This interesting Gaelic surname is recorded in an amazing range of spellings. These include in Scotland and Ireland Garvey, Garvin, Garvine, Garven, Garavin, Garvan, Girvin and Girwin, and in England Garfin, Gorfin, Gervine, Gorvin and Gervine! Originally the name had both Mac and O prefix and is almost unique in that respect. However spelt it is an anglicized form of "Gairbhith", a personal name with the elements "garbh", meaning rough or cruel, and a second element "bith", meaning fate or possibly (ill)fortune.Such a translation would suggest that the first nameholder started from a very poor beginning, (cruel fate), but this is probably not so as traditionally Gaelic family names are taken from the heads of tribes, or from some illustrious warrior. In this case we probably have a successful person who came to an unfortunate end! The surname (as Garvie or Garvey) was prominent in the Midlothian area of Scotland, whilst in Ireland it is recorded in the north in the same spellings, but in the south, and particularly Counties Cork and Kerry, as Garvin, Garven, etc. Early recordings include John Garvey (1527 - 1595), the Protestant Archbishop of Armagh, though born in County Kilkenny and Dr.Callaghan Garvan or Garvin, who was physician to King James 11 in 1688, and present at the battle of the Boyne in 1690. In England John Gorvin married Mary Counter at the famous church of St Martins in the Field, Westminster, on June 15th 1813. A Coat of Arms granted to the nameholders in 1674, has the blazon of a blue field, three silver garvie fish naissant, the Crest being a hand holding a fish proper, the Motto reads as "Always helping". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Garwy, which was dated 1512, in the "Rentale Dunkeldense", accounts of the bishopric Edinburgh, during the reign of King James 1V of Scotland, 1488 - 1513. 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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