This interesting surname of Irish origin along with Whelan is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic O'Faolain "descendant of Faolan", from "faol" meaning "wolf". Phelans are one of the principal septs of the south east, eighty per cent of which belonged to Counties Waterford, Kilkenny and adjacent areas. Before the Norman invasion of 1170, their chief was Prince of the Decies. The surname dates back to the early 18th Century, (see below). Church recordings include one John, son of Pat and Elizabeth Phelan, who was christened on March 4th 1719, at St. Ann Soho, Westminster, Catherine, daughter of Martin and Catherine Felan, was christened on April 30th 1757, at Rathkeale, Limerick, and John son of Abraham and Sarah Phelan, was christened on December 3rd 1775, at St. James, Westminster. James Phelan (1824-1892), was a Leix born pioneer, and his son James Duval Phelan (1861-1830), was senator and mayor of san Francisco. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Phelan witnessed the christening of his daughter Catherin, which was dated 1711, St. Nicholas within, Dublin, during the reign of Queen Anne, "The last Stuart Monarch", 1702 - 1714. 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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