This name was originally a locational name 'of Shields', a seaport and market town in County Northumberland. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. Early records of the name mention Robert Scild, recorded in 1206 in County Yorkshire. Geoffrey le Seldmakere was documented in 1285 in County Essex. Willelmus de Scheles, of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. William Shields and Martha Sedley were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in the year 1736. Thomas Pocknell and Margaret Shields were married at the same church in the year 1645.
The name was taken early to Ireland where it is an anglicized form of the Irish Siadhail. From the Registrar General's returns at the end of the 19th century it can be seen that of about every hundred births of children of O'Siadhail descent, about sixty were registered at Shiel or Sheils. The early home of the O'Siadhail sept of physicians was in County Donegal.
Ireland is one of the earliest sources of the development of patronymic names in northern Europe. Irish Clan or bynames can be traced back to the 4th century B.C. and Mac (son of) and O (grandson or ancestor of) evolved from this base, the original literal meaning of which has been lost due to the absence of written records and linguistic ambivalences which subtly but inexorably became adopted through usage. Genealogists and lexographers accept that the patronymic base does not refer to a location, quite the contrary. The use of the prefix 'Bally' (town of) attaching to the base name, identifying the location. The base root was also adopted by people residing in the demographic area without a common ancestor. These groups called 'Septs' were specially prevalent in Ireland. The first Normans arrived in Ireland in the 12th and 13th centuries to form an alliance with the King of Leinster, against his enemies, merging into the cultural developments. Under Elizabeth 1 in the 16th century, settlers from England established themselves around Dublin, then under English control and Presbyterian Scots emigrated to Ulster, introducing English and Scottish roots.
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