Select Tracy Surname Genealogy

The Gaelic word treasach meaning "warlike" or "fighter"  gave rise to various O'Treasaigh septs.  The earliest name reference was in 1008 when it was recorded: "Gussan, son of Ua Treassach and lord of Ui-Bairriche, died."  O'Treasagh was most often anglicized as Treacy, sometimes as Tracey, and often in its travels to America as Tracy.  All three spellings - Treacy, Tracey, and Tracy - exist today. 

Tracy also has a Ango-Norman origin, from the place-name Tracy in Normandy.

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England.  The Tracy line in England derived from an illegitimate son of Henry I who took his mother's name de Tracy and was granted the estate of Toddington in Gloucestershire.  His son, Sir William de Tracy, was notorious for being one of the four assassins of Sir Thomas a Becket in 1170.

Despite this ignominy, the Tracys through his daughter continued at Toddington and were frequently recorded as sheriffs and knights of Gloucestershire in the succeeding centuries.  Sir William Tracy was one of the earliest champions of the Reformation under Henry VIII and secured the manor of Stanway.  However, the family were Royalist during the Civil War, were heavily fined, and lost their position.  The Tracys did retain the Irish title of Viscount of Rathcoole until the line became extinct in 1797. 

.  There were initially three distinct O'Treasaigh septs:
  • one in SE Galway, although they were dispersed from there at an early date
  • the second in west Cork, a branch of which migrated to Limerick
  • and a third in county Laios near the Carlow border, although these were also dispersed over time.
The Trassy and O'Trassy spellings were recorded in the 1659 census.  Tracy, Tracey, and Treacy appeared in Griffith's Valuation of the mid 19th century.  Tracy has retreated in favor of Treacy since that time.  Sean Treacy, the young IRA leader at the time of the Irish War of Independence, came from Tipperary.

The main Treacy groupings today are in east Galway and west Cork and in counties around Laios.  Further north the spelling becomes Tracey; while Tracy is found in Dublin.

America.  The early Tracys in America were of English origin, with William Tracy of the Gloucestershire Tracys in Virginia in 1620 and Thomas Tracy, a ship's carpenter, who came to New England in the 1630's and was among those who helped settle the Connecticut river valley and found the town of Norwich, Connecticut in 1660.  Descendants of Thomas Tracy included:
  • two brothers, Phineas and Albert, who were New York state politicians in the early 1800's.
  • and a third brother Edward who left New England for Macon, Georgia where he prospered.  He served as its second mayor in 1826.  His sons Edward and Philemon Tracy were Confederate officers who perished during the Civil War.      
Another line via Wheeler Tracy settled in Gouldsboro, Maine.

The first Irish Tracy in America was probably Patrick Tracey who had left Wexford penniless for Massachusetts in the 1740's and prospered in shipping at Newbury.  His son Nathaniel, an ardent American patriot, was one of the first Yankee privateers to harass and capture British shipping.   However, when the war ended, conditions changed and Nathaniel soon found himself bankrupt.  He retired to a farm in Newbury.

Most later Tracys in America were of Irish extraction, the most famous of them being Spencer Tracy the Hollywood actor who was born to an Irish Catholic family in Milwaukee.

Australia.   Biddy Tracy, orphaned in Galway, came to Victoria in 1841 and married John Andrews.  Her life story was handed down in family papers.  Brother Patrick Treacy was a Roman Catholic educationalist from Tipperary who in 1868 established Australia's first permanent Christian Brothers community in Melbourne.  By the time he retired in 1900 he had set up 27 of these schools in Australia.

Select Tracy/Treacy Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

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William de Tracy was notorious as one of the four English knights that assassinated Thomas a Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.
Sean Treacy was a young IRA leader during the Irish War of Independence.  He was shot dead by the British during a shoot-out in 1920.
Dick Tracy was a popular American comic book character devised by Chester Gould in the 1930's.
Spencer Tracy was a renowned Hollywood actor who career spanned the 1930's to the 1950's.

Select Tracys/Treacys/Traceys Today
  • 9,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 13,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 14,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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