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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2016


Surnames of Irish origin have experienced many changes in their spellings and forms. Before being translated into English, McNamara appeared as Mac Conmara, which means "hound of the sea" or "warrior of the sea."

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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 McNamara family name.Variations found include McNamara, McNamar, McNamarra, McNamard, Sheedy and many more.

First found in County Clare (Irish: An Clįr) located on the west coast of Ireland in the province of Munster, where MacConmara or MacNamara was chief of the territory of Clan Caisin, now the barony of Tullagh. The family was also sometimes styled chiefs of Clan Cuilean; derived from Cuilean, one of their chiefs in the eighth century. This ancient family have traditionally held the high office of hereditary marshals of Thomond.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McNamara research. Another 271 words (19 lines of text) covering the years 1402, 1426, 1402, 1797, 1768 and 1826 are included under the topic Early McNamara History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 71 words (5 lines of text) are included under the topic Early McNamara Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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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 McNamara or one of its variants:

McNamara Settlers in United States in the 18th Century


  • Peter McNamara, who arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1766

McNamara Settlers in United States in the 19th Century


  • George McNamara, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1838
  • Charles McNamara, aged 27, arrived in Missouri in 1841
  • Stephen McNamara, who landed in Mobile County, Ala in 1845
  • John McNamara, who landed in Tippecanoe County, Ind in 1846
  • Eliza McNamara, aged 26, arrived in New York, NY in 1850


McNamara Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century


  • Matthew McNamara, who landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1752
  • Mr. David McNamara U.E. who settled in Saint Johns, New Brunswick c. 1784
  • Mr. Patrick McNamara U.E. who settled in Saint Johns, New Brunswick c. 1784
  • Augustine McNamara who arrived in St. John's Newfoundland in 1794

McNamara Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century


  • Edward McNamara, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1833
  • James McNamara, aged 30, a gardener, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the ship "Ward" from Limerick
  • Mary McNamara, aged 19, arrived in Saint John, NB aboard the ship "Eweretta" in 1833
  • John McNamara, aged 30, a sawyer, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1834 aboard the schooner "Jane" from Galway
  • Honor McNamara, aged 28, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1834 aboard the schooner "Jane" from Galway


McNamara Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • C. McNamara arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Hooghly" in 1839
  • John McNamara arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Hooghly" in 1846
  • Patrick McNamara arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Hooghly" in 1846
  • Terence McNamara arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Constance" in 1849
  • Bridget McNamara, aged 48, arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Duke Of Wellington" in 1849


McNamara Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • Bridget McNamara, aged 16, a farm servant, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Lady Nugent" in 1850
  • Martin McNamara, aged 28, a labourer, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Reiherstieg" in 1864
  • Patrick McNamara, aged 34, a labourer, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Steinwarder" in 1864
  • Bridget McNamara, aged 26, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Steinwarder" in 1864
  • John Thomas McNamara, aged 4, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Steinwarder" in 1864


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  • Michelle Eileen McNamara (d. 2016), American crime writer
  • William West McNamara (b. 1965), American actor
  • Sean Patrick Michael McNamara (b. 1962), American film director, film producer, actor, and screenwriter
  • Mark McNamara (b. 1959), American former professional NBA basketball player
  • Patrick Vincent McNamara (1894-1966), American politician, United States Senator from Michigan (1955-1966)
  • Margaret Craig McNamara (1914-1981), American founder of the nonprofit children's literacy organization Reading is Fundamental, wife of the United States Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Eileen McNamara, American Pulitzer Prize (1997) winning metro columnist for the Boston Globe, journalism professor at Brandeis University
  • Maggie McNamara (1928-1978), American actress
  • Robert Strange McNamara (1916-2009), American business executive, the eighth United States Secretary of Defense and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • John Joseph McNamara Jr. (1932-1986), American banker, athlete, and author, who won a bronze medal for sailing in the 1964 Summer Olympics

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  1. Fairbairn. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  2. Woulfe, Rev. Patrick. Irish Names and Surnames Collected and Edited with Explanatory and Historical Notes. Kansas City: Genealogical Foundation, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-940134-403).
  3. Grehan, Ida. Dictionary of Irish Family Names. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, 1997. Print. (ISBN 1-57098-137-X).
  4. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  5. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  6. Bowman, George Ernest. The Mayflower Reader A Selection of Articales from The Mayflower Descendent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  7. Hickey, D.J. and J.E. Doherty. A New Dictionary of Irish History form 1800 2nd Edition. Dublin: Gil & MacMillian, 2003. Print.
  8. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  9. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  10. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992. Print.
  11. ...

The McNamara Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The McNamara Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 28 April 2016 at 09:53.

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