Select Dorsey Surname Genealogy

Dorsey is the American version.  The English and Irish spellings have been Darcy or D’Arcy.  Darcy is Norman in origin, deriving from the place-name Orsay village in Seine et Orme.  In Ireland Darcy may be either Anglo-Norman (from Darcys coming from England) or Irish.  In the latter case Darcy is an anglicized form of the Gaelic sept O'Dorchaidhe, which translates as “descendant of the dark one."

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Select Dorsey/Darcy Ancestry

England.  The forebear of the Darcys was thought to have accompanied William the Conqueror to England in 1066. He appeared in the Domesday Book of 1086 as the Norman de Areci, owner of many manors in Lincolnshire.  The name became D’Arci and then Darcy. 

The Lincolnshire line, originally based at Nocton, transposed itself into the Darcys of Knayth, but died out in 1418. Other lines continued:  

  • one Darcy line seems to have established itself at Little Malden in Essex by the 13th century.  Their numbers included Henry Darcy, a vintner who became Mayor of London in 1337, and Thomas Darcy, a royal courtier with Edward VI in the 1550’s.  This line ended in 1640.
  • another line was to be found at Temple Hurst near Selby in Yorkshire in the mid-14th century.  Thomas Darcy of this line distinguished himself in battle, but then fell foul of politics during the reign of Henry VIII and was beheaded in 1537.  The direct line ended a hundred years later in 1637.
The Darcys reasserted themselves following the marriage of Thomas Darcy and Elizabeth Conyers in Yorkshire in 1569.  Their son Conyers Darcy reactivated the baron titles of both Knayth and Conyers; and their grandson of the same name was created the Earl of Holderness.

The Scottish philosopher David Hume wrote in the 1760’s:

"It is remarkable that this family of Darcy seems to be the only male descendant of any of the Conqueror's barons now remaining among the Peers.  Lord Holderness is the heir of that family.”

Lord Holderness died in 1778 without male heirs.  But he was thought to have had an illegitimate son named Francis who was killed fighting in the American Revolutionary War.  Francis’s son Robert was a Major-General with the Royal Engineers. 

Ireland.  There have been two distinct Darcys lines in Ireland, one Anglo-Norman and the other Irish.

Anglo-Norman.  The Anglo-Norman branch got its descent from Sir John D’Arcy of Knayth who was appointed Chief Justice of Ireland by Edward II in 1323.  The main line, that of Plattyn, was based at Corbetstown in county Meath. Sir William D’Arcy was an influential Anglo-Irish statesman of the early 1500’s, holding the title of Vice-Treasurer of Ireland.

The D'Arcy lands were forfeited in 1641 as they were Catholic, returned to them as “innocent papists” in 1661, but forfeited again in 1690.  A branch of the family held the Hyde Park estate in Westmeath from the 1770’s.  Charles D’Arcy of that line was an eminent Anglican clergyman in Ireland in the early 1900’s.

Irish.  The O’Dorchaidhe sept which gave rise to the Irish Darcy name had its origins in Connacht, perhaps dating back to the early 1300's.  There were records of the name in Leitrim, Mayo, and Galway.  It was said that Walter Riabhac O’Dorchaidhe from the Partraige of Lough Carra in Mayo was "the first man of the Uí Dorchaidhe who came to Galway” in the late 1400’s.

Galway has been the place where most Irish Darcys have come from.  The Darcys in fact were one of the “fourteen tribes of Galway” that prospered as merchants in the town of Galway. 

James Riveagh D’Arcy
had been bailiff of Galway in 1578 and served as its mayor in 1602.  Despite some suggestion that he came from the Anglo-Norman D’Arcys, he was – as the DNA analysis has shown – of Irish origin. 

was the progenitor of the D’Arcys at Kiltullagh in Athenry parish.  One of his sons Martin served as High Sheriff of Galway in 1635 but was then imprisoned and died the following year.  Another son Patrick trained as a lawyer and wrote the constitution for a Catholic Confederacy of Ireland in the 1640’s.  A later Patrick D’Arcy joined the Irish brigade in France in the 1750’s and married his cousin Jane D’Arcy, a lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette. 

In Ireland there were other descendant lines at Newforest and Clifden in Galway and at Gorleen in county Mayo (where William Knox D’Arcy, the oil pioneer in Persia, was a descendant).

  Maryland had the leading numbers of Darseys in 1840 and has so today.

Maryland.  Edward Darcy was among the first settlers of Anne Arundel county in Maryland in 1649, having come there with other Puritans from Virginia.  He drowned in an accident off the Isle of Kent in 1659.  His ancestry has been the subject of much debate, the DNA analysis suggesting that he probably came from Ireland rather than from England

Darcy became Dorsey with Edward's sons and other Darcys that have come to America have tended to follow suit.  Edward and John Dorsey were prosperous planters in Maryland.  Among their descendants were:
  • on John's side came Samuel Dorsey who moved south to Louisiana in the 1830's where he became a wealthy plantation owner.  He lost most of his land holdings during the Civil War.  His wife Sarah was a well-known Southern writer.
  • while on Edward's side came John Dorsey who settled in Fayetteville, Georgia in the early 1800's.  Two descendants were John Manson Dorsey, whose ghost was said to haunt the family home, and his brother Rufus Dorsey who became a county judge in Atlanta.  Rufus's son Hugh, also a lawyer, was a state prosecutor who served as Governor of Georgia from 1917 to 1921.
  • also on Edward's side came much later, it is thought, the Big Band Dorsey brothers.  Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey grew up in Pennsylvania in the early 1900's. 
The lineage of the family was covered in the 1947 book The Dorsey Family by Dorsey, Dorsey and Nimmo.

Elsewhere.   Another place for Dorseys was North Carolina.  The name began to appear there in various counties in the mid/late 1700's. 

Andrew Dorsey, recorded there in Rowan county in 1766,wais thought to have originated from Maryland.  Joseph Dorsey, who fought with his five sons in the Revolutionary War, was also said to have moved from Maryland to North Carolina before finally settling in Georgia.  Elisha Dorsey, born in 1773, was a founder member of the Gilboa Methodist church in Burke county.  His line was traced in David Dorsey's 1975 book Elisha Dorsey of Burke County, North Carolina.

John and Marie Dorsey were Irish immigrants who had come to Vermont in the 1830’s and later migrated westward to Ohio. Their son Stephen prospered after the Civil War and moved to Arkansas where he was elected its carpet-bagging Governor from 1873 to 1879.   He got rich through corrupt mail contracts, narrowly escaping prosecution, and retreated to his Mountain Spring cattle ranch in New Mexico.  The nearby town of Clayton was named after his son

African American.  Dorsey can also be an African American name, found initially in Maryland and later, and nore notably, in Georgia:
  • there were a number of Dorsey tobacco plantations in the Howard district of Anne Arundel county, Maryland.  Family stories talk of an escaped slave named Dorsey who fled Maryland for Canada in the 1850's and changed his name to Thomas.  Other Dorseys remained in the state.   Decatur Dorsey distinguished himself in fighting during the Civil War.  One Dorcey family at Sykesville today holds a reuntion every Labor Day. 
  • Georgia provided D.A. Dorsey, the son of former slaves, who migrated to Florida in the 1890's and made his fame and fortune in Miami.  When he died in 1940, flags were lowered to half-mast all over Miami.  Georgia also provided Tom Dorsey, known in his early years as Georgia Tom, who is widely regarded as the father of black gospel music.    
Australia.  James and Mary Darcy immigrated from Tipperary in Ireland in the 1850's and made their home in West Maitland, NSW.  Their grandson Les Darcy, born there in 1895, became one of the greatest middleweights that ever fought.  He died tragically at the young age of 21.

Select Dorsey/Darcy Miscellany

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

Select Dorsey/Darcy Names

Patrick Darcy was an Irish Catholic leader in the Confederacy wars of the 1640’s and wrote the constitution for a Confederate Ireland.
Mr. Darcy
is the famous fictional character in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
William Knox D’Arcy
, an Englishman, struck oil in Persia (now Iran) in 1908 and was one of the founders of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company that became BP.

 Dorsey was a bandleader during the Big Band era of jazz.  He was known as the "sentimental gentleman of swing" because of his smooth-toned trombone playing.
Arnold Dorsey
was the birth name of the singer who burst into stardom in the 1960‘s as Engelbert Humperdinck.

Jack Dorsey
 is the co-founder and CEO of Twitter.

Select Dorseys/Darcys Today
  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 15,000 in America (most numerous in Maryland) 
  • 9,000 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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