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The Carey's
~ A Short History ~
The Carey History
The name Carey, along with its other derivations, yields a long and illustrious history in North Western Europe, specifically in what is now the British Isles, the Republic of Ireland, and North West France.
As a surname it has two distinct origins: Normandy (North West France) and Ireland - both heavily influenced by ancient Celtic history. While the considerable influence that Celtic has played on Irish culture is well known, its role in the early history of North West France is often underestimated.
Early historical records indicate 2 origins of Carey or Cary. Though they are probably connected in some way. The first evolved in Britan in part from the Celtic word 'cari' (also spelt 'kari'), meaning 'pleasant stream'. The second evolved in Ireland, derived from the native Gaelic O'Ciardha Sept, who were located in County Kildare. Ó Ciardha, which means "descendent of Ciardha". Ciar means "dark" in Gaelic, suggesting the meaning of the surname is Children of the Dark. Not uncommon for Pagan Ireland.
The Irish Careys were descendants of the O'Ciardhas of Kildare (or of Killkenny according to some records), a powerful Irish sect situated near Dublin. Many of their descendants traveled down to the Southern coast of Ireland, where the clan name was changed to 'Carey'. Here the Careys settled before emigrating later to South West England, and then to other parts of England and the Americas starting at the end of the 17th century.
The Norman Careys, like many other families from Normandy, were most probably descendants of a variety of earlier groups who migrated through North West Europe. Most notably, the Norman Careys would probably have had Gaulic and Celtic ancestry, as well as Norse, Germanic and Teutonic heritage. In particular, there was a strong tradition of interplay between Norman and Celtic societies - both positive and all too often negative. This was partly due to their geographical proximity, and partly due to common cultural themes that remained in place for many generations.
The Norman name was originally spelt 'de Kari', which in turn translates to 'of Kari'. When translated into Celtic this would have meant 'of the pleasant stream'. However, within Normandy itself it is feasible that the name referenced a specific geographical area, possibly the Manor of Carrey in Lisieux.
There is no record of a de Kari arriving with William the Conqueror and his knights during the invasion of England in 1066, or of any Careys before this time. It is therefore likely that the Norman Carey ancestors arrived after the successful invasion.
The earliest English mainland Carey on record is a Norman knight and Lord named Adam de Kari, who was most probably born between 1170 and 1180, and was the first recorded occupant of Castle Cary in Somerset. The fact that de Kari governed Castle Cary strongly suggests that either the de Kari family was of noble Norman stock, or that the patriarch of the family was highly regarded as a politician and soldier. Given the early and rapid emergence of the Carys in Anglo-Norman culture the former of these theories is highly probable.
Between the twelfth and the fifteenth centuries the Kari name evolved into Kary and then Cary, as the Norman invaders began to adopt some indigenous Anglo-Saxon mannerisms. Like other prominent Norman families, the Carys of this time exerted considerable influence in the evolving social hierarchy, especially throughout the counties of Somerset and Wiltshire.
In addition, around this time emerged the first reliable evidence of a Carey line living on Guernsey in the Channel Islands. A Jean Carey is recorded as being 'alive in 1393'. Other evidence seems to indicate that the Guernsey line descended directly from Normandy, and not from the English Carey line.
Although the Carys of Somerset held no direct lineage to the English throne, they did hold some influence with several English monarchs. During the early reign of Henry V, Sir Robert Cary (born 1375) won wide-spread admiration for defeating a highly proficient (and somewhat troublesome) knight. Noted in the Remarkable Antiquities of the City of Exeter, the legendary encounter was recorded. (See the crest page for more details)
A Knight named Argonise who was visiting England, from where is unclear. During his visit, Argonise challenged many persons of his rank and quality to test his skills and undoubtedly show off his talents. Sir Robert Carey is said to have accepted this challenge, by which a long and cruel encounter was waged. Sir Robert vanquished Argonise, for which e was Knighted by the King.
During the age of chivalry, a challenger who vanquishes his foe fairly in the field, may take on the Arms of the vanquished. The Coat of Armoury of Argonise was acquired by Sir Robert, and the Cary Coat of Arms was established.
In the sixteenth century the descendant of Sir Robert, William Cary married Mary Boleyn, the sister of King Henry VIII's late wife Anne. William's son Henry (1524-1596) became a respected soldier and diplomat, and Henry's eldest son George was given the title of 'Baron Hunsdon' by Queen Elizabeth I. Also on record during this era is one Thomas Cary, his name appearing in the Assixe Rolls of London in 1375.
Over the subsequent three centuries the Carey ancestors lost some direct influence in the English aristocracy, but maintained a more progressive presence through academic and creative works. Indeed, Henry Carey (1760-1839) is accredited with composing "God Save the King" - the English national anthem, while one of his distant cousins William Carey (1761-1834) helped to form the Baptist Missionary Society.
The economist Henry Carey, who lived from 1793 to 1879, was America's most famous economist, and the world's most famous living economist in the period of the American Civil War, and afterwards. Henry Carey's writings were translated into many of the European and Asian languages, and with his predecessors, Friedrich List, and Henry Clay, and Alexander Hamilton, he was the main representative of the American School of Economics, or the Nationalist School, as opposed to the British School of Economics, which was represented at that time by John Stuart Mill--a very evil and famous man--and earlier writers, such as Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo and Adam Smith. Carey was the representative of the Nationalist School throughout the world.
The relationship between the Irish and Norman Carey/Cary lines is difficult to establish. Through the centuries the Cary spelling has been common place in South West England, specifically around Castle Cary and the river Cary. The proliferation of Careys in Southern Ireland and their steady filtration over to England starting around the 16th century suggests that the origins of the two lines are quite distinct. However, name standardization, a general lack of lineage data, and the tendency to spell words and names phonetically from the 18th century onwards complicates matters somewhat, and makes it very difficult for many families to trace their true ancestry.
During the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries many Careys migrated from England and Southern and Western Ireland to the Americas, making Carey a less common surname in English society. More recently both British and Irish bearers of the Carey name have increased in number, and the American Careys have boomed. Today there are more than 110,000 Careys World-wide. Owners of other variations of the name are fewer in number but still significant.
Written by: Andrew Carey, March, 2001.
Updated by: Vickie Carey, September 2006
The Historical Research Center: Carey Family Name History.
List of Norman knights involved in the invasion of England in 1066.
Geographical maps of Northern France and South West England.
Biographical information in
Henry Carey & The Nationalist School
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