Foley Surname Name Meaning, Origin, History, & Etymology
This is an Irish and English surname, being an Anglicized version of the Gaelic last name O’Foghladha, which means “descendant of Foghlaidh”, an old personal (first) name meaning pirate or marauder. In some instances, it may be an Anglicized version of the Gaelic surname MacShearraigh (or McScharry) selected because of its phonetic approximation to the English word fole or fola, meaning a foal (i.e. a horse or colt). A third theory is that the name derives from the Dutch names Fol and/or French Folie, perhaps an old masculine given name. The English part of the family has long been seated in county Worcester, England and the adjacent counties. The Irish part of the family were very numerous in south Munster, Ireland. One of the earliest bearers of this last name was Maoliosa O’Foley, the Archbishop of Cashel, who was documented in the Medieval Ecclesiastical Records of Ireland in 1131 AD.
Some spelling variants or names with similar etymologies include Folley, Fooley, Foly, Foli, Foolie, Foaoli, O‘Foley, Fouley, Faoley, and others.
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Foley ranks 605th in popularity in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks particularly high in the following four states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The surname Foley frequency/commonness ranks as follows in the British Isles: England (639th), Scotland (901st), Wales (504th), Ireland (51st) and Northern Ireland (618th). In England, it ranks highest in county Middlesex In Scotland, the surname ranks highest in county Nairn. In Wales, it ranks highest in county Monmouthshire. In Ireland, it ranks highest in county Waterford and Kerry. In Northern Ireland, it ranks highest in county Tyrone. The name is also present throughout the remainder English speaking world: Canada (834th), New Zealand (560th), Australia (435th), and South Africa (2,674th).
Foley Family Tree & Foley Genealogy
The following is a discussion of seven different noble, royal, landed, or aristocratic families bearing this last name.
Foley of Prestwood
The lineage or ancestry of this branch of the Foley family tree traces back to Honorable Edward Foley, of Stoke Edith and Presetwood, the son of Thomas, 3rd Lord Foley. He had the following issue: Edward Thomas (of Stoke Edith Park, Member of Parliament, married Lady Emily Graham, daughter of James, Duke of Montrose), John Hodgetts (of Prestwood), Elizabeth Maria (married Henry, 4th Viscount Gage), Anna Maria (married Sir Henry John Lambert). His son John Hodgetts Foley was an Esquire of Prestwood, county Worcester, Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant, and Member of Parliament for East Worcestershire who was born in 1797. In 1825, he married Charlotte Margaret, daughter of John Gage and Mary, daughter of John Milbanke, and had a son with her named Henry John. Henry John Wentworth Hodgetts-Foley was an Esquire of Prestwood, county Worcester, England, who was a Member of Parliament for South Staffordshire, Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant, and High Sheriff, who was born in 1877. In 1854, he married Jane Frances Anne, daughter of Hussey, Lord Vivian, and had one son and heir with her named Paul Henry born in 1857. The Foley Coat of Arms (mistakenly called the Foley Family Crest by those unfamiliar with heraldry and genealogy) is blazoned in the medieval European art of heraldry as follows: Quarterly, 1st and 4th, argent, a fess engrailed between three cinquefoils sable, within a bordure of the last, for Foley, 2nd and 3rd, azure, on a chevron between three doves in chief and a fleur-de-lis in base or, three crescents vert, for Hodgett. Crests: 1st, Foley: A lion rampant argent holding between the forepaws an eschutheon, charged with the arms; 2nd Hodgetts: A horse’s head ermine, pierced through the neck with a spear, the staff broken proper. Mottoes: Ut prosim, and Vince malum bono. The family was seated at Prestwood and Strourton Caste, bear Stourbridge, county Worcester, England (modern day United Kingdom, once called Great Britain).
Foley of Wistow Manor of Foley Of Tetworth
Henry Foley was an Esquire of Wistow Manor, St. Neots, count Huntingdon and Earsha House, county Kent, England, Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant, and Captain in the 6th Regiment, who was born in 1804. He was the son of Major General Richard Harry Foley, grandson of Reverend Philip Foley, great grandson of Robert Foley, and great great grandson of Philip Foley of Frestwood, the uncle of 1st Lord Foley. In 1831, he married Elizabeth, daughter of Edward Curteis of Glenburne, and had the following issue with her: 1) Harry Richard Stanhope (42nd Regiment), 2) L.A. Constance, 3) Lucy Selina Geraldine (married Reverend Charles Thornton Forster in 1866), 4) Henrietta Jane (married Reverend Thomas Henry [???} Warner, son of Reverend Daniel Lee Warner, 5) F. Leila, 6) Marian Alice, 7) Florence Maud (married Captain K.H.A Mainwaring, son of Admiral Mainwaiting of Whitmore Hall), and 8) Edith L. Vernon. They were seated at Wistow Manor, St. Neots and Ersham House, Canbury, England.
The Foley genealogy of this branch of the Foley family tree traces back to Richard Foley of Dudley, county Worcester, England, who married a woman named Anne, and died around 1600 AD, having had three issue: Richard, John, and Edward (born 1584, had a son named Richard), and Katherine (married Thomas Mason or Robinson). The eldest son, Richard Foley, of Stourbridge, county Worcester, was the Mayor of Dudley, born in 1580. He was an ironmaster by trade and became wealthy through said industry. He had a son and two daughters with his first wife, one named Richard (of Longton Hall, born 1608, married three times, but did not leave any surviving male issue). He married Alice, daughter of William Brindley, and fathered five children with her as follows: Thomas (see below), Robert (of Strourbridge, High Sheriff, married Anne Blurton, had issue), Samuel (of Clonmel and Dublin, married Elizabeth Richards and had issue with her, settling in Ireland), Anne (born 1611, married William Normansell of Wolverhampton), and Priscilla (married Ezekiel Wallis of Bristol and Henry Glover). His son, Thomas, was of Witley Court and was born in 1617. He was a Member of Parliament. He married Anne, daughter and heir of John Browne, of Spelmonden, in Kent, by the addition of whose great fortune to his paternal inheritance he left at his decrease a large landed property in several counties. He had three sons and two daughters as follows:
1) Thomas (of Witley Court, a Member of Parliament for Surrey, married Elizabeth Ashe of Heytesbury and had issue with her named Mary, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Thomas the first Baron Foley), 2) Paul (see below), and 3) Philip (of Prestwood, a Member of Parliament, married Penelope, daughter of 5th Baron Paget, had children named Paul, Edward, Sir Robert Ralph, Reverend Harry Thomas, and Penelope), 4) Martha (married William Joliffe of London), and 5) Sarah (married Essex Knightly of Fawsley and later John Hampden of Great Hampden). His second son, Paul Foley, was of Stoke Edith, county Hereford, England was Speaker of the House of Commons in 1694. In 1668, he married Mary, daughter of Alderman John Lane of London, and had issue with his. His eldest son was Thomas. This Thomas was of Stoke Edith, and he was a Member of Parliament for Hereford and Stafford in the first half of the eighteenth century. He married Anne, daughter and heir of Essex Knightley of Fawsley, and had issue as follows: Thomas, Anne (married Anthony Lechmere of Hanley Castle) and Mary (married Reverend N. Wickens). His son and heir, Thomas Foley, of Stoke Edith, was a Member of Parliament for Hereford from 1734 to 1747. He first married Hester, daughter and heir of Thomas Andrews and Elizabeth Young of Thorpe, and had two children with her: Thomas (his heir) and Martin Andrew (died without posterity). He secondly married Mary, daughter of John Warter of the Barbadoes, and had two issue with her: Reverend Robert (Dean of Worcester, married Ann Dowdeswell) and Sarah (married Boulter Tomlison of Cheltenham). He thirdly married Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Wolstenholme and had one son with her named Paul Jermyn. He married twice more, but did not have further issue. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Thomas Foley, 1st Baron Foley, of Kidderminster, county Worcester, England, who was born in 1716 and elevated to the peerage in 1776. In 1740, he married Grace Granville, daughter and co-heir of George, Lord Lansdowne, and had the following children with her: 1) Thomas (2nd Baron), 2) Edward (of Stoke Edith and Prestwood, Member of Parliament, born 1747, married Lady Anne Coventry and later Eliza Maria Foley, had issue named Edward Thomas, John Hodgetts, Elizabeth Maria, and Anna Maria), and 3) Andrew (Member of Parliament for Droitwich, married Elizabeth Tomlinson, had issue including Harriet Mary), 4) Grace (married the last Earl of Clanbrassill in 1774), and 5) Mary (married Richard Clerk of Kingston), 5) Elizabeth (died 1776), 6) Anne (married Sir Edward Winnington, 2nd Baronet). He died in 1777 and was succeeded by his eldest son Thomas.
Thomas Foley, 2nd Baron
This son, Thomas Foley, 2nd Baron was born in 1742 and was a Member of Parliament for Hereford and Droitwich. In 1776, he married Henrietta, 4th daughter of 2nd Earl of Harrington, but had two issue with her: Thomas and Harriet (married Christopher Bethell Codrington of Doddington Park). He died in 1793 and was succeeded by his son Thomas. This Thomas, 3rd Baron Foley, was a Lord Lieutenant of Worcester born in 1780. In 1806, he married Cecilia Olivia, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Leinster, and was the father of the following children: 1) Thomas Henry (4th Baronet), 2) Colonel Augustus Frederick Colonel Grenadier Guards, 3) Sir St. George Gerald (Colonel 2nd Bn. Staffordshire Regiment, Commander of the Legion of Honour, Governor of Guernsey, married Augusta Selina Sturt, had issue named Henry St. George and Lieutenant Colonel Cyril Pelham), 4) Admiral Fitzgerald Algernon Charles, 5) Cecilia Olivia (married Sir. C.R. Rushout of Sezincot), 6) Geraldine Augusta (married her cousin, Phillippe Ferdinand Augustus de Rohan Chabot), 7) Georgina Louisa (married Thomas Molyneux Montgomerie of Garboldisham Hall), and 8) Adelaide Georgiana Frederica (married Lieutenant General Thomas Ashburnham). He died in 1832 and was succeeded by his son Thomas Henry, 4th Baron Foley, who was born in 1808. In 1849, he married Lady Mary Charlotte, eldest daughter of the 13th Duke of Norfolk, and had two issue with her:
Henry Thomas Foley, 5th Baron Foley of Kidderminster
Henry Thomas (5th Baron) and Fitzalan Charles John (6th Baron). Skipping forward down the Foley genealogy or Foley family tree comes Gerald Henry, the 7th Baron Foley, who was born in 1898 and was a Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, and in 1922, married Minoru. Daughter of H. Greenstone of South African. He died in 1927 and was succeeded by his son Adrian. Adrian Gerald Foley, the 8th Baron Foley, of Kidderminister, county Worcester, England, was a composer and pianist who was born in 1923. The following Foley Coat of Arms were created on May 20th, 1776 and are blazoned in the medieval art of heraldry as follows: Argent, a fess, engrailed, between three cinquefoils, sable, all within a bordure of the last. Crest: A lion, rampant, argent, holding between the forepaws an escutcheon, charged with the arms. Supporters: Two lions, argent, semee of cinquefoils, sable. Motto: Ut prosim.
Other Foley Pedigree & Family Trees
Richard Foley was born prior to 1560. In 1574. He married Margery Bennett at St. Thomas, Dudley, Worcestershire, England. He had a son also named Richard. This was Richard was born in Stourbridge, England prior to 1580. He married Alice Bridley and had the following issue with her: Richard, Thomas, Honor, Philip, Robert, and John. His son Thomas Foley was born in Strourbridge, Worcestershire, England prior to 1617. He married Anne Browne and had the following issue with her: Martha (Jolliffee), Thomas, Paul, Nathaniel, Philip, and Sarah (Hampden).
Dennis Foley was born in Ireland around 1765. He went to colonial America where he married Catherine Hart in Alleghany County, Maryland in 1784. He had a son named John. This John Foley was born in Maryland around 1785. He married Susanna Petty and was the father of the following children with her: Thomas, John B., William H., Preston P., and Wilson A. His son, William Harrison Foley, was born in Virginia in 1818. He married Mary Elizabeth Baily in Ohio in 1843. He had a daughter named Jerushia who was born in Middeports, Meigs, Ohio in 1855. She married Moses Gregory and they had a daughter named Jerushia Adeline Gregory who was born in Middletown, Butler, Ohio in 1887.
Early American and New World Settlers
Settlers in colonial America bearing this surname include Thomas Foley (Virginia 1664), Bryan Foley (landowner in Virginia in 1714), James Foley (landowner in Virginia 1770), Morris Foley (1787), and Maurice Foley (American 1799).
In Canada, one of the first settlers bearing this last name was Henry Foley, a fisherman by trade, who came to Torbay, Newfoundland in 1774. He was followed by John Foley, a convict from Dublin, Ireland, who arrived in Bays Bull, Newfoundland in 1789. In Australia, one of the first bearers of this last name was Daniel Foley, a convict from Middlesex, England, who arrived in New South Wales (then a penal colony) aboard the Andromeda in 1832. In 1846, Catherine Foley came to the city of Adelaide aboard the Britannia in 1846. In New Zealand, one of the earliest settlers bearing this surname was John Foley, who came to the city of Wellington in 1840. In 1852, a ship named the Inchinnan came to Auckland in 1852, including the following passengers: Michael Foley (age 41), Mary (age 35) Julia, and John Foley.
Early Americans Bearing the Foley Family Crest
Charles Bolton’s American Armory (1927), Matthew’s American Armoury and Bluebook (1907), and Crozier’s General Armory (1904) do not contain any entries for this last name.
I have identified one Foley family motto: Ut prosim (That I may be of use)
We have 7 coats of arms for the Foley surname depicted here. These 7 blazons are from Bernard Burke’s book The General Armory of England, Ireland, and Scotland, which was published in 1848. The bottom of this page contains the blazons, and in many instances contains some historical, geographical, and genealogical about where coat of arms was found and who bore it. People with this last name that bore an Foley Coat of Arms (or mistakenly called the Foley Family Crest)
1) Richard Foley of Stourbridge, county Worcester, 8 February 1646-7, by Byshhe, crest: a lion sejant argent, holding a shield of the arms
2) Robert Foley Stourbridge, county Worcester, England, was the son of Richard, and was a High Sheriff. Arms confirmed with difference: on a canton gules a ducal coronet or. Crest< the lion holding a ducal coronet or in lie of an escocheon. Augmentation 12 December 1671, by Walker
There are hundreds of notable people with the Foley surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include:
1) Michael Francis Foley Sr. (1965) who is a former professional wrestler born in Bloomington, Indiana who was in a broad spectrum of promotions such as WWF, WCW, ECW, NWA, and RTA under names such as Cactus Jack, Dude Love, and Mankind, having held the WWF championship title three times, 2) Anthony Gerard Foley (1973-2016) who was an Irish rugby union player born in Limerick, Ireland who 1995 to 2008 for Munster, 3) Charles “Chuck” Foley (1930-2013) who was the co-inventor of the game Twister, born in Lafayette, Indiana, having served in the Michigan Air National Guard, 3) Christopher Derek Foley (1974) who is a controversial American radio show host known as KiddChris or Cobra, born in Syracuse, New York, 4) David Scott Foley (1963) who is a stand-up comedian, director, producer, and writer born in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada best known for his roles on The Kids in the Hall, Brian Candy, and NewsRadio, 5) Major Francis Edward Foley (1884-1958) who was a British Secret Intelligence born in Highbridge, Somerset, England, who served to spy on the Nazis during World War II, having helped thousands of Jewish families escape Germany, 6) Gerald James Foley (1932) who is a retired NHL hockey player born in Ware, Massachusetts who played for three different teams from 1951-1969, 7) Jack Donovan Foley (1891-1967) who was a developer and pioneer of sound effects in film making, born in Yorkville, New York, 8) James Bradford Foley (1807-1886) who was a member of the US House of Representatives for the state of Indiana from 1857 to 1859, born close to Dover, Kentucky, 9) John Robert Foley (1917-2001) who was a member of the US House of Representatives for Maryland from 1959-1961, born in Wabasha, Minnesota, a veteran of World War II, 10) Lieutenant General Sir John Paul Foley (1939) who was once the Chief of Defence Intelligence and the Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey, 11) John Henry Foley (1818=1874) who was an Irish sculptor operating in London, England, born in Dublin, Ireland, who is best known for his statues of Price Albert and Daniel O’Connell, and 12) Thomas Stephen Foley (1929-2013) who was an American lawyer and politician who was the 49th Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1989-1995 (having been elected from Washington’s 5th district starting in 1965) and Ambassador to Japan from 1997-2001, born in Spokane, Washington.