A Letter from Ireland:

How Irish is Your Irish Ancestry?


Kealkil Stone Circle

Do you have Irish Ancestry? Just how Irish are you?

Lets put things into perspective:

Around about the 1700s – 1900s: The ancestors of many of the readers of this page headed towards the colonies, the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand.

Around the 1600s – 1700s: Many of the ancestors of our readers arrived in Ireland from the border area of Scotland and England into Ulster and other areas of Ireland. Many emigrated later to become the “Scotch-Irish” in America.

Around the 1100 – 1200s: Many of the ancestors of our readers arrived in Ireland as part of the Norman conquest. They mostly stayed put. Many Gallowglass came to Ireland from Scotland as a reaction to the Norman threat.

Around the 800s- 1000s: Many of the ancestors of our readers arrived in Ireland as part of the Viking invasions.

Around 500BC: Many of the ancestors of our readers arrived in Ireland as part of the Celtic “invasions”. This was pre-historic (not written down) so we are unsure of dates and specifics. They brought with them the precursor of the Irish language and many of the customs that defined Gaelic culture over the following centuries.

And before that? Well, the island of Ireland was probably inhabited constantly from about 7000bc (the previous ice age finished 3000 years before).


In this picture you see a stone circle from Kealkill in County Cork. Who built it?

Well, the people who inhabited the island before the coming of the Celts – some say they were called the Tuatha Dé Dannann. Legend has it that they went underground to become occupants of ring-forts as faeries as soon as they were dominated. More likely – they mixed and intermarried with the later Celts.

Also in the picture – you see a lady with the surname of CroninCollins (I know her well!) – typical Cork names that have not moved in centuries. But her children have Gaelic, Pict, Viking and Norman blood in them.

Typical Irish!

So – how Irish is your Irish Ancestry?

  • Robert Bruce Irwin says:

    how irish am i, i cant seem to find out?

    • Mike says:

      Hi Robert – with a name of “Robert Bruce” – I think you’re wearing your Scottish ancestry on your “sleeve”! 🙂 Mike.

  • All my grandparents came from Ireland to New York at the beginning of the 20th century. My Father’s Mother was Ellen Heaney fro Drumlish and grandfather was Michael Kane from Esker both are county Longford. My Mothers mother was Mary Curran from
    Cahiciveen and grandfather was Patrick Sheehan from Waterville both in Count Kerry. The Kerry side of my family was huge because most Kerryman immigrated and stayed in neighborhoods together.As a child my grandmother would take me to the Kerry Balls in Manhattan. So, I was lucky to have learned so much about the Irish heritage that has stayed with me all these years. “The Wakes’ we all went even when I was 5 years old. I once had an Italian girl ask me if it’s true the irish dance and sing at wakes? I laughed and to myself I said “your close but you would never understand how we mourn.”Funny but you could be the biggest bum in the neighborhood but when you died it was”ah sure the poor fella wasn’t to bad.” I know all the songs and all the dances because we were all Irish then Even though we who were born here were called ‘Narrowbacks” we were living our wonderful heritage.

  • Steve Crawford says:

    My ancestors came to America between 1623 and 1745 but the Scots-Irish stayed together and were joined by the Irish, both of them hated and despised the English. As a result, over 200 years later my DNA shows me to be strongly Scotts and Irish. Somehow the DNA can tell the difference in spite of the fact that both are Gaelic. There is also Norse, aka Viking. But everything else is just a trace. The Gaelic and Viking predominate.
    So, like my grandparents, Crawford and Law being Scotish and Huey and Sisk being Irish, I’m about 50% Scottish and 50% Irish.

  • Joan Hutchins says:

    Ty, Mike. I’m learning so much abt my people from u. I’m proud to b Irish 🙂

  • susan scott says:

    I wish I knew. My grandfather, William Mcilwee was born September 27, 1894 in Ballamena , No Ireland to Eliza Mcilwee. No father is listed on the birth certificate. He told me he had a sister, Alice. However, how or why he morphed his name into Scott, I don’t know. He married Susan nee Harland . They evidently traveled between the USA and Ireland because They had two children, William Thomas Scott, (my dad) born in Chicago, IL 1927, and his sister Alice But moved back to Belfast, No Ireland. My dad lived in Ireland from approximately 1927-1928 to the late 1940’s when he came back to the USA. Susan Harland, my grandmother had sisters, Annie, Maggie (married name Moran), Mary, Sadie, and an adopted son Tommy. If anyone has any information I would truly appreciate it. Thank you
    Susan Scott
    Like · Reply · a few seconds ago

    • Mike says:

      Hi Susan – thanks for sharing your story. That change of name is a bit of a mystery – and usually makes full sense when you eventually find out the reason. Also useful to remember that Scott (like Walsh and so on) came about as a description of where someone was from and a nickname. That could have been part of it. Mike.

  • Liz says:

    My dad was an Egan, my mother an O’Brien. We know nothing of my mother’s side of the family, but on my dad’s side, we have Larkin, Cleary (sometimes spelled Clery), Reilly (sometimes spelled Riley) and Hughes. I’d say that makes me pretty darned Irish, and I consider myself to be “fiercely” so!

  • Sandra says:

    Howard & Condon = Cork
    O’Connor = Roscommon
    McPartland & Walsh = Leitrim
    Donnelly = Belfast
    McDevitt = Derry
    Leonard & Mullen?

    I’d say Very Irish!

  • pat says:

    my mother’s maiden name is McMahon, from Co. Clare. Her mom’s maiden name was O’Loughlin and was told they originally hailed fom the Burren. I was fortunate enough to have seen where her mom, and her grandfather was born and where his father were raised. Now on my fathers side

    the Doyles his father was born in Ct. andhhhis father Patrick was born in Ireland. Since he died in Ct. I was able to get his death certificate and it said he was born in Co. Kerry. Patrick married an O’Shea and she was born in Kerry also.

    • Mike says:

      Hi Pat – so the answer for you is “very Irish indeed!”. Thanks for sharing, Mike.

      • pat says:

        sorry I did not finish my list. On the Doyle side their were Desmonds, Mannings and Bransfields. Some of them sound like English names. Do you know?

        • Mike says:

          Hi Pat – a lengthening list! 😉 –
          – Desmond – a Cork name (it means South Munster)
          – Manning – in Cork often a Gaelic name (but can be an English Planter name)
          – Bransfield – An English Planter name found in East Cork.


  • Kathi says:

    I kn0w that you’re going to take the DNA test and good luck to you! I have taken the test and it only told me what I already knew: that I am nearly entirely Irish. (In deference to my maternal grandfather, who was of French Canadian ancestry, I’ve always said that I’m 3/4 Irish American and 1/4 French Canadian. The test revealed that I am 98% Irish ancestry; not sure where Grand dad figures in that but I am also of him!

    My Dad’s father was born in America, although his family came from Donegal (where?). His mother was born and raised in Ballina, County Mayo until she immigrated to America. On my mother’s side her mothers family is entirely Irish while her father is French Canadian.

    I’m proud to be of the names Reilly, Dunleavy, Murphy and Gillespie. Sadly, with the exception of my Nana’s history, I really don’t know much more about my family. One story, said with all due deference to people who made read this: my maternal g-grandfather, immigrating to America from Armagh, via Canada, had been told all throughout the journey that – to see a black person was to see the devil himself. Stupidly, one of the first people he saw at the dock in Canada happened to be a black man – and he jumped overboard!! Not one of the families proudest moments.

    • Mike says:

      Hi Kathi – thanks for sharing such great information. I have yet to get the results of the DNA test. My own experience with these things is that they will tell us either what we know, or something wild and shocking! Fingers crossed! Mike.

  • Kay says:

    According to Ancestry.com, based on my DNA, I am 68% Irish.

  • My father’s side of the family are all from Ireland, however the family name comes from a Nordic North Tun. There are Norton’s in Ireland, which most likely came over from Scotland or England, and there are Naughton, which would be the Irish spelling. Don’t know if the family name was Naughton before the family left Ireland, and changed to Norton to sound more English.

    All of my Great Great Grandparents immigrated from Ireland to the US or Canada. Unfortunately we are unable to find records of them in Ireland. According to 23&me DNA testing, I am descendant from King Neil.

  • Peter OBoyle says:

    What brought some O’Boyle’s from Co Donegal to Co Antrim?

  • Virginia JENNINGS says:

    I am not sure. I was told by my father that we have Irish blood, though an unknown amount. We are Moore, I have been trying to find out more about us. I just don’t know how.

  • christina traynor says:

    Thank you I have always knew that I’m like 75% Irish and I knew that my family were part of the Viking invasions but I didn’t know that we could’ve been there since 800s I’ve just been trying to find out more about my history and what part of Ireland my family is from so if any of you know anything about the Traynor clan please help

  • Maureen Murphy says:

    Is white a big Irish name? My grandfather on my Mother’s side are Whites and came from ,Ireland there is also Lenihan and My fathers was Murphy

  • Michelle Williamson says:

    Is my family name McDonough Irish?

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