Carey Surname Genealogy

Carey name has its origins in SW England and in Ireland.The English Carey has various possible origins:

  • early Careys being Norman, the Carey name could have come from
    the manor of Carrey near Lisieux in Normandy.  The Guernsey Careys
    may have had this origin.
  • the river Cary in Devon and Somerset.  Here the root was the
    Celtic word car, meaning
    “love” or “liking.”  Castle Cary in Somerset, twelve miles east of
    Wells, was held by Adam de Kari.
  • or the Carew name in Cornwall derived from a place name with the caer, meaning “fort,” and rhiw, or “hill,” elements.
    The Carew/Carey family who held the estate of Antony in Cornwall on the
    Devon border had this origin.

The Irish Carey
was an anglicization of different old Gaelic names, depending on
location.  The main origin of Carey was the Gaelic ciardha, from ciar meaning “dark” or
“black.”  This name was the
basis of the O”Ciardha sept that came originally from county

Carey Resources on

Carey Ancestry

The first English Carey on record was an Adam de Kari who held Castle
Cary in Somerset in the 13th century.  Sir John Cary was made
Chief Baron of the Exchequer in 1387, but was later banished and had
his lands confiscated.  Later Careys were Tudor courtiers.  William Carey
married Mary Boleyn
and he and his family profited from the
King’s romantic entanglements.

Another Cary line from Somerset
were Bristol drapers in Tudor and early Stuart times (from whom the
term Cary wool is thought to have derived).  Various members of
the family were mayors of the town.

The indigenous Carys or Careys came to be outnumbered by Careys from
Ireland.  The largest Carey numbers are in London, Manchester, and
Glasgow, traditionally places that have attracted Irish immigration.

Channel Islands.  The
Channel islands were a conduit for trade between Normandy and England
and the Carey name appeared there, in Guernsey, at an early time.
A Jean Careye was recorded there as “living in 1393.”  He is
accepted as being the forebear of the Careys of Guernsey.

His descendants became landowners in St. Martins while a junior branch
gravitated to commerce at St. Peter Port.  The Careye name became
Carey in 1756.  William W. Carey’s 1938 book The History of the Careys of Guernsey
traced the family history.

Ireland.  The O”Ciardha
sept of the southern Ui Neills were lords of the Carbury barony of
county Kildare until they were dispersed by the Normans in the late
12th century.  Many of these O”Ciardhas migrated south and there
the clan name
became Carey.

Careys were in Tipperary, Meath, and Cork (where the name might also
have been a corruption of the Anglo-Norman Carew).  By the 1850’s
the largest number were to be found in Tipperary, followed by Cork,
Mayo and Kerry.
Tipperary Careys were mainly Catholic, although there was one
Protestant Carey recorded, the Rev. Robert Carey in Clonmel (he was
from Peter Carey, a 17th century planter from Devon). There
were also Ulster Catholic Careys, mainly in Antrim.

  John Cary, born in Bristol, came
to America with his wife Elizabeth in
1634 and was one of the first settlers of Bridgewater,
Massachusetts.  His descendants are numerous and spread around the
country.  Seth Cary’s book of the patriarch of the family John Cary, The Plymouth Pilgrim was
published in 1911.

Miles Cary, also from Bristol, came out to
Virginia in the late 1640’s and settled in Warwick county.  It was

“Miles Cary went out as a young
merchant with the tradition of a mercantile family and suffered a sea
change into a planter and public officer after he was established in
the new world.  On the other hand, the descendants of his New
England uncle continued to maintain in their new environment the
Bristol seafaring and mercantile tradition.”

Later Carys, most notably Archibald Cary, established themselves at
Amphill in Chesterfield county.  They were one of the richest
families in the Virginia colony.  Meanwhile, John Cary was born in
York county in 1729 and James Cary was in Nansemond county around the
same time.  James’s grandson Elphinston moved onto North Carolina
and then, in 1810, to Georgia.  Fairfax Harrison’s report The Virginia Carys was written in

The Carey name became prominent in Baltimore through James Carey, a
late 18th century Quaker port merchant and member of Baltimiore’s first
city council.  His family remained influential in Baltimore life
and has recently been commemorated in the naming of the John Hopkins
Carey Business School.

By the 19th century, Irish Careys were more numerous
than English Carys/Careys.   One of the first to come,
escaping English perscution in Dublin, was
Mathew Carey in 1784.  A contemporary of
Franklin, he became a successful publisher in Philadelphia.
The 19th century brought greater immigration.   Dennis Carey, for
instance, came from Cork in 1870, married in Boston, and raised a
family of seven there.

Two Carey success stories of the 20th century have been:

  • Carey
    .  This business was started in New York in
    1921 by James Carey, a barber at Grand Central Station who had
    immigrated to New York in the early 1900’s,
  • and Carey’s fuel oil business.  Michael Carey had immigrated
    from Galway at the turn of the century and his son Dennis started a
    oil distribution business in Brooklyn in the 1920’s.  This was
    handed down to five Carey sons in the postwar years.  It was
    the elder Carey son, Edward, who financed the political ambitions of
    his younger brother Hugh.  Hugh became Governor of New York state
    in the late

and New Zealand.  
Among the Carey immigrants there
in the 19th century were:

  • David and Hannah Carey from Sussex in England, who had come to
    New Zealand as early as 1840 and settled in Otago.   Their
    daughter Julia was in fact the first child born to European parents in
  • John Randal Carey from Cork, who came out to Victoria on the Countess of Yarborough in 1853 to
    try his luck in the goldfields.  He ended up as a successful
    businessman and newspaper proprietor in Sydney.
  • David Carey from Tipperary, another who came over to the
    goldfields in the 1850’s.  He lived and died in Ballarat.
  • and Jeremiah Carey from Tipperary, who had enlisted in the
    British army and served in Australia and New Zealand before settling
    with his family in Auckland, New Zealand in the 1850’s.  However,
    he died there in 1859 of “apoplexy and intoxication.”

Robert Graham Carey, usually known as RGC, was born and grew up in the
vicinity of Ballarat.  He was one of Australia’s pioneer
aviators.  In 1917 he undertook the first Australian airmail
flight on his Bleriot 60, from Adelaide to Gawler.

Carey Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Carey Names

Jean Careye is recognized as
the forebear of the Careys on the Channel Island of Guernsey.
William Carey was a prominent
Tudor courtier during the reign of Henry VIII.
Henry Carey has been credited as a
composer of the national anthem God
Save The King
Mathew Carey was an Irish-born
publisher in Philadelphia in the years after the Revolutionary War.
William Carey was an early 19th
century English Baptist missionary, known as the “father of modern
James P. Carey was the founder
of Carey Limousines in 1921.
George Carey was Archbishop of
Canterbury from 1991 to 2002.
Mariah Carey is an American pop
singer/songwriter.  Her grandfather changed his name to Carey
after he had immigrated to America from Venezuela.

Select Careys Today

  • 18,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Surrey)
  • 20,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 21,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)




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