Select Joyce Surname Genealogy

A Norman family named Jorse (or Joyes) is believed to be the origin of the mainly Irish surname Joyce.  Their name may have had its origin in the Breton personal name Iodoc or in a Normandy place name.

Select Joyce Resources on The Internet

Select Joyce Ancestry

Ireland.  Joyce families in Ireland are said to descend from the Anglo-Norman Thomas de Jorse who came to Connacht in the late 13th century and settled there. 

Galway.  Thomas's son Edmond was the progenitor of the Joyce sept in Galway. 

"They were a race of men remarkable for their extraordinary stature who for centuries inhabited the mountainous district in far Connacht called, from them, Duthaidh Sheodhoigh or Joyce county (which now forms the barony of Ross in county Galway)."

Archbishop Ussher in fact referred to them as giants.
The sept stood firm against the English (winning one notable skirmish on Lough Mask in 1587) and became powerful in Galway and Mayo.  They were one of the so-called fourteen "Tribes of Galway" who held sway in that town.  Although their powers have since ebbed, there are still many Joyces around.  Noteworthy among the Joyces of the region was the goldsmith Richard Joyce who devised the Claddagh ring.  Over half of the Joyces in Ireland today are to be found in Galway and Mayo.

The Joyces of Mervue were a distinguished branch of the family.  Marcus Joyce, a rich merchant who bought land in Mayo in the late 16th century, was probably its progenitor.  About a century later, these Joyces emerged as a leading merchant family in Galway.  Matthew Joyce of the family was the first to make his home at Mervue House in 1784.  The Joyces remained at Mervue House until 1953.

Cork.  There was a Joyce branch settled near Kileagh in east Cork from the 14th century onwards.  The most famous Joyce in Ireland, James Joyce the writer - although married to a Galway woman - was of these Cork origins and was born in Dublin.  And it was Dublin that he eulogized in Dubliners and Ulysses that were written while he was in exile in Paris.

Portugal.  A line from Gil Joyce of Galway went from there to Coimbra in Portugal in the late 18th century.  There are now said to be 2,000 descendants of Gil Joyce living in Portugal.

  The Joyce name has been widely spread in England, appearing in Dorset and also in SE England and East Anglia.

Dorset  Joyce appeared from an early time in Dorset at Gillingham and Marnhull and, from the 16th century, at Shapwick (it was said that this family was descended from a giant of a man who had come to Dorset from Galway and married a miller's daughter).  The family ran a mill and farm in the village which were still around in the 1930's when H.S. Joyce wrote about them.  A branch of the family moved to the Isle of Wight in the 1850's.

Elsewhere  The surname Joyes, possibly of different origins, has cropped up in Sussex and Lincolnshire from early times; the surname Joyce in Hampshire and Essex principally.  One Joyce line from Cawston in Norfolk has been traced back to the late 1700's.  The Joyce clockmakers came from Cockshutt in north Shropshire.  The large number of Joyces in Lancashire may represent Irish immigration.    

America.  Joyce or variants of that name appeared in Virginia and Maryland as early as the 1630's and then spread south into North Carolina.  One Joyce line, for instance, traces from Alexander Joyce and his brother Thomas who bought land along the Mayo river in Rockingham county, North Carolina in the mid 1700's. 

"The Joyce cemetery in Rockingham county is referred to as the Possum Joyce cemetery.  One stone has the birth and death dated that correspond with family records of John Joyce, son of Alexander. From this we conclude that John Possum was the son of Alexander."    

Many of their descendants moved onto nearby Stokes county. 

David Joyce, born in Danbury, Connecticut in 1765, was the forebear of David Joyce, the Iowa-based lumber baron of the late 19th century.  However, the Joyce distribution today in America, focused around Massachusetts and New York, reflects more the 19th century immigrant influx.  One Joyce moved further afield at that time.  James Joyce arrived in San Francisco by sea from Ireland in 1847 and was one of its early developers.

Canada.  A number of Joyces came to Canada from Ireland in the early 19th century, and in particular to New Brunswick and the Maritime Provinces:
  • some like Samuel Joyce of St. Andrews, New Brunswick were the children of Loyalist families who had moved north after the Revolutionary War. 
  • a Joyce family was in Freshwater, Newfoundland before 1800 and Thomas Joyce came to New Brunswick by sea in 1817.  He settled in Botsford, Westmorland county and his younger brother John joined him there many years later at the time of the Famine. 
  • William Joyce and his wife Mary were living by that time in Petersville, New Brunswick; and there were also Joyces then in Nova Scotia. 
  • and Ron Joyce from these parts made his money in the 20th century out of fast food franchising.
One Joyce family - from Norfolk in England - made it to the Canadian West Coast by the 1880's.  Alfred and Anna Joyce were pioneer homesteaders on Quadra Island in British Columbia.   

Australia.   Henry Joyce and his wife Mary Ann arrived in Tasmania from Dublin in the early 1830's.  Branches of this family later settled in Western Australia.  Victoria arrivals included:
  • two Joyce brothers from Essex who were among the earliest settlers of Plaistow in central Victoria in the 1840's (Alfred Joyce's reminiscences of the time were later published). 
  • Samuel Joyce and his family, also from Essex, who came to Melbourne in 1854. 
  • another Joyce family in Victoria which traced its origin back to the arrival of the widowed Catherine Joyce and her family in Melbourne in 1853 (her husband Edmund had died in Galway seven years earlier at the time of the Great Plague). 
New Zealand.  From Dorset at around the same time came James Joyce, lured to Victoria by gold fever.  He moved onto New Zealand in 1856 and became the first watchmaker in Christchurch, South Island. 

Another James Joyce was an English soldier who had arrived in New Zealand in 1861 and fought in the Maori wars.  He then took his release, married and settled down to farm at Wiawera near Auckland.  He and his wife Ann raised eleven children (their son Albert and wife Maria topped that with sixteen!). 

Select Joyce Miscellany

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

Select Joyce Names

Edmond Joyes
was the progenitor of the Joyce sept in Galway.
George Joyce was a radical agitator art the time of the English Civil War who was a driving force behind the trial and execution of Charles I.  According to some reports, he started out life as a tailor in London.
P.W. Joyce from county Limerick was a leading cultural figure in Ireland in the mid 19th century.
David Joyce was a 19th century American "lumber baron."  His inheritors established the Joyce Foundation in 1948.
James Joyce was the writer who immortalized Dublin through his Dubliners and Ulysses and was one of the giants of 20th century literature.
William Joyce, known as Lord Haw-Haw, was a Nazi sympathizer and broadcaster executed after the war.

Select Joyces Today
  • 19,000 in the UK (most numerous in Essex)
  • 15,000 in America (most numerous in Massachusetts).
  • 20,000 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.

Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page