In Ireland this name is anglicized from the Gaelic O'Siaghail sept name, meaning 'descendant of Siadhal', a well attested personal name, and very popular throughout the four provinces.
The Shields family crest or coat of arms came into existence many centuries ago. The process of creating these coats of arms began as early as the eleventh century although a form of Proto-Heraldry may have existed in some countries prior to this, including Ireland.
The new more formalized art of Heraldry made it possible for families and even individual family members to have their very own family crest, coat of arms, including Shields descendants.
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For example, the Irish name O'Connor has dozens. Many non-Gaelic names were brought into the country especially during the seventeenth century.
At that time it was very much a disadvantage to have a Gaelic or Irish-sounding name so many of the native names were 'anglicized' into a similar sounding Anglo or Scottish name. The O'Murchadha sept adopted the name Murphy.
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Some septs adopted a number of different variants including the O' hAodha sept who changed their name to both Hughes as well as Hayes.