Fitzgerald Surname Genealogy
or “son of Gerald,” where Gerald is a Norman first name meaning “rule
of the spear.”
Conquest. However, the Fitz prefix never really stuck in
England. It is ironic that the most common Fitz, Fitzgerald, is
an Irish not an English surname. Walter Fitzother was a keeper of
Windsor forest, his son Gerald was the constable of Pembroke castle,
and it was the latter’s son, Maurice FitzGerald, who went to Ireland
and established the Irish family.The Gaelic form Mac Gearailt
can be found in the Gaelic-speaking areas of west
- The Fitzgerald Dynasty
- Fitzgerald Family Roots.
Fitzgeralds from Cappagh in Kerry.
- Honey Fitz Fitzgerald. A
FitzGerald “the Invader” came to Ireland with Strongbow in 1170 and was
granted the manor of Maynooth in Kildare. Though the Kildare
branch was the first to be founded, it was the FitzGerald
house of Desmond, established by the direct descendants of Maurice the
Invader, that first rose to national prominence.
By the 14th
century, the Desmonds had established its authority over the Gaelic
lordships of Munster and occupied some of the richest lands in the
province. There were also three cadet Desmond branches, the White
Knight (in Limerick), the Knight of Glin (along the Shannon), and the
Knight of Kerry. They had then, through Gearoid Iarla
more Irish and less Norman in their style.
But a century later
the family went into decline and in 1583 they lost everything in the
failed insurrection of Garret Fitzgerald, the 15th and last Earl of
Desmond, against the English crown. A Fitzgerald line did
continue at Dromana in Waterford until 1676 (when its heiress Katherine
ran off with Edward Villiers). There were also Fitzgerald gentry
families that stayed in place in the line between Youghal and Midleton
in southeast Cork.
The eclipse of the Desmond Geraldines was followed by the
rapid rise of their cousins in Kildare. Kildare power emerged in
15th century, but fell back in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Thomas, the 10th Earl of Kildare and known as “Silken Thomas,”
renounced his allegiance to the English crown but was captured and
executed in London.
The family fortunes re-emerged
with James, the 20th Earl. His service to the English
was rewarded in 1766 with the hereditary dukedom of Leinster. Lord Edward
FitzGerald, born into this privilege, became ironically an
icon of Irish nationalism through his failed leadership of the 1798
The Fitzgerald surname is common in Ireland today, but remains
the ancient homelands of the earls of Desmond – Cork, Limerick, and
England. Fitzgeralds in
England generally had an Irish connection, whether they came from
well-connected Anglo-Irish families or poor immigrants seeking
The Fitzgeralds of Boulge Hall in Suffolk would definitely have been
the first category. Their money had came from the Kildare
Fitzgeralds and Mary Fitzgerald spent it lavishly in the early 19th
century to establish herself in London society. Her son Edward
Fitzgerald was somewhat reclusive, but is remembered today
for his translation of The Rubaiyat
of Omar Khayyam.
On the other side of the tracks would have been Patrick Fitzgerald, a
Tipperary who had come to London in the 1870’s in search of work.
But his son Desmond returned to Ireland as an Irish nationalist and
later became a minister in the new Irish republic. And his son
Gerret was twice Taoiseach of Ireland in the 1980’s.
America. Fitzgeralds first appeared in Virginia and the
South and later in New England.
Virginia and the South
name appeared in Virginia records in the 1680’s. But the first
real sighting appears to be an Edmond Fitzgerald who was born on a ship
while enroute from Ireland to America in 1745. His descendants
became tobacco farmers in Pittsylvania county, Virginia.
early Fitzgerald family moved from Maryland to Dover, Tennessee in
1806. One son William became a local politician there, another
son John moved south to New Orleans where he edited the local Picayune newspaper.
Meanwhile, Ambrose Fitzgerald left Tennessee with his family by covered
wagon for Texas in 1846. Ambrose got religion and became a
Baptist minister in Texas. He fathered 18 children through three
wives over his lifetime, seven of whom survived to carry on his name.
Mary Fitzgerald had arrived from Ireland in 1842 and settled initially
Memphis, Tennessee where she started and ran a hotel. Later she
operated hotels and saloons in the Chicago area. Although she had
two husbands over this time, she was really the driving force behind
businesses. Rowdy Civil War soldiers in her saloon would be met
by Mary with a firearm and a stern face.
Most Fitzgeralds in America were and are still to be found in the state
The most illustrious of these was John “Honey
Fitz” Fitzgerald, one of only three surviving of the twelve children
born to Thomas and Rosanna Fitzgerald, immigrants from Limerick in the
1850’s. He rose to be a prominent figure in
Boston politics and a mayor of the city. His eldest
daughter Rose married into the Kennedy family and became its
matriarch in the second half of the 20th century.
Fitzgeralds did move West. Tommy Fitzgerald was part of that
fraternity of mountain men, fur trappers and traders who would
rendezvous each year
in Bear Lake valley. He crossed into California in the 1830’s and
was the first settler in what is now Bakersfield. Another Thomas
Fitzgerald came to Utah in the
1890’s and married a Mormon. Son JD Fitzgerald wrote Papa Married a Mormon in 1955, a
somewhat fictionalized account of his upbringing.
Fitzgerald came from Ireland with his wife and twelve children and
settled in Portuguese Cove, Nova Scotia in 1810. And Halifax was
the arrival point for Garrett Fitzgerald and his family from Kerry in
1820’s. The name has continued in Halifax and Walter Fitgerald
was the mayor of the town in the 1970’s and again in the 1990’s.
A John Fitzgerald was a telegraph company employee in
Halifax in the 1860’s. His son, Francis, was born there in
enlisted with the NW Mounted Police and spent much of his life on the
northern frontier. Though highly experienced in northern patrols, he
would travel light and refuse to hire a native guide. Unfortunately on
one trip late in February 1911 his patrol became lost and he and his
companions eventually died, three from starvation and one from
There is, however, a Fort Fitzgerald in northern Alberta
named after him and a bronze plaque dedicated to his memory in the
public gardens back in Halifax.
Australia and New Zealand.
The first to arrive was Richard Fitzgerald, transported to Australia in
1791 as a convict. However, he got on well with his captors and
was given responsibilites for the public farms. Later, he had his own
land granted to him in the Hawkesbury valley in 1811. There he
built an inn which, as The Macquarie
Arms, still operates today.
Fitzgerald’s name, family
tradition, and personal appearance all attested to a connection with
the Dukes of Leinster. But this was not proven. Susan
Perrett’s book From Convict to
Millionaire: The Story of Richard Fitzgerald and Family was
written in 2003.
Fitzgeralds later came as settlers. Two Fitzgeralds really
established themselves in their new environment:
- one was James
Fitzgerald who arrived in Christchurch, South Island from England in
1850. He soon became active in New Zealand politics and was one
leading figures in the late 1850’s.
- the other was Thomas
Fitzgerald who came to Queensland from New Zealand in 1862. He
was a pioneer in sugar cane farming and in politics in the early days
of the colony. His descendants went on to become notable names in
Queensland politics, business, and law.
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
Select Fitzgerald Names
FitzGerald invaded Ireland with Strongbow in 1170 and was the
forebear of the Fitzgeralds in Ireland.
Edward FitzGerald, born into privilege, was the leader of the
Irish rebellion in 1798. He was, however, captured and died in
prison before the revolt could start.
Edward Fitzgerald was an
English scholar famous for his English poetic version of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, born in
Minnesota to a well-to-do Irish family, was the writer of novels such
as The Great Gatsby which are
evocative of the Jazz Age of the 1920’s.
Ella Fitzgerald is recognized
as one of the finest and most lyrical voices in jazz.
FitzGerald was twice the Irish Taoiseach in the 1980’s.
Select Fitzgeralds Today
- 21,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 33,000 in America (most numerous
- 47,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland).
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