This Welsh surname (Rhys) was brought to Ireland by settlers. The family of the name in County Derry was established in Dingle as early as the reign of Henry VIII Today the Rices are most numerous in Ulster and on the eastern seaboard of Leinster in County Louth and County Dublin, across the channel from their ancestral Wales.
Early records of the name mention Hris (without surname) 1052, Wales. The name was documented as Rees in the Domesday Book of 1086. Walter Yse, 1327, County Surrey. 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 many variants includeing Rhys, Reace, Reece and Reese. A notable member of the name mentions James Rice (1843-82) who was the English novelist born in Northampton. He studied at Queen's College, Cambridge, drifted into literature, and was proprietor and editor of 'Once a Week' (1868-72). From 1872 he was involved in writing novels with Sir Walter Besant. This Old Welsh personal name meaning 'Fiery Warrior' was the name of the last ruler of an independent kingdom of Wales, Rhys ap Tewder who died in 1093 unsuccessfully opposing the last Norman advance. Many Highland families migrated from Scotland to Ireland during the 17th and 18th centuries, and were granted the lands of the native Catholic Irish. People heard of the attractions of the New World, and many left Ireland to seek a better life sailing aboard the fleet of ships known as the 'White Sails', but much illness took its toll with the overcrowding of the ships which were pestilence ridden. From the port of entry many settlers made their way west, joining the wagons to the prairies, and many loyalists went to Canada about the year 1790, and became known as the United Empire Loyalists.
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