Last name: Clare

This most interesting and ancient surname, with its long association with the British nobility, has three possible origins. It may be Olde English and derive from the pre 8th century word 'cleare' which translates as 'bright or clear' and as such was applied to various rivers and a Manor in the county of Suffolk. A second possibility is French, from a place called Clere in Normandy and first recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book of England, whilst the third is baptismal from the French 'Claire' or the Latin 'Clara' which themselves translate as 'bright of fair'. The original spelling forms were Clere, Clarae, Clara, Clare, and Clair(e), however there is some confusion in that in the early days the surnames were almost always proceeded by the French preposition 'de', although by the 16th century its use had almost died out. Irish nameholders also trace their heritage from the same sources, Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, and better known as 'Strongbow' was the great leader of the Anglo-Norman Invasion of Ireland in 1170. The primary source of the surname is probably the Clare family of Clare in Suffolk, who received the Dukedom of Clarence in 1362. Early examples of the surname include Bogo de Clare of Oxford in the 1273 Kings Rolls, Goditha Clare of Kent in 1317, and Thomas Clair of St Giles Cripplegate, London on January 19th 1664. The 'first' Clare/Clair(e) into the New American Colonies of King James 1 was probably Mr Clare, Master of the Ship 'Gods Gift' of London. Unfortunately he was dead when he 'arrived' at Elizabeth City on or about February 16th 1623. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard de Clare, which was dated 1086, The Domesday Book for County Suffolk, England, during the reign of King William 1, 1066 - 1087. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

© Copyright: Name Origin Research 1980 - 2015

Want to dig deeper into your family history? Take a look at our page on building a Family Tree. Or get scientific and enter the exciting world of Ancestral DNA!

Surname Scroll

Enjoy this name printed onto our colourful scroll, printed in Olde English script. An ideal gift. View Details.
PayPal Acceptance Mark
Surname Scroll

Anne. Wilson/Cotton
Doing my 'Danish' family history we managed to get back to Vissenbjerg, Skalbjerg, to Hans Larsen Klare ( Clare ?) who was in 1778 84 years old. Does this mean he came over from Ireland?

My surname is Clair. So I wonder if I'm actually a descendant of Richard De Clare,"Strongbow",who initiated the Anglo-Norman conquest of Ireland in 1169.

Tash Clare
My dad's family is from long island, but originally Brooklyn, and before that I'm not sure. But my great grandpa Samuel Clare was born in the U.S., 1901. I don't know if his parents also were born here or came from somewhere else. His wife my great grandma, Lillian Clare, was born in Russia, I think about 1906.