Many people wonder about the various spelling of this surname, eg; Fitzsimon, Fitzsimons, FitzSimons, Fitzsymon, Fitzsymons, Fitzsimmon, Fitzsimmons, Fitzsimmonds, etc, etc. After more than 25 years of researching the name, this is the conclusion that I have come to. It would appear that the original name was Fitz-simon (pronounced Fitz -“simon”, or Fitz-“sigh”-mon. The “-“ was dropped and was then followed with the “s” on the end. This name should not be confused with Fitzsimmons (pronounced Fitz-simmons or Fitz-him-ons).
Fitzsimons is by no means peculiar to Ireland and this should be kept in mind when researching this surname, as it is also found throughout Britain. Fitzsimmons, however is predominately an English name, with the only Fitzsimmons’ found in Ireland being protestant, from English descent, or the name has been misspelled. (There will of course be examples of inter religious marriages where Fitzsimmons have changed from protestant to catholic, but these are very few.)
There is also the problem of the catholic oppression in Ireland and the setting up of the Church of Ireland. These churches can be found throughout Ireland and they were more significant structures than those of the poor Catholics of the period, even though the population was predominately Catholic. You will quite often find Catholics registered as Protestants in the Church of Ireland, as it may have been the only legal church at that time. Religion only seems to play a role concerning the name in Ireland, as those from Brittain could be of any religion and they also spread throughout the world.
There are many reasons for the other variations of the spelling, especially in America where there was persecution against Irish Catholics and many anglicised their names. There has also been attempts by the British to anglicise Irish names and the “Mc” and “O” were deleted from the start of surnames. Some people in Ireland today are adopting the old spelling of their surnames. Others using the capitol “S” or “y” instead of “i” in Fitzsimons (FitzSimons, Fitzsymons), could have been trying to distinguish between different families, or trying to make the name easier to pronounce for those ill informed, so it didn’t sound like it had “mm” in it. Other variations may have been to disassociate ones self from a family by changing some part of the name.
We also have the problem of illiteracy. Most people could not spell and therefore had no idea how to spell their name. Those clergy or clerks responsible for recording names, had to sometimes guess at what the name was, sometimes clouded by a heavy accent or dialect that was not familiar to them. Quite often, when a name was recorded wrongly, the person was stuck with it.
When most people research Fitzsimmons and they find that it originally had only one “m”, be it Irish or English research, they tend to stick to their own spelling (mm) in their research and record all previous ancestors with their current spelling, confusing the matter even more.
To get a clearer picture of the origins of this surname (all variations), one must also consult books on English surnames. Those with the surname that originated from the Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire area of Britain were thought to be Scandinavian and of the “genere Danus”, as the area was settled by Danish Vikings and predate the Norman invasion in 1066 AD. Some later additions of the name may have come from Normandy.
When my father was going to a catholic school in the early 1930’s (Vic. Australia), he was referred to by the nuns as “Fitzsimmons” and his more religious and church going cousins were “Fitzsimons”, although their names were both spelt with one m. My father continued to call himself Fitzsimmons until he married and his mother-in-law, who would not have a name mispronounced, insisted on the correct pronunciation and spelling.
People to this day, misspell and mispronounce this name (in countries other than Ireland), even when you spell it for someone, most still put in the extra “m” and then pronounce it how they have just written it, so what hope did our early ancestors have. It doesn’t matter what excuse or example you give, it is simple English and the mm, changes the sound of the “i”. When you mispronounce the name, you misspell it. Those with the 2m’s have not suffered the same butchering of their name as those with only one m. I have heard many and varied reasons for the mispronunciation and a common one is that certain accents have trouble with some vowels. This may be the case, but that is no excuse for spelling it incorrectly so others are also misled and confused.
I must add that whilst travelling around Ireland, my name (Fitzsimons) was never misspelled or mispronounced once and that was “grand, to be sure.”