Cassidy Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Cassidy Meaning
The Irish surname Cassidy and its variants Cassiday, Casaday, Cassedy, and Casidy are anglicized forms of the Gaelic name O’Caiside, a derivative of cas, meaning “curly headed.”  The name originated in county Fermanagh. 
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Cassidy Ancestry

Ireland.
All Cassidys came originally from Fermanagh, where for centuries they
were prominent not in warfare but in peace, culture, and
scholarship.  Their ancient home was Ballycassidy, just north of
Enniskillen.  The bardic poet Giolla Mochuda Mor O’Casside was
famed among the men of learning of his time. He wrote the poem Banshenchas (The Lore of Woman) in
1147 which tells of the history of women in the world.

From the 1300’s, when the Maguires assumed control of Fermanagh, the
Cassidys acted as their hereditary physicians and were,
during that
time, the authors of several medical tracts.  They were also one
of the church families of Fermanagh.  However, after the Scottish
plantations in the early seventeenth century, the Cassidys, like nearly
all the leading Gaelic families in the province, lost their power as
chiefs.

There are still Cassidys in Fermanagh.  But many
moved away to the nearby counties of Meath, Cavan, and Donegal; and
others emigrated.


England and Scotland.

That Cassidys are to be found in Glasgow and Lancashire is not
surprising as these
were the closest immigrating points for Irishmen seeking a better
life.  This description of James Cassidy from Enniskillen may have
been typical of many who crossed the Irish Channel:

“James was an agricultural laborer and would have lived
with his family in a cottage made of rough stone with a thatched
roof.  There would have been separations for a kitchen and a
bedroom which allowed little for home comforts.  The food was
chiefly potatoes, fish, pottage, milk, butter, and eggs. As a farm
laborer, James was earning no more than 10d per day.”


James left Fermanagh in 1840 with his wife and three children for
Glasgow where they all worked in the cotton mills.  His grandson
was able to escape these mills.  James Rice Cassidy set up his
own theatrical company with his wife Lilian and
toured the north of England, to great acclaim, in the early
1900’s.

Another who made it was John Cassidy from county
Meath.  He had moved to
Manchester and became a well-known sculptor in the inter-war years through his various
public works.

America.  The first
arrivals may well
have been indentured
servants.  Catherine Cassidy was a servant of John Hutchins in
Virginia
in 1703.

Peter
Cassity arrived later in the century.  His family moved onto
Kentucky in
the 1780’s.  Patrick Cassidy fought on the American side during
the Revolutionary War and was granted land in Newry, Pennsylvania
– which he named after his hometown in Ireland.

Many more Cassidys came in the 1840’s after the
potato famine and
again in the 1870’s and 1880’s.  These Cassidys settled for the
most part in the Irish communities in Brooklyn.

Two sons of these immigrants did well:

  • Lewis Cassidy, who moved
    with his family to Philadelphia at an early age, studied law and later
    became Attorney General of Pennsylvania.
  • John Cassidy profited
    more fortuitously.   He was paid handsomely for standing in
    as a Civil War volunteer in place of the Spreckels sugar fortune
    heir.  He invested his money in cottages on Shelter Island, a
    place which later became a fashionable gathering spot for New York
    society. 

In the 20th century, from these roots, came the
actor Jack Cassidy and his actor/singer son David Cassidy.  Daniel
Cassidy, who grew up in a NY Irish neighborhood, compiled the 2007 best
seller, How The Irish Invented Slang.

The Cassidy claIm to Wild West fame is mainly fictional.  Butch
Cassidy of Butch Cassidy and the
Sundance Kid
was in fact born Robert Parker, the son of Irish
immigrants from Lancashire.  Hopalong Cassidy was the fictional
creation of Clarence Mulford.  But Neal Cassady, icon of the
1950’s Beat generation, had come from an Irish Quaker Casady family who
had immigrated to America in the early 19th century.

Canada.  William and Jane
Cassidy
from Donegal were early arrivals, in 1819, in St.
John, New Brunswick. They settled in what is now called Cassidy
Lake.  Although their original homestead has burnt down, there
remain the foundations, apple orchards, cemetery and church that they
built.

Patrick and Margaret Cassidy came from county Cavan in the
1820’s.  They later moved on to farm in Illinois.  Thomas
Cassidy from West Meath appeared on the 1829 McCabe list of workers on
the Rideau canal to connect Montreal with Toronto. He and his family
stayed to farm in Wakefield township, Quebec.

New Zealand.  Thomas
Cassidy from county Meath was one of the earliest arrivals into New
Zealand.  He had been transported to Australia for seven years for
stealing a pig.  After serving his term he embarked for New
Zealand in 1829 and arrived in the north Auckland area where he married
the daughter of a local Maori chief.  From this marriage have come
a large number of descendants.

Hugh Cassidy from Donegal came to New Zealand in the 1860’s and ran
hotels and a coach service from Hokitika on South Island for many
years.  His son Michael ended up a lawyer and apparently a shrewd
one, “charging exorbitant fees to those who could afford them and
nominal ones to those who couldn’t.”

 



Select Cassidy Miscellany

 

Ballycassidy.  The ancestral home of the Cassidys is Ballycassidy, which lies slightly north of Enniskillen, the principal city of County Fermanagh.

Ballycassidy borders the eastern shores of Lower Lough Erne.Today, it is a small rural community, consisting mainly of scattered
homes, the Balcas sawmill and farm land along the Ballycassidy
river.  There is no pub or grocery store.  In the fourteenth
century, there was a church.  A nearby holy well is still marked
on the map.

A Case of Cassidy Retribution.  John Cassidy was born in Drumbar in County Donegal in 1802.  He
married and was a small tenant farmer at Clogher with ten acres of
land.  This family story recounts a tale of retribution during the
famine years.

“When one of John’s sheep went missing during the first
famine years in the early 1830’s, he undertook an extensive search of
the locality.  He eventually found the horns of the animal that
had his markings at the rear of a cottage rented by a woman known as
widow Kelly.

Mrs. Kelly had two sons who spent their time stealing
from their neighbors.  When John Cassidy confronted them, they
denied having any involvement in the disappearance of the animal.
Shortly afterwards, the Kelly family decided to emigrate to
America.  The day before they were leaving, the Kelly brothers
paid a visit to John Cassidy’s home where they proceeded to give him a
terrible beating that left him confined to bed for a number of weeks.

In the spring of 1838, John Cassidy’s oldest son, also
called John, boarded the Zephyr
anchored at the Hassins in Donegal Bay and sailed to New Brunswick,
Canada.  From there, he made his way to New York where the Kelly
family were living.  One morning, as one of the Kelly brothers was
standing on a railway station platform, he failed to notice his former
neighbor standing behind him.  John Cassidy pushed him in front of
the train.  He died instantly.”


William and Jane Cassidy at Cassidy Lake.  
The oldest of ten children, William was born in The Port near Donegal
Town in 1797.  His wife Jane Milligan was also born
there.   The story goes that they eloped in 1818 to Gretna
Green in Scotland.  The village blacksmith performed the wedding
ceremony over an anvil.  After the marriage, Jane, whose family
were upper class land owners, was disowned by her family.

A year later, William and Jane went to Derry where they took a ship to Canada, landing at St. John’s in New Brunswick.  In 1825, they moved to a 150 acre parcel of land on the north side of what is now known as Cassidy Lake.  William had to walk a distance of 100 miles to Fredericton, the capital of the province, to acquire the land.  He did this in the winter when the rivers and lakes were frozen so that he could cross them.  With only a primitive compass and a gun to protect him, he undertook the journey through the forests. 

The lifestyle of William and Jane was typical of a farm family of that period.  Candles made of tallow, salvaged and remolded continually, supplied light for their home.  Cast iron pots hooked on iron cranes were used for cooking over the fire. For bread, they grew and ground the wheat and baked the bread in a cast iron dish buried in the bed of coals at the bottom of the fireplace.  The family’s clothing was made from homespun cloth woven on hand looms.  William was a master craftsman in the making of these hand looms.

Cassidy Births in Brooklyn, 1840-1850

Records at St. Peter, Paul, and Our Lady of Pilar

Birth Date Given Name Parents
1840 Andrew Charles and Johanna
1843 Susanna Pat and Susanna
1844 Margaret John and Mary
1845 John Edward and Catherine
1845 Peter James and Mary
1845 William Pat and Susanna
1846 Mary John and Mary
1849 William James and Mary

Records at Assumption Roman Catholic Church

Birth Date Given Name Parents
1845 Ann Bernard and Ellen
1847 Marica Bernard and Ellen
1850 Hugh Bernard and Ellen

James Rice Cassidy.  James Rice Cassidy left Scotland in the late 1880’s and headed for
England to pursue a career in the entertainment business.  In
1895, he married a twenty one year old Yorkshire lass at St. Anne’s
Church in Leeds.  On their marriage certificate he gave his
occupation as “comedian.”  His wife Lillian was an actress and
together they formed their own theater company.  They were a
double act and she most definitely was an equal partner in the business.

James and Lillian toured all over Britain performing their own
productions.  Their careers seemed to be going from strength to
strength.  He was the son of a poor Irish plasterer, making a name
for himself in show business – the classic rags to riches story!

One of their biggest successes was The
God of War
by Charles Whitlock.  It was performed in
theaters throughout Scotland and England from 1899 to 1909.  The
play was a satirical piece about the Cuban insurrection and the Spanish
American War of 1895.  His character was Dandy Donovan, an Irish
American servant to Dolly Daly an American heiress, played of course by
Lillian.  In the play he sings his own composition called “The
British Hero.”  The Glasgow
Evening Times
of April 7, 1901 called the play “a sensational
Cuban American drama.”

 

 

Select
Cassidy Names

Giolia Mochuda Mor Ó Caiside was an early bardic poet of Ireland. 
Ruaidhri
Ó Caiside (Rory O Cassidy) was archdeacon of
Clogher Cathedral in the early 1500’s.  
Thomas Cassidy
, an expelled Augustinian friar and later soldier of
fortune, wrote a racy autobiography which was popular in Ireland in the
eighteenth century.
Lewis Cassidy rose to become the Attorney General of
Pennsylvania in the 1880’s.  
Con Cassidy
was one of the great Donegal fiddle players of the 20th
century. 
Cardinal Edward Cassidy, born in Australia, was
one of the leading
Vatican emissaries in the late 20th century.
David Cassidy of New York Irish roots is an American actor,
singer, and guitarist. 



Select Cassidy Numbers Today

  • 21,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lanarkshire)
  • 8,500 in America (most numerous
    in New York).
  • 18,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada) 

 

 

 

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