Is your Surname Buried in an Irish Placename?

It's amazing just how many placenames in Ireland come from the surnames of the leading family of the area. Often, this name is "buried" in the placename as it evolved from the original Irish language.

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Is your Surname Buried in an Irish Placename?

We’re just back from a great trip to Tipperary. Yesterday was a typical Irish summers day – composed equally of squally showers, warm sunshine and more!

The reason we headed to County Tipperary was to track down the stories and places around the ancestors of one of our Green Room members – Lorraine Hannan from Australia.

We arrived in the Tipperary town of Thurles about 11.00am and it was already getting very busy. You see, Tipperary is one of the great Hurling counties of Ireland and this is Munster Final weekend – featuring Counties Tipperary and Waterford. There were also a lot of other matches being played in the local Semple stadium in the buildup to that main event later today (Sunday).

Tipperary Flags are Flying in Thurles

We were in search of the places and sights associated with the O’Fogarty family – so we were definitely in the right part of the country.

You see, the town of Thurles gets it’s name from the Irish “Durlas” – or more correctly “Durlas Éile Uí Fhogartaigh” (now you understand why it was shortened to Durlas!). This means “strong fort of the O’Fogarty family of the Éile tribe”.

That’s the way it goes in Ireland. Many towns and placenames have this strong family association. However, the association is often buried through centuries of anglicisation.

The O’Fogartys were chiefs of this area of Tipperary before the coming of the Normans in the 12th century and remained a significant family over subsequent centuries. As a result, even today, you will find the Fogarty surname concentrated in this area of Ireland around the towns of Templemore and Thurles – and quite rare in other areas of Ireland.

When the Normans did arrive – they imposed a feudal territorial system on the area within their power. They shired the County of Tipperary in 1210AD (one of the earliest in Ireland). The county was subsequently divided into “baronies”, and these baronies later divided into “Civil Parishes” (terms probably familiar to you when tracing your Irish ancestors).

On Match Day in Thurles

One of these baronies of Tipperary was called “Eliogarty” – which in typical fashion is how the Norman invaders might have heard what the Irish called the area – “Éile Uí Fhogartaigh” meaning “the land of the O’Fogartys of the tribe of the Éile”.

By the mid 1800s, the most numerous surnames in the area were:

Ryan, Maher, Burke, Dwyer, Fogarty, Hayes, Cahill, O’Brien, Butler, Cormack, McCormack.

Any of your Irish surnames listed here?

So, the attachment of family and place is captured in many of the place names of Ireland – even though you may have to do a little digging under the layers of anglicisation that have taken place down through the centuries.

How about you? Do you have an Irish family name that also appears as an Irish place name? Do let me know in the comments section below.

Slán for this week,

Mike and Carina.