The name of O'LEARY is derived from the Gaelic O'LAOGHAIRE meaning 'the calf-keeper'. It is one of the best known personal names in Ireland. A sept of the Corca Laoidhe, the name was of importance in all fields especially in literature and military spheres. The earliest known home-land of the sept was in the south-west of County Cork but it migrated northwards to settle in the West Muskerry barony near Inchigeelagh. Even now County Cork still remains the home of most of the O'Leary families today. The maritime county of Cork, in Munster, is bounded by the sea on the south-west, the south and the south-east. To the east it has land boundaries with the counties of Waterford and Tipperary, and to the north with Limerick and to the west with Kerry. Anciently the country formed part of the kingdom of Desmond. After the Anglo-Norman Invasion the whole of the present county, save the City of Cork (which had been founded by the Vikings) and its surroundings, was granted in 1177 by Henry 11 to Anglo-Norman knights who brought over their followers and established a military colony. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames. They came into being fairly generally in the 11th century. The Irish prefixes of Mac (son of) and O (grandson or descendant of) gave rise at an early date, to a set of fixed hereditary names in which the literal patronymic meaning was lost or obscured. These surnames originally signified membership of a clan, but with the passage of time, the clan system became less distinct, and surnames came to identify membership of what is called a 'sept' of people all living in the same locality, all bearing the same surname, but not necessarily descended from a common ancestor. Adoption of the name by people who did not otherwise have a surname and by their dependents was not uncommon. Later, nicknames were in some cases to supersede the original clan names. The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. Registered in Ireland.
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