Recorded as Kildea and Gildea, this interesting surname is Irish. It originates from the Gaelic Mac giolla Dhe, meaning the servant of god from the elments Mac meaning son of, Giolla, a servant, and Dhe, God. The surname in some places it has been corrupted to Gay, whilst in others by a curious semi-translation it has been changed to Benison. It is primarily a Donegal sept, but like so many of the followers of the O'Donnells some of its families migrated to Mayo, where, with Donegal, it is chiefly found today. In 1624, Daniel Guilday was vicar-general of the diocese of Killaloe, Co. Clare, whilst Ballykildea in County Clare and Ballykilladea in County Galway are named from this clan. James Gildea (1838-1920), co-founder of St. John's Ambulance Association, was born in County Mayo. Recordings of the surname from the English church registers include; William Gildea, who married Mary Boyle, on December 21st 1840, at St. James, Paddington, London; Mary Kildea was christened on September 10th 1845, at Manchester Cathedral; and on April 8th 1857, Elizabeth, daughter of Charles and Elizabeth Gildea, was christened at St. Bartholomew's, Naylor Street, Liverpool. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Conor Mac Gillegea, which was dated 1601, in the Records of Donegal. 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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