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

facebook5 - Have You Heard Your Name in an Irish Accent?

Have You Heard Your Name in an Irish Accent?

Did you realise the difference a local Irish accent can make to the spelling of your surname? One of the harder parts of tracing the origins of your surname in Ireland are the different regional variations that it may have. In this letter, we will use one surname as an example of the way in which a name can evolve to have different spellings and pronunciations, but the same history.

Irish Rugby Team - United Surnames of Ireland

United Surnames of Ireland

Today, let’s focus on a recent battle that was fought between two close neighbours – Ireland and England. You see, just last weekend – the Irish and English Rugby teams met as part of the Six Nations Rugby tournament, the six nations being France, Italy, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. England have a super team…

Martin McGuiness - From Guinness to McGuinness

From Guinness to McGuinness

For decades, the “Mag Aonghusa” clan were the lords of the Ui Eachach Cobha tribe located in what is now part of County Down. Over time, their surname became anglicised as McGennis/McGuinness and their homeland in County Down became known as the Barony of Iveagh. Do you have this surname in your family tree? Maybe…

Irish Flag Tricolour Flag jpg - Thomas Francis Meagher - an Irish Name Spelled Two Ways.

Thomas Francis Meagher – an Irish Name Spelled Two Ways.

Have you ever been frustrated when you see an Irish surname spelled many different ways? I’m sure you have one or two of these in your Irish family tree. One of our readers, Chris Grissom, asked the following: “I have found there are several convergences of “Meagher” and “Maher” in researching my family. This is…

Irish hounds

Irish Hounds and Irish Surnames

Have you ever had difficulty figuring out the meaning of those Irish surnames in your family tree? Where on earth did those “Os” and “Macs” come from? How could “English” be an Irish surname? These are varieties of the many questions we receive on a weekly basis. Just this week, I was chatting with one…

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.

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Cape Breton Island Header - Irish Pioneers In A Far-Away Land (#732)

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…

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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.

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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.

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

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.

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