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Claffey Home Page
     Dedicated to Claffey Families Everywhere
  Alternate Spellings include: Claffee, Claffy, Clafy, Chappy, Cleffey, Cloffey


Origins of the Claffey Family and Surname and
        Old Irish Naming Traditions submitted by Ann Claffee

 
     There is an excellent article written by Liam Cox "Claffey--origin of the name and family" and published  in Volume 9, Issue 4, 1998 of "Riocht na Midhe:  Records of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society".   It can be ordered from Mr. Oliver Ward, Publications Secretary Meath Archaeological and Historical Society, Spiddal, Nobber, County Meath. 
       I will attempt a very short report of the article and you might wish to order it to get the wealth of information it contains.  I consider Mr. Cox an expert on the genealogy and history of the area pertinent to the Claffey family.
      Mr. Cox relates that Claffeys were a sept** of the Muintir Ardghail, who existed in early Christian
times and that the Claffey name, still common in the Irish midlands, goes back to the late fifth or early sixth century and seems to have been located in Meath but by the seventh century they appear to have moved west to the central part of the kingdom of Meath.  Mr. Cox says the Claffeys actually descended from Ardghal, son of Conall Cremthann whose son Maelcluithe was the original Claffey (when "th" or "the" occur at the end of an Irish word it is often pronounced as an f or ff.)  In the seventeenth century it was written as it was pronounced "Mulclyff". 
      Cox reports that in 1659 there were ten families named Cloffey (yes, Cloffey) in the barony of Clonlonan which contains Moate in Co. Westmeath.  There was no Claffey or Cloffey or any similar name in any other Westmeath or Offaly barony.  In the sixteenth century some of the Maelcluithe had moved to what is now the center of Co. Roscommon.  The Claffeys were not lords or landed proprietors and none were transplanted to Connacht under Cromwells 1652 Act of Settlement according to Cox.  He says the name has taken several forms including MacLaffey (MacLaffey's church is in Clonmacnois and is called Claffey's church--see Carol Mounts site on the home page for pictures).  The family in Clonmacnois split into two branches.  Those who lived in Killogeenaghan townland and those who lived in Endrim townland.
     James Claffey was a tenant of Lord Castlemaine in Killogeenaghan in 1854.  Cox says he appears to be the father of John whose death occurred 30 Nov 1921, age 78.  John's wife Mary Anthony died 25 Feb 1915, age 60.  Their sons were James and Patrick and they all are buried in MacLaffey's church yard.  This family split again into two branches which included Daniel born 1886 and another Daniel born in 1895.  In Kilcleagh church yard are buried Daniel Claffey who died 14 Jul 1799 age 62 and his wife Ann Linnan who died 13 Feb 1830 age 90.
     In 1825 there were five Claffeys who paid tithes in Kilcleagh Parish and thirteen Claffeys who paid tithes in the adjoining parish of Ballyloughloe, which is now Mount Temple parish in Co. Westmeath.  (Notice that the Parishes mentioned in this article usually extend across County lines.)
     Hugh Claffey born 1723 and died 1780 was a member of yet another Claffey family.  His son Peter placed a monument to his memory in Kilcleagh old churchyard.  John Claffey who died 1763 age 36 years was also buried in Kilcleagh. Cox found that James Claffey and M. Claffey of Moate paid tithes jointly in 1826 in Clonrellick townland in Ballyloughloe parish. In 1854 the only Claffey in this area was Martin Claffey who lived on Clara Road.  William and James paid tithes jointly in Cloneyegan townland in
Ballyloughloe parish in 1826 and both paid tithes separately in Magheramore townland that year, but by 1854 neither name was in Griffith's Valuation.  However, Rose, William, and William, Jr. were in Griffith's 1854 Valuation in Cloneyegan, each listed separately.  Another family in Ballyloughloe parish was in Nahodbeg where Patrick and Edward both paid tithes in 1826 and were still living there in 1854 and
their descendants still live there, according to Mr. Cox.
      The above is a small capsule of Liam Cox's article and if your ancestors are from Moate in Co. Westmeath you will also want to get his book "Moate, County Westmeath, a history of the town and district" published in 1981.  There are also many articles of interest published by the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society some of which are listed at:
        http://www.xs4all.nl/~tbreen/Journals/Meath.html

**  sept According to Webster's dictionary definition:   "In ancient Ireland, a clan.  A social group in which all are believed to have descended from a single ancestor."


 
A further item of interest on the Claffey surname is the Nov 9, 2000 entry in Guestbook from Eugene Claffey.  Which reminds me, the Irish/English translation of Eugene is Owen--go figure.

According to a lot of people the old Irish often followed this procedure when naming their children:

1st son was named for the father's father.
2nd son named for the mother's father.
3rd son named for the father.
4th son named for the father's oldest brother.

1st daughter named for the mother's mother.
2nd daughter named for the father's mother.
3rd daughter named for the mother.
4th daughter named for the mother's oldest sister.


 
Name Distribution in Ireland by county in the 1848 Primary Valuation Property Survey
CLAFFEY:
Dublin 2
Galway 1
Offaly 21
Roscommon 5
Westmeath 31

CLAFFY:
Dublin 1
Galway 1
Offaly 43
Roscommon 2
Westmeath 5

     Based on my experience, even those ancestors from Ireland who could not read or write knew how to spell their name and used an "E" (or not ) before the "Y" according to their family spelling in Ireland.
     Most could sign their name even if they could not write anything else. This may be a clue if your research takes you to Ireland and if you can find a document which the ancestor actually signed--US citizenship papers are the most likely source of an actual signature.  Ship lists, census lists and most other records taken in the United States were written by someone other than the ancestor and were spelled in various ways which make it necessary to search under various spellings.  Poor handwriting easily turns the spelling into "Cloffy" or "Cloffey", and numerous other spellings can be research stumbling blocks.
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