Page last updated 30 October 2001

Possible Irish origin of the name Shelvey

By David Robert Shelvey

25th August 2001

There are several surname research centers that focus on trying to find the origin and meaning of the surnames used around this world. The task is not an easy one. Take the name John Robertson. Going back six or so generations you will find a guy named Robert whose son they named something like William Robertson not to confuse him the William the blacksmiths son. The name Shelvey can not be labeled as a surname. There are several people, living or dead, that their first name (or given name) is Shelvey. The United States Social Security Administration Death Databank even lists people that had Shelvey given to them as their middle name. Middle names normally come to us to remember the first name of our parents, relative, friend, or someone they recognize (like William the Concouror). In our above Robertson example John Robertson may actually be John William Robertson after William Robertson. In the Shelvey family tree you will find the first names of Daniel, William and James as popular first name and some of their children caring the name on as a middle name.

The surname Shelvey has been traced back to the early 1700s which means it was part of the fifteenth century acquiring of a surname like most of the population did. If the name is a term or title of occupation then there may be several surnamed Shelvey that are not related.

Going to different surname research centers the story they tell on the family name SHELVEY history are pretty much the same as follows:

The family name Shelvey is of Irish origin of the Gaelic language. It is an anglicization of the Gaelic "O Sealbhaigh indicating a "descendent of Sealbhaigh," an ancient first name derived from the word "selbhach" meaning "having many possessions, referring to an individual of wealth and influence." It is classified as being a personal name origin and derived its origins from the given name of one of the parents of its initial bearer. The name is also spelt SHALVEY, O' SHALVEY, SHALLY, SHALLOO, SHALLOW, SHEILY, SHELLEY and SHELLE. At first, the surname was formed by prefixing 'Mac' to the father's Christian name or 'O' to that of a grandfather or even an earlier ancestor. The name of O' Sealbhaigh was recorded in records as far back as The Annals of the Four Masters in 1140 where the death of Domhnall O' Sealbhaigh is recorded. In 1182 one Augushine O' Sealbhaigh was appointed Bishop of Waterford. This family also had five medieval bishops of York, all O' Sealbhaighs. In Leibrim there is one James Shelvey born in 1817 to a Timothy Shelvey and Marrella Shields.

Blazon of Arms: Argent a Chevron gules between three whelks sable.

Arms: Gules three unicorn's heads erased argent

Crest: A griffin's head erased argent beaked and ducally gorged Or.

Motto : Comme je brouve. Translation: As I find.


Motto : Fey e fidalgia. Translation: Faith and fidelity.

Origin - Ireland.

Additional Notes by Rob Shelvey - (September 2001)

Again this seems a feasable origin of the name Shelvey. Here are some additonal thoughts I had when reading this. Take all this as you will. I could be completely wrong, I'm just saying what I think.

Many names in England around 1500 seem to list the names as John of Dover, David of Sandwich, but they wrote this John De Dover, David De Sandwich, which kind of makes it look French but it isn't. These place names may then have turned into surnames and possibly the spelling changed a little. Also first middle and last names have always been switched about through families

It is also possible that although the Shalveys are thought to have come from the name Sealbhaigh (which I believe is pronounced Shelby or Shelvy?), it does not automatically mean the Shelveys from kent come from that, or the Shelvies (Scottish spelling) come from that?

I guess it's also possible that the word can mean several things in different parts of the country? If the word has different meanings in different parts of the country then in the 1500s when there seemed to be a fashion for calling people after where they lived, people living near the Sea in some areas may have got called Shelveys and people living on top of a hill may also have been called shelveys? I have no information on Irish Shelveys in Kent around 1500 - 1700. So I think until we prove that link perhpas Davids previous theory of the name coming from shelvy meaning flat stretch of sand (Goodwin Sands) is stronger for the Shelveys of East Kent.
For more on that theory see this link.

Additional Notes by Sean McGuire (22nd October 2001)

In regards Irish origin of the surname Shelvey, I think that the majority of the surname would be of an English extraction. The surname O'Sealbhaigh means grandson or desendant of Sealbhach, the ig are a result of putting Sealbhach into the genitive case. Sealbhach was a 6th century petty king in Ireland he lived in Corcha Laoidhde, (Current day West Cork) The surname is pronounced Shall-Vig or Shall-Vee. When the English invaded Ireland they could not pronounce or spell Irish surnames so many corruptions occurred. Shelley or Shelly is the most common corruption they all retained the 'Shall' syllable. Shelley comes from an Anglo Saxon word ,shell or shall, which means a wood on a hill. There are places called Shelley in England and people from there were called Shelley. I would suggest that Shelvey has its origins in the same way ie people from a place called Shelvey were called Shelvey.

...And more on Irish Shelveys, this sent to me by Dean Shelvey

This is from The Historical Research Center®, here goes -

The Irish family name Shelvey is classified as being of personal name origin. As in the case of many family names this surname derives its origins from the given name of one of the parents of it's initial bearer. When the name is derived from the fathers first name it is referred to as being patronymic in origin and when it is taken from the personal name of the mother it is an anglicization of the Gaelic "O Sealbhaigh" indicating "decendant of Sealbhaigh", an ancient first name derived from "selbhach" meaning "having possessions", refering to an individual of wealth and influance". Variants of the surname Shelvey include Shalvey, O'Shalvey, Shally, Shaloo, Shallow and Shelly. The O Sealbhaighs were originally a sept of Corca Laoidhe (South-West Cork) which later spread to other parts of Munster. This name is recorded in records as early as the twelfth century, when the death of oneDomhnall O Sealbhaigh is mentioned in The Annals of the Four Masterin 1140.One Augustine O'Sealbhaigh (d. 1182), a celebrated prelate, was appointed Bishop of Waterford, The immense influence of this family in their native Munster is illustated by the fact that there were five medieval bishops of Cork were O'Sealbhaighs. One of the earliest references to this name or to a variant is a record of one James Shelvey, son of Timothy Shelvey and Marcella Sheilds, whose birth is recorded in Leitrim, in 1817. It has been stated quite categorically by the scholar P.H. Reaney that Irish family names first appear in the middle of the tenth century. This actually makes Ireland the first country in Western Europe, after the fall of the Roman Empire, to adopt hereditary names.

BAZEN OF ARMS: Argent a chevron gules between three
whelks sable.
CREST : A griffin's head erased argeent beeaked
and ducally gorged or.
MOTTO : Comme jee trouve
translation : As I find
ORIGIN : Ireland


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