The surname of GALVAN was derived from the Gaelic O'Gealbhain. They were originally a County Clare sept, but have now spread into neighbouring counties. The name is numerous in County Kerry where it is also spelt as Gallvan. This great Gaelic family were mentioned as participants in the Battle of Corcomroe Abbey in 1317, but since that time have not played any active role in the affairs of Ireland, and they have branched in small numbers to the counties of Kerry and Roscommon. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames. They came into being fairly generally in the eleventh century, and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000. In 1845, the great potatoe famine caused widespread misery and poverty, and the exodus from Ireland began. Within fifty years the population was reduced to less than half. Many Irish joined the armada of sailing ships which sailed from Belfast, Cork, Holyhead and Liverpool, bound for the New World or Australia. David Galvin settled in Maryland in 1776, and Bridget Galvin landed in New York State in 1811. A notable member of the name was George GALVIN (1860-1904) the comedian, whose stage name was Dan Leno. He began his career at the age of four, singing and dancing in public houses, and by eighteen had become a champion clog-dancer. He was invited to appear in a Surrey Pantomime, and ten years later at Drury Lane where he was for many years in the annual pantomime. Many factors contributed to the establishment of a surname system. For generations after the Norman Conquest of 1066 a very few dynasts and magnates passed on hereditary surnames, but the main of the population, with a wide choice of first-names out of Celtic, Old English, Norman and Latin, avoided ambiguity without the need for a second name. As society became more stabilized, there was property to leave in wills, the towns and villages grew and the labels that had served to distinguish a handful of folk in a friendly village were not adequate for a teeming slum where perhaps most of the householders were engaged in the same monotonous trade, so not even their occupations could distinguish them, and some first names were gaining a tiresome popularity, especially Thomas after 1170. The hereditary principle in surnames gained currency first in the South, and the poorer folk were slower to apply it. By the 14th century however, most of the population had acquired a second name.
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