Show ContentsMcCleese History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

As a native Irish surname, McCleese is derived from the Gaelic name Mac Laoidhigh, which comes from the word "laoidh," which means "a poem;" or from Mac Giolla Iosa, which means "son of the devotee of Jesus." However, Lee is also a common indigenous name in England, many families of which have been established in Ireland since at least the 17th century. [1]

Early Origins of the McCleese family

The surname McCleese was first found in Connacht (Irish: Connachta, (land of the) descendants of Conn), where they were prominent in the west being anciently associated as hereditary physicians to the O'Flahertys.

Families with the McLees or McAlees spellings were traditionally doctors or physicians.

By the 16th century different branches had developed in Galway, in Leix, and in Munster at Cork and Limerick. The name in Gaelic was O'Laidhigh.

Early History of the McCleese family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McCleese research. Another 121 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1253, 1600, 1650 and 1734 are included under the topic Early McCleese History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

McCleese Spelling Variations

Just like the English language, the Gaelic language of Ireland was not standardized in the Middle Ages. Therefore, one's name was often recorded under several different spellings during the life of its bearer. Spelling variations revealed in the search for the origins of the McCleese family name include McAlea, McAlee, MacAlee, MacAlea, MacLee, McLee, MacLees, McLees, MacLeas, McLeas, O'Lees, O'Leas, Lee and many more.

Early Notables of the McCleese family

More information is included under the topic Early McCleese Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States McCleese migration to the United States +

Irish families left their homeland in astonishing numbers during the 19th century in search of a better life. Although individual reasons vary, most of these Irish families suffered from extreme poverty, lack of work opportunities, and exorbitant rents in their homeland. Many decided to travel to Australia or North America in the hopes of finding greater opportunities and land. The Irish immigrants that came to North America initially settled on the East Coast, often in major centers such as Boston or New York. But like the many other cultures to settle in North America, the Irish traveled to almost any region they felt held greater promise; as a result, many Irish with gold fever moved all the way out to the Pacific coast. Others before that time left for land along the St. Lawrence River and the Niagara Peninsula, or the Maritimes as United Empire Loyalists, for many Irish did choose to side with the English during the American War of Independence. The earliest wave of Irish migration, however, occurred during the Great Potato Famine of the 1840s. An examination of early immigration and passenger lists has revealed many people bearing the McCleese name:

McCleese Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Jno McCleese, aged 25, who arrived in Ellis Island, New York aboard the ship "Bark Imogene" in 1847 [2]
  • Margaret McCleese, aged 19, who arrived in Ellis Island, New York aboard the ship "Kangaroo" in 1860 [2]
McCleese Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Henry McCleese, aged 64, who immigrated to Norfolk, Virginia, in 1918

Contemporary Notables of the name McCleese (post 1700) +

  • Christopher McCleese, American published researcher at General Dynamics Information Technology/Air Force Research Laboratory
  • Ariel McCleese, American director, known for Daughters of Wolbachia (2019), Hexatic Phase (2020) and Heliconius erato (2018)
  • Amber McCleese, American producer, known for Dreamer (2019), School Don't Cost a Thing (2018) and Young Sheldon (2017)
  • Naiym McCleese, American actor, known for Finding Ourselves (2020)
  • Daniel McCleese, American JPL-scientist, eponym of 5641 McCleese, a rare-type Hungaria asteroid and slow rotator, classified as Mars-crosser

The McCleese Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Fide et fortitudine
Motto Translation: By fidelity and fortitude.

  1. MacLysaght, Edward, Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7)
  2. Ellis Island Search retrieved 9th February 2023. Retrieved from on Facebook