This interesting surname is of early Irish origins. It is a developed form of the Gaelic O'Maille, meaning the male descendant of the nobleman, from "mal", prince or champion. Traditionally, Irish family names are taken from the heads of tribes, revered elders, or from some illustrious warrior, and are usually prefixed by "O", grandson, male descendant, or "M(a)c", denoting "son of". The surname belonged exclusively in the past to County Mayo, and this is almost equally true of the present day: over eighty five per cent of the births recorded are in Connacht and most of these are in County Mayo. Their particular territory is in the baronies of Burrishoole and Murrisk in that county. The O'Malleys were famous for their naval exploits and their prowess at sea is enshrined in their Motto, "terra marique potens", powerful by land and sea. Locally, in County Meath, it is often Anglicized Melia, the variant in Irish being O'Maele. The well known Sir Owen O'Malley, diplomat and author, who claims to be Chief of the Name, insists on his name being pronounced O'Mailey. In the modern idiom the surname has many variant spellings ranging from Mally, Meally and O'Mallie, to Melly and Melia. On September 10th 1864, Christopher, son of Joseph and Bess Melia, was christened at Clonmellon, County Westmeath. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Sir Owen O'Malley, which was dated circa 1500, in "Records of Connacht", during the reign of Garret Mor FitzGerald, Earl of Kildare, 1477 - 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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