Recorded in many spellings including O'Dea, O'Day, O'Dee, Dea, Day, and Dee, this is an Irish clan surname of considerable antiquity and prominence. It is particularly associated with the West Coast of the country and specifically Counties Limerick and Clare. There are several villages which were at times in the past centres of the clan. These include Tully O'dea and Dysart O'Dea, both in County Clare. The modern name spellings are an anglicization of the original Gaelic O' Deaghaidh, which translates loosely as 'the searcher', and probably refers to early disciples or holy men. It is said that the English surname of 'Godwin' is the synonym, so perhaps the translation is not so far out. The clan originally held vast lands in the barony of Inchiquin, but these were lost after the various rebellions of the 17th century. The clan seems however not only to have a name associated with religion, but the most famous namebearers have also been men of the cloth. These have included Father Peter O'Dea, 1741 - 1812, who was the priest of Nantes in France, an area to which many Irish families fled in the 18th century, to escape Protestant prosecution. John O'Dea was a passenger on the ship 'Oriel' which left Killrush, Ireland, on June 4th 1847, for New York. He was emigrating to escape from the 'Potato Famine' of that year. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Cornelius O'Dea, which was dated 1434, the Archdeacon of Killaloe, Ireland, during the reign of King Henry V1 of England, 1422 - 1461. 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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