County Fermanagh Surnames and Families

Do you have County Fermanagh surnames in your Irish family tree? The beautiful county of Fermanagh with its dense woodlands, and hilltop vistas has long attracted migrants from other parts of Ireland, and well as England, Scotland, and Wales. This history of settlers has made for a unique mix of surnames and peoples.

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County Fermanagh Surnames and Families

Last March, we headed up to the beautiful county of Fermanagh for a trip – it’s a wonderful county full of rolling hillsides, lakes, small villages and ancient structures. Have you ever been to Fermanagh?

Perhaps your Irish ancestry came from those parts? Do leave your comments below and let me know.

Now although your family may not have originated in County Fermanagh, I think you will find the following interesting as it provides a nice example of how a particular mix of Irish surnames come to be in a given location in Ireland.

The Families and Surnames of County Fermanagh.

Like many placenames in Ireland, Fermanagh received its name from a local tribe who were dominant in the area up to 1200 AD and beyond. They were the “Fir Manach” – say it fast and you can hear where the anglicised version of “Fermanagh” came from. We’re going to have a closer look at Fermanagh now – as it is a great example of how surnames evolve in an area over time.

Some of our Reader names from County Fermanagh

The “Fir Manach” lived around the shores of Lough Erne and, over time, a number of Irish Gaelic families and surnames came out of this tribe to dominate the county that we know today. As well as the chiefs of the area, the Maguires/McGuires – the local surnames included:

O’Heaney, Mulrooney, O’Durrough, McAuley/McAwley, Drumm, MacDonnell, O’Cannon, O’Cassidy, MacManus, O’Muldoon, McEntaggart, McTully, O’Flanagan, McCaffrey, O’Devine, McMaster and O’Bannion.

Are any of your Irish surnames here?

However, with the “Flight of the Earls” in the early 1600s, the lands of Hugh McGuire were confiscated by the Crown and divided among Scottish and English “Undertakers” as well as the native Irish. These Undertakers “undertook” to develop and colonise their granted land with farmers and craftsmen from their existing estates in England or Scotland. The chief undertaker families to benefit under the new settlement were the families of Cole, Blennerhasset, Butler, Hume, and Dunbar.

In Step the “Border Reivers”.

To look at the “colonisation” of County Fermanagh a little deeper, we need to travel over to the border region between England and Scotland in the early 1600s. Up to that time, Scotland and England had been intermittently at war over hundreds of years and royal authority was weak in the area stretching for miles either side of the official border between the two countries. People who lived in this area were loyal to kin – and not much beyond that. A culture of cattle raids existed and whole herds were stolen and moved from one territory to another. So the name “border reivers” (reiver meaning to rob) was attached to the local chief families of the area.

Now, what has this got to do with County Fermanagh? Well, King James I outlawed the activities of these Border Reiver families – and made life very difficult for them. So, just as the border area was being cleared, and opportunities for many Reiver families were evaporating – in came the possibility of a new start in the developing colony of Ireland.

Two of the main “undertakers” in the plantation of Ireland were John and Alexander Hume (from a border family themselves) and they “undertook” to plant 3000 acres of County Fermanagh with settlers from their own border lands between England and Scotland. Many members of these Reiver tenant families saw an opportunity to start afresh on cheap land – and in an area that would appreciate their frontier skills and mentality. By 1649, border names such as: Armstrong, Bell, Crozier, Elliott, Graham, Irvine, Johnston and Nixon had established themselves across the county of Fermanagh.

In County Fermanagh, this mix of original Irish Gaelic names, border reiver names – and later arrivals – remain to this day. By the 1901 census, the following were the most numerous Irish surnames in Fermanagh (starting with the most numerous):

Maguire, McManus, Johnston, Armstrong, Gallagher, Elliott, Murphy, Reilly, Cassidy and Wilson.

Are any of your Irish surnames here? Do leave your comments below and let me know. So, that’s the “melting pot” of County Fermanagh – in one way a microcosm of the “melting pot” that Ireland has been over the past 10,000 years.

That’s it for this week – and we do look forward to you joining us again next week.

Slán for now,

Mike & Carina.

  • EllenBrown says:

    This is very informative. I did find a relative surname,Maguire.I reLly enjoy the history behind all of the visits.
    Well done!

  • Joyce says:

    Yes , Armstrong and very much appreciate this information. Many thanks.

  • Peggy Mueller says:

    My g grandparents came to Canada from Enniskillen Fermanaugh around 1834. Their names were McDonald so I assumed they were Scots-Irish. My g grandfather married a Gallagher also from Fermanaugh. Cannot find any records of McDonalds in Enniskillen so thought maybe they modified their name.

  • Mary Beggan Mueller says:

    My g-g grandparents, Michael Beggan and his wife Margaret Kelly left Co Fermanagh for America in 1840. Started farming in Wisconsin, and we, their descendants, are still on that same land. They are buried in our orchard.

    • Carina says:

      Mary, wonderful that ye continue on the tradition and that the family still lives on the original farm.

  • Mollie Griffin says:

    I am wondering if O’Heaney could have become Henry. The name I’ve seen has always been much longer then this, but I was just wondering. Henry is my maiden name, my fathers family. My mothers family were Bells.

  • Wayne Fine says:

    I have been hunting for information on a Thomas Bell and Sarah Armstrong parents. They were both born and raised in Pennsylvania in the early 1800’s(1805 &1803). Haven’t been able isn over forty years to go back any further with them. They were my Great=Great Grandparents on my Mother’s side. This morning I read your Sunday letter and finally visited the surname page and found a letter relating to County Fermanagh.There I found mot only the Bell and Armstrong name, but that of Irvine, Nixon, Johnston, Crozier, Graham and Elliot. All of which are well implanted into Southwestern Pennsylvania. In addition I have Nixon and Elliotin my family tree. I plan on visiting Ireland in October and hope to see some of this area, I will have to consult a map and see exactly where County Fermanagh is located to see if it tis on or near my tour. I hope this finally leads me to my lost relatives.Accordng to my DNA, I am 18% Irish, which in my mind is close to 100%.

  • Carina says:

    That is wonderful news Wayne and glad we were of assistance in your family search. We look forward to hearing how you get on when you are here in Ireland.

  • Rita Nelson (Graham) says:

    Good day thank you for the information my great grandfather Archibald Graham and his Brother William Alexander Graham emigrante to South Africa and become Farmers in North West. He and my Great grandmother and a lot of their descendants were burried on the farm. A small piece of the farm still belongs to the Family were the Grahams holds a Family feast every 3 years
    We will love to find if any of his family is still in fermenagh. On his wedding documents it is stated that he originated from Fermanagh
    From his kids names His father was Archibald John And his mother Alice Jean
    His birthday 12 June 1827

  • Fay Fleming says:

    My Irish surname is Reilly. I would love to know more about them. Love this letter

  • Annie says:

    Maguire. My ancestry dna says Munster Ireland. What does this mean?

  • Noreen Hammond says:

    I have just returned from Enniskillen – the place of my birth – a trip taken with my three daughters & two grandsons to take the ashes of one of my sisters to Lough Erne. But a great revelation was on our visit to the castle in Donegal where we learned so much about the history of the Maguires & the move to Fermanagh. Such wonderful memories created for all of us in a beautiful part of Ireland.

  • Lisa Kennedy says:

    As Murphy is such a common surname it has been hard to trace my relatives. I know that John Murphy my GGGFather married in Broagh in 1856 in Knocklougrim. He was also born there I think. I don’t know if there are any links between my Murphys and Murphys from other parts of Ireland. If you can help me trace further back I would appreciate it.

  • Erin says:

    Nice to read about County Fermanagh! My 2nd great grandmother, Margaret Johnston, was born in Enniskillen and came to Canada in the mid-1800s. Her father was Johnston and her mother was a Wilson, so I’m guessing they were a “border reiver” family who settled County Fermanagh in the 1600s. Fascinating history.

  • Maureen says:

    My great-grandmother, Elizabeth Maguire, was born in Aughaherrish, Co. Fermanagh. She married Patrick McBride in the Monea chapel in 1871. Patrick was born in Tyrone but joined the RIC so was posted in Fermanagh. After his marriage, he was posted to Co. Leitrim. A member of the RIC could not serve in his home county or that of his wife. They had ten children. Two were born in Aughaherrish when Elizabeth returned to her mother. Others were born in Leitrim and Tyrone (including my grandfather, Patrick). I often think of a pregnant Elizabeth making the 50 km journey, perhaps with another infant or two. I am fortunate to have visited Northern Ireland, from Australia, on two occasions now, to walk in the footsteps of my ancestors. Ireland, north and south, is a magical place and I feel a very strong connection to it. I would love to read stories or letters written at the time to understand how my ancestors lived. Any suggestions would be most welcome. Many thanks.

    • carina says:

      On we often feature stories from times past.Join us on the letter and keep an eye out for those stories.

  • Jeffl says:

    I’ve had the pleasure of searching through many records over the past year or more in regards to my great grandmother from fermanagh county. Her family name was Carroll who came from the Newtownbutler area/Drumralla.. Her name was Maryanne Carroll and she left the area late 1800’s and married a Patrick Reilly from the redhills/brockley area of cavan county.settled in Lowell,Ma and had many children, me down the Reiily/Carroll line.. The Carroll family John and Teresa and many of their children including Francis Carroll and Jane Carroll Slowey lived around the Drumralla area and also of notable offspring include their son Edward Carroll and his son Bishop Joseph Anthony Carroll of Dublin(1968-1988) and many more I still search out. They are buried at St.Mary’s RC church Newtownbutler church burial grounds. I will be there in May 2019 and will travel around with my cousin Michael Reilly of the Redhills (who I’ve also found and kindly offered to take me to Fermanagh county) and place flowers on the graves of the Carroll/Slowey families and honor their lives, I’ve learned much researching through all the townlands of beautiful Fermanagh and the places the Carroll family lived working and raising their many children, many left for the states but I do look forward to my visit next month in mid to later on in May and hope its a good time of the year to be in Ireland

  • Rebeecka Johnston says:

    Hello, eh?

  • Tahri McCusker Rohde says:

    My ancestors came from County Fermanagh and their name is McCusker. I was told that McCusker came out of the McGuire clan. Is this true?

  • Rose Maguire says:

    After a divorce, I had my maiden name legally restored to Maguire. Grandfather James T. Maguire married Anna Frances Madden and had eight children, though two died in early childhood. My mother’s mother was a Cannon. This is as far as I’ve been able to go. Regardless, I plan to visit Maguire Castle and surrounds in 2021, God willing.

    • carina says:

      Maguire is a fine surname Rose and so keep in touch on the Letter from Ireland and check out the Green Room for specialist help in reaching back to your Irish Ancestors.

  • Shivaun Cassidy says:

    Ancestry DNA had put my dad’s ancestors in Fermanagh area. I haven’t been able to find out a lot of information but I really liked reading the information provided here. I would very much like to take a trip there someday.

    • carina says:

      Shivaun that would be a great trip back to visit the land of your Father’s ancestors and delighted you are finding this site informational.

  • Helen Cusker says:

    Hi My grandfather was George Cusker and my father was James Cusker, I am Helen Cusker and heard through a family member that we came from County Fermanagh .Could that be possible ?

  • FitzP says:

    I’m surprised FitzPatrick is not in the most common names? I have read many census records and birth records etc and FitzPatrick is apparently very common in Fermanagh?

  • Jacque says:

    Would like to connect with anyone with the name of Elliott in this county. My family immigrated first about 1851 with a second group coming to the USA about 1866.

  • Sneryl Neal says:

    I am interested in the surname Godsey or Godfrey. I am looking for William Surflete Godfrey.

  • Pamela Nixon says:

    My Husbands family were Nixon’s from the County of Fermanagh. Still trying to find more information.

  • Angel Ocasio says:

    Early Origins of the Ocasio family
    The surname Ocasio was first found in Fermanagh (Irish: Fear Manach) in the southwestern part of Northern Ireland, Province of Ulster, where the Irish sept claims direct descent from the Irish King Colla da Crioch who was banished from Ireland in 327. Is this true?

  • Deb McManus says:

    My paternal grandfather was born in Fermanagh, Ireland but I’ve not been able to trace his family there, oddly his parents were born in the United States.

    • Carina says:

      In search of Irish ancestry we start with the facts we know and perhaps you may have more luck with beginning your search in the US- just a thought.

  • Cheryl says:

    My maternal grandfather’s lineage goes back to Enniskillen as far as the trees I’ve found on ancestry and some documents I’ve found from new Brunswick in Canada. Henderson is the surname I’m looking at and I believe the two people that originated in Enniskillen were David and Angelina Henderson. They immigrated to Canada sometime in 1820. I’ve never been able to go any further back in that line either since most parish records were destroyed or so I was told. Any help or insight that you can offer?

    • Carina says:

      In our Green Room our genealogists work on these more elusive searches as they are less obvious and may need to be worked around to discover any information.

  • Tom Charlton says:

    I’m working on my mother’s Irish side but I’m stuck on the parents of Lilliam Dunleavy (1885-1964.) I believe her father was Henry Dunleavy (1848 – 1910?) and her mother was Annie Allen (1853-1913) but cannot get anything earlier.
    My mother visited a J. Gray, Clontivern, Newtown Butler, Fermanagh, NI in the early 1980’s, who I believe to be a relative, but I cannot make the connection. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Tom Charlton, Iowa, USA

    • Carina says:

      Check out our Green Room Tom where we work with US and Irish genealogists to make that leap back to Ireland
      or why not join us on the free weekly – A Letter from Ireland where we share the keys to unlocking your Irish ancestry.

  • Lynda says:

    My 3rd g-gm Frances NETHERY was of Edenclaw, Magheraculmoney. She married James CRAWFORD in Ardess and they later migrated to Glasgow in Scotland. Frances’s mother was a JOHNSTON.

  • Wendy Loneragan says:

    Hello and thanks for your lovely introduction for me to Fermanagh.
    I have a mystery grandmother here in Australia born1875 called Ellen Armstrong. On her two marriage certificates she stated her parents as David Armstrong Jeweller or designer and Catherine Wilson. Although she married a Catholic she called her younger son Alan Byers and the second wedding had a Presbyterian celebrant. She was totally secretive , had no known relatives and the parents are impossible to trace. I suspected she was fibbing about the names. possible illegitimate and raised by relatives. –
    Then in desperation I had my DNA done and I’m distantly related to a group of Australian early (!820’s) emigrants from Fermanagh. Making it difficult is that so did my mothers (Scottish) side and my fathers Catholic Loneragan side, I’m looking for a mystery group and think I’ve found them in Oberon near Bathurst in NSW. Over and over Wilsons married Armstrongs there as they’d done in N Ireland and possibly as Border Reivers too. Plus Ellen having called my father Byers as a second name might be a hint
    BUT, Ellen was almost definitely born in Melbourne and I have a photo of her father (I was told by Dad ) taken in Dublin in early 1870’s. This Oberon group almost to the last one have stayed in NSW, NOT Victoria and given the benefit of Ross Beattie’s Wilson/Armstrong/Matthews/Brien/Larnach// genealogy NONE of them named their children David or Catherine. I live in hope.
    Cheers, Wendy Loneragan ps I have a Healy direct ancestor (NSW)

  • Patricia oliveria says:

    My ggrandparents were
    Patricia ck mccaffrey
    And Mary Murray/morey

    • Carina Collins says:

      Thanks for sharing your Irish ancestors surnames and do join us on the letter for more information on those surnames,

  • Joan Parks says:

    Hello everyone, I need help in looking for the parents of my Great-Great-Grandfather,Robert Wilson Senior–Born on March 17th,1770 at MaguiresBridge, Fermanagh County, Northern Ireland ,Died on December 29th,1870 ,Lot 3rd of the First Concession of Huntingdon Township,Rural Route 4,Stirling, Ontario, Hastings County, Canada. Contact–

  • MaryAnne Robertson says:

    Humphreys and Crooks

  • Gerald Armstrong says:

    Searching for any connection to Quinton Armstrong (various spellings) who migrated from Northern Ireland to the New World landing in new Castle Delaware August 1729. Capt. Hans Hamilton was in command. Wm. Penn had sent for 140 Scots Irish to clear and settle land in the Marsh creek settlement aka Manor of Maske. Quintin is an unique name and only found connected to my line. Any help at all would be greatly appreciated.
    Gerald Armstrong

  • James cole says:

    I would like to known about John Cole and William his son