owers urname

Contact:  Kenneth Roy Powers Last Modified:  March 29, 2008


The Powers Surname

Since 1172 and the Anglo/Norman invasion of Ireland, the family name of Powers has been synonymous with the history of the country and its people.  The first record of the name Powers was found in Devonshire where the family was granted lands by Duke William of Normandy for their distinguished assistance at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D.   The name is found on a tablet at Battle Abbey listing prominent survivors of the battle of Hastings. ("Our Heritage: a Record of Information about the Hynes, Waite, Powers, Chenault, Maxey, Brewster, Starr and McIntosh Families," by Lee Powers Hynes, 1957, p. 59) This now Irish family emerged as a distinguished group in Devon where they were recorded as a family seated as Lords of the manor and estates.  Bartholomew De La Poher was granted lands in Devon and was Lord of Blackborough and father of Robert Poher who accompanied Strongbow in the Irish invasion in 1172.  They were granted the county of Waterford by Strongbow and became active in the Government of both Waterford and the whole of Ireland.  The Powers family became the Barons Donhill, Viscounts Balentin, and the Earls of Tyrone.  Their seats were at Kilmeadon, and they also branched to Kilbolande and Rosskean in county Cork.  This branch became the Barons Power.  Other branches in Waterford included Gurteen, Lapoer, Clashmore, and Gardenmorres. The original settler Robert was killed in 1178 in South Kildare but his many sons and grandchildren established a name which would eventually become as Irish as the natives of the land.  The recorded Powers surname has been listed as Power, Poer, Poher, and Powers and these changes in spelling frequently occurred, even between father and son.  One thing can be sure, however, all of these Powers families originated from the same scion.

There are several theories regarding the origins of the surname.  I have chosen to illustrate four of the most common for this article.  Personally, I subscribe to the last one mentioned as it seems to be the most plausible.

The most commonly mentioned historical origin of the Powers surname comes from a theory that it refers to one of the village poor. However, this is contradicted by the vast wealth attained by many of the Powers surname who were awarded lands in England and Ireland.

Another theory is that the name developed from the mutation of a placename in France known as Pois meaning "fish" or "a well stocked river." Inhabitants of this area migrated to Brittany around the 1100's and the name eventually mutated into Poer and several of its currently common variations.

Sister Declan Power, who lives in County Carlow, Ireland, contends that the Powers were originally Celts from an area in southern England. These Gaelic speaking people were driven from England around 400-500 AD, after the fall of the Roman Empire by invading Teutons and Saxons from the European coast. The Powers fled to Brittany where they lived until they returned to England with the invading forces of William the Conqueror in 1066.

The final and most plausible theory for the evolution of the name comes from the claim that all Powers name bearers descend from Comte de Poher in Bretagne whose family line is rumored to have become extinct around 937.  If this theory is correct, the family's genealogy may extend as far back as Clovis, the Merovingian Frankish conqueror of ancient Gaul. Descendants of Clovis fled to Brittany during the Carolingian overtaking of the Frankish empire. Gemege, a direct descendant of Clovis, married the count of Poher sometime around 900. The counts of Poher also descend from Conmore, who probably fled to Brittany from Wales during the time of the Saxon invasion around 480.

Compilation of Content Copyright Kenneth Roy Powers