This interesting Irish name originates in Ulster. The Gaelic form is O'Siadhail usually Anglicized in its present form, or as Shiel, Sheils, Shields and Sheilds, although claiming descent from Niall of the Nine Hostages, the O' Shiels were known as a family of hereditary physicians rather that a territorial sept. The notable members of this Clan through the ages were involved in Catholic Emancipation e.g., Richard Lalor Sheil (1791 - 1851) was founder of the Catholic Association. More recently, the name is associated with the stage in particular the Abbey Theatre, Dublin e.g., George Shiels, Playwright and William Shiels, better known as Barry Fitzgerald, (actor). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Murtagh O' Shiel, which was dated circa 1548, County Offaly, during the reign of King Edward V1, 'The Boy King', 1547 - 1553. 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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