This Gaelic Irish surname, with variant spellings Whooley and Wholey, has an interesting history, being an Anglicized form of three distinct Gaelic sept names. The first, "O'hUallaigh", belonged to Connacht and the Munster county of Clare where the more usual Anglicized form of the name is (O)Howley; the second, "O'hUallachain", had prominent branches in Thomond (County Clare) and mid-Leinster; this particular sept name has no less than seventeen Anglicized forms including: Holohan, Houlihan and Whoolehan. Both of these sept names are taken from the same root, the personal name "Uallach", proud and arrogant, with the Gaelic prefix "O" indicating "male descendant of". The third family of Whooley belong to South West Cork, where some O'Driscoll families residing in the Clonakilty district acquired the agnomen Whooley, which has now become a hereditary surname. "Uallach" (as above) is presumably the source in this case also. On July 27th 1821, a son, William, was born to John Wholey and Margaret Jeffers, in Inchigeelagh, County Cork, and on June 21st 1865, the birth of Mary Agnes, daughter of Jeremiah Whooley and Margaret Dogherty, was recorded in the Riverstown District of County Sligo. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of O'Houlig, which was dated 1581, in the "Fiant Litterae Patentes", of County Cork, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1 of England, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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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