Recorded in various forms as shown below, this 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 spelling forms include de Clare, Le Clare, De Claire, Le Claire, Clere, Clarae, Clara, Clare, Clair and Claire. In the early days the surname was almost always proceeded by the French prepositions of 'de' meaning 'of' and 'Le' which was descriptive. However by the 16th century its use had almost died out. Irish nameholders trace their heritage from Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, and better known as 'Strongbow,' 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, and Goditha Le Clare of Kent in 1317. The first nameholder into the New American Colonies of King James 1st was probably Mr Thomas Clare, Master of the ship 'Gods Gift of London', but unfortunately he was dead when he arrived at Elizabeth City, Virginia, some time before February 16th 1623. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard de Clare. This was dated 1086, in the Domesday Book for County Suffolk, England, during the reign of King William 1st, 1066 - 1087. 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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