of County Antrim, Ireland
and his descendants
Robert J. Shields
Pages 1 - 6
While my father lived, it was only necessary to apply to him for
information concerning the family history, such as dates of births and
deaths, the ages of our grandparents, who they were and where they came
When he passed away, these facts could not be so readily
obtained. I then began to collect such data as could be found in
old letters, papers, etc., and by a great deal of correspondence with
relatives and others (whose acquaintance I have been glad to make), but
the greater part of the information contained in the following record I
obtained from my mother.
Robert J. Shields.
New York, N. Y.,
December 18, 1903.
Since the publication in 1903 of the brief record of Daniel Shields of
County Antrim, Ireland, and his descendants in America, copies of which
have found their way into several public libraries in various states of
our country, and further information having been acquired, not only
from my mother, but also from many other sources, especially from John
A. Shields, Minneapolis, Minn.; Robert J. Shields, Los Angeles,
California; Carrie Nichol (Mrs. John) Cameron, Souris, N. D.; and
others, another issue seems appropriate. The former issue is
Moreover, the natural events of the twenty-seven intervening years from then until now are also recorded here.
Robert J. Shields
New York, December, 1930.
Robert J. Shields
Mrs. Robert J. Shields
Summer home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Shields
Tottenville, Staten Island, New York
The following is a letter written by John A. Shields of Minneapolis,
Minnesota, to whom reference is made in the Second Preface, to John H.
Shields, Postmaster, Wichita, Kansas:
May 24, 1916.
Mr. John H. Shields, Postmaster,
Dear Mr. Shields:--
I think it is clear that we are not related this side of "the auld
sod," and equally clear that we are related on the other side. I
thank you for your good letter.
I have made a considerable study of the Shields. I recently got
the result of nearly half a century of study of the family, put in by a
gentleman of our name, head of a big Catholic University, specialist in
Irish History and the like. What he did not tell me, he told me
where I might find it.
Briefly, his studies and references show that in the third or fourth
century there were five kings of as many divisions of Ireland, the king
of Munster being O'Brien; later and down to about 1200 he was the
head-king of the whole of the country. The younger son of this
third century O'Brien traveled throughout Europe for twenty years, and
then returned to claim his patrimony. On account of his debonair
manners, picked up at the courts of the Continent, he was dubbed
"Siadhal," which means "the gracious," and because there were so many
O'Briens he adopted the more modernized Irish form of the old word, and
called himself and his children "Shiel." In Latin the name is
Sedulius. We find a great many people of this name prominent,
particularly in ecclesiastical and literary history. One of them
wrote the first of a series of treatises on Ethics that all the
Christian Princes were required to study. One was attached to the
Court of Charlemagne. One was prominent as a member of the Papal
family of early times. Several were delegates to Church
Conventions, etc. One introduced rhyme into Latin poetry, and is
called the Christian Virgil to this
day; he wrote "Carmen Paschale." He has a good biography, from
the pen of Hellman, published in German, in Munich, 1906. Six of
them are mentioned by the Four Masters between the years 785 and 855.
As you probably know, or would find in any good early Irish history,
the Irish family records and historical data are the best in existence
of any century. This arises from the peculiar land tenure
Laws. The Irish are the direct descendants of the Phoenicians,
who invented the alphabet, and the science of Mathematics, but were
driven out by the Greeks. They had a custom of appointing a sort
of Parliament of Scholars who once each year checked up the facts of
current history, and particularly the genealogical records; thus we
have a mine of information, much of it published. These are
largely in the Annals of the Four Masters. A history of the
Shields family is found in Rooney's Aristocracy, the only copy of which
I ever found in this country was in Bishop Phalen's library, and he is
now dead, and his books are scattered.
At the time of the Reformation, 400 years ago, one branch of the family
moved to the North of Ireland -- Ulster. This family became
Protestant, and changed its name slightly. It became
Shields. It may be that it Anglicized the name Shiel, because the
English were the promoters of the Reformation, and the oppressors of
the Catholic Irish. There was an intermarriage with the Norman
family of Scyld, which means "Shield" in English. This Scyld
family was in early days the reigning family in Denmark. Whatever
the reason, the new name was taken on. The Shiel, O'Shiel,
Shiell, Shield, etc., are probably all related to the old family that
stayed in Munster -- Cashel, in Tipperary, is the seat of the old
O'Brien castle and capitol. All of the Shields I know of are from
Ulster, except some who have gone from there to Germany and Spain --
but that is the beginning of the name.
The family of General James Shields, leading Catholic, was of the
Northern Ireland family, re-converted to Catholicism. My own
family is Protestant all the way down. So also are most of the
Immigrant Shields people
Source: Daniel Shields of County Antrim, Ireland and his descendants in America, by Robert J. Shields, 1930
Transcribed by Susan Shields Sasek.
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