McGeary 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 McGeary is "O Gadhra," which is derived from the word "gadhar," which means "dog."

Early Origins of the McGeary family

The surname McGeary 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 McGeary family

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

McGeary Spelling Variations

One must realize that attempting to record a Gaelic name in English was a daunting task. Even today the translation is a difficult one. Names, therefore, often had many spelling variations. The variations of the name McGeary include: Geary, Gara, O'Gara, O'Geary, Gearie, Gearey and many more.

Early Notables of the McGeary 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 McGeary Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States McGeary migration to the United States +

Suffering from poverty and racial discrimination, thousands of Irish families left the island in the 19th century for North America aboard cramped passenger ships. The early migrants became settlers of small tracts of land, and those that came later were often employed in the new cities or transitional work camps. The largest influx of Irish settlers occurred with Great Potato Famine during the late 1840s. Although the immigrants from this period were often maligned when they arrived in the United States, they provided the cheap labor that was necessary for the development of that country as an industrial power. Early immigration and passenger lists have revealed many immigrants bearing the name McGeary:

McGeary Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Henry McGeary, aged 12, who landed in Norfolk, Va in 1823 [3]
  • Mathew McGeary, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1835 [3]
  • Daniel McGeary, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1840 [3]

Australia McGeary migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

McGeary Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Bernard McGeary, English convict who was convicted in Lancaster, Lancashire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Elphinstone" on 27th May 1837, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [4]

New Zealand McGeary 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:

McGeary Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Darby McGeary, aged 41, a ploughman, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Queen of Nations" in 1874
  • Sarah McGeary, aged 37, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Queen of Nations" in 1874
  • Felix McGeary, aged 10, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Queen of Nations" in 1874
  • Jeremiah McGeary, aged 5, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Queen of Nations" in 1874
  • Catherine McGeary, aged 2, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Queen of Nations" in 1874
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name McGeary (post 1700) +

  • Clarence McGeary (1926-1993), American former NFL defensive tackle for the Green Bay Packers in the 1950 season
  • Michael Henry McGeary (1851-1910), American Major League Baseball player who played from 1871 to 1882 and was league manager from 1875 to 1881
  • Liam McGeary (b. 1982), English professional mixed martial artist, current Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion


The McGeary 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. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 18th March 2022). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/elphinstone


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