A Letter from Ireland:

The Surnames of County Waterford


Some of our Reader Surnames of County Waterford

Named by the Vikings for it’s lovely location on the water, the county of Waterford has long been a centre of trade.  This accounts for the variety of surnames that can be found in both the city of Waterford, and the county.

Céad Míle Fáilte – and welcome to this week’s Letter from Ireland. Last week, I spoke about the various surnames in Ireland of Viking extraction – and it’s always amazing the amount of replies we receive when mentioning the the word “Viking” in any letters. We seem to have an endless fascination and respect for their adventures and endeavours.

I’m having a nice cup of Lyon’s tea as I write – and I do hope you’ll have a cup of whatever you fancy as we start into today’s letter. This week, I thought it would be nice to continue the Viking theme and have a look at another Irish county (and its surnames) that receives its name from one Viking town that founded on the south coast of Ireland.

On the side of a Viking Ship

That town was called “Vedrafjörður” in old Norse but was anglicised as “Waterford” over the years. Later on, this Hiberno-Norse City gave its name to the entire County of Waterford.

The Irish Surnames of County Waterford.

Just a couple of weeks ago, we were treated to a wonderful Hurling semi-final here in Ireland – featuring County Cork and County Waterford. The teams were even on the scoreboard almost to the end of the game, but then Waterford scored an amazing series of goals to win a place in the All-Ireland final. Do have a look at the following clip showing the highlights of this fast-moving and very physical game. See if you can imagine some of those Viking ancestors of ours going into battle in a similar manner:

I do hope you enjoyed that short highlight of the scores in the game. How about you – did any of your Irish ancestors come from County Waterford? Do leave your comments below and let me know. I understand, for example, that many people in Newfoundland still speak with a Waterford accent following so much migration from that area in the late 1700s.

Before the area of Waterford became a county – and before the coming of the Vikings and the later Norman and English families – this area of Ireland was known as the Kingdom of Déise (pronounced “daysha”). Even today, the battle-cry at Waterford hurling games is “Up the Déise!”.

On the side of a Dungarvan Pub

The Déisi Mumhan tribe were found in modern County Waterford and north into modern County Tipperary. The chief families of the area were the O’Brick and the O’Phelan/O’Whelan families. However, with the coming of the Normans in the late 1100s, the mighty Power family became the dominant family until the 1600s, and to this day the surname Power is the most numerous in County Waterford.

Hard not to think of Waterford Crystal in Waterford

By the time of the census of 1901, Waterford had absorbed many other surnames from the nearby counties of Cork, Tipperary, Wexford and Kilkenny – to join the old Déise and Norman surnames of the area. When looking through the most numerous names around the town of Dungarvan in County Waterford in 1901 – we come across the following old Irish names:

Ahearne, Byrne, Casey, Coleman, Crotty, Curran, Daly, Drummy, Duggan, Dwyer, Flynn, Foley, Hannigan, Hayes, Keane, Kiely, Maher, McGrath, McCarthy, Moloney, Morrissey, Murphy, O’Brien, O’Meara, O’Donnell, Phelan, Quealy, Ronayne, Ryan, Sheehan and Whelan.

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St. Declans in Ardmore, County Waterford

And the following Norman names that arrived in the area after the 1200s:

Barry, Burke, Butler, Condon, Dalton, Fitzgerald, Hackett, Landers, Nagle, Power, Sliney, Terry, Tobin, Veale, Walsh and White.

And do you know what? You will find many of these surnames on the jerseys of the mighty Waterford hurlers. How about you – do you have any of these Déise Surnames in your Irish family tree? Do leave your comments below and let me know.

That’s it for this week – and we do look forward to you joining us again next week – and the best of luck to County Waterford in the All-Ireland Hurling Final.

Up the Déise! Slán for now,

Mike & Carina.

  • Larry Butler says:

    Our surname of Butler was originally spelled Buttler but was changed to one T due to a clerical error by the US army during my grandfathers service in WW 1

  • Greg Kiely says:

    Thank you. I understand that my Great Great Grandparents may have been from Waterford (William Kiely/Mary Cullian. My Great Grandfather J W Kiely (born) 1856, who came out to Oz, and his siblings are all noted on Kilsheenan and /Kilcash Diocese of Waterford and Lismore. I once saw a Canadian cop show from the Maritimes. A bit puzzled by the accent until I done some research.

  • Mary Tweed says:

    Thanks to you & Carina, I learned that my Dad’s mother’s surname of Powers is really not Irish, but Norman French “LePoer.” I believe my gr.gr. grandpa John Powers was from Kilkenny, Co. Waterford; according to a Roman Catholic marriage entry (Canandaigua, NY) and naturalization application (Ontario County, NY). Difficult as this is a common name!

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  • […] rarely found outside of Tipperary while the name Maher is plentiful in Tipperary but also found in Waterford and […]

  • Jackie Dailey Cordts says:

    i have found my surname spelled two different ways. Daly and Daley, we spell it Dailey.

  • Anna says:

    My grandmother was a Coleman. I am from Virginia, but I have always felt that I am Irish at heart!

  • AmyElizabeth says:

    My maternal grandmother’s family are Terry’s. They were all coal miners.

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