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Irish Surname - Neary

The Irish surname Neary is derived from the native O'Naraigh sept who were located in north Connaught. The name is taken from a description of the first chief of the clan whose name was 'Naraigh', a Gaelic word meaning modest.

The first known recording of the surname may be that of Father Nicholas O'Naraighe, OFM at the Irish College, St Etienne, France, in the years 1503 - 1508.

Another early example of the surname recording was Donal 'Boy' O'Nare, a famous 16th century character, of Kilheale in County Kildare. It would appear that he committed a number of gruesome offences including the murder of John Vale, although this was possibly in a duel. He was known as an 'idleman', a word which at that time described a gentleman! He must have known some influential people because in each of his offences he received a pardon.

The 16th century 'Composition Book of Connacht' mentions Edmond O'Nary, of Clongreagh, Co. Roscommon, as a 'man of importance'. Other records from that era such as the Fiants, Monastic Extents show the surname in counties Roscommon and Leitrim, and a few in counties Kildare and Meath.

Father Cornelius Nary (1658-1738) author of many works, was born in County Kildare. He held a number of high posts within the Catholic Church in Germany, and for some years was head of the Irish College in Paris. He later returned to Ireland in 1703 where he declined an appointment as Bishop of Kildare but instead opted to become parish priest of St Michan's, in Dublin, where he became a notable figure.

Originally anglicised O'Nary, O'Neary and O'Nery, the prefix 0 seems to have been dropped in the 17th century and is rarely, if ever, used nowadays.

Neary is one of the more numerous surnames in Connacht, particularly in counties Mayo and Roscommon, outside of that it is also found in County Louth.

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