McAULIFF families at the end of the 19th century were all living in Munster, with three-quarters of these in the County of Cork. They descend from the MacAmhlaoibh sept, whose sept centre was at Castlemacauliffe in the territory of their parent sept the McCarthys. The surnames in Ireland originally signified membership of a clan, but with the passage of time, the clan system became less distinct, and surnames came to identify membership of what is called a 'sept'; a group of people all living in the same locality, all bearing the same surname, but not necessarily descended from a common ancestor. Adoption of the name by people who did not otherwise have a surname and by dependents was not uncommon. Just over one hundred years after the Norman Conquest of England, the first Normans arrived in Ireland. Richard de Clare, Second Earl of Pembroke (died 1176), was known as Strongbow. He was invited to Ireland by Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster, whose daughter he married, to help him in his wars with his neighbours. He was accompanied by several retainers whose names, like his own, have become well established as surnames in Ireland. The Normans established themselves in Leinster and paid homage to Henry II of England. Some of the Norman settlers acquired surnames derived from the Irish. Before the final submergence of the Brehon system, there were many recognized chiefs, who have actually substantiated their claim in recent times. Sixteen century sources, such as the State Papers and the Fiants, show that, apart from Norman families, the heads of other families were referred to as chiefs and McCAULIFFE is such a family. 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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