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Thread: Curley Surname Connection to the Airgialla Kingdom and Three Collas

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    Curley Surname Connection to the Airgialla Kingdom and Three Collas

    The DNA evidence is not yet conclusive by any means, but I just sent this information to my Curley surname project. It's an interesting example of genetic genealogy helping to solve a surname origin mystery, so I decided to repost it here on Anthrogenica for anyone interested.

    The traditional story, apparently started by Patrick Woulfe in his book of Irish surnames, is that the Curley surname derives from MacThoirdealbaigh. I've never been convinced by this theory, as it's not supported by the records. I've come up with a new theory based on extensive research of documentation and DNA evidence which seems to be fully consistent with both the historic documentation and DNA evidence.

    For some time I've been aware that there are some native Irish Curleys who use the Irish spelling "Mac Oirealla" for their name. Up until recently, I've never given this name spelling much consideration, assuming it was possibly just a modern phonetic translation into Irish from the English version of the name. But there are some very interesting patterns regarding this version of the name that demand closer consideration.

    Oirealla is a spelling variation of the 8th century kingdom of Airgialla, which was roughly located in the modern counties of Louth, Monaghan, Armagh, Fermanagh, Tyrone, and Derry. For more information on the Airgialla kingdom, see this wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airg%C3%ADalla

    Consider the earliest recorded English spellings of the Irish Curley family from the 16th century, documented in the Irish fiants of 1587: MicKurylly and M'Kirilie. Phonetically, these names are closer to MacOirealla than to MacThoirdealbaigh or its common English translation of MacTurlough.

    Griffith's Valuation reveals a concentration of Curleys in counties Louth and Monaghan, spreading inland from the city of Dundalk, as you can see on the map I have on our website:
    http://curleysurname.weebly.com/irish.html

    This population lies neatly within the kingdom of Airgialla. The Airgialla kingdom is said to have originated from the Three Collas, ancient kings of Ireland. The history and geographic distribution of the Airgialla kingdom is closely tied to that of the Three Collas.

    FTDNA has a project called "Clan Colla". Members of this group have surnames and a geographic distribution that correlate with the descendants of the Three Collas. This lineage is believed to represent descendants of the Three Collas. The STRs of this group look like a possible match to one of our Irish Curley genetic groups.

    Our project currently has 3 genetic groups with lineages that trace to Irish Curleys. It is probable that one of these groups has an intact lineage descending from the surname progenitor, while the other two groups have been affected by non paternal events. This sort of fragmentation is typical of surname lineages which are hundreds of years old. Of these three genetic groups, one of them looks like a possible match to the Collas. This group is labelled as "Irish Curley 2 - Roscommon/Westmeath". This group currently has only 1 member, with a 37 marker Y-DNA test, although I'm aware that there are autosomal matches to at least two other Irish Curleys. One of these matches is a new member of our project, with a 111 marker Y-DNA test currently in progress.

    I've heard oral traditions that the Roscommon/Galway/Westmeath Curleys were originally from the north, and moved south when their land was confiscated during the Plantations. This story corresponds very neatly with the population distribution we see for the Curley name. The small population cluster in the north near Dundalk reflects the original location of the family. The larger populations around Athlone and westward into Galway reflect those members of the family that were forced from their homes and resettled in the south.

    So, to summarize my theory: the Curley name derives from the ancient kingdom of Airgialla, with a more modern spelling of Oirealla. Our DNA group "Irish Curley 2" may be descendants of this ancient lineage, related to the Three Collas. The other two Irish Curley lineages probably share the same name lineage, but the genetic lineages have been broken by non paternal events.

    Test results of our new project member may help confirm a connection to the Collas. Please keep in mind that this theory is brand new, and hasn't had any time yet to be nit picked and torn to pieces. So it will need some time to settle and be confirmed or rejected. But right now I feel very good about it, and it's my leading theory by a wide margin. Of all the various theories regarding the family origin, this is the first one that I'm comfortable with. Unlike previous theories, this one is fully consistent with all the historic documentation and genetic evidence.

    To help confirm this theory, it would be great to have a DNA test from a Curley of the Louth or Monaghan area. If anyone has any connection to such a Curley, please send them my way. I'll sponsor a 111 marker test for any Curleys that are native to this area. If we get a DNA match from this area to our current "Irish Curleys 2" group, that would be strong evidence in support of the theory.

    Please note that the project webpage is not yet fully updated with this new information. I'll be updating it as soon as possible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by miiser View Post
    FTDNA has a project called "Clan Colla". Members of this group have surnames and a geographic distribution that correlate with the descendants of the Three Collas. This lineage is believed to represent descendants of the Three Collas. The STRs of this group look like a possible match to one of our Irish Curley genetic groups.
    Regarding said strs - DYS389I = 15, not a single person in the Clan Colla public has this value, I went fast but I think I am correct here
    DYS389II = 31, not a single person in the Clan Colla public project has this value.
    DYS437 = 16, not a single person in the Clan Colla public project has this value.
    DYS449 = 30, not a single person in the Clan Colla public project has this value.
    DYS464a - DYS464d = 14,15,17,18, not a single person in the Clan Colla public project has these values.

    I don't understand how or why you didn't consider these facts but I'll leave it at that. I do however have a concern about anyone saying DNA evidence supports a hypothesis when in fact at least currently it does not appear to. That is the main part of this hypothesis I have serious concerns about, one does not in any way support the other, not yet at least. **!! Editing post here**!!, siren going off, I missed one:
    DYS438 = 11 NOT A SINGLE PERSON in the Clan Colla public project HAS THIS VALUE.

    That's a heck of a lot of strs that not a single person in the project has, especially when only tested out to 37 markers.
    Last edited by AncientCelt; 12-14-2014 at 06:53 PM. Reason: Additional Info

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    In Irish th is pronounced completely differently from English, it's pronounced either as a /h/ or not prononunced in case at been at the end of the word.

    This has been the case since about 1200.

    Regarding the personal name: Toirdhealbhach (Tairrdelbach in middle Irish) it's worth nothing that word internal -dh- and -bh- are now silent in this name. As a result a reformed spelling version of the name would be Toirealach (Tarlach is also seen, though /r/ is broad instead of slender)

    The genitive case of the name would though be Toirealaigh, which would be used in surname formation
    eg:

    Mac Toirealaigh
    Mac Thoirealaigh

    However it wouldn't surprise me if you see the same reduction you see with Flaherty under spelling reform namely:

    Ó Flaithbheartaigh -> Ó Flaithearta/Ó Flatharta

    in which case:
    Mac Toirdhealbhaigh -> Mac Toireala
    Mac Thoirdhealbhaigh -> Mac Thoireala

    If you consider that th is often not pronounced in Irish (and when it is always as /h/) this would result in reduction to Mac Oireala

    If you ask me the spelling mac Oirealla is thus probably a modernist spelling.

    Leaving that aside there are multiple examples where the /k/ in mac (eg. c) is "attracted" to the "root name" during angliscation. One similiar example is the surname Kernan/McKernan

    Mac THIGHEARNÁIN—IV—M'Kiernane, M'Kemane, MacKiernan, MacKernan, MacCarnon, MacHarnon, Kiernan, Kernan, Kernon, and, by translation, Lord; 'son of Tighearnán' (diminutive of 'tighearna,' a lord); the name (1) of a branch of the O'Connors in Co. Roscommon, who are descended from Tighearnán, grandson of Turlough Mor O'Connor, King of Ireland; (2) of a Breifney family, of the same stock as the O'Rourkes, who were formerly chiefs of Tellach Dhunchadha, now the barony of Tullyhunco, in the west of Co. Cavan; and (3) of a Fermanagh family, of the same stock as the Maguires, who were formerly chiefs of Clann Fearghaile. See Mac Tighearnáin.
    In this case you have a surname that is "Mac Th..." the "Th" is realised in the angliscation as either /h/ or is deleted thence macHarnon vs. McKiernan/McKernan etc.

    This attraction of /k/ occurs when the first phoneme in the name element starts with a vowel, another very good example is:
    Mac Aodh -> McKay/Mackey (ao is realised as either /e:/ or /i:/ depending on dialect)

    Anyways Old Irish Aírgialla gives Early Modern Irish: Oirghialla

    Under spelling reform introduced in 1940's/1950's this is reduced to Oirialla as word internal gh (-gh-) is not pronounced anymore in Modern Irish.

    Oirialla is thus not a "spelling variation" but the correct spelling/pronunciation in modern Irish. (Late Modern Irish -- as some would call it)

    The other thing I would suggest is that it's very rare to have a "kingdom name" included in an Irish surname, usually when this happens it's part of a compound name. For example "Cú Uladh" (Hound of Ulster) -> mac Conuladh, in other words "son of the man called "Cú Uladh""

    Given the similar example of McKernan/McKiernan I'd be leaning towards Woulfe interpretation.
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    I just want to leave this in parting.

    This is pure speculation on my part, as most of the things I type are, very little to back it up but bits and pieces of information however as much as I've been against a possible "Norman" origin for one of the Curley lineages, I'm considering the possibility. Originally we tacked this up possibly to native Irish adopting the Norman names but now, I'm leaning back away from this. It is hard to get away from many surnames under L1066 appearing to be of Norman origin however all of this falls in line with thoughts I've had for a while because it all ties back to the Fir Bolg or if not directly related, to the Britons. I think the Curley family in Ireland may actually be the descendants of the Norman Corlieu family, however, I don't think they were Normans, not in the Viking sense of Normans but possibly were Breton Knights that came over with the Normans. I can now reconcile the Z2534 connection L1066 shares with L226, and L226 clearly being native Irish. I believe at least 1/3 of the "Norman" army comprised groups such as Bretons and Flemish, etc. I think perhaps L1066 may represent part of the Breton component, or at least part of L1066 might. So, circling this back around to the Curley surname, I'm going to have to lean back to Corlieu as a possible origin. I guess I'd be ok with the progenitor being a Breton knight or part of the Breton army during the invasions. This might also explain the origins for Ballymcurley and Curley's Island, and the Curlew Mountains. There was obviously a family of importance in that area and maybe if someone could place Corlieus in that area, that might mean something....anyway, what is really needed is the results for a Corlieu descendant.

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    Ballymcurley = Baile Mhic Thorlaigh
    Curlew Mountains = An Corrshliabh

    As for Curley's island, it hardly existed when the 6" ordance survey map was done in the 1840's, been made up of three seperate islets, my feeling is the current shape derives from the navigation/drainage work carried out on the Shannon during the 1840's/1850's. In the 25" map from early 20th century it's marked as "liable to flood". Without some further evidence it's hard to say wether it's name is older than the mid 19th century.
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    Some pieces coming together now, still grasping but might be something...There was a Turstin FitzRolf who accompanied William the Conqueror. One Curley group has a 12 marker match to a Thurston male, Thurston not a common name ya see. However the key markers needed have not been tested. Second, this Turstin has a connection to Caerleon Castle and then we have a Curly who apparently appeared on the Abbey Battle Roll with a connection to Carleton Castle. I don't believe the YDNA haplotype for this "Norman" Curly family has yet been identified. Finally we have another 12 marker guy, Carlill, awaiting results, don't know how that might turn out but he has the somewhat uncommon markers in the first 12 that one Curley group has. The whole point of this is, even though there are multiple Curleys in the same area with different signatures, perhaps this is an explanation for one of them. I know it's just a bunch of possible interesting coincidences but, it might be starting to make some sense. Perhaps my Curley plaque is the correct one after all, for the Norman? I think it's very interesting there is a Curly listed on the Battle Rolls and then some of these other bits of information. We'll see what the future and more testing brings. We definitely know there are other Curleys/Kerleys, etc who may have other points of origin and since this thread was entitled for a possible Airgialla connection and the Collas, I promise this is my last post on this here, in this thread. I'll start my own thread when/if any more information becomes available.

    Ok now I'm done, lunch break over.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dubhthach View Post

    Under spelling reform introduced in 1940's/1950's this is reduced to Oirialla as word internal gh (-gh-) is not pronounced anymore in Modern Irish.
    Publications of Keating's History of Ireland use the Oirealla spelling before this time.

    I understand the phonetics of Mac Toirealaigh and Mac Thoirealaigh and agree with your interpretation regarding that. The problem I have with this as the origin of Curley is that, before Woulfe's book, both of these names are always translated into English as Turlough, Turlach, etc. Nowhere is there any record of Curley being considered the English equivalent of Mac Thoirealaigh until after Woulfe's book. So this is just as likely as any other Irish version of the name to be a modern invention. Indeed, moreso, as Woulfe crams some 20 or so names all into the same list as deriving from MacToirealaigh/MacThoirealaigh, and all these names are unlikely to derive from the same name. (And DNA evidence has demonstrated that they in fact do not.) It gives the impression that Woulfe may have been a bit lazy in this case, playing connect the dots between English and Irish names.
    Last edited by miiser; 12-16-2014 at 07:40 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dubhthach View Post
    Ballymcurley = Baile Mhic Thorlaigh
    Curlew Mountains = An Corrshliabh

    As for Curley's island, it hardly existed when the 6" ordance survey map was done in the 1840's, been made up of three seperate islets, my feeling is the current shape derives from the navigation/drainage work carried out on the Shannon during the 1840's/1850's. In the 25" map from early 20th century it's marked as "liable to flood". Without some further evidence it's hard to say wether it's name is older than the mid 19th century.
    The Ordnance Survey Map was recorded in English, not Irish, and the name of the manor & townland is recorded as "Ballymacurly". So this unfortunately does not help establish an equivalence to any Irish name.

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    As for Curley's island, it hardly existed when the 6" ordance survey map was done in the 1840's, been made up of three seperate islets, my feeling is the current shape derives from the navigation/drainage work carried out on the Shannon during the 1840's/1850's. In the 25" map from early 20th century it's marked as "liable to flood". Without some further evidence it's hard to say wether it's name is older than the mid 19th century.
    Curley's Island, spelled just like that, is labelled on the 25" map but not the 6" map. I've found no evidence of it being so named before this time. Nowadays it is no longer an island, but more of a peninsula, connected to the shore on the west side. There's a ford at the location named “Snámh Dá Éan”, which roughly translates as "swim two birds", suggesting the possibility of a name connection to the curlew bird, which is common to the wetlands of this area.
    Last edited by miiser; 12-16-2014 at 08:42 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dubhthach View Post
    In Irish th is pronounced completely differently from English, it's pronounced either as a /h/ or not prononunced in case at been at the end of the word.

    This has been the case since about 1200.

    Regarding the personal name: Toirdhealbhach (Tairrdelbach in middle Irish) it's worth nothing that word internal -dh- and -bh- are now silent in this name. As a result a reformed spelling version of the name would be Toirealach (Tarlach is also seen, though /r/ is broad instead of slender)

    The genitive case of the name would though be Toirealaigh, which would be used in surname formation
    eg:

    Mac Toirealaigh
    Mac Thoirealaigh

    However it wouldn't surprise me if you see the same reduction you see with Flaherty under spelling reform namely:

    Ó Flaithbheartaigh -> Ó Flaithearta/Ó Flatharta

    in which case:
    Mac Toirdhealbhaigh -> Mac Toireala
    Mac Thoirdhealbhaigh -> Mac Thoireala

    If you consider that th is often not pronounced in Irish (and when it is always as /h/) this would result in reduction to Mac Oireala

    If you ask me the spelling mac Oirealla is thus probably a modernist spelling.

    Leaving that aside there are multiple examples where the /k/ in mac (eg. c) is "attracted" to the "root name" during angliscation. One similiar example is the surname Kernan/McKernan



    In this case you have a surname that is "Mac Th..." the "Th" is realised in the angliscation as either /h/ or is deleted thence macHarnon vs. McKiernan/McKernan etc.

    This attraction of /k/ occurs when the first phoneme in the name element starts with a vowel, another very good example is:
    Mac Aodh -> McKay/Mackey (ao is realised as either /e:/ or /i:/ depending on dialect)

    Records of Ballymacurly:

    1587 Fiants: Ballymickurylly, Ballem'kirilie

    1617 Fiants: Ballym'carilly

    1659 Census: Ballemakcrally

    1681 Books of Survey and Distribution: Ballymackerrilly

    1749 Census of Elphin: Ballymackerily

    1837 Tithe Applotment Books: Ballymacurly

    1921 Woulfe's "Irish Names and Surnames": Curley = MacThoirdealbaigh


    Although I agree with your analysis of the phonetic evolution as a hypothetical scenario, Dubhthach, I can't find any evidence in documentation that it actually happened that way. I can't see in this history any kind of a gradual transformation from a hypothetical more Gaelic early version from MacThoirdealbaigh to the modern version of Macurly. I can more easily see these all being slight variations on English translations of "MacOirealla". My objection to the MacThoirdealbaigh hypothesis lies primarily in consideration of the documented history alongside of the phonetics, rather than the phonetics considered in isolation. The supposed equivalence to MacThoirdealbaigh appears out of nowhere for the first time in 1921. There is nothing before this that would suggest the connection, other than a vague phonetic similarity.

    I'm not yet 100% convinced that the name derives from Airgialla. But from the hundreds of documents I've searched looking for a connection to MacThoirdealbaigh without finding any, I've become close to 100% convinced that this connection is a modern invention.
    Last edited by miiser; 12-16-2014 at 09:06 AM.

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