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Origin of the Eustace Surnames

The Eustace name came to this England as a Norman Christian name about the time of the Conquest during the 11th Century. In early English records we find such notables as Eustace, Count of Boulogne, Eustace de Vesci, Eustace de Burgh and others. The Normans used a system where “FitzEustace”, i.e. son of Eustace was used to connect generations. Eventually the “fitz” was dropped and by the 1500s all members of the family carried the surname Eustace and variations. Eustace is derived from the Latin eustachius of Greek origin meaning fruitful. It is written as Iustas in the Irish language.

Edward Mac Lysaght in his book More Irish Families describes Eustace as one of the most distinguished of the names which came to Ireland at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion. He writes, “While not multiplying to the same extent as the Burkes, Butlers, FitzGeralds, Powers and other great Hiberno-Norman families, the Eustaces were numerous enough to be classed in Petty’s census of 1659 among the principal Irish names in four baronies of County Kildare.”

Mac Lysaght further states, “The name is by no means common today - in 1864 there were 20 Eustace birth registrations, in 1865 and 1866, 18 for each year; while in 1890 the figure was 9, compared with 330 for more common names such as FitzGerald and 272 for Power, or to take a few less numerous names at random; Bermingham 40, Comerford 30, Cusack 46.” To take this a step farther, in 1890 in all of Ireland, there were 715 Ryan births recorded, 193 Hogan, 147 Cahill, 98 Jordan, 59 Caulfield, 76 Donnellan (also Donelan), 39 Ford, 16 McAndrew and 15 Lang births. Today there are bearers of the Eustace name in Ireland, but it has become relatively rare.

The story of the Eustace family is closely linked with early Irish history. From the fourteenth century until the time of the Reformation, members of the family were in positions of leadership as sheriffs, castle constables. The story of the Eustaces is one which reveals the birth of a great family and of its gradual disappearance from County Kildare during the political storms that have passed through Ireland during the past five centuries.

The Eustace family was often divided against itself by deeply-held religious differences and by divergent political loyalties. It was a family whose important members so often chose the losing side and paid a penalty for doing so. However, the cause of the numerical reduction of bearers of the Eustace name since 1659 is mainly due to their constant support of the Irish side in the struggles of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

As long as the English connection with Ireland was at a length and the effective control of the country was in the hands of the Hiberno-Normans, as was the case up to the middle of the sixteenth century, the name Eustace was prominent in the sphere of Irish government. It was for a time perhaps the most powerful in Kildare (except of course the FitzGeralds), with lands scattered from Confey in the north to beyond the county boundary in the south; from the Dublin and Wicklow mountains in the east to Athy and Newbridge in the west.

There is little doubt that the FitzEustace descendants settled in County Kildare and made it their own. Castlemartin and Kilcullen became their primary seats. Both were held by Arnold FitzEustace le Poer in 1317. The triangle containing Naas, Ballymore Eustace and Old Kilcullen was almost one large family estate. Criche Eustace or Cry- Eustace it was called. Their castles, especially those at Ballymore Eustace, Harristown, Castlemartin and Clongowes Wood, guarded the Pale for several centuries, and only fell at last to the guns of Ormonde and Cromwell. It was rare for a jury of county gentlemen to contain no Eustace, and on at least one occasion they formed a majority upon a panel of twelve. 

The Eustace family produced, as we shall see, many of the great men of Kildare and several who held the highest positions in the Government of Ireland. There were many of them sheriffs, constables of castles and the like from 1200 onwards. During four centuries there were Eustaces appointed governors of castles at Ballymore, Carbury, Wickmore, Kilkea, Blackwood, Ballysax and Naas in Ireland.

In the fifteenth century, Sir Richard Eustace was Lord Chancellor (a position held at different times by four other Eustaces); in 1454 Sir Edward FitzEustace was Lord Deputy; his son, Sir Roland, also Lord Chancellor, was created Baron of Portlester. In 1462 Sir Rowland was made deputy to the Duke of Clarence, Viceroy of Ireland. Sir Roland together with his wife Margaret, founded the Franciscan monastery of New Abbey in County Kildare. A century earlier, in 1356, another Eustace founded the Dominican priory at Naas. Sir Roland died in 1496, having occupied the position of Lord Treasurer of Ireland for 38 years. A nephew of the first Lord Portlester was made Lord Kilcullen and later Viscount Baltinglass. In 1480, Alison Eustace who had married the Earl of Kildare was buried at Kilcullen. 

In the next century the first of the many Eustace attainders occurred: James Eustace, the 3rd Viscount Baltinglass was a leader in the Earl of Desmond’s rebellion in favour of Mary, Queen of Scots, as a Catholic against Protestant Elizabeth I, James Eustace, together with his kinsman and members of the Gaelic septs of County Wicklow had signally defeated Lord Grey in 1580 at Glenmalure. They shared in the general ruin following the collapse of Desmond’s rebellion. While Desmond was defeated, the Eustaces fought on in the hills for over a year and were eventually defeated. As a result, practically a whole generation was wiped out. The viscount and his two surviving brothers escaped abroad but died within a year or so. Their children must have been spared as the family has survived to the present day when they are probably numerically the strongest of any of the name. Their titles and land were forfeited under attainder, some land was restored, but no titles. One of the descendents, William Eustace of Naas was pardoned by Elizabeth’s successor James I and lived in London as Viscount Baltinglass but was not entitled to in law.

Rowland Eustace, the son of William of Naas, married Elizabeth Bigland, daughter of Mary Strickland who was one of the four Marys attendant to Mary, Queen of Scots. A drinking cup given by that unfortunate queen to Mary has been handed down through that branch of the family. Throughout the religious troubles that have marred the history of Ireland the Eustaces have suffered whichever faction gained power Catholic, Protestant, Puritan, they all plundered one or other of the family. Sometimes there was a reversal of fortune and lands were recovered but more often not.

The 1642 attainders include about 20 Eustaces mostly of County Kildare, with a few on its eastern border in Counties Dublin and Wicklow.  For a period of three hundred years, the family owned or controlled much of the land in County Kildare including Coghlanstown, Harristown, Castlemartin, Clongoweswood etc. On the Kildare-Wicklow border, the name is perpetuated at the village of Ballymore Eustace, which translates as the “Big Town of the Eustaces”.

One who always notably loyal to Charles I and Charles II, who escaped any penalty for his public activities was Maurice Eustace (ca. 1590-1665). Maurice was speaker of the Irish House of Commons in 1639 and Lord Chancellor in 1660. His nephew Sir Maurice Eustace (d. 1693) commanded one of the infantry regiments in James II’s army, in which there were six officers named Eustace, as well as several in other regiments. Sir Maurice was one of the 22 attainders and forfeitures in 1691(on this occasion 12 were in County Kildare, 8 in County Carlow and 2 in County Wicklow). Many of these dedicated Eustace supporters of James II, followed their leader to France.

The most tragic and barbaric story is that of Maurice Eustace, whose father Sir John of Castlemartin wanted him to be a soldier. The son, however, resolved to become a priest and was secretly ordained. The secret was revealed by a younger brother and a servant. Maurice was hanged at Dublin on his father’s orders in 1581. He is recorded in the Catholic Church’s official list of martyrs.

The Eustaces have been notable chiefly as sheriffs, soldiers, lawyers and administrators. Rev. John Chetwode Eustace (c. 1760-1815) who was one of the first professors in Maynooth College, is worthy of mention in the field of literature. The family’s most continuous record of public service is that of High Sheriff of County Kildare. Members of the family have held the position on about forty-five occasions. The family also produced two Lords Deputy, three Lords Chancellor, and two Lords Treasurer.

Many of the Irish family now live in England. Perhaps as many as half the Eustaces in England are of Irish extraction.

In the United States, the Most Reverend Bishop Bartholomew Eustace (1887-1956) became the first bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Camden, New Jersey. Bishop Eustace was born in New York City of Irish parents. Bishop Eustace Preparatory School in Pennsauken, New Jersey is named in his honor.

Donald D. Eustice (1928-1976), a descendent of a County Longford family, served as sheriff of Waseca County, Minnesota. He was elected president of the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association and was fatally injured in the line of duty in 1976. One of his major accomplishments was the organization of the Sheriff’s Boy’s Ranch at Austin, Mower County, Minnesota.


Alan Eustace

Alan Eustace is Google's VP of Engineering where he is responsible for all aspects of the company's product research and development activities. He joined Google in the summer of 2002.  

In addition to directing Google's engineering efforts, Alan is actively involved in a number of Google's community-related activities such as The Second Harvest Food Bank and the Anita Borg Scholarship Fund.

Alan Eustace is an author of 9 publications and holds 10 patents. He earned a Ph.D. in Computer Science from University of Central Florida.