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
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
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