September 27, 2007

What's In A Name?

On my recent travels, I was surprised at how many questions I was asked about my name in almost every country I visited. It wasn't something I was prepared for really, not expecting to find people interested in it. Many of the South Americans seem to put a lot of emphasis on names and what they mean, so I duly went about researching the origins of my own name. Here's what I found out:
A google search of my surname "Moriarty" brought up quite a few pages. In Gaelic, it is O'Mhuircheartaigh - this much I knew - what I didn't know was that the Gaelic derivation of it means "The Navigator". This information appealed to me a lot, for obvious reasons. Other meanings of the name taken down from Gaelic are "noble", "illustrious", "great", "exalted".
Nothing bad so far!

So, what about the Moriartys? Well, going way back they come from County Kerry in the South-West of Ireland, the neighbouring county to where I now live. Here's some of what I found out about them.

The great Gaelic family Moriarty emerged in later years in county Kerry. This distinguished Irish Clann were descended from O'Muirtheataith, who was descended from Domhnall, King of Munster, and possessed the "Flock abounding Plain" of Aisde on the river Mang in that county. They also held Castlemaine Harbour. They lost much of their territories in the Anglo/Norman invasion of Strongbow in the year 1172 and they were ousted by the Fitzgeralds. They also branched to Kells in county Meath but this was also confiscated. The Moriartys were a strong ecclesiastical family and the Rev. David Moriarty was Bishop of Kerry, but many of them lost their right to preach under the Penal code of 1714. Notable amongst the family at this time was Father Thady McMoriarty

What really jumped out at me from the particular piece was the fact that the Moriartys were ousted by the Fitzgeralds. Interestingly, my mother is descended from the Fitzgerald clan, her own mother being a Fitzgerald! Anyway, I'm digressing there.

Our own Moriarty clan come from Sneem which is deep in the heart of Kerry - quite a remote and mountainous region. It's strange but both my brother and I are always drawn back to Kerry and its mercurial mountains, and he especially walks and knows these ranges very well. Genes are funny things. How do we know what traits and characteristics we carry down through the generations. Are there qualities that are inherent in any of our lineages? It's certainly thought provoking, and it's really got my interested in tracing my family tree sometime. I never cared about this stuff much in the past, but I'm start to really wonder about who I am, why I like certain things - is it simply because I'm a unique individual or am I "made up" a particular way?

Anyway, moving on to my first name....

I was born in 1979 and my parents decided to name me Evelyn Marie. I always liked my name, but was slightly disturbed when I found out that their inspiration had been the name of a boat that sank off the coast of DOnegal three years earlier, The Evelyn Marie.

A search on the name Evelyn brings up a few things. Wiki will tell you that it is in fact a French name, Aveline, meaning "little bird". Its Germanic origins lie in the name Ava meaning "desired". Other possibilities are from Hebrew meaning "light" and from Celtic meaning "life" or "life-giving". Being a Celt, I suppose the later applies to me.

So, Life-Giving Navigator - could be worse I suppose!

Apparently, there aren't many of us knocking around. The only one I could find was Marilyn Monroe's on-screen double. There's not much info out there on her though.

Anyway, if you've got the time to spare, it's pretty interesting just to do an internet search on your name and what it means. At least next time I'm in a foreign country and someone asks me about it, I can bore the pants off them! :-D

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