Show ContentsMcClary History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name McClary 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 McClary family

The surname McClary 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 McClary family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McClary 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 McClary History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

McClary 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 McClary 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 McClary family (pre 1700)

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

McClary Ranking

In the United States, the name McClary is the 4,664th most popular surname with an estimated 7,461 people with that name. [2]

United States McClary 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 McClary or one of its variants:

McClary Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Andrew McClary, who arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1727 [3]
  • David McClary, who landed in New England in 1751 [3]
McClary Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Edward McClary, aged 21, who arrived in New York, NY in 1803 [3]
  • Thomas McClary, who landed in America in 1811 [3]
  • John McClary, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1827 [3]
  • Hugh McClary, aged 22, who landed in New York, NY in 1833 [3]

Contemporary Notables of the name McClary (post 1700) +

  • Major Andrew McClary, American officer killed in the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill, eponym of Fort McClary, a former defensive fortification at Kittery Point, Maine
  • Samuel McClary (1816-1875), American politician
  • Thomas McClary (b. 1949), American musician, former member of The Commodores
  • Thomas Calvert McClary (1909-1972), American writer of science fiction and westerns
  • Susan McClary (b. 1946), American musicologist
  • George B. McClary (b. 1947), father of Nelson McClary, British mate on the Port of Beaumont during the Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition, 1947-48, and contributor to the mission, eponym of the McClary Glacier and the McClary Ridge, Antarctica
  • Charles McClary (1833-1904), Lower Canada-born, farmer and politician who represented Compton in the Legislative Assembly of Quebec from 1894 to 1897
  • Samuel McClary Fite (1816-1875), American politician, member of the United States House of Representatives for Tennessee's 4th congressional district
  • Samuel McClary Fite (1816-1875), American politician, Representative from Tennessee 4th District, 1875 [4]

  1. MacLysaght, Edward, Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7)
  2. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  3. 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)
  4. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, February 24) . Retrieved from on Facebook