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FITZHENRY Family History
Recorded in the spellings of Fitzharry, Fitzharris, and Fitzhenry, all are essentially Irish surnames but of Norman-English origins. The surname was originally well recorded in County Wexford, where the family were known both as Fitzharris and Fitzhenry, although there is or was, another unconnected Fitzhenry group, in the province of Connacht. The name means "the son of Henry", from the famous personal name introduced into England by the Norman-French in 1066. The original meaning of the name was generally more specific, and usually implied a natural son, rather than one from the marriage. As many of the "Fitz" prefix can claim royal and noble blood, the question of naturality does not seem to have proved any sort of handicap, in fact the reverse, it has been for many a positive asset! In time the Fitzhenry branch in Connacht became naturalised Irish, gradually changing their name to MacEinri.
Fitzhenry Family From Wexford
BEARERS of the name Fitzhenry came of royal stock, for the first Fitzhenrys who landed with the Normans Bannow in 1169, Meiler and Robert, were grandsons of King Henry I and the famous Princess Nesta, of Wales. Their father, ithe first Fizhenry, was killed in 1157. • Meiler Fitzhenry, one of the principal followers of he Norman leader, Robert Fitzstephen, is described by Giraldus Cambrensis, who reported on the Norman landings in Ireland, as a "swarthy man with stern black eyes and piercing looks. Below the middle height bul very strong in size, his chest was broad and his waist narrow, his limbs boney and sinewy; a courageous and eager soldier who shrank from no enterprise, whether lo be undertaken alone or in the company of others; the first to plunge into battle and the last to leave the field; he knew no alternative but death or victory."
The Fitzhenry's were made barons of Kilcavan, near Ballymitty, where they built a castle and remained for centuries. Henry, son of Philip.is recorded as holding one knight's fee there in 1247; John, son of Henry. was there in 1317; and Matthew Fitzhenry in 1425. John was Senechal of Wexford in 1260.
Another head of the family was summoned among the magnates of Ireland to attend the expedition against Scotland in 1302 and his son Lohn was summoned among the gentlemen of the county to attend the Lord Justice of Ireland with horse and arms in 1345. In 1324 John Fitzhenry possessed property at Ballykeroguebeg (old parish of Kilmokea in Shelburne).
Matthew Fitzhenry of Kilcavan was Custodian of the Peace in Co. Wexford, Commissioner of Dunbrody Abbey before 1347, and High Sheriff in 1384. He married Joan, daughter of Ralph Meiler, of Duncormick. John Fitzhenry succeeded Thomas Butler in the government of the Priory of Kilmainham in 1419. He afterwards became Grand Prior and died on February 14, 1420. It is recorded that Nicholas Fitzhenry, in 1551. robbed the town of Ross and killed a man there. James Fitzhenry was M.P. for New Ross in 1614.
Macmine was another early stronghold of the Fitzhenrys. The earliest record shows John Fitzhenry holding one knight's fee there in 1296. They were still there over three hundred years later and figured prominently in the Confederate Catholic rebellion (1641-49). Four of the Macmine Fitzhenrys took part in the historic battle of Lambstown; three of them were killed and the only survivor escaped to France. They lost their castle and estates in the Cromwellian confiscations.Tradition has it that the Fitzhenry who escaped returned from France ten years later recovered the family treasures which he had hidden in a cellar in the castle. With it he purchased land in the area. The remnants of the Macmine Fitzhenrys settled at Gobbinstown, near Templeudigan.
Griffith's Valuation of 1853 records Fitzhenry holdings in the following areas: Gobbinstown, Knockroe, Monamolin, Ballymackessy, Chapel, Rathurtin, Courtnacuddy and Rathflyane. Ballybrennan graveyard, near Bree, seems to have been the burial ground for many of the name. The Gobbinstown family are buried there from as far as 1793 to 1875; the Ballymackessy branch from 1770 and the Rath.. branch from 1778 to 1865.
The most noted person of the name in more recent times was Fath Robert Fitzhenry, the patriotic and scholarly parish priest of Our La Island (1916-28). Previously he had been Administrator of Enniscorthy parish and curate in Rathgarogue. He was son of Robert Fitzhenry Chapel who married Mary Larkin of Murrintown (Taghmon) in 1850 Two other Fitzhenrys were parish priests in Bannow - Father John (1751-70), a native of Newbawn, and Fr. Michael, a native of Adamstown (1770-89).
Michael Fitzhenry, a schoolteacher in Rathgarogue, met a tragic end in a lane in Gobbinstown in 1863. It appears he had a family row with his brother-in-law, Joseph Kelly, and died as a result. Kelly was put on trial for murder and, being found guilty, he was sentenced to die by public hanging. This Michael Fitzhenry had at least one son, Moses, who lived in Poulpeasty until he died when over ninety years old. Some of Moses' family were still living in the family home in 1986.
A former Prior of Grantstown was Rev. Edward Fitzhenry, O.S.A. Some of the early Fitzhenrys changed the name to Fitzharris. The Civil Survey of 1654 records Thomas Fitzharris proprietor of a castle with 120 acres at Kilcavan, all of which was confiscated. Only a small part of the castle remains today. Coolhull Castle, not far from Kilcavan, may have been built by the Fitzhenrys, though it was mostly occupied by the Devereuxs. It is one of the finest examples of a castellated mansion of the sixteenth century. Hilltown Castle near Ballymitty was another Fitzhenty seat.
Jeremiah Fitzhenry of Ballymackessy took part in the 1798 rebellion. Later he joined the Spanish army and was believed to have betrayed it to Wellington in the Peninsular War. He returned to Ballymackessy.
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