The Irish surname "Griffin" has many variant forms including Griffen, Griffey, and the rare Graffin. It derives from the ancient Gaelic "Griobhtha" which literally means "dragon!" It is, like many Irish surnames a semi descriptive nickname in this case for a chief who it was believed had the head of an eagle, the body of a lion, and who flew as well. Clearly this original chief must have made quite an impression on all who met him (or her perhaps). The 16th century common form was O'Griffey, but the prefix has long been lost, and even Griffey itself has been largely superceeded by other spelling forms. The name is most popular in the Province of Munster, the village of Ballygriffin, near Kenmare in Kerry being a former settlement, although the accepted centre is the castle of Ballygriffy, in County Clare. Examples of the name recording include the famous poet Maurice Griffin who died in 1778, whilst other recordings include Mary Graffin, daughter of Stewart Graffin, born at Port Glenone, Co. Antrim on June 17th 1867, and Rachel Graffen who married John McGahy at Rathmolyon, Co Meath, on April 4th 1870. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Griffin, which was dated November 16th 1657, christened at Derry Cathedral, Templemore, Ireland. during the reign of King Charles 11, known as "The Merry Monarch", 1660 - 1685. 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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