Recorded as Clear, Cleare, Clears and others, this is an English medieval surname. It has two possible origins. It can be a metronymic, that is to say as surname which derives from a female name not the more usual male. In that case it is from the medieval English and French female given name Claire, ultimately from the Roman (Latin) Clara. The name means famous, and was highly popular in the Middle Ages. It is seen in the recording of Gilbert filius Cler, in the the Hundred Rolls of Oxford in 1279. Secondly it could be locational from Clare, a village in the county of Suffolk, or Clare in Oxfordshire, or Clere in Hampshire. All seem to derive from the Olde English word "claer" meaning clear, and have the same meaning of being on rivers known for their clarity and brightness. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Clere. This was dated 1273, in the Hundred Rolls of Huntingdonshire, during the reign of King Edward 1st of England and known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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