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CAREY Family History


1) Ó Ciardha, modern spelling Ó Ciara- anglicised Carey, Keary, earlier as (O) Cary, (O) Carie & c. the root is 'ciar' -'dark', 'black'. A sept of the Southern Uí Néill, rulers of Cairpre Laigen in modern Co Kildare. They were dispersed from Carbury by the Cambro-Normans after the 1170s. 

The Uí Néill sept is recorded as 'ua Ciardha, tighearna Coirpre', i.e. O Carey, lord of Carbury, in AD 952, Annals of the Four Masters; 'MaelRuainig hua Ciardha, rí Cairpri' [king of Carbury], 992, Annals of Tigernach &c.. Ó Dubhagáin (d.1372) wrote of 'Ó Ciardha over Cairbre of poets, of the tribes of Nine-hostaged Niall' and Ó hUidhrín (d. 1420) of 'Ó Ciardha of the red-bladed swords'. 

O' Donovan wrote (1862): 'O'Ciardha, now anglicised Keary and Carey, a rather numerous name in the counties of Meath and Kildare', and 'the name is common, but to be found only among the lower orders'. 

 2) Ó Ciaráin/Ó Céirín root 'céir/ciar' -'dark', 'black', anglicised Kearan(e), Kearin(e), Kerin(e) &c, and Carey. Ó Ciaráin was the name of septs in SE Cork and Donegal. Ó Céirín were chiefs in Costelloe Barony, Mayo, recorded in the Annals as Ua Ceirin (1155). There was a Cormac Cary (sic.) recorded in Mayo as early as the 1641 Depositions. Keern/Carey are recorded synonyms in the registers of Ballymena Union in Co Antrim (Matheson, 1901). 

3) Ó Cearáin, was anglicised Kirrane/Kerrane and Carey in the 19th century.  It is perhaps 'an older form of Ó Céirín' (P. Woulfe, 'Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall', 1923). R. E. Matheson ('Varieties & Synonyms of Ireland', 1901) records synonymous usage of Kirrane & Carey in the late 19th century in Ballindine, west Mayo. Former Governor of New York, Hugh Carey's ancestor is alleged to be Michael Kirrane, a Mayo man.

4) Mac Fhiachra - anglicised Keary, Carey, earlier phonetically as Keghery, Kehery &c., the root is 'fiachra' - 'battle king' or 'raven'. They were chiefs of Cinel Fearadhaigh, a branch of the northern Uí Néill, with septs in SW Galway and Co Meath. MacLysaght in 'More Irish Families' (1982) writes that 'the Co Galway sept Mac Fhiachra 'survives in considerable numbers under the alias of Carey'. 

5)  Ó Ciarmhacháin, Ó Ciarúcáin, Ó Ceiriúcháin & c. - anglicised Carey, Irwin, Irvine, Kerwick and more; a name with many spellings (see UCD's National Folklore website at dú, a Munster surname found in West Cork and no doubt elsewhere in the province.

6) Mac Giolla Chéire - anglicised Keary, Carey, earlier Kilkeary, meaning son of servant of 'Céir', root 'dark', 'black' as 1. & .2. above. Woulfe (op. cit.) says this was once a 'common name in Ireland, especially Co Cork, but now disguised under Keary, Carey and Carr'. McCeary and McCary appear on the Cork & Ross 19th c Catholic Parish Registers. 

7) Mac Fhearadhaigh - anglicised McCarry, McCarey, earlier MacKeary. A name of Oriel. In the 1850s (Griffiths op.cit.) there are a few families of McCarey in Monaghan, Donegal and Antrim. 

8) Ó Carráin/Ó Corráin - anglicised early as Carrane, Carrone, Curran(e), Carew, and Carey. The sept held lands round Mobernan, Tipperary. Donald O Carrane of Mobernayne, 1586 is mentioned in the 'Fiants'; Conor Carew of Mobarnan was a representative at the Catholic Confederation of Kilkenny, 1642. The Court of Claims, 15th July 1663, has a request for return of Mobernan lands in Tipperary forfeited by 'Teige Carrue alias O Carron'. Brothers, priest Thomas Carue (d. 1672) and royalist soldier Sir Ross Carey (as on Westminster Abbey inscription 1660) are of this family. Woulfe & others have fallen into the error of treating Tipperary Carew at 'face value' as Norman. The Cambro-Norman Carews had died out in Tipperary by the end of the 15th c. Norman families in the 17th c. eschewed Gaelic forenames like 'Teige', 'Conor' etc. (see Paul MacCotter, 'Irish Roots' magazine, 1997).  

There are also many 'Carrane' in the 1659 Census in south and mid Tipperary, 22 families in Iffa and Offa barony and 34 in Middlethird. In the 1664 Hearth Money Rolls random examples: Teige O' Carrane, Laughlin Carrane, Patrick Carine & c. Registrar Matheson (op. cit., 1901) notes the synonymous usage in Valencia, West Kerry of Carey and Currane.  

 Paul MacCotter has claimed in 'Irish Roots' (1997) that the rare East Cork Norman-Welsh surname Carew survived there under the form 'Carey'. However, the East Cork Carews of Garryvoe died out in the male line in the 1660s (Brit. Mus. Funeral Certificate MS 4820; v. Carew page); and Carey in this area is regarded as an Anglicisation of Ó Ciaráin (Dr E MacLysaght, 'Irish Families', 1985). 

 In the Tudor/Stuart 'Fiants' we find, 'pardoned' etc: 'Dermot M'Donoghe O' Cary alias m'Donoghowe, lord of Dowally (Duhallow) Co Cork', 1561; Maurice Kerry, Co Wexford, 1561; James Cary, Co Meath, 1582; Wm O' Carie, Co Longford, 1602; Margery Ny Kerrye, Co Cork, 1600; Fynnen Kearigh, Co Cork, 1602; James Cary, Co Cork, 1623; John Kearie & Katherin Kery, Co Limerick, 1653.  

 In the '1641 Depositions', taken in 1653 after the '41 uprising, appear native Catholic and 'British' Protestants named Car(e)y: Catholic natives, mostly 'rebels' - Laughlin ó Cary, Westmeath; Any ny Cary, Kathrine nee Carry, Rory McCarry et al, Antrim; Tho. ó Cary, Westmeath; Cormac Cary, Mayo; Paul Cary/Carew, Waterford; 'British' Protestants, usually described as 'victims' - Sir Thomas Carey, Meath; William Cary, Cork; John Carye, Cork; Richard Cary, Fermanagh.  

 In Petty`s '1659 Census', listed as a 'Principal Irish Name' are:  Co Meath, Scrine Barony, Cary, 7 families; Co Offaly South, Ballybritt Barony, Cary, 8 families; Co Westmeath, Moycashel Barony, McCarey/McCarrey, 20 families; Co Westmeath, Moygoishe Barony, Kegry, 8 families.  

 In the 1664 'Hearth Money Rolls' for Co Tipperary are ( North Riding): Donnogh O' Chara, Derby Carragh, Uny Carrigh, Rory McCarry, Matthew Carry, Unny Carey; (South Riding): John McCarragh, Morrish Carragh, Michael Carrig, Grainne Carhe, Thomas Carry, Daniell Kyary, David Keary, William Cary, Connor Cary, John Cary, Wm Cary; and Teige Cary in the 'Poll Book' for Clonmel,1661. Also 'Carews', e.g. Connell Carew, Teige Carrow, Piers Corow, Ellice Carrew; plus many Carrane, Carine &c. The existence of Gaelic forenames indicates the native origins of these surnames, also that the multiple forms suggest several Irish patronymics 'falling together' in the forms of Carey and Carew in this central county.  

 In King James' Irish Army, 1688-90 (French Records) are Thomas Keary/Cary, ensign, Barrett's Regiment (Cork), and another ensign Kery in Creagh's Regiment. 

 The Religious Census of 1766 for Co Tipperary has many entries for Car(e)y, all of whom are native 'Papists': e.g. John & Cornelius Cary, Clonoulty; Thomas Keary, Kilfeacle; Daniel Keary, Killea; Laughlin Carey and 4 other Careys, Knockgraffon, Cahir; John Carey/Keary, Lattin; Darby plus 3 other Carys, Soloheadmore &c; Edm Keary, Templenoe. There are several Carews, also Catholic, in Cloneen, Toom and Fethard. 

 In Griffith's 'Primary Valuation' (1848-64) the top 6 counties for Carey households were:   Tipperary 225 + 2 Cary (an ephemeral variant), Cork 177, Limerick 108, Dublin 94, Mayo 78 + 3 Cary, and Westmeath 64 + 11 Cary. The Ireland total for Carey households  is 1,308 + Cary 33. For Keary: most in Tipperary 11, Dublin 8 and Westmeath 7: total Keary 64. All these forms are variants, with Carey becoming the most frequent mid to late 1800s.  

 The Registrar General's 'Special Report...' (1894) based on births in Ireland for 1890, shows highest occurrences of Carey in Cos Cork, Dublin, Tipperary, Mayo and Kerry. 

 O' Hart in 'Irish Pedigrees' p 499, (1887) describes the arms for Keary/Carey of Fore, Westmeath as 'azure, a lion passant, guardant, or' with a crest of 'an arm in armour, holding a spear point down, ppr'. The same arms appear under 'O' Carrie/O' Carry' in Burke's 'General Armory', 1884 . The arms at the head of this page appear under 'Carey' in Burke (op. cit.) and for 'Carey/O' Carey' in John Rooney's 'A Genealogical History of Irish Families...' New York (1896). 

 The arms of an English family of Car(e)y from Devon or Somerset (Burke, 1884) 'argent, on a bend, sable, 3 roses of the first' are often wrongly assigned to Gaelic-Irish Careys by 'heraldic firms', probably because two such landlord families settled in Ireland: a) Cary at Inishowen, Donegal (c. 1600); b) Carey at 'Careysville' near Fermoy, Cork (c.1650) also Clonmel (c.1780). The latter family is definitely extinct. Carey is, coincidentally, a common native Irish name in these areas.  

 British names were used as 'models' in the anglicisations of Gaelic names in the 17th century, e.g.  Brady, Boyle, Conway, Kenny, etc. Elizabethan,  Sir George Car(e)y of Devon was 'treasurer' of Ireland 1598-1606.  


Notable Careys:

Denis Carey (d. 1798) of Old Leighlin, Co Carlow, was hanged for his part in the 1798 Rebellion. On his way to the infamous court at Hackett's Inn, taken over by the Yeoman, his wife cried out to him as he passed in the cart, bound and fettered, 'Make no more widows!' He replied he wouldn't. He kept his silence.

Patrick Carey (1916 -1994) born in London of Irish father. Acclaimed, award winning Irish cinematographer/film-maker: 'Yeats' Country' 1965, 'Oisin' 1970, 'Beara' 1979. He also did the filming in 'Ryan's Daughter'. 
CAR(E)Y of British and French Origin. (see Cary page) .

Car(e)y as a British surname was most numerous in Somerset and Devon, and probably derives from Castle Cary on the River Cary, Somerset,  or Carey on the River Carey, Devon.  The names are Old European/pre-Celtic and probably mean 'stony/hard' from OEur -'karisa' (Wattts, Cambridge 2003). Example: Sanson de Cari, Devon, 1198.

Carey, a variant of (de) Carrey, is indigenous to France, esp. Normandy, Burgundy; v. ' Pierrot Carey', Franche-Comté, 1541; 'Loyse Carey', Côte-d'Or, 1575; Mathieu Carey, Calvados, 1625 &c. (

Irish immigration accounts for perhaps most British bearers.   Current British telephone directories show highest numbers of Carey located in areas of Irish immigration: Greater London (320), Greater Manchester & Lancashire (272), Kent (163), West Yorkshire (145) and West Midlands (145).
In the 1891 Census, for example,  Lancashire had more than twice the number of Careys than Somerset, 746 to 347. 

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There are 48 Carey households recorded in Griffith, Primary Valuation, 1850s, in West Clare, mostly in the south-west in the Kilrush area, with a few in Ennistimon, There are also around 70 Kerin households , mostly in Ballyvaghan in North Clare, but a few in Ennistimon. Is there a connection? Kerin is O Ceirin. There are also 6 Keary, mostly Kilrush area.


My father Johhny Carey was in the Sarsfield Band, Limerick in the 20s and 30s, also in St. Johns band. He was a drummer and also a piper. The family lived in Watergate, Limerick city. These Careys were originally from Powerstown Park, Clonmel, Tipperary.


Refuse the anglo settlers Devon Cary arms of three roses on a bend, now widely available with Gaelic derivations of Ciardha etc appended!


Greetings to all Careys worldwide! Further research on this complex, but fascinating subject may be foud on Sln

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Areas of Origin for CAREY

, France

, England

Leinster , Ireland

Connaught , Ireland

Munster , Ireland

Munster , Ireland

Two Famous CAREY's
  • Johhny Carey Dublin b footballer captained both 40s Ir Rep  NIre teams  Man Utd
  • Mathew Carey Irish nationalist and publisher in Dublin and Philadelphia
The CAREY Gallery
  • Arms ascribed to Keary orig Carey of Fore Westmeath by O Hart Irish Pedigrees 1887 p499
  • Norman de Berminghams castle  built on site of ancient O Ciardha rath at Carbury Kildare
  • South Tipperary  highest number of Careys in Ireland here in 1850
  • Arms in Genealog History of Irish Families NY1896 Rooney  Gen Armory 1883 Burke

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