The prefix “Fitz” in Irish surnames generally traces back to origins among the Norman invaders of the twelfth century. What is unique about Fitzpatrick is that its roots are not among the Norman Irish but the Gaelic Irish. It is derived from the Gaelic Mac Giolla Phádraig meaning “sons of Patrick’s devoted” or “sons of those devoted to Patrick.” Earlier spellings of the name are MacGilpatrick and MacKilpartrick. The Hiberno-Norman prefix “Fitz” was added later but the clan itself was of Gaelic Irish origin.
Similar forms of the name were later used among the English and British royal family, particularly for illegitimate children of kings and princes. This led to the belief that the prefix “Fitz” indicated illegitimacy, which was not originally the case.
The Mac Giolla Phádraig clan was a salient one, controlling at one point nearly all of Counties Laois and Kilkenny. Following the Norman invasion, the Mac Giolla Phádraigs were ousted by the Bulter clan. Under Henry VIII, the clan regained their dominance when Brian Fitzpatrick was named Lord Baron of Upper Ossory.
In the early 17th century, poet and nobleman Brian Mac Giolla Pháidraig (1580-1652) made his mark in the high society of Ossory. Born to the royal family in the region, he was appointed Vicar Apostilic in 1617 to the church in Ossory but was imprisoned and executed by Cromwellian forces. A few of his Irish poems still survive.
An American politician just before the Civil War, Benjamin Fitzpatrick (1802-1869) was Governor of Alabama from 1841-1845. He was a member of the Senate until Alabama seceded from the Union. He served as president of the constitutional convention in Alabama in 1865 but was for the most part uninvolved in politics in the Confederacy.
A darker figure in the past of the Fitzpatricks, Richie Fitzpatrick (1880-1904) was a prominent gunman in the infamous Five Point Gangs in New York. Well known for his trick of luring victims to a restaurant, then excusing himself to the restroom to retrieve planted weapons, Richie was the inspiration for one such murder scene in The Godfather films. He was shot to death at a peace conference in a saloon in 1904.
Thomas Fitzpatrick (1830-1909) was born in Co. Cavan and came to America in his youth, becoming one of the “Mountain Men” known for their mediation between the colonists and American Indians living on the frontier. A trapper, trader and scout, he served as a guide for the first wagon train crossing through Montana to the Pacific in 1841 and for other American expeditions.
In South Africa, Sir James Percy FitzPatrick (1862-1931) was a politician and pioneer of the fruit industry. The son of Irish immigrants, he later became an author and wrote the famous children’s book Jock of the Bushveld.
A prominent name in the hotel business, John Fitzpatrick is chairman and CEO of the Fitzpatrick Hotel Group, North America, which operates three hotels in New York City. John joined the Group which his father Paddy Fitzpatrick founded. He relocated to the United States and has found success in New York under the hotel name which has become a household one in Ireland.
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