1).  Generally regarded as stemming from Ó Ciardha and also from Ó Ciaráin/Ó Céirin/Ó Cearáin, O Carráin, MacFhiachra, Mac Fhearadhaigh and Mac Giolla Chéire, CAREY is widespread and very numerous in Ireland, and present, through immigration, in considerable numbers in Britain, especially in urban centres of high Irish population, such as London, Glasgow and Manchester.  It is also a numerous Irish surname in the U.S.A.


The two major authoriities on Irish surnames are Patrick Woulfe (Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall, Dublin 1923) and Edward MacLysaght (The Surnames of Ireland, Dublin 1985, Irish Families 1985 and More Irish Families 1982)


MacLysaght's The Surnames of Ireland  says that Carey is 'used as the anglicised form of seven Gaelic Irish surnames, Ó Ciardha, MacFhiachra etc (see MacCary, Crean, Currane, Keary, Kerin, Kerrane, Keighry); also as a synonym of the Norman Carew'.


MacLysaght's Irish Families series is comprehensive.  In Irish Families he gives Ó Ciardha as the origin, along with MacFhiachra, as well as Ó Céirín in Mayo and Ó Ciaráin in Co. Cork. To these he adds Mac Giolla Céire.  His comments under Carey in More Irish Families  were his latest thoughts on the subject, as he stated in a letter to me during correspondance.  I quote from that book: 'In Irish Families the Gaelic surname Mac Fhiachra is described as nearly extinct. This is true so far as its earlier and phonetic anglicisations- Keaghry, Keighry and Kehery are concerned... though they are not unknown in east Galway and the neighbourhood of Athlone.  It would appear, however, that the Co. Galway sept of Mac Fhiachra does survive in considerable numbers, but under the alias of Carey. At the same time it must be remembered that Carey has been adopted as the anglicised form of several other Irish surnames; to those given in Irish Families the Norman name Carew may be added, which in fact is often pronounced Carey by the people bearing it. The majority of the numerous families called Carey belong to the Ó Ciardha sept of the southern Uí Néill, originally located in south Ulster and north Leinster, not to that of Mac Fhiachra.' More Irish Families (1982) p50


Woulfe is interesting in that he relates different origins of Carey to specific areas in Ireland.  O Ciardha: Kildare, Westmeath, Meath, Clare, East Limerick, North East Cork, South West Tipperary, West Galway.  Mac Fhiachra: some parts of Galway.  Carrún (Carew): Munster (this Norman name is, however, misleading for Cos Tipperary and Waterford where it is often preceded by Gaelic forenames in 17th century records; Norman families would not have used native forenames in this period. This would also apply to MacLysaght's quotation, above.  The subject of Carew is discussed on page 2).  Ó Carráin, Ó Corráin: some parts of Munster.  Ó Ciaráin, Ó Cearáin, Ó Cioráin: South Mayo, West Mayo.  Ó Céirín: some parts of Ireland.  Ó Ciarmhacháin: West Cork.


2). Car(e)y is also a Somerset/Devonshire name introduced by two main planter families into Ireland: 1) at Redcastle, north east Donegal (17th c.); and 2) at  'Careysville' (named after the family) near Fermoy (mid 17th c.) a branch of which bought Glenabbey, north Waterford, near Clonmel (18th c.)  The male line of the second family is extinct.


3). Carey, an early variant of Carrey, also originated in at least two regions of France: Normandy and Burgundy. 




Number of Carey Households in Griffiths Primary Valuation , Survey 1847-64


From Greatest to Least.  The County number comes first, where County and City share the total.




·       Tipperary                             225              + Cary 2,  Keary  11, *Carew 50                                                                                   


·       Cork County/city   159, 18,  177


·       Limerick Co/city     94,  14,   108


·       Dublin Co,city        65,  29      84     

·       Mayo                                     78              +Cary 3


·       Westmeath                            64              + Cary 11, Keary 7


·       Waterford                             54               + *Carew 25


·       Clare                                     48 


·       Meath                                    45                                       

·       Galway                                 45                                       


·       Kerry                                     38                                        


·       Antrim         32 (+ 5 Belfast)  37                + McCarey 4


·       Kilkenny                                 32                                        .

·       Offaly                                    32


·       Laois                                      31                                      

·       Donegal                                  31                + Cary 11, McCarey 4                                                                                                        


·       Kildare                                    29                                     .


·       Fermanagh                             28


·       Wicklow                                 20


·       Down                                     16                                          

·       Louth                                      11                                          

·       Wexford                                 10               [+10 Carew households here].                                                                                  


·       Carlow                                     9                                                                                    

·       Monaghan                                8                 + McCarey 9                           

·       Roscommon                             8


·       Derry Co & city                         5                                           

.       Longford                                   4

·       Tyrone                                      4                             

.       Cavan                                       4                                                                                                   
·       Sligo                                          3                                              

·       Leitrim                                        2                                             



* Carew - in Cos Tipp & Waterford is not the Norman surname, but an anglicised Gaelic name used synonymously with Carey.

                The 10 Carew families listed in Wexford, may be genuine Cambro-Norman, however. 



CAREY  Irish Telephone Directories 1987/88



        Dublin      200


        Cork      110


        Tipperary      80


        Antrim      73


        Limerick      59


        Mayo      25


        Clare      24


        Kildare      23


        Westmeath      23


       Belfast      20


        Waterford      18


        Kerry      15


        Galway      12


        Donegal      12










           The Scholar's Eye








c.  p carey




Ó Ciardha over Cairbre of poets

Of the tribes of Nine-hostaged Niall;

There are but themselves over to the east,

Of the clans of Niall in Leinster'

Ó Dubhagáin  d1372




'Over Cairbre of Leinster of the plains,

Is Ó Ciargha of the red-bladed swords;

The scion of Almhain without scarcity in the east,

By whom battles were kindled round Cruachan'

Ó hUidhrín  d1420


Ua Ciardha, lord of Coirpre (tighearna Coirpre) died. AD952

Annals of the Four Masters



MaolRuanaig hua Ciardha, king of Cairpri (ri Cairpri), killed by the men of Tethfa. AD992

Annals of Tigernach

(these entries from the

Annals of Tigernach are also to be found in the Annals of Ulster and The Annals of the Four Masters with corresponding dates.) 



Contact me



c.  Patrick G. Carey research and art work






The Top 5 Counties for Carey numbers:


1850s (Griffith's Valuation)

1. Tipperary

2. Cork

3. Limerick

4. Dublin

5. Mayo



1890 Birth Registrations

(R.E. Matheson)

1. Cork

2. Dublin

3. Tipperary

4. Mayo

5. Kerry



1987/88 (Telephone Directories)

1. Dublin

2. Cork

3. Tipperary

4. Antrim

5. Limerick



O Ciarda obtained heavy profit

Of the land of Cairbre,

I conceal it not,

For O Ciarrda of the yellow crops

The fragrant tree was not slow in bearing.

Giolla Iosa Mor Mac Firbis c. 1400





Wikipedia Page

Carey (surname) 

compiled by me 2013-2014, gives a summary of the information on these pages.

6 further examples of  Irish surnames that are also indigenous to Britain:  KELLY, DELANEY (orig. France),  CONWAY, KENNEDY, HEALY & KENNY on pages 8, 9 and 10.

Carey Irish Genealogy