Thursday, April 17, 2014

What about all those Irish Surnames....

As I began researching our family roots, I was pretty confident I would find my maternal ancestors were predominately Irish with just a sprinkling of English for good measure, as Mom would have said.  I admit I was curious about the alleged connection to "English royalty," my grandmother had claimed and my mother scoffed at. Just in case you're waiting to find our place in line for the thrown, you may want to keep that day job.  I have yet to find any evidence of a royal connection.

What I have found are amazing clues into the lives of working class families, enchanting English villages and a tiny glimpse of what those brave souls emigrating to America may have endured.  My great grandfather, John Cox II, made the trip alone when he was 21 years old, while many others brought their entire family in tow.  The journey, in the mid 1800's, would have taken about 5 weeks aboard a sailing ship, although, by the late 1800's steam ships could make the trip in just 2 weeks for those who could afford them.  It wasn't an easy trip, trapped aboard a cramped ship with limited food and water, conditions perfect for spreading disease.  My ancestors were of modest means and most probably had to scrimp and save to pay the fare, leaving behind everything they knew, for the chance to start a new life in a new world.  As their lives have enfolded before me, I have come to know them as living, breathing people, making the issue of their heritage almost irrelevant to me. 

 Ah, but this is a genealogy blog, afterall, and so I will get back on point.  I have written several posts about the English heritage of the Cox and Bolton families, which can be traced back generations in the East Midland region of England.  The Irish side has proven much more difficult to trace beyond my great grandparents.  There is, however,  information that can be gleaned from the Surnames themselves that I want to share.  I should point out that the distinction between Irish and English, and even Scottish, heritage is often blurry as the history of these countries is so intertwined.  A good example is the recent discovery I made concerning my great grandmother, Mary J. Archer, who is Irish, but may have been born in Dundee Scotland, although both her parents and her siblings were born in Ireland. It appears the family lived in Scotland for a short time before coming to America- check back for more about Mary Archer's life in an upcoming blog entry.  

Ironically, the Archer name (Thomas Hennessy's mother) can actually be traced to nobility almost 1000 years ago and even to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland a mere 700 years back.i

About Surnames

Most Irish names are patronymic - based on the given name of one's father or male ancestor.  The classic Irish O at the beginning of names translates to "son or descendant of."   Typically surnames would come from nicknames given to the chief of a sept or clan.  Also  medeival english did not have spelling rules and names were written as they sounded to the scribe.  It was not uncommon for one person to use different spellings during their lifetime.

Hennessy Surname

hennessyHennessy - originally O'Hennessy- comes from the Gaelic word aonghus, meaning choice or chosen one. The name predates the Norman invasion.  At the time, the leading Hennessy clan, was based near Kilbegan in Offaly county . Upon the arrival of the Normans in Ireland in the 12th century, the Hennessys are said to have scattered to Limerick, Tipperary, and Cork.
Aonghas, anglicised ‘Angus’, one of the pre-Christian Celtic gods

Today 42% of Hennessy families reside in Ireland, 28% in the US and 16% in England

The Hennessy name may be best known for it's Cognac.  Hennessy brandy was first distilled by Richard Hennessy (1720-1800), born in Ballymacmoy House near Mallow in north County Cork. Richard joined the french army in about 1740 to fight the English, becoming an officer in Dillon's Irish Regiment. He was stationed in the Charente region of France discovering the beautiful town of Cognac on the banks of the Charente River.  It was there that he founded Maison Hennessy, the distillery, in 1765. Today, Jas Hennessy & Co sells about 50 million bottles a year and Richard Hennessy's descendents are still involved in the operations.  The Hennessy house at Killavullen near Mallow, overlooking the River Blackwater, can still be seen today and the Hennessy distillery in Cognac is open to visitors..

Archer Surname

My great grandmother: Mary (Archer) Hennessy

The Archer name came to England at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066, and is derived from the french name, Le Archier. The word literally means an archer which replaced the English word 'Bowman' in the 14th century.   Variations of spelling include Le Archer, Archier, Archar, Arsher, Arshire, Archere, Archire, and many others.   here is actually a great deal written about the Archer family history in England. the Archer name is said to be included in the Battle Abbey Rolls - which was William the Conquerers list of Companions.  They were a noble family in the middle ages, involved in politics throughout the England & Ireland.

A branch of Archers settled in Ireland in the1200s and became one of the Tribes of Kilkenny.  Le Archer, appears in the records of Kilkenny (city), in 1307 and from 1345 to 1652 the Archer name is found 64 times in the city's lists of  Magistrates, Sovereigns, Mayors, Sheriffs, Coroners.

John L'Archers was appointed to the office of  Lord Chancellor of Ireland in about 1342.  He is believed to have been born in England and had a distinguished political career in Ireland, serving as Ireland's Chancellor from about 1342 until he succumbed to the plague in 1349.

I haven't yet determined where in Ireland Mary Archer's family originated, but the Archer name was prominent throughout England and Ireland.

Notable Archers of Kilkenny Ireland:
John Archer, sovereign of the town of Kilkenny - 1439 
Walter Archer, sovereign of Kilkenny - 1544 
Walter Archer Sr., Sovereign of Kilkenny in 1590
Thomas Archer, elected mayor, but removed - 1611 
Patrick Archer, mayor - 1611-2 
Walter Archer, mayor - 1621 & 1625 & 1627 
Henry Archer, mayor - 1628-9 
Thomas Archer, mayor - 1641 
Walter Archer, mayor - 1643-4 

Notable Archers throughout United Kingdom
Robert Le Archer -tutor to King Henry I (1100-1135); received a grant of 7 manors;  possibly same Robert L'Archier, mentioned in "Pipe Rolls of Warwickshire", dated 1166
Richard and Nicholas Archer - on 1214 census of noblemen known as Rotundi Oblitus et Finibus
Roger Archer  mayor of Waterford in 1361
Sir Simon Archer (1581– 1662) sat in the House of Commons in 1640
John Archer(1598-1682) knighed in 1624, sherriff of Warwickshire in 1628.
David Archer, Constable of Gowran in 1608. 
Baron Archer of Umberslade-Cornwall County - A title held first by Thomas Archer and then his son, Andrew, as members of parliament in the years 1747 to1778.  

My great grandmother: Winifred (Cooney) Cox

The Cooney name comes from the Gaelic Ó Cuana -pre-10th century. meaning "elegant" or the "son of elegant one". The Cooney sept originated in the Ulster County Tyrone in Northern Ireland and migrated west to North Connaught, a province in Western Ireland, by the 11th century.   Some branches moved to Tipperary and Offaly.  In 1248 the most distinguished member of the sept, Diarmid O Cuana, "the great priest of Elphin," died.

Winnifred Cooney was born in Galway in Northern Connaught, where most of the Cooney families reside today.  Spelling variations include:  Conan, Coonan, O' Cooney, Cooney, Counihan, and Coonihan

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