Families of this name CROWLEY descend from the sept O'Cruadhlaoich which originated in County Roscommon. A branch of this sept migrated to West Cork, establishing itself in the neighbourhood of Dunmanaway where, distant from the rest of the sept, it became autonomous with its own chief. The name became vastly more numerous in County Cork than in the earlier home of the sept in Connacht, the branch that moved to the south having multiplied and flourished, while the sept in Connacht dwindled rapidly. The prefix 'O' has been retained by a very small number of families. 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. There are also places in England of the name, which were derived from the Old English CRAWELEAH, literally meaning the dweller by the wood clearing. Crowley is a township in the parish of Great Budworth, County Chester, but this cannot be the parent of the name, as it is plainly of Irish origin, and was probably taken there by early settlers. The name has ramified strongly and is numerous in the United States. Early records mention John Crowly of Northwich, who was listed in the Wills at Chester in 1680. Winifred, daughter of Richard Crowley was baptised at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in the year 1615, and John Grubb Crowley and Rebecca Ragless were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1796. 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.
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