(Gaelic: Muiris. Latin: Mauritius meaning Moorish.)
This name was a Roman name for a man of Moorish lineage.77 It was borne by a captain of the Theban legion who was martyred, together with his companions, in Switzerland, by order of Maximinian, in the third century A. D. The name was common among the Norman invaders of Ireland.
It has been reported215 that there is an Old Norse word, similar in spelling or pronunciation to Maurice, which means "sea warrior". If this report is true, then it is understandable that the Danish Vikings in France would favor the name of Saint Maurice, the Roman martyr, after they had adopted Christianity in France.
The person listed hereinafter as "Walter de Windsor" was listed in the Domesday Book215 as "Gualterius filius Otheri". This name has the literal meaning "Walter son Other's". The Latin word filius was sometimes written as fils with a bar over the s to indicate that one or more letters had been omitted. The word then evolved to "fiz" or "filz" in Old French. When "fiz" was given a Frankish or Norse (i.e. Germanic) pronunciation, it became "fitz" of Norman-French.
In Latin and in the Celtic languages, the name of the father would always be in the genative (or possessive) case. In English, however, the name of the father was normally (and illogically) in the nominative case. Thus, "Gualterius filius Otheri" became "Walter fitz Other".
Prior to the adoption of surnames by the Normans, a man was often given a paternally derived name. Thus, Thomas, the son of Maurice, would be called Thomas fitzMaurice. Gerald, the son of Thomas, would be called Gerald fitzThomas or Gerald fitzThomas fitzMaurice.
Modern writers often use the lower-case "f" to indicate a father-son relationship and a capital "F" to indicate a surname. I have not been consistent in this matter. I have spelled each mans name the way that I think he spelled it. Where I have not been able to find a signature, I have given first preference to the spelling proposed by the curator of the Lansdowne estate225 and second preference to the spelling in the Royal Genealogical Data base of the University of Hull.205
The Maurice memorialized by this surname was usually Maurice fitz Gerald (d. 1176), a son of Gerald of Windsor and one of the leaders of the Norman invasion of Ireland.
Maurice fitz Gerald had a son named
Thus, for nine generations, "fitzMaurice" was either the second or third name of each man when his name was written in this father-son-grandfather manner. It has been reported215 that Patrick fitzMaurice fitzJohn (7th Lord of Kerry) instituted the use of the surname FitzMaurice by the Lords of Kerry and their families. This report is consistent with the fact that the name Maurice was never again used for the name of the eldest son of a Lord of Kerry. Maurice FitzMaurice would have sounded objectionable to the Irish ear which expected the eldest son to be named after the paternal grandfather, not after the father.
A few modern genealogists have added "fitzGerald" to the name of each of these men in order to indicate that they are descended from Gerald of Windsor. This practice has brought only confusion to other researchers.
According to MacLysaght84, a Connacht branch of the Prendergast families adopted the surname of FITZMAURICE. I presume that the purpose was to memorialize Maurice de Prendergast. I have not yet found much information about those families. It was probably a smaller network since, in recent centuries, the FITZMAURICE population of Munster has been much larger than the FITZMAURICE population of Connacht. Although several personal websites state that Maurice fitz Gerald and Maurice de Prendergast were one and the same person, documentary evidence indicates otherwise.
By the 17th Century, the surname of FitzMaurice had acquired several alternative spellings:
Emigrants from Ireland usually reverted to the original spelling. For example, the members of our extended family who served as officers in the Irish Brigade of the French Army (1692-1792) are listed as follows in the French records.103
There seems to be a bureaucratic pressure on everyone with two capital letters in his surname to change the spelling so that only the initial letter is capitalized. I note that Colonel James Fitzmaurice, of "Bremen" fame, had a father (in the civil service) who spelled his name as Michael FitzMaurice during his childhood on a farm in Limerick but changed the spelling to Fitzmaurice when he became a government employee.
"Fitzmaurice" is now the most widely used spelling of the family name.
I have found this hyphenated version of our family name only in England. Since hyphenated surnames are common in England, it is unlikely that bureaucrats and other strangers will change the capital "M" to a lower case "m". A disadvantage of this style of spelling is the incorrect implication that "Fitz" and "Maurice" were formerly independent surnames.
To reduce slightly the anti-Gaelic persecution during the 17th Century, surnames were frequently anglicized and the prefixes Mac, Mc, and M' were often replaced by the Norman prefix "Fitz". Hence, "MacPárthlán" became "FitzBartholomew". A name such as "FitzBartholomew" was not used within the Gaelic community; it was used only when dealing with the English. Some other names that were apparently used only when dealing with the English were FitzChristopher, FitzDavid, FitzDominick, FitzEsmond, FitzFrancis, FitzGregory, FitzJasper, FitzPhilip, and FitzRichard. These names have now all disappeared. The only anglicized Gaelic name that has continued in use is FitzPatrick.103 As outlined above, FitzMaurice is not a hybrid name.