The Clan/Sept History
The spelling and overall form of Irish names often vary considerably. The
original Gaelic form of the name MacGilfoyle is Mac Giolla Phoil, denoting the
descendant of a follower of St. Paul.
Names during the Middle Ages were often recorded under several different
spelling variations during the life of their bearers. Literacy was rare at that
time and so how a person's name was recorded was decided by the individual
scribe. Variations of the name MacGilfoyle include Gilfoyle, MacGilfoyle,
MacIlfoyle, Guilfoyle and many more.
First found in county Offaly, where they held a family seat from very ancient
The English-ruled Ireland of the late 18th and 19th centuries featured a rapidly
increasing population and an agricultural-based economy. This combination proved
to be disastrous in the 1840s after a couple of failed potato harvests.
Thousands died of disease and starvation, and thousands more left the country,
often bound for North America. Those that survived the journey to North America
were put to work building the bridges, canals, roadways, and railways needed for
the development of an industrial society. Those Irish, although often despised
by those already established in North American cities and towns, played an
instrumental role in making Canada and the United States the powerful and
wealthy nations that they are today. An examination of early immigration and
passenger lists has shown many immigrants bearing the name MacGilfoyle: Michael
Gilfoyle who settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1872; Michael Gilfoil
settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1852; followed by John Gilfoil in 1858.
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