DALY was derived from the Gaelic O'Dalaigh, a name meaning 'the grandson of Dalach'. This surname is among the thirty most common in all Ireland, and is most heavily distributed in Munster and Leinster. The O'Dalaigh sept had its territory in County Westmeath in the barony of Magheradernon, which now forms part of the barony of Moyashel and Magheradernon. Branches of the sept established themselves in other parts of the country, notably in County Galway, County Clare, County Cavan and Cork, where they flourished and multiplied, accounting for the numerous Daly descendants to be found today. The tradition of surnames in Ireland developed spontaneously, as the population increased and the former practice, first of single names and then of ephemeral patronymics or agnomina of the nickname type proved insufficiently definitive. At first the surname was formed by prefixing 'Mac' to the father's Christian name or 'O 'to that of a grandfather or earlier ancestor. Early records of the name mention Robert de Olleyo, 1135, Ireland. Henry le Oly Dally was documented in 1212. In the Middle Ages heraldry came into use as a practical matter. It originated in the devices used to distinguish the armoured warriors in tournament and war, and was also placed on seals as marks of identity. As far as records show, true heraldry began in the middle of the 12th century, and appeared almost simultaneously in several countries of Western Europe. A notable member of the family name was John Augustin Daly (1838-1899), an American dramatist and manager, born in Plymouth, North Carolina. After a career as a drama critic, he went into management, opening the Fifth Avenue Theatre, New York in 1879. He visited London in 1884, and wrote and adapted nearly 100 plays. He was chosen by Tennyson to adapt 'The Foresters' for the stage in 1891. An Irish family of this name claim to be descended from Dalach, tenth in descent from Niall of the Nine Hostages.
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