Select Carey Surname Genealogy

The 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 Kildare. 

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England.  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.  The Tipperary Careys were mainly Catholic, although there was one Protestant Carey recorded, the Rev. Robert Carey in Clonmel (he was descended 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 said:

"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 1919.

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 limousines.  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 fuel 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 1970's.
Australia 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 Otago.
  • 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.

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

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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 missions."
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)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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