Show ContentsFoil History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Anglo-Norman Conquest of Ireland lead by Strongbow introduced the first non-Gaelic elements into Irish nomenclature. These Anglo-Normans brought some traditions to Ireland that were not readily found within Gaelic system of hereditary surnames. One of the best examples of this is the local surname. Local surnames, such as Foil, were taken from the name of a place or a geographical feature where the person lived, held land, or was born. These surnames were very common in England, but were almost non-existent within Ireland previous to the conquest. The earliest surnames of this type came from Normandy, but as the Normans moved, they often created names in reference to where they actually resided. Therefore, some settlers eventually took names from Irish places. Originally, these place names were prefixed by de, which means from in French. This type of prefix was eventually either made a part of the surname, if the place name began with a vowel, or was eliminated entirely. The Foil family originally lived near a pit, an excavation, or a manmade hollow. The surname Foil is derived from the Old French word "fouille," which means "pit." This is a derivative of the verb "fouillir," which means "to dig up" or "to excavate." This pit may have been a lime-pit or clay-pit or a hole in to which refuse was thrown. The surname Foil belongs to the large category of Anglo-Norman habitation names, which are derived from pre-existing names for towns, villages, parishes, or farmsteads.

Early Origins of the Foil family

The surname Foil was first found in Hampshire, where they held a family seat from ancient times, some say they were granted lands by William the Conqueror after his conquest of England in 1066, and the name is believed to be derived from the French Fouille, "an excavation."

"Though apparently Irish, perhaps through association with the Ulster lough and river and other Irish place-names so called-as a surname Foyle is not Irish in origin, but is derived from the French fouille (excavation) and first appears in mediaeval England as atte Foyle. As Foyle and Foyll it occurs in early Dublin city records at least once in the thirteenth century and quite frequently in the fourteenth, but less often in the fifteenth and sixteenth: throughout that period the family had continuous association with the parish of St. Werburgh's." [1]

Early History of the Foil family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Foil research. Another 144 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 1172 and 1664 are included under the topic Early Foil History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Foil Spelling Variations

Medieval scribes and church officials spelled the names as they sounded, so a name was often spelled many different ways during the lifetime of a single person. The investigation of the origin of the name Foil revealed many spelling variations including Foyle, Foile, Foille, Foylle and others.

Early Notables of the Foil family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Foil Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Foil migration to the United States +

Ireland experienced a dramatic decrease in its population during the 19th century. This was in a great measure, a response to England's imperialistic policies. Hunger and disease took the lives of many Irish people and many more chose to leave their homeland to escape the horrific conditions. North America with its promise of work, freedom, and land was an extremely popular destination for Irish families. For those families that survived the journey, all three of these things were often attained through much hard work and perseverance. Research into early immigration and passenger lists revealed many immigrants bearing the name Foil:

Foil Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Andreas Foil, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1753 [2]
Foil Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Karl Foil, who landed in North America in 1881 [2]
Foil Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Helen Foil, aged 20, who immigrated to the United States, in 1908
  • Miss. Helen Foil, aged 34, who settled in America, in 1908
  • Noel Foil, who immigrated to the United States, in 1920

Contemporary Notables of the name Foil (post 1700) +

  • E. Linwood Foil, American politician, Mayor of Salisbury, North Carolina, 1956 [3]
  • Foil Allan Miller (1916-2016), American chemist and philatelist

  1. MacLysaght, Edward, Supplement to Irish Families. Baltimore: Genealogical Book Company, 1964. Print.
  2. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  3. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 2) . Retrieved from on Facebook