This unusual surname, chiefly found in the Leinster county of Longford, is a variant form of the name Prior, itself having two distinct sources. Firstly, Prior may be of Gaelic-Irish origin, and an Anglicization of the Old Gaelic "Mac an Phriora", son of the prior, a personal byname given to someone thought to resemble a prior, or an occupational name for a servant of a prior; occasionally, it may have been used to denote someone suspected of being the son of a prior. The second possibility is that the surname is of Old rench origin, introduced into Ireland in the wake of the Anglo-Norman Invasion (1170), and deriving either from the Old French "priur, priour", prior, originally a surname of office, later a nickname, or from the Old French "frere", friar, brother, from the Latin "frater". Early examples of the surname from England include: Roger Priur (Suffolk, 1205), and Roger le Frier (Somerset, 1243). Master William Frere, archdeacon of Lothian (1296), is one of the earliest recorded namebearers in Scotland. The Priors of Cavan and Leitrim are usually of Gaelic-Irish stock; elsewhere they may be of Anglo-Norman origin. Friar and Fryar are the usual variants of this in Oriel (Counties Armagh and Monaghan); Freer in the south midlands, and Friary in County Longford. On September 29th 1864, the birth of Michael, son of James Friary and Anne Heslin, was recorded at Longford, County Longford. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert le Frere, which was dated 1196, in the "Pipe Rolls of Yorkshire", during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "Richard the Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. 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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