Joyce Surname Genealogy

A Norman family named Jorse (or Joyes) is believed to be the origin of
the mainly Irish surname Joyce. Their name may have had its
origin in the Breton personal name Iodoc
or in a Normandy place name.

Resources on

Joyce Ancestry

Joyce families in Ireland are said to descend from the Anglo-Norman Thomas de Jorse
who came to Connacht in the late 13th century and settled there.

Galway. Thomas’s
son Edmond was the progenitor of the Joyce sept in

“They were a race of men remarkable for
their extraordinary stature who for centuries inhabited the mountainous
district in far Connacht called, from them, Duthaidh Sheodhoigh or Joyce county
(which now forms the barony of Ross in county Galway).”

Archbishop Ussher in fact referred to them as giants.

The sept stood firm against the English (winning one notable skirmish
on Lough Mask in 1587) and became powerful in Galway and Mayo.
They were one of the
so-called fourteen “Tribes of Galway” who held sway in that town.
Although their powers have since ebbed, there are still many Joyces
around. Noteworthy among the Joyces of the region was the
goldsmith Richard Joyce who devised the Claddagh ring. Over
half of the Joyces in Ireland today are to be found in Galway and Mayo.

The Joyces of Mervue were a distinguished branch of the family.
Marcus Joyce, a rich merchant who bought land in Mayo in the late 16th
century, was probably its progenitor. About a century later,
these Joyces emerged as a leading merchant family in Galway.
Matthew Joyce of the family was the first to make his home at Mervue
House in 1784. The Joyces remained at Mervue House until 1953.

Cork. There was
a Joyce branch settled near Kileagh in east Cork from the
14th century onwards. The most famous Joyce in Ireland, James
Joyce the writer – although married to a Galway woman – was of these
Cork origins and was born in Dublin. And it was
Dublin that he eulogized in Dubliners
and Ulysses that were written
while he was in
exile in Paris.

Portugal. A line from Gil
Joyce of Galway went from there to Coimbra in Portugal in the late 18th
century. There are now said to be 2,000 descendants of Gil Joyce
living in Portugal.

The Joyce name has been widely spread in England,
appearing in Dorset and also in SE England and East Anglia.

Dorset Joyce
appeared from an early time in Dorset
at Gillingham and
Marnhull and, from the 16th century, at Shapwick (it was said that this
family was descended from a giant of a man who had come to Dorset from
Galway and married a miller’s daughter). The family ran a mill
and farm in the village which were still around in the 1930’s when H.S. Joyce
wrote about them. A branch of the family moved to the Isle of
Wight in the 1850’s.

Elsewhere The
surname Joyes, possibly of different origins,
has cropped up in Sussex and Lincolnshire from early times; the surname
Joyce in Hampshire and Essex principally. One Joyce line from
Cawston in Norfolk has been traced back to the late 1700’s. The Joyce
came from Cockshutt in north Shropshire.
large number of Joyces in
Lancashire may represent Irish immigration.

America. Joyce or
variants of that name appeared in Virginia and Maryland as early as the
1630’s and then spread south into North Carolina. One Joyce line,
for instance, traces from Alexander Joyce and his brother Thomas who
bought land along the Mayo river in Rockingham county, North Carolina
in the mid 1700’s.

“The Joyce cemetery in Rockingham
county is referred to as the Possum Joyce cemetery. One stone has
the birth and death dated that correspond with family records of John
Joyce, son of Alexander. From this we conclude that John Possum was the
son of Alexander.”

Many of their descendants moved onto nearby Stokes county.

David Joyce, born in Danbury, Connecticut in 1765, was the forebear of
David Joyce, the Iowa-based lumber baron of the late 19th
century. However, the Joyce distribution today in America,
focused around Massachusetts
and New York, reflects more the 19th century immigrant influx.
One Joyce moved further afield at that time. James Joyce arrived in San
by sea from Ireland in 1847 and was
one of its early developers.

Canada. A number of
Joyces came to Canada from Ireland in the early 19th century, and in
particular to New Brunswick and the Maritime Provinces:

  • some like Samuel Joyce of St. Andrews, New Brunswick were the
    of Loyalist families who had moved north after the Revolutionary
  • a Joyce family was in Freshwater, Newfoundland before 1800
    and Thomas Joyce came to New Brunswick by sea in
    1817. He settled in Botsford, Westmoreland county and his
    younger brother John joined him there many years later at the time of
  • William Joyce and his wife Mary were living by that time
    in Petersville, New Brunswick; and there were also Joyces then in Nova
  • and Ron Joyce from these parts made his money in the 20th
    century out of fast food franchising.

One Joyce family – from Norfolk in England – made it to the Canadian
West Coast by the
1880’s. Alfred and Anna Joyce were pioneer homesteaders on Quadra Island
in British Columbia.

Henry Joyce and his wife Mary Ann arrived in Tasmania from Dublin in
the early 1830’s. Branches of this family later settled in
Western Australia. Victoria arrivals included:

  • two Joyce brothers from Essex who were among the
    earliest settlers of Plaistow in central Victoria in the 1840’s (Alfred
    reminiscences of the time were later published).
  • Samuel Joyce and
    his family, also from Essex, who came to Melbourne in 1854.
  • another Joyce
    family in Victoria which traced its origin back to the arrival of the
    Catherine Joyce and her family in Melbourne in 1853 (her husband Edmund
    had died in Galway seven years earlier at the time of the Great

New Zealand. From Dorset
at around the same time came James Joyce, lured to Victoria
by gold fever. He moved onto New Zealand in 1856 and became the
first watchmaker in Christchurch, South Island.

Another James
Joyce was an English soldier who had arrived in New Zealand in 1861 and
fought in the Maori wars. He then took his release, married and
settled down to farm at Wiawera near Auckland. He and his wife
Ann raised eleven children (their son Albert and wife Maria topped that
with sixteen!).

Joyce Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Joyce Names

Edmond Joyes was the progenitor of
the Joyce sept in Galway.
George Joyce was a radical
agitator art the time of the English Civil War who was a driving force
behind the trial and execution of Charles I. According to some
reports, he started out life as a tailor in London.
P.W. Joyce from county Limerick
was a leading cultural figure in Ireland in the mid 19th century.
David Joyce was a 19th century
American “lumber baron.” His inheritors established the Joyce
Foundation in 1948.
James Joyce was the writer who
immortalized Dublin through his Dubliners
and Ulysses and was one of
the giants of 20th century
William Joyce, known as Lord
Haw-Haw, was a Nazi sympathizer and broadcaster executed after
the war.

Select Joyces

  • 19,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Essex)
  • 15,000 in America (most numerous
    in Massachusetts).
  • 20,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland).




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