Show ContentsMcCleery History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name McCleery 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 McCleery family

The surname McCleery 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 McCleery family

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

McCleery Spelling Variations

Irish names recorded during the Middle Ages are characterized by many spelling variations. This preponderance of variations for common names can be explained by the fact that the scribes and church officials that kept records during that period individually decided how to capture one's name. These recorders primarily based their decisions on how the name was pronounced or what it meant. Research into the name McCleery revealed many variations, including Clery, Cleary, Claree, Clarey, Cleare, Clearey, Clerey, O'Cleary, O'Clery, Macchlery, Clerkin, Clark and many more.

Early Notables of the McCleery family (pre 1700)

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

McCleery Ranking

In the United States, the name McCleery is the 12,181st most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [2]

United States McCleery migration to the United States +

Many Irish families boarded ships bound for North America in the middle of 19th century to escape the conditions of poverty and racial discrimination at that time. Although these immigrants often arrived in a destitute state, they went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations of the United States and Canada. An inquiry into many immigration and passenger lists has revealed many early immigrants to North America bearing the McCleery family name:

McCleery Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • James McCleery, aged 44, who landed in New Jersey in 1812 [3]
  • John M McCleery, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1823 [3]
  • William Dick McCleery, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1844 [3]

New Zealand McCleery 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:

McCleery Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Miss Catherine Mccleery, (b. 1843), aged 23, British domestic servant travelling from London aboard the ship 'Mermaid' arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 5th January 1867 [4]

Contemporary Notables of the name McCleery (post 1700) +

  • Michael McCleery (b. 1959), American actor known for his roles in L.A. Confidential (1997), Joy Ride (2001) and Harry and Tonto (1974)
  • James McCleery (1837-1871), American politician, U.S. Representative from Louisiana in 1871
  • Albert McCleery (1911-1972), pioneering American television producer who created Cameo Theatre in 1950
  • Finnis Dawson McCleery (1927-2002), United States Army soldier and a recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Vietnam War
  • Mick McCleery, American Independent film director, screenwriter and film producer
  • Joe McCleery, Irish football manager, Derry City F.C. manager (1929-1932)
  • William McCleery (1887-1957), prominent Unionist in Northern Ireland
  • Alan McCleery (1929-2022), Canadian sprint canoer from Montreal who competed at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome

Arrow Air Flight 1285
  • Miss. Christine M McCleery (1964-1985), American Specialist 4th Class from Rapid City, South Dakota, USA who died in the Arrow Air Flight 1285 crash [5]

  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. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  5. American War Memorials - Flight 1285. (Retrieved 2016, August 24) . Retrieved from on Facebook