Arpino & its people
Old town of Arpino
Reas of Italy
Reas Spain & France
Reas of Britain
Reas around the world
Further links

Reas of Britain

In Ireland, my theory is that the REA’s, Mara’s, Devalera’s, Cavana’s, Costa’s, Fox’s and many others were the descendants of Spanish and French soldiers and sailors. They went to help the Irish do battle against the English, who were led by the tyrant Oliver Cromwell, who committed many atrocities against the Irish in 1649. Ships were sometimes blown off course and sank by the British. Notably, During 1588 the Spanish sent a fleet of 136 galleons to invade Britain. Due to adverse weather conditions their attack failed, and whilst fleeing northwards and westwards, the Gulf Stream (then unknown to the sailors in this region) drove them on to the shores of Ireland and Scotland. Any survivors from these Spanish galleons would seek refuge in Scotland and Ireland rather than be captured by the protestant English and face beheading. So after centuries of the original bearers landing in Ireland and assimilating into Irish culture, many Irish left the island with surnames that had originated in Spain and Italy. In Irish you have O’REA, meaning ‘’son of’’ Rea, and similarly MACREA in Scottish.

One American genealogist theorised that the Rea surname entered Europe through Britain with the Celts. However this cannot be true, as in fact the reverse happened, with the Celts migrating to Britain between 2000 and 1200 BC. Also, at this time, surnames did not exist. As to the idea of a 'clan' name, there is no evidence of a Rea clan. Surnames for the common masses did not become popular until the Middle Ages, and then could derive from professions, traits, or workers taking their master's surnames.

In English, Scottish, and Irish, REA means someone who lived near pasture or a river. Variants include RAE, WRAY, REAGAN, O’REA, READ, MACREA, ROE, REE, WREAY and REAY. In Cornwall, England, we find street names incorporating REA. There are ‘Great Rea Road’, ‘Garlic Rea Road’, ‘Rea Road’, and ‘Rea Cottage’. Was this from the Spanish or the French as the Spanish did also land on British soil in these parts, centuries ago. Or is it simply the case that this short surname has arisen by coincidence in several European countries. There was a MacRae clan in Scotland, but they seem totally unrelated.

So we can see the great transition a surname can make from its origins. Originally the surname REA was Arpinese, originating from Arpino. The bearer then emigrates and settles in another country; eventually the surname loses its original roots. Spelling changes can occur which make the name appear less Italian. This is what happened to the many Italians that went to America. Their surnames were changed because custom officers could not pronounce these Italian surnames, so they gave many of them Irish or English ones just to be awkward. It also depends on whom your immigrant ancestor marries. If he marries a native girl of the country he has settled in, then the Italian gene line will start to lose its ‘Italianess’ by the 3rd generation. Only the surname will be Italian; the bearers will be Italian by ancestry only.

Emigrating outside of one’s origins starts the change of personal identity. As Italy as a unified country was still young when these migrants left, they classed themselves first and foremost by the regions from which they came, e.g. Arpinese, Genovese, Toscanese, or Siciliane. When they settled abroad they were known collectively as Italians. After second or third generations they became an ethnic mix, e.g. Italian/British. Beyond this they will integrate totally, for example being regarded as British.


Rea coat of arms