This name of O'DEA is derived from the Gaelic O'Deaghaidh. It was one of the principal Dalcassian septs. The name was brought early to Ireland. It was an occupational name 'the deye' a dairy maid. Occupational surnames originally denoted the actual occupation followed by the individual. At what period they became hereditary is a difficult problem. Many of the occupation names were descriptive and could be varied. In the Middle Ages, at least among the Christian population, people did not usually pursue specialized occupations exclusively to the extent that we do today, and they would, in fact, turn their hand to any form of work that needed to be done, particularly in a large house or mansion, or on farms and smallholdings. In early documents, surnames often refer to the actual holder of an office, whether the church or state. The name is still common and in use in some of the Midland counties and Scotland. Early records of the name mention Emma de Deys, 1273 County Lancashire. Willelmus Dey of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. The name is also spelt Daw. 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. Most of the European surnames in countries such as England, Scotland and Ireland were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name. The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.Anciently O'Deadhaigh of Tully-O'Dea and Disert-Tola, a district on the west side of the River Fergus, County Clare.
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