Irish Surname Resources

In this section I have included all the letters (and podcasts) I have written that relate to Irish surnames. Ireland has one of the oldest surname systems in the world - originating from about the mid-800s - and knowing a little more about the origin and evolution of the Irish surnames in your family tree will often give you a greater insight into your own family history and Irish culture in general.


Browse the features listed on this page and jump to one that interests you, or enter a placename, surname or other item in the search box below to see related letters and podcasts.

Irish Surname Letters

Locating the Source of One Irish Surname

I recently had a chat with Eileen – one of our Green Room members – about her own Irish surname of “White”. She was unsure where in Ireland her White ancestor lived before he departed for America. Some records said “County Mayo”, while others stated “County Kilkenny”.

The Evolution of Irish Surnames – Where your Irish Surname fits

In this article, we look at Irish Surnames – their origins and evolution. See if you can find the Irish surnames in your family tree in one of the sections below.

Tracking Down a Reader Surname in Ireland.

Readers often contact me wondering where a particular ancestor or surname is likely to have originated in Ireland. Sometimes I can give a direct answer – but sometimes the answer is “it depends”. The following conversation features one of those surnames that originated in many different locations in Ireland. Here we have Kathleen Brennan from…

Castlefreke castle seen across the river and fields with cows

Do You Have a Rare Irish Surname in your family Tree?

Do you have a rare Irish name in your family tree? In today’s letter, we are going to chat with a Green Room member who has one of those names – and have a deeper look at the specific location in Ireland where that Irish surname flourished and explore likely leads on discovering a little…

Where Did Kavanaugh Come From?

One Irish name has been in the news a lot over the past 2 weeks – not just in the USA but all over the world. That surname is “Kavanaugh” – or “Kavanagh” as it more commonly spelt here in Ireland. So, I thought I would give us all a little welcome distraction as we…

Irish Surname Podcast Episodes


Two Royal Families of Ireland – O’Neill and O’Connor (#835)

This episode explores the major Royal Irish surnames of O’Neill and O’Connor. We talk about Niall of the Nine Hostages, the patriarch of the O’Neills, and the singer Sinéad O’Connor.

Read More

Irish Pioneers In A Far-Away Land (#732)

We look at the stories of two different Irish pioneers in early north America – in what is now the country of Canada. The first is the story of Denis O’Donovan – who had the opportunity to choose his final resting place – and the second is Tadhg O’Brennan who may have been the first…

Read More
Scottish river, the Clyde in Glasgow with Carina

The Irish Scots – A Trip to Glasgow in Scotland (#503)

In this episode of the Letter from Ireland Podcast show, we travel to the city of Glasgow in Scotland to meet two proud Glasgow natives of Irish ancestry. Come with us as we get a unique perspective on this city that saw the arrival of so many Irish immigrants from the 1800s onwards.

Read More
Trim Castle, County Meath, Ireland - One of the first and largest Norman Castles

Anglo Norman Surnames – Following the Norman Trail to Ireland (#402)

Do you have any Anglo Norman surnames in your Irish Family Tree? Then join us now as we talk about some of these Irish surnames and follow the Norman trail all the way back to Ireland.

Read More

Irish Placenames – Is Your Surname Hidden in One of These Places? (#106)

Welcome to Series 1, Episode 6 of the Letter from Ireland Show. In this episode, we look at Irish placenames and townlands.

Read More