McGarrah History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Irish surnames are linked to the long Gaelic heritage of the Island nation. The original Gaelic form of the name McGarrah is "O Gadhra," which is derived from the word "gadhar," which means "dog."

Early Origins of the McGarrah family

The surname McGarrah was first found in County Sligo (Irish: Sligeach), in the province of Connacht in Northwestern Ireland, where they were Chiefs of Coolavin aad Sliabh Lugha. [1]

The surname also spelled Gara, O'Gara, and Gerry is descended from Tiachleach, Lord of South Leyney who was killed in 964 A.D. The Geary family was closely associated with the O'Haras from an early time and the chiefs of the two septs alternated as rulers of Luighne. [2]

"The O'Garas were lords of the territory of Luighne, now forming and giving name to the barony of Leyney or Lieny, in the county of Sligo, whence they were expelled by the MacSurtains and the Mac Costelloes, families of Anglo-Norman descent." [1]

Once more into the archives we delved to find life in early times was fraught with battles and deaths. By example, some of the first entries of the family include: Tiachleach O'Gara, slain in 964; Rory O'Gara, tanist of Leyney, slain; Rory O'Gara, heir presumptive died in 1059; Donlevy O'Gara, lord of Leyney, killed by Brian O'Hara; O'Gadhra, lord of Layney, slain at battle of Ardee; and O'Gara, lord of Sliabh-Lugha, died. [1]

Early History of the McGarrah family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McGarrah research. Another 79 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1710, 1796 and 1727 are included under the topic Early McGarrah History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

McGarrah Spelling Variations

During the Middle Ages, attempting to record a Gaelic name in English was a daunting task. Most names were spelt by scribes solely based on how it sounded, one's name could have been recorded many different ways during the life of its bearer. Numerous spelling variations were revealed in the search for the origin of the name McGarrah family name.Variations found include Geary, Gara, O'Gara, O'Geary, Gearie, Gearey and many more.

Early Notables of the McGarrah family (pre 1700)

Notable among the family name at this time was Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts Bay (now the Commonwealth of Massachusetts), signer of the American Declaration of Independence. Sir Francis Geary (1710?-1796),was an "admiral, of a family long settled in Cardiganshire...
Another 37 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early McGarrah Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States McGarrah migration to the United States +

Irish immigrants began to leave the English-controlled Ireland in sizable numbers during the late 18th century. Many of these Irish immigrated to British North America or the United States in the hopes of gaining their own tract of farmland. This pattern of migration grew steadily until the 1840s when the Great Potato Famine caused a great exodus of immigrants to North America. These immigrants differed from their predecessors in that they were desperately fleeing the disease and starvation that plagued their homeland, and many were entirely destitute when they arrived in North America. Although these penniless immigrants were not warmly welcomed when they arrived, they were critical to the rapid development of the United States and what would become known as Canada. Many went to populate the western frontiers and others provided the cheap labor the new manufacturing sector and the building of bridges, roads, railways, and canals required. A thorough examination of immigration and passenger lists has revealed some of the earliest people to arrive in North America with name McGarrah or one of its variants:

McGarrah Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • George McGarrah, aged 35, who landed in New York in 1812 [3]

Contemporary Notables of the name McGarrah (post 1700) +

  • James "Jim" M. McGarrah (b. 1951), American Naval officer, Chief of Staff at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, Retired Rear Admiral
  • John McGarrah, American politician, Member of New York State Assembly from Orange County, 1817-18 [4]
  • Richard McGarrah Helms (1913-2002), American politician, U.S. Ambassador to Iran, 1973-77;
  • Richard McGarrah Helms (1913-2002), American Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) from 1966 to 1973 [5]


The McGarrah 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: Fortiter et fideliter
Motto Translation: Boldly and faithfully.


  1. ^ O'Hart, John, Irish Pedigrees 5th Edition in 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0737-4)
  2. ^ MacLysaght, Edward, Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7)
  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 2015, October 21) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  5. ^ Richard Helms. (Retrieved 2010, September 27) Richard Helms. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Helms


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