Select Tracy Miscellany

Here are some Tracy stories and accounts over the years:

Sir William de Tracy at Canterbury Cathedral in 1170

The following is a late 19th-century account of the murder of Thomas a Becket: 

“Sir William de Tracy was one of the four knights who at the instigation of Henry II assassinated Thomas a Becket. 

After entering the cathedral the other three knights struggled violently to put him on Tracy’s shoulders.  In the scuffle Becket fastened upon Tracy’s shoulders, shook him by his coat of mail, and, exerting his strength, flung him down on the pavement.  Tracy, who since his fall, had thrown off his haubeck to move more easily, sprang forward and struck the first blow.  The next blow, struck either by Tracy or Fitzurse, was only with the flat of the sword and again on the bleeding head.  At the third blow from Tracy, he sank on his knees, his arms falling, but his hands still joined as if in prayer.  In this posture, he received from Richard Breton a tremendous blow, aimed with such violence that the crown of the head was severed from the skull and the sword snapped in two on the marble pavement. 

This story differs from other accounts which said that Tracy simply put his hand on Becket and arrested him in the name of the king, but did not strike him.  He was killed instead by Fitzurse.  Before Becket died he put a curse on Tracy's family, a water curse.  His family would always have too little or too much water.” 

The King did not arrest the knights and told them to flee.  The Pope in Rome, however, excommunicated them, saying them that they should do penance by joining the Crusades.  What happened to Tracy after that is not known.  Did he go and did he come back?  Local legend had it that his ghost returned to the west country. 

“The worthy folks of Devon averred that his tormented spirit may be heard moaning and lamenting on the Woollacombe sands where he was doomed to wander restlessly to and fro, toiling to ‘make bundles of sand and wisps of the same’ for all time to come."

Treaceys, Traceys and Tracys in Ireland

At the the time of Griffith's Valuation in the mid 19th century, the surname had settled into three main forms:
  • Tracy (686 households), mostly in Tipperary and and Limerick
  • Tracey (350 households), mostly in Galway and Tipperary
  • and Treacy (94 households), mostly in Galway.

The Tracy spelling reflected English influence which has receded.  Treacy was the main spelling in birth registrations in 1890 in Tipperary and Galway, while Tracey and Tracy were principally found in Dublin.

Treacys, Traceys and Tracys Today

It is mainly Treacy in Ireland, Tracey in Northern Ireland, and Tracy in America.  The following are the rough numbers today.

Numbers (000's)

Biddy Tracy - from Galway to Australia

Biddy Tracy Andrews told stories of her life to her children which were relayed to later generations of her family. 

In the 1830’s Biddy Tracy was the youngest of a family of three girls and one boy living with their parents in the town of Galway.  Her father was a shipping clerk employed by the Galway Shipping Co, while her mother devoted her life to her husband and children.  They were not endowed with wealth but lived as comfortable as was possible in those times in Ireland.

Then one day their lives were to be completely changed.  A storm brought a tremendous shoal of fish upon the shores of Galway Bay.  The people were unable to clear the fish fast enough and, as the story goes, the fish began to decay and that in turn caused an outbreak of typhus.  Biddy’s parents caught the typhus and died with within hours of each other.  The children survived it but soon after the family broke up.  

Biddy was sent off to an Aunt Ellen who had a small farm.  Later she lived in a convent.  She wasn’t happy there.  Then she heard that they were in need of domestic servants in Australia.  So she made up her mind to emigrate.  The voyage took six months and she had many memories of that trip.

Edward and Philemon Tracy, Confederate Officers

Edward Door Tracy is remembered today in his hometown of Macon, Georgia with the following state marker in Rose Hill Cemetery:

"Edward D. Tracy, Jr., was born in Macon, Georgia, on Nov. 5, 1833.  His father served as Macon's second Mayor (1826-1828), a Judge of Superior Court, and hosted General Lafayette during his visit to Macon in 1825.  

The younger Tracy graduated from the University of Georgia in 1851, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1853.  He was a member and deacon of First Presbyterian Church, and Macon Lodge No. 5, F.& A.M.  In 1857, Tracy moved to Huntsville, Alabama. He was a Delegate to the 1860 Democratic national Convention, and an Alternate elector for John C. Breckinridge in Alabama. 

In April, 1861, Tracy was commissioned a Captain in the 4th Alabama Infantry, C.S.A.  He fought in the battles of First Manassas, Farmington, Shiloh and Vicksburg.  He was rapidly promoted and on recommendation of General E. Kirby Smith, Tracy was promoted from Lt. Colonel to Brig. General on August 16, 1862.  On May 1, 1863, leading his brigade of Georgians and Alabamians, General Tracy was killed at Port Gibson, Mississippi.  His body was returned to Macon and buried here. 

His brother, Major Philemon Tracy, Editor of the Macon Telegraph, was killed September 3, 1862 at Sharpesburg, Maryland."

Philemon Tracy was one of the first casualties at the Battle of Antietam.  He is believed to have been the only Confederate officer that was buried north of the Mason-Dixon Line.  His grave is in the Batavia Cemetery in upstate New York.  In fact his body had been requested by his uncle Phineas Tracy who lived there.  Philemon had frequently visited him in earlier summers.

Spencer Tracy's Upbringing

Spencer Tracy was part of a Hollywood acting club in the 1930's that included James Cagney, Frank McHugh, and Pat O'Brien and were dubbed the Irish mafia.  However, his father was not the tough Irishman climbing his way into the middle class that studio publicists later made him out to be. 

John Tracy came from a fairly prosperous Irish American family in Freeport, Illinois, with earlier roots in Mazomanic, Wisconsin.  A Catholic, he had attended college in Notre Dame and worked for a time for a bank in Freeport before coming to Milwaukee.  There, however, he developed a drinking problem and could never hold down a job for more than a year.

Spencer, born in Milkwaukee in 1900, was a difficult and hyperactive child with a poor school attendence.  He later said: "I never would have gone back to school if there had been any other way of learning to read the subtitles in the movies."

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