Irish lore tells that the Walsh family finds its ancient roots in the English invasion of Ireland under the Strongbow invasion of 1171.
Despite the fact that the Irish already had developed a system of hereditary surnames, the Anglo-Norman invaders imported their own naming principles. The Strongbow invasion marked the first introduction of non-Gaelic elements into Ireland. One of the most common types of surnames at this time was the patronymic surname, which was formed from the name of the initial bearer's father. Often, and especially in the case of French names, this was done through the addition of a diminutive suffix to the given name, such as -ot, -et, -un, -in, or -el. Occasionally, two suffixes were combined to form a double diminutive, as in the combinations of -el-in, -el-ot, -in-ot, and -et-in. Another way of forming patronymic names used by the Strongbownians was the use of the prefix Fitz-, which was derived from the French word fils, and ultimately from the Latin filius,: both mean son. Although this prefix probably originated in Flanders or Normandy, it is now unknown in France and is found only in Ireland. The surname Walsh is derived from Breat(h)nach which literally means Welshman. Phillip Brenagh, known as "Phillip the Welshman" was likely the progenitor of the family. Phillip and his brother David arrived with Strongbow, in 1170.
medieval scribes and church officials spelled the names as they sounded, so a name was often spelled many different ways during the lifetime of a single person. The investigation of the origin of the name Walsh revealed many spelling variations including Branagh, Brannagh, Walch, Walsh, Walshe, Welch, Welsh, Wellch, Wellsh, Welshe, Wollch, Wollsh, Wollshe, Wolshe, Wallch, Wallsh and Wallshe.
Over the centuries, many Strongbownian settlers were assimilated into the Gaelic culture that surrounded them. One aspect of this assimilation process was the translation or change of their names into more distinctively Irish ones through the adoption of Gaelic spellings and the Irish prefixes "Mc" and "O". By the 17th century those descendents of the original Strongbownian settlers had become thoroughly assimilated by the Gaelic Irish when another wave of English invasions hit Ireland. The descendents of those original Strongbownians, therefore, often endured the same suppression of their shared culture. Ironically, they too were often forced to Anglicize their names to forms more acceptable to the new English invaders. Following the establishment of the Gaelic League in 1893, many Irish revived the Gaelic forms of their names, including the descendents of the Strongbownians, who, while not originally Gaelic, were as proudly Irish as the rest of their countrymen.
Exhaustive research into the origins of the name Walsh was conducted. Baptismal and parish records, ancient land grants, the Four Masters, and books by O'Hart, McLysaght, and O'Brien were all consulted. The earliest record of the name Walsh was found in the Walsh mountains of Kilkenny. It was here that the Walsh family erected Castle Hoel, so named after the first son of Phillip. One of the more noteworthy family members at this time was Sir Edmund Walsh who was knighted in 1606, and Sir Nicholas Walsh was Lord Chief Justice in 1615. The family had a good share of noted authors as shown by the likes of Rev. Peter Walsh who wrote The Loyal Remonstrance and John Walsh who wrote The Lament for Oliver Grace and Judge John Walsh, another noted author.
The 1984 edition of the Report of Distribution of Surnames in the Social Security ranks the name Walsh as 235th, the name Welch as 236th, the name Welsh as 998th, the name Brannagh as 4,008th most popular surnames in the United States.
The following work(s) may prove helpful for more information: Patrick Walsh of Seward County and Related Families by Edward V.
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