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So trying to figure out how Healey and Healy are different and why there aren't many Healey's in Ireland?  Most I see are from England?  What happened?  I have tried to look into this and really can't find anything.  What I can find says The Irish surname Healey, also found in England, is an anglicized form of the Gaelic name Ó hÉilidhe meaning “descendant of the claimant,” from éilidhe meaning “claimant,” or of the Gaelic name Ó hÉalaighthe “descendant of Éaladhach,” a personal name  from ealadhach meaning “ingenious.” The name is first recorded in county Sligo in the western province of Connaught. Today the name is found in counties Cork, Kerry and Galway. 

Just trying to figure out what happened? 


Brian Healey

Brian Healey

Friday 19th Apr 2024, 09:10PM

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  • Hi Brian, says the two names are the same:

    There are several spelling variations of the Healy surname due to phonetic interpretations and regional dialects. These include “O’Healy”, “Haly”, “Haley”, “Helly”, and “Healey”.

    The 1911 Irish census lists 382 Healeys and over 10,000 Healys.

    I hope this helps.


    Friday 19th Apr 2024, 09:35PM
  • It does and thank you,  Just wondering why there are more outside of Ireland such as England,  Australia and Canada.  Just where the split happen.  

    Brian Healey

    Friday 19th Apr 2024, 10:11PM
  • Brian,

    The idea of a single or correct spelling for a surname or a place name in Ireland is very much a recent phenomenon designed to meet the needs of modern officialdom. Before that there was no consistency. Names were spelled phonetically and each variation was down to the whim of the particular person recording the information. You will often see the spelling change as the records go back. This rarely indicates a deliberate decision to alter the name, nor even a mistake. Not everyone was literate, but even when they were, exact and consistent spelling simply wasn’t something they bothered about. In addition to varying the actual spelling, O’ or Mac prefixes were optional and were often omitted.

    In 1899, the Rev Smith reviewed the early records of Antrim 1st Presbyterian church (covering the years 1674 to c 1736). He noted: “Even the same word is not always spelled alike by the same hand. Indeed spelling with most of the recording officials (and they must have been fairly numerous) was a matter of the most sublime indifference. The name William, for instance, is spelled 3 different ways in as many lines; while Donegore, a neighbouring parish, is spelled 10 different ways; but these extend over a good number of years. Many families names are spelled phonetically, while others are given in the most round-about fashion.”

    So expect spelling to vary. That was the norm.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Saturday 20th Apr 2024, 12:37AM
  • I can find almost no Healey's in the Republic but I can find plenty in Northern Ireland, England, Canada and the States.  So there is some correlation to England or maybe Protestant.  I am sure it has something to do with The first Anglo-Norman intervention.

    Brian Healey

    Saturday 20th Apr 2024, 10:17PM
  • Attached Files


    The spelling of a surname and why it changed is something that is discussed regularly on genealogy forums. As far as Ireland is concerned most people were barely literate and completely indifferent to how their name was spelled. Here are 2 examples of spelling varying within the same family in the same census:

    In the 1901 Irish census there were 10478 people with the name Healy. 10259 were RC and 219 other denominations. 322 were spelled Healey, of whom 276 were RC and 46 other denominations. There were also 32 Hely, and probably there are other spellings if you search for them.  It varied across the denominations, and across the country. According to an expert on the subject, the likely reasons for these variations are “local dialect, pronunciation and inconsistency in spelling, well into the nineteenth century.” (Maxwell - see below).

    I have attached a couple of pages taken from “Your Irish Ancestors” by Ian Maxwell (2008) which covers the subject and refers to Matheson’s 1901 report on surname spelling variations. He highlights the fact that - as I mentioned above - it can vary within the same family, never mind around the country. That has to be because of whim or indifference rather than some wider strategic reason. If there's more of a particular spelling in a certain area, then that is probably down to local dialect.

    It comes up in place names too. In Co Armagh there’s a town named Tandragee, and sometimes Tanderagee. Another named Belleek and Balleek. Both versions are in regular use. The residents don’t seem to lie awake at night wondering why there are 2 versions. Though possibly delivery drivers do.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Sunday 21st Apr 2024, 09:34AM
  • Great info,  Thank you so much. 


    I know it's not the biggest deal in the world but I just always wondered why so many with the spelling Healey are Northern Ireland,  England and America.  But Great info and thank you again for looking into that.  I live in America and I know with so many Immigrants coming here back in the mid 1800's the Immigration agents also wrote peoples last names wrong and really didn't care.  LOL

    Thanks again!


    Brian Healey

    Brian Healey

    Sunday 21st Apr 2024, 10:01PM
  • Brian,

    Glad to help. 

    You mention that “the immigration agents also wrote peoples last names wrong and really didn’t care”. You might find this article from the New York Public library interesting:

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Sunday 21st Apr 2024, 10:23PM

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