Irish name Maurice
- After writing about Maurice Patrick Shea, I was asked why Maurice is a
common name in Ireland.
I thought I should give the answer here in case others are interested.
The term originated in Latin as a noun Maurus meaning "a Moor" and as an
adjective Mauritius meaning "of Moorish descent, dark or swarthy".
Other forms of the name are found as Marus, Morice, Morrice, Morys, Moreys
The name Maurice with this spelling was introduced to the British Isles by
the Norman invasion of 1066. The name experienced another surge in
popularity with the escape of the Huguenots to the British Isles,
particularly in 1572 after the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre and 1685 after
the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Many of these became Anglicized as
However, the influence of the Huguenots was not the reason for the use of
the name in either Wales or Ireland, since this came directly from Normandy
to Wales and from Wales to Ireland. In most of cases Wales retained the
original form of the Norman spelling and this was the form carried over to
Ireland about a hundred years after the Norman invasion.
The reason for this is that one of the men who came over with William the
Conqueror was Walter. Walter was given an estate in Carew, near Pembrooke,
Wales for his efforts. Walter had a son named Gerald and in the Norman
patronymic naming tradition (patronymic means using given name of father as
a distinguishing feature - thus becoming a "surname" though then not a
"family name" as it changed each generation) this son was known as Gerald
Fitz Walter or FitzWalter. (Another note - "fitz" comes from "fils" meaning
"son of" and is not always, or even usually as some would have you believe,
used to indicate illegitimacy. This myth probably originated from the use of
"Fils de Roi" (French for son of the King) or FitzRoy by illegitimate sons
of the King who may have wanted to indicate their descendent from the
Gerald married a Welsh "princess" Nesta (I don't know that she was a
daughter of a King - however, probably this term was used because she was
the descendant of a family with an estate in Wales) and they had four sons.
I don't know the name or the whereabouts of one son but I did find what
happened to William, David and Maurice.
1. David FitzGerald became the bishop of St. Davids in Wales.
2. William FitzGerald must have been the oldest because he was the one who
received the title of the estate at Carew.
3. Thus Maurice FitzGerald having to seek his own fortune was one of the
original British invaders of Ireland in 1169.
He was joined by the sons of Bishop David FitzGerald, who became the Barons
of Brownsford in County Kilkenny. However, the name "Maurice" was not as
commonly used by these Barons as it was among the descendants of Maurice
Maurice FitzGerald established his estate in the territory of Offelan (now
in County Kildare) and had six sons who all became FitzMaurice though some
of his grandsons became Geraldines (the - ine ending is another patronymic
form showing descent from grandfather Gerald - it is equivalent to the
Gaelic O' meaning descendant of - i.e. denotes further back ancestry than
Mc/Mac or Fitz, which means "son of").
Four of these sons left issue in Ireland:
1. Thomas, ancestor of the Geraldines of Desmond;
2. Gerald, ancestor of the Kildare Geraldines;
3. Maurice, ancestor of the Geraldine barons of Burnchurch in County
Kilkenny, some of whose descendants style themselves Barron;
4. Robert who settled on lands in County Kerry and whose great-grandson
Maurice is the ancestor of the Kerry FitzMaurices.
Thus the patronymic Maurice was particularly common in County Kerry, Ireland
where it was also often given as a "first" name. (Yes, there were Maurice
FitzMaurices!) There are also Kildare and Kilkenny Maurices who were given
this name from the same root. Of course, from these early times the
population spead and with it the name Maurice surfaced elsewhere in the
Ireland - usually retaining the Norman spelling rather than the later
I hope this answers the question and also is of some interest to the Irish
people on this list.
Xenia Stanford (president@...)
A.G.E. Ancestree Genealogical Enterprises
Column: "Nos Racines Francaise" http://globalgazette.net/
Local book and magazine sales: http://www.knowmap.com/age/
Celtic Stone Art: http://www/celticstoneart.com
Phone: (403) 295-3490; Fax: (403) 274-0564