This noble Irish surname is an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic "O'hEigceartaigh", descendant of Eigceartach, a personal byname meaning "Unjust". Traditionally, Irish family names are taken from the heads of tribes, revered elders, or some illustrious warrior, and are usually prefixed by "O", grandson, male descendant of, or "Mac" denoting "son of". The principal sept of (O)hEigceartaigh was of the Cineal Eoghan, that is, belonging to that group of people descended from Eoghan, son of Niall of the ine Hostages, the 4th Century High King of Ireland.This sept was located on the borders of the present counties of Donegal and Derry, and in the 14th Century the barony of Loughinsholin (County Derry) was their chief habitat. In the 17th Century they were more numerous in Tirkeeran (County Derry) and Inishowen (County Donegal), and also in the baronies of Barrymore and Carbery West in the Munster county of Cork, where a branch of the Ulster Hegartys settled. Notable bearers of the name were Lt.-Col Hegarty of Lally's Regiment, who, in 1747, was rewarded for his service by Louis XV of France, and Peter O'Hegarty who was made Governor of the Isle of Bourbon. The family Coat of Arms is a silver shield with an oak tree eradicated proper, on a red chief three silver birds, beaked and legged sable, the Crest being an arm in armour embowed, the hand grasping a scymitar all proper. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Maolmuire O'Hegarty, a member of O'Neill's army, which was dated 1602, in "Records of the Battle of Kinsale", during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1 of England, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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