What's in a name?
Spelling of family names took some strange twists in the 19th and 20th centuries -- at least when viewed from our perspective. We can understand the differences if we recognize that people in those days were speech oriented rather than writing oriented. So spelling was unimportant; pronunciation was key.
Saint Marcellin Champagnat, the founder of the Marist Brothers, signed his own name with several different spellings in his letters written in the 1825 to 1840 period.
Bridget is a name which gets amorphous treatment. It is commonly spelled Brigid, even for the same person. The nickname Delia often became the official first name, particularly for those who came to America and had Delia written on their immigration papers. And many Bridgets are called Bridie colloquially.
You can spell Foy several ways, depending on where you think the name originated. In French, the name is derived from foie, the word for faith. However, Napoleon's general was Maréchal Foy, the saint of the small town of Conques is Sainte Foy, and the suburb of Québec is Sainte Foy.. If you lean towards thinking of Foy as a derivative of the Irish name Fahey, or Fay, or Fahy, the spelling without the e is more natural. In Kansas, William Foy(e) added the e to differentiate his family from the family of Michael Foy, to avoid confusion in the mail service; many of his descendants changed back to the original Foy. The parish and town records in Ireland seem to use Foy and Foye interchangeably.
Morley is also spelled Morally and Marley. I once taught a student with the name Marley Jones. He told me his family came from County Mayo and his given name was his grandmother's maiden name.
Margaret Phillips notes that Briody may have been Brady.
My thanks to Margaret Riley for sending the following short piece by Edward MacLysaght.
THE DISTORTION OF OUR SURNAMES
Even in Ireland, where there is a genealogical tradition, it is quite common for people to be uncertain of their ancestry for more than three generations. Consequently a man in those circumstances whose name is, say, Collins or Rogers, to take two common in Ireland, cannot assert with certainty that he bears a native Irish surname. However, if he is a Collins, born and living in Dublin perhaps, " whose people came from West Cork the odds are very strongly in favour of the true name being the Gaelic Ơ Coileain. Smith, the commonest surname in England, comes high up in the Irish list -- fifth in that given by Matheson. There can be no doubt that many of our Irish Smiths are the descendants of English settlers and traders but it is equally probable that at least eighty percent of the Smiths of County Cavan are of native stock, being MacGowans or O'Gowans who, under pressure of alien legislation or social influence, accepted the translated form and have used it ever since.
some cases the anglicization process has had very unfortunate
corruptions, of course, are due to the influence of the English
language, the spread of which in Ireland was contemporary with
the subjection and eclipse of the old Catholic Irish nation:
names of tenants were inscribed in rentals by strangers
brought in to act as clerks, who attempted to write down
phonetically what they regarded as outlandish names ; in the same
way Gaelic-speaking litigants, deponents and witnesses in law
cases were arbitrarily dubbed this and that at the whim of the
recording official. It
was not until the nineteenth century that uniformity in. the
spelling of names began to be observed, but the seventeenth
century was the period during which our surnames assumed
approximately the forms ordinarily in use in Ireland today.
|source: Irish Families, by Edward MacLysaght, Crown Publishers, New York, 1972.|
|most recent revision: 26 October, 2002|
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