Solving The Mystery of Irish Surnames – Two Examples (#723)

We take two very different Irish surnames and use them to illustrate the sometimes simple - and sometimes unlikely - evolution of the surnames into their present form. Also, we have lots of great music and chat along the way!

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Solving The Mystery of Irish Surnames – Two Examples (#723)

Have you ever wondered how the Irish surnames in your family tree came about? Understanding just HOW your Irish surnames developed is KEY to understanding more about your Irish origins and likely locations in Ireland. In this episode we take two very different Irish surnames and use them to illustrate the sometimes simple – and sometimes unlikely – evolution of the surnames into their present form. Also, we have lots of great music and chat along the way!


You can listen to the show on your computer/smartphone by clicking on the play button above (the triangle with the circle around it). You can also download the show onto your computer by clicking on the download symbol. Enjoy!

The Letter from Ireland Show is a weekly podcast that goes out each Thursday from our cottage in County Cork. Tune in to this episode – and dive straight in to a bit of Irish caint, ceóil agus craic (conversation, music and craic!).


Played or Mentioned in this Show:

The following links were mentioned in this show:

This episode features the following Music:

  • “Carrickfergus” – performed by Brian Kennedy.
  • “Days Like This” – performed by Dermot Kennedy.
  • “The Ballad of Henry Ford” – performed by Thomas Maguire and Fhiona Ennis.

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This Episode is Brought to You by:

The Green Room! The Green Room is run by Irish people, out of Ireland – and focused on people of Irish ancestry all over the world. We know Irish culture, history, the language – and many of the issues people have with understanding complex Irish Heritage and Ancestry. While genealogy record sites bring you part of the way – we’ll bring you all the way home! So, break down those Irish Ancestry Brick Walls when you join today – see all about the Green Room here.

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Slán for now, Mike and Carina.

  • Margaret Singleton says:

    My ancestors came from Gory and I’ve never seen our family surname printed anywhere.

  • C. Martyn says:

    I have ancestors from County Clare and have seen the name spelled Hedican and Hedigan which has made tracing the family very difficult.

    • Carina Collins says:

      Using is great help and you get free membership to John Grenham when you join us. First step do join us on our free weekly Letter from Ireland and from there check out The Green Room ( link at the end of the Letter from Ireland)

  • Judith Palmer says:

    It is so interesting reading so much of Irish history especially as I have a Great great grandfather from Northern Ireland – John Arnold ? Born early to mid 1880’s. We understand he came from Dunardnagross, County Tyrone and married Harriette ?Clarke ?Crewes before coming to Australia via New Zealand.
    Our other Irish line is a Sarah Lyneham ( various spellings) from County Cork who migrated to Aus. ? 1830-40. She met and married Robert Grant in Goulburn NSW around mid 1800’s. He was my husbands GG grandfather. We have not had any success in finding earlier information on either line

    • Carina Collins says:

      Hi Judith,
      We often have readers on the Letter from Ireland with this problem so we created a special area called the Green Room where we have lots of specialist help available for your research.

  • Donna Odell says:

    My maternal great grandmother’s maiden name is Luby and my paternal great grandfather’s name is Flynn. Both from Ireland
    I’m trying to find out what part of Ireland that were from
    Can you help me

    • Carina Collins says:

      We have a special area called the Green Room where we have lots of specialist help available for your research.

  • Carol says:

    My maternal grandfathers was John O’callaghan and my mothers maiden name was O’callaghan , i think my grandfather was originally from Cork .

  • Brenda Ludford says:

    Would live to know were the name Driscoll came from

  • Patricia Gillespie Sheppard says:

    I found a Rachel Minnix in my ancestry,living in Franklin County,Va.,from Maryland.She married Gabriel Jessee.They were my great-great-great grandparents.I found out her last name Minnix is Irish.Are there many Minnixes in Ireland today?

  • Dennine Buckley says:

    I enjoy reading your letters 💗

  • Valjesse O'feeney says:

    I would like to know more about my Irish ancestors the o’feeney s. My father was Michael bruin Feeney,his was Michael James and one from county cork was a ships captain I was told.

    • Carina Collins says:

      We have a special area called the Green Room where we have lots of specialist help available for your research.
      Meanwhile do enjoy the free weekly Letter from Ireland.

  • Karen Bartlett says:

    Great podcast, and the Kennedys have beautiful voices. My Irish family are the Hughey family, which is derived from McConaughey and Gilmore, which I think means “Servant of Mary”. I pretty sure the Gilmores were Catholic, as their name and my DNA says we were mostly from Donegal. But I have no idea how either family got to America-it was very early, 16-1700’s in the case of the Hughey family.

  • Felicia says:

    Oh I am absolutely thrilled with Mike letting me know the Collins have a podcast to listen to! It’s a wonderful listen and I have loads to catch up on…I am late to the party…but I am so happy to be here now! 🥳🎈

  • R. Scott Gilson Bradshaw says:

    My both surname is Gilson. I am told by my father that it is Irish. I have read that the name is originally from the Norman conquest coming from St. Giles. Is it a Irishized name?

  • Patty Healy-Osborne says:

    Wow, I love the music of Brian Kennedy singing “Kerigfergus”! – So etherial. My neighbor John P Kennedy, goes by “Bo Kennedy” as John F Kennedy was President while he was in College. I’ve been to Tiporary, Wexford and Londonderry… They are Roman Catholic… so around1600 they may have moved from Scottland originally to Ireland and eventually to the USA! Bo Kennedy definately has a “Fierce Head!”
    I’ve been to Ireland x 4 and looked up my Father’s first cousin Patrick Healy who married Mary and has a son Colm and Francis Healy. Colm was a Guard at Dublin 7 when I first went over in 1990, yet by the 4th time I returned to see Pope Francis in 2018 Colm had become the Commissioner at Dublin 2 near St Steven’s Square… in 2011 where my sister’s husband, James Ford ran the Dublin Marathon in October
    William Ford, Henry Ford. Fords of Cork/ Galway O’Foreign… Oforan= Ford may have been the Cork phonetic translations… maccunachanau_= Fords of Leitcham.
    My Grandmother’s native name Margaret Naughton became “Norton” when she migrated from the County Clare/Rosscommon area to NYC’s Ellis Island eventually she got to Boston and was to take the train to “Concord”… but she got on the train to Concord, NH instead of Concord, MA. It was common for Irish imegrants of that time to go to the local Catholic Church, St John the Baptist’s and offer to work for food/lodging the 1st week, and IF they appreciated their work they could negotiate an honest wage. At the same Catholic Church she soon met her husband to be.
    My Grandfather, John Healy, was directed to St Paul’s School where he worked at the “Tuck Shop” where the did the school maintainance, and other tasks, such as plowing the hockey rinks and sharpening the student’s skates. St Paul’s School hosted the “FIRST Official Hockey Game” in the USA. My Uncle John Healy, their first son and 4th child, was on the farm team for the Boston Bruins when his Father, who had 10 children died.
    St Paul’s School allowed the John Healy Family to stay on at St. Paul’s School as my grandmother raised the chickens, took in laundry and often would host the traveling parents of different students at their small home on the property. My Father, George James Healy the 9th child was only 10 when his father died. So he grew up on the grounds of St Paul’s School doing errands, simonizing cars, and playing hockey. Like his sisters and brothers he became quite the hockey player.
    As George Healy’s 3rd daughter of 8 kids I’ve always loved hockey. We grew up in Andover, MA. My brother Michael James Healy was a good Hockey Player and now he’s the Athletic Director at a Prep-School in Pomfret, CT. His son, John Isette Healy, also has coached Hockey and Golf and now does the Analytics for all the the American Hockey teams.
    Thanks for letting me go on. I love hearing the stories of Ireland and listening to the music, and the variety of music and stories, with the lilt in the story teller’s voice.

    Patty Healy-Osborne