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The origins of the Gaults in Ireland had centuries ago misted over. Previously of Norfolk – so it was believed within the family, although without much certainty – they had settled first of all in the far western reaches of County Cork. A soldier of fortune had established their modest dynasty, lying low there for reasons that were not known.

Does "misted over" is written figuratively or just mean: covered with mist? it does not seem to me logical because mist covers many cities and then the weather become clear again but the mist does not stay for ever.

And I have never seen "previously" come with "of"! Does it mean: before than Norfolk?

So Dose the whole part mean: even before than Norfolk The origins of the Gaults in Ireland centuries ago was covered with mist?

Source: The Story Of Lucy Gault by William Trevor.

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Misted over is indeed metaphorical, probably referring to the idiom "lost in the mists of time". It means that the origin is unclear or uncertain.

The of does not attach to previously. If you remove the parenthetical sentence so it was believed within the family, although without much certainty, it reads "Previously of Norfolk, they had settled ... ". Previously of Norfolk is an adverbial modifier phrase (with previously modifying the embedded adverbial of Norfolk), and refers to they: they had previously been in Norfolk.

By the way, the auxiliary is does, not dose.

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  • Lots of thanks, but "previously of Norfolk" is again unclear to me, does you mean "of Norfolk" is adverb? Does it mean: before settling in Norfolk they had settled first of all in the far western reaches of County Cork? Or Does it mean: the people who previously lived in Norfolk? Dec 2 '20 at 20:24
  • @ViserHashemi: I have edited my answer to explain this. Does this now satisfy you?
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 2 '20 at 20:44
  • So Does it mean: The Gaults who had previously been in Norfolk had settled first of all in the far western reaches of county Cork? Dec 3 '20 at 6:55
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    Yes - except that the paranthetical clause adds that their origin in Norfolk is a family legend rather than an established fact.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 3 '20 at 11:39
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It is figurative, such as in the idiom (from Farlex)

lost in the mists of time
Lost or forgotten due to having occurred or existed so far in the past.

The family history might have been deliberately obscured, as the passage says they were

lying low there for reasons that were not known

The possessive is shortened from

Previously the Gaults of Norfolk.

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