This surname O'CASSIDY is still commonest in Ulster where the O'Caiside family were hereditary ollavs and physicians of the rulers of Fermanagh, the Maguires, who had their stronghold at Enniskillen in that county. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames. They came into being generally in the 11th century, and indeed some were formed before the year 1000. When the sparse Irish population began to increase it became necessary to broaden the base of personal identification by moving from single names to a more definite nomenclature. The prefix MAC was given to the father's christian name, or O to that of a grandfather or even earlier ancestor. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over the armour.The Gaelic O'Caiside, descendant of Caiside, was a byname for one that was curly-headed. Surnames having a derivation from nicknames form the broadest and most miscellaneous class of surnames, encompassing many different types of origin. The most typical classes refer adjectivally to the general physical aspect of the person concerned, or to his character. Many nicknames refer to a man's size or height, while others make reference to a favoured article of clothing or style of dress. Many surnames derived from the names of animals and birds. In the Middle Ages ideas were held about the characters of other living creatures, based on observation, and these associations were reflected and reinforced by large bodies of folk tales featuring animals behaving as humans.
The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. Registerd at Glenbrook, Magherafelt, County Londonderry.
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