This ancient surname recorded in the spellings of Gaffeny, Gafney, Gaffney, Gafny and Gaffny, is claimed to be Irish, and undoubtedly many name holders are of Irish extraction, the name being well recorded there. However not only is the name recorded in England well before Ireland, but it was never recorded in Ireland with the normal gaelic prefixes of 'O' or 'Mac'. These facts clearly suggest that the source of origin lies elsewhere. The make up of the name is totally different from the normal 'English' form, and it is our opinion that it derives from the Alsace-Lorraine 'Gafner'. This is or rather was a nickname, although the meaning is obscure. It probably described an overlooker or supervisor, one who watched over the workers. However it is difficult to apply twentieth century translations to pre fifteenth century words, and this is no exception, so doubt must remain. The famous Irish etymologist MacLysaght suggested that the origination was from the gaelic 'Caibheanaigh' meaning 'the calf', but as the surnames Caulfield, Keveney, and O'Growney also have similar claims, the Irish connection is to say the least, fraught with confusion. Examples of the recordings taken from the early records include Ellena Gaffney who married Ricardus Knowles at the famous church of St Martins in the Field, Westminster, on May 18th 1597, whilst on September 26th 1641, Esmonde Gafnie married Ayson Warde at St John the Evangelist, Dublin. This would appear to be the first recording in Ireland in any spelling. Other recordings include Ann Gafny on May 3rd 1681 at St Martins in the Field, and Margaret Gaffney at the Union of Monkstown church, Dublin, on October 11th 1737. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Alce Gafney, which was dated October 4th 1562, christened at St Giles Cripplegate, London, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, 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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