary is one of the thousands of new names that the Norman Conquest of 1066 brought to England. It comes from the medieval given name Hillary, which was originally derived from the Latin personal name Hilarius, which means cheerful glad, happy and joyful.

"Fr Hilaire, Hilari, Lat hilaris ‘cheerful’, the name of several saints, in particular St Hilarius of Poitiers (d. 368). The name was popular in France and not uncommon in England." [1]

Early Origins of the Hilary family

The surname Hilary was first found in Worcester where the first record of the name was in Latin and as a forename: Hilarius Brunus who was listed in the Pipe Rolls of 1177. Following this, we found Richard Ilarie in the Assize Rolls for Staffordshire in 1227 and later, Willelmus Hillar (Ylarius) in the Pipe Rolls for Worcester in 1230. Rober and William Hillari were listed in the Hundredorum Rolls of 1275 in Lincolnshire and the Assize Rolls for Staffordshire in 1283. [1]

Hilary (fl. 1125), was a medieval Latin poet, who "is supposed to have been a native of England from the fact that one of his poems narrates the life of Eva, an English recluse, who died in Anjou, as well as from various allusions in other of his poems, some of which are addressed to English friends." [2]

Hilary (d. 1169) was Bishop of Chichester, nominated to the bishopric in 1146, and consecrated by Archbishop Theobald at Canterbury 3 August 1147. "On the deposition of William, Archbishop of York, in the same year, the majority of the chapter chose Hilary, but Pope Eugenius III preferred Henry Murdac, the candidate of the minority. Hilary seems to have gone to France at this time, and to have endeavoured to defend King Stephen before the pope." [2]

Early History of the Hilary family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Hilary research. Another 85 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1206, 1763, 1722, 1734, 1752, 1758 and 1763 are included under the topic Early Hilary History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Hilary Spelling Variations

Before the advent of the printing press and the first dictionaries, the English language was not standardized. Sound was what guided spelling in the Middle Ages, so one person's name was often recorded under several variations during a single lifetime. Spelling variations were common, even among the names of the most literate people. Known variations of the Hilary family name include Hillary, Hillery and others.

Early Notables of the Hilary family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was William Hillary (d. 1763), an English physician, "was a pupil of Boerhaave at Leyden, where he graduated M.D. in 1722, writing a dissertation on...
Another 31 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Hilary Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Hilary family

To escape the political and religious chaos of this era, thousands of English families began to migrate to the New World in search of land and freedom from religious and political persecution. The passage was expensive and the ships were dark, crowded, and unsafe; however, those who made the voyage safely were encountered opportunities that were not available to them in their homeland. Many of the families that reached the New World at this time went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations of the United States and Canada. Research into various historical records has revealed some of first members of the Hilary family to immigrate North America: Susan Hillery, who settled in Virginia in 1653; Nicholas Hillary, who settled in Nevis in 1654; William Hillary, who settled in Virginia in 1654; John Hillary, who settled in Charles Town in 1767.

Contemporary Notables of the name Hilary (post 1700) +

  • Dinah Hilary Shearing AM (1926-2021), Australian actress who appeared on stage, radio, television and films, known for Farscape (1999), All the Rivers Run (1983) and The Lost World (1999)
  • Diana Hilary Coole (b. 1952), British Professor of Political and Social Theory in the School of Politics and Sociology, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Hilary Hook (1918-1990), British soldier in India and Africa
  • Major-General Donald Hilary Connolly (1886-1969), American Deputy Army-Navy Liquidation Commissioner (1945-1946) [3]
  • Justin Hilary O'Byrne (1912-1993), long-serving Australian Labor Party politician
  • Sean Hilary Locklear (b. 1981), American football offensive tackle in the National Football League
  • Joseph Hilary Brogan (1880-1940), American Democratic Party politician, Member of Missouri State Senate 33rd District, 1909-40 [4]
  • Hilary Alexander OBE (1946-2023), New Zealand-born, British journalist and past fashion director of the Daily Telegraph, two-time Journalist of the Year (1997 and 2003) in the British Fashion Awards
  • Dame Hilary Mary Mantel DBE, FRSL (1952-2022), née Thompson, English of historical fiction, personal memoirs and short stories, known for “Wolf Hall” and two other novels based on the life of Thomas Cromwell, winner of two Booker Prizes
  • Hilary Dwyer (1945-2020), also known as Hilary Heath, an English actress, businessperson, and film producer

  1. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  2. Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  3. Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2011, November 23) Donald Connolly. Retrieved from
  4. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, February 1) . Retrieved from on Facebook