The Origins of Your Irish Surnames.

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The Origins of Your Irish Surnames.

Let’s  take a deeper look at the – Irish surnames in your family. Where did your Irish surnames come from? How did they evolve? You have probably already discovered that the surnames in your family are the best way to track and audit the journey of your family and kin.

A problem quickly arises when you start your investigation and notice all the disconnections come to the surface. As you continue your research, ancestry websites and internet user groups can be a fabulous way of discovering some of those fragments. However, they can also be full of frustrating “red herrings” and distractions.

I have found that most of us need a roadmap. With this roadmap, you can better understand the areas where the genealogical gold is likely to be buried. With this map, you can quickly decide what sounds likely – and what is evidently nonsense.

This article aims to be that roadmap.

The Obstacles in Your Way.

One thing a roadmap does very well is to outline and locate the obstacles in your way. Many of us have come across the following obstacles already when digging deeper into our Irish Heritage:

  1. Missing Irish Records (burned apparently in 1922).
  2. The many spelling variations of Irish surnames.
  3. Clerical error (often absurd) when a name was spoken, but transcribed to something the clerk was more familiar with (like an English equivalent name).
  4. Finally, in keeping with their sense of escape and starting a new life – many of our ancestors assumed new surnames that they felt better suited their new life station (losing the “O” just being one example).

Blog 1

Edward Neafsey  (author of the very useful Surnames of Ireland) highlights this very well. When he describes the migration of his own surname. His surname comes from the original Irish O Cnáimhsighe (get your tongue around that one!). While his grandfather’s sister was spelled “Navisey” on her baptismal book, his grandfather was entered as “Neafsey” in the same book. It was spelled as “Kneafsey” on his birth cert. And when he moved to England his marriage cert spelled his name “Neafey”. One family, five variations.

Some surnames like Murphy and Kelly may not have changed so much. However other Irish names have mutated in a similar way over the generations.

Article18So, for the rest of this article we will take the longer view. We will stretch back over the generations to a time when surnames first came into use in Ireland. We will look at some of the outside influences, events and naming conventions that have changed your Irish names. Evolving them from what they were originally to what they are now.

Let’s Start at The Beginning.

My own postal address is:

Mike Collins,


County Cork, Ireland.

This is a typical Irish postal address that you find today outside the cities of Ireland. As you can see, it relies on the local knowledge of the postman to figure out which specific house I live in. The one absolute he has to deal with is my name – Mike Collins.

You may notice the absence of Post and ZIP codes. Why am I showing you this?

Well, it illustrates an attitude that has persisted over many thousands of years in Ireland. Originally we were a nomadic and pastoral nation. We had land – but we followed our animals depending on season and climate.

blog6From the 900s onwards the population increased in Ireland as elsewhere in Europe. As political stability increased across Europe along with a better climate for growing food and fewer raids by marauders – so too did the hierarchal structure we know as feudalism. Land became parcelled, was owned by freeman, worked by serfs – and overseen by the lords. This situation allowed for the later start of Postal and ZIP codes in a way.

In Ireland things were different.

While our population also increased, so too did the power and influence of a more centralised church – as well as the power of a group of overlords and kings assuming control of entire provinces in a real sense for the first time.

Top 250 Irish Surnames

Just some of the names among our Letter from Ireland subscribers.

The Evolution of Irish Surnames.

I believe that the very real problem of administering a moving and population, enforcing the Brehon laws and simply keeping tabs on the increasingly complex genealogies and rights of inheritance – caused Ireland to be possibly the first country in Europe to introduce the “surname”.

(This article evolved in conversation with our free Letter from Ireland subscribersif you would like to add your Irish surnames to our list, then just signup for your free weekly Letter from Ireland by clicking here.)

We had to lock the name in – as the locations were too mobile. This surname would become the one constant in a moving sea of variables and possibilities (like in my postal address above).

The first recorded surname in Ireland is O’Clery (Ó Cléirigh) in what is now modern County Galway around  920 AD. Although the creation of surnames in Ireland may have began early, it slowly continued for over six hundred years.

By the end of the eleventh century the main families of Ireland (those whom had their genealogies recorded) had acquired many of the surnames we know today. They were constructed using either an “Ó” (short for Ua – “descendent of”) or a “Mac” (“son of”) followed by a personal name of an illustrious ancestor.  The surnames of Ireland’s ruling families can typically be tracked down to one single individual. The O’Neills of the Northern Uí Neill in Ulster take their surname from one of their kings –  Niall Mac Aoidh. He died in 917.

Settling down for the evening outside O'Neills

Settling down for the evening outside O’Neills

However, the process continued for some hundreds of years as different major families (such as the O’Neills) went on to split into further groups and assume new surnames for that splinter group.

Always Start with the Irish for Your Name.

If you are looking for a “true north” to go with your surname “map” – then this is it. Given all the spelling variations that you are likely to come across, there is ONLY one correct spelling.

Yes. Only one.

I have found that the ONLY way to pin down that name is to learn the original Irish language version of that surname.

Have a think about it.

McCarthys Bar, CastletownbereTake the surname O’Reilly – which is also heard as Riley, Reilly, O’Riley (and other versions I’m sure I’ll hear one day).

The thing is – none of these are correct!

These are versions that have sprung up over centuries with the introduction of English in Ireland, emigration, mutation and so on.

The most useful starting point is the original Irish language version: Ó Raghailligh (pronounced Oh Rah-al-ig – just say it fast). This is the root for all the O’Reilly English language versions out there.

But of course,  the Reillys have it easy (and the McCarthys, O’Briens, Murphys and so on) as they were never pegged to an equivalent English name. When English speakers heard O Raghailligh spoken for the first time – they just said it as they heard it: O Reilly/Riley

The “trouble” started when an English speaker heard another name for the first time – AND it reminded them of an English name that they already knew – and that’s the name they gave!


O’Mahony of Cork.

The Surname Hammill.

To illustrate, let’s take an example of a lesser-known Irish name – Hamill. If you think this sounds like an English name – you are right! But if you come across the name in your Irish family tree, it most likely has a different source to the Hamills you will come across in England (it is facts like this that cause your frustration with mega-ancestry sites – their focus is on the greater population of the surname – not on us – the little Irish contingent!).

Back to Hamill. Hamill comes from the original Irish “Ó hAdhmaill” (pronounced Oh–ham-will). This surname comes from a nickname-derived first name “Adhmall”. This Gaelic family were part of the Cenél Eoghain part of the Northern Ui Neill in what is now County Tyrone.

In the case of Ó hAdhmaill, an English speaker/clerk heard the Irish name spoken – it reminded them of the English name Hamill – a name they were already familiar with – and so “Hamill” became a given name for this old Gaelic family. This process happened slowly from the 1600s onwards as the English administration spread through the island of Ireland.

You’ll notice on many ancestry sites that surnames like ‘Hamill’ are included. However there is still a small portion of Irish folks jumping up and down in the corner protesting that this is also an Irish name! And they are right – to a point!

The Surname Ryan

Ryans of Tipperary

Maguire or McGuire?

So, when a reader chastises me for using the incorrect spelling for an Irish surname (e.g. Maguire instead of McGuire) – I reply that the ONLY correct spelling is the original Irish. So, I recommend that you find out the original Irish for your Irish surname. Then learn to phonetically pronounce it. Then learn all the English variations that have come along for this name over the centuries. This will open up a whole new world of understanding in your Irish Heritage journey. As you “widen the net” to include many possibilities of mutations of your surnames. But all anchored to a single Irish language origin.

Right, we are almost there. But let’s finish off the roadmap to guide our journey with three questions that I often get from the readers of Your Irish Heritage.

3 Reader Questions to Finish Off Our Roadmap.

To finish off our roadmap, let’s look at three questions I often get asked. With these answers we will finish off the map that we are developing – a map to help you anticipate and avoid the main obstacles when reaching your Irish surname family tree.

Question 1.

Recently I got an email from a lady who goes by the surname of “McGee”. She asked: “I met a lady called “McCoy” last year – she insisted we are distant cousins – how could that be?”

Looking through our reader list on Your Irish Heritage – I notice that we have Keyes, MacHugh, Gee, McGee, O’Hea, Hayes, MacKaw, Makay and McCoy. All of these Gaelic surnames have something in common. They have all been anglicized from the same Irish surname – Aodh. “Mac Aodha” (son of Aodh) or “O hAodha” (descendant of Aodh).

(Would you like to add your Gaelic surname to our list? Simply signup for your free weekly Letter from Ireland by clicking here – and we’ll let you know how to join in the fun.

Aodh/Aedh (pronounced “Aay” – rhymes with “hay”) was a very popular first name in Ireland up to the 10th century.

Clonakilty Black PuddingUp to that point individuals were known by their first names and lineage. So, individuals were known as “Aodh son of Donnchadh” and so on.

And then from the 900s to 1100s – families adopted the surname system we know today. Lots of families across Ireland (and Scotland) chose the name MacAodha or O hAodha. And that got anglicized into the different surnames we see above over the next few centuries.

So I got back to Mrs. McGee and told here while we all may be cousins going back to Adam and Eve – you would have to go back almost as far to make this Mrs. McCoy your cousin.

Question 2.

“Why do YOU write MacCarthy as McCarthy?” (Read that one again – there is a difference). Questions like this I’m asked on a regular basis.

Connolly, SkibbereenAs we said earlier, Ireland was probably the first country in Europe to introduce a surname system in the 10th century.

The Gaelic surnames of the time were formed around an illustrious ancestor. For example the O’Briens from Brian Boru.  These Irish Gaelic surnames typically have one of five prefixes:

  1. “O” as in O’Brien or O’Neill.
  2. Mc or Mac – as in McCarthy or McCoy.
  3. Gil – which comes from the Irish “Giolla” meaning follower – as in Gilmartin.
  4. Mul – like in Mulrooney or Mullarkey.
  5. Sometimes a combination of the above as in Mac Giolla Íosa (MacAleese).

A smaller class of Irish surname named the family after an occupation or profession. For example; McInerney ( Mac an Airchinnigh in Irish) which means “son of the eranagh” (a type of lay abbot). Another example is; Hickey (in Irish O hIcidhe) which comes from the Irish for Physician or Healer.

The  difference between a Mc and a Mac (and some people wonder is the “Mc” Irish and the “Mac” Scottish? The answer is: there is no difference! Mc is simply an abbreviation of Mac.

McCarthyAlso, you are very unlikely to hear a surname starting with “O” in Scotland (although a very few do exist).

Question 3.

A Mrs. Sullivan contacted me and commented “it’s a pity our family lost the “O” when we came to the States – I wonder can we get it back?”

But, there’s a bit more to it than that. Gaelic and Catholic people were discriminated against by the English ascendency – from the 1600s onwards. This led, gradually, to the abandonment of the Os and Macs in many surnames. O’Murphy became Murphy, O’Kelly became Kelly and so on.

However, in the late 19th century there was a Gaelic cultural resurgence in Ireland and many of these surnames took their Os and Macs back as a badge of Gaelic pride.

Take “O’Sullivan” as an example – when we look at the census data for Ireland, the following comes up:

Year:               Percentage using the prefix O 1866               4% 1890               12% 1914               22% 1944               62%

So, you can see that many emigrants who left Ireland during famine times (BEFORE 1866) were missing their Os and Macs – and mostly never took them back. Whereas a high percentage of those who stayed in Ireland had them reinstated.

Maybe it’s time to take your O or Mac back?

In Conclusion.

I realise that we have covered a lot of ground in this chapter. As well as that, we went WAY outside our remit of “around the time of 1152AD”.  Hopefully you’ve found this letter useful in understanding the evolution of your Irish surname.

I also hope that this chapter gives you a useful outline map to move quicker towards the genealogical gold that you are seeking!

Slán for now,


  • Jim Hess says:

    You say that 1866 is the margin year for The Great Famine? I understand that it began in 1845 and lasted until the early to mid 1850s. Please explain

    • Mike says:

      1866 was the first year available to me after the famine for the data I used Jim. Mike.

      • Pam says:

        My maiden name is Collins. I always thought that my mom was kidding that its Irish. But I do remember my grandmother with the bright red hair and blue eyes. My grandfather had black hair and blue eyes.
        Would love to visit Ireland someday.
        Thank you for the post on the surnames, it is very informative.

        • Jean-Pierre Deslauriers says:

          My grand grand father, John Ritchie, died in 1942. He was the grand son of an Irish immigrant. He used to tell that the Irish type had black hair and blue eye. I did not take it seriously but you make me doubt.

          • Suzanne says:

            My Irish ancestors from Galway, my great grandmother, a O’Donnell/Kilmartin from Aran, Inishmor, and gr grandfather, McHugh/Curran from Balleycasey, Headford. I don’t recall one having red hair, all had blue eyes and dark hair though… they teased me because I have brown eyes. Not sure why people assume redheads to be Irish.

        • Moore says:

          Moore by Cork Moores town

    • Virginia Lee Wright Bennett says:

      I descend from John Rea and Hannah Hasty. When I looked them up on my first and only trip to the Dublin Library, I was told I could have checked with Hannah Hasty was a unique name. I am gIad I came to Ireland to find that out. I was lucky to know these names of my ancestors because of a Joseph C Rhea. He has been tracing this family for over fifty years. He is updating the Family Book from fifty years ago. I am so eager to have it.

      • Mary Klevorn says:

        I am a descendent of Joseph Rhea whose grandson Jesse Rhea came to Virginia and then to Tennessee (Jesse died in 1859). My understanding is that years before that, Jesse’s ancestor was Matthew Charles Campbell who was imprisoned near Argyll, Scotland. Evidently he bribed the jailor and when he escaped, he sailed with his family to Ireland. When he got there, he changed his name to Reigh. The family lived in Ireland for 3 generations before some came to the United States.
        Since I’m new in researching this name, I cannot verify it. I don’t even know in what part of Ireland they lived.

    • Mary says:

      Hi my maiden name is Keefe which I know would actually have been O’ Keeffe which in turn in gaelic would be O’ Caomh. How could I possible trace my lineage back I only have a few generations of the name to go by..Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated..
      Mary Keefe Geest

    • Jeremy says:

      Hello sorry random question. My great grandfathers name John McHazlett i’m trying to trace it back. When he filled out a census in Texas it asked where his father and mother where born and he wrote “irish free state” is there anything i’m doing wrong maybe as to spelling. I search irish records and find nothing . If theres any other form that name may have been or can be i would greatly appriciate it thanks

  • Sandra LaFerriere says:

    This is great!!!! Thanks Mike….

  • sue says:

    Thanks Mike, you have done an amazing amount of work. And, it is really interesting to see the written variations/spellings of Gaelic names. I’m an Aussie with an Irish GG grandmother from County Clare & I don’t think she would have liked my pronounciation efforts with the examples you gave.. 🙁 Cheers from hot downunder.

    • Mike says:

      Hi Sue – thanks for your kind feedback. I do hear that we should be swapping weather for a couple of weeks! Hope things improve soon. Mike.

  • Good Morning Mike from the frozen state of Maryland. Hope your weather improves from all the flooding. My question is, are there any Irish names that were only found in one county? Thanks as always Mike, Pat

    • Mike says:

      Interesting question Pat – and I hope you don’t stay frozen for too long.

      The answer is almost YES – if you go back to before the mid 1800s there are a number of names that you would only find in places like parts of Cork. Do you have a name in mind? All the best – Mike.

  • I am fascinated by the information you write about Ireland. I have never been there, but I love hearing about it. I have never been there, but maybe someday!!
    My daughter is doing the family tree and she, also, is having a block with information regarding our ancestors’. (DONOVAN)

  • susan johannes says:

    I have reached a dead end. Thomas Keily married Margaret Sullivan in Kenmare, Ireland ,1832. I know of one daughter (my GGrandmother, Catherine). Catherine came to the US and married James Callahan. She was born abt. 1836. What is the best source for finding out more? I have tried so many different sites and find nothing. Just hoping you could point me in the right direction! Thanks for all your information. Looking forward to the book.

    • Mike says:

      Hi Susan – unfortuneatly there are few online records for specifics at that time. It is probably time to engage with local record centres (in parishes) and genealogists. Mike.

  • Sandra LaFerriere says:

    I just finished this chapter on Surnames and it sure answers many questions. So very interesting and enlightening!.. Thank you.
    Sandy LaFerriere

  • Mike,
    This is so interesting. Being a Murphy, I am curious about my surname, and how it became what it is today. As I have said in the past, it is so difficult tracing my ancestors, because it is such a popular name. Thanks for all your information and I just love being in the forum.
    Pat Murphy-Zezelic

  • Of my 4 grand parents I believe that 3 are of Irish background. Chace or Chase, Kehoe and Power. Can you tell me what these names are derived from or are they original to their spelling. I was told by a family member, who has past away many years ago that the Kehoe’s or Power’s left Ireland 1. Because of the famine and or they were shipped out for being horse thieves. The Chace’s, not the original spelling, but a klitch on my father’s birth certificate entered Canada via Miramichi, New Brunswick, which I understand to be one of the ports that many of famine ships arrived. What area’s were they from

    • Mike says:

      Power is county Waterford. Kehoe is normally from County Wicklow. Chace/Chase – not sure of this name? All the best – Mike.

  • Susan Laughrin says:

    Genealogist @ Trinity College said the name had been mispelled so many times it would be hard to trace and was probably Scottish. What do you think of that? Susan

    • Mike says:

      Hmm Susan – not my place to disagree with a Trinity College Genealogist 😉 – BUT I would start with O’Loughran/Lochran as a good bet. It is from COunties Armagh/Tyrone originally. Mike.

      • David P. Shea says:

        would you say it is common to hear the name Shea in country kildare . Pat Shea married Ann Smyth Roberstown. There Son Matthew Shea moved to USA IN 1831. My dad is an offspring of Matthew and born 100 years later in Massachusetts.

  • Barbara Masters says:

    Thank you for doing this website, I appreciate the information that I’ve found here! In the online search for my Irish family name origins, it has been easy enough to locate information on one of my grandfather’s names (Talley) and one of my grandmother’s maiden names (Collins). However, I am stumped on my other grandma’s maiden name, thought to be Scottish. Although the family originally spelled the name here in the U.S. as McKleroy, other people would misspell it as McElroy so often that the family ended up changing their spelling of it as well, to McElroy in the 1930’s. I’ve been told that it could have begun as an Irish name later rendered to McLeroy, from Ulster Dalridian kings who migrated to Scotland. Do you possibly have any insight on whether that could be true, or where it could have originated?

    • Mike says:

      Hi Barbara – interesting – it sounds like your name may be McClory (Counties Down/Armagh) OR else MacCloughry (Donegal/Longford) – both could have Dal Riada connections. All the best – Mike.

  • Priscilla Miller says:

    My husband’s lineage… Last name Miller-stories,etc.,say this family is Irish. We can only get a Civil War record for Washington Harvey Miller,born Flat Rock Ohio 1834,USA Family Bible “Havey”born 1834 Attica,Fountian County,Indiana,USA. We cannot go further back. Some say Miller is not Irish! I want to know what you say! Please reply. Thank you,Priscilla Miller.

    • Mike says:

      Hi Priscilla – there are LOTS of names in Ireland that are not Irish originally (e.g. my own – Collins) and Miller is originally an English name that is found in many of the counties of Ulster – especially Antrim. Hope this helps – Mike.

      • Chris Miller says:

        Co. Antrim, Tyrone, Carlow, Galway, Dublin, Belfast. If you look into the siege of Londonderry or The Millers of Ballycushion you will see many migrated there with Cromwell. I’m from Liverpool, England from Irish born Millers (1850). Many repatriated to England/Scotland due to the irish famine. As far as my family is concerned our name comes from Dumphries on the Scottish border and is traced to Glasgow in the mid-16th century. As septs to the Clan Macfarlane who were exiled to the irish plantations by the house of Stewart in the early 17th century for rebelling against the English with Mary queen of Scots. The name can also be Müller as many germans arrived in Ireland for sea passage to America in the 19th century and had their names changed on arrival.

        Hope that helps.

  • Leilani Barlow says:

    After doing some looking, I have not seen anything on the surname Barlow. Wondering now if it’s either unpopular or what. Just curious.

    • Mike says:

      Hi Leilani – Barlow is an English name that has been in Ireland since the 16th century. Mostly found in Dublin and Tipperary. Mike.

  • Linda Gallagher says:

    Hi Mike-Very interesting reading. We will be visiting Ireland in 2015, and although I’ve spent more than 30 years on the family history, and have pinned my Brennan ancestors down to a little town called Corbally in County Sligo not far from Ballina, I’m running out of time to find the area of Ireland that my husband’s great grandfather most likely emigrated to the U.S. from, sometime in the mid-1800’s His name was James Patrick Gallagher, and he was trained as a blacksmith. Galway seems to be the county most often mentioned for Gallagher’s…what do you think? Thanks!

    • Mike says:

      Hi Linda – glad you find it interesting. On Gallagher – they are mostly from County Donegal, just a little further north than Sligo. Mike.

    • Noreen West says:

      Linda…..When you researched your Brennan family did
      you come across a Dennis Brennan married to Hannah? Their daughter Elizabeth Brennan married my great grandfather Francis Flannigan 8th. Jan. 1872. They would have come from Sligo, Donegal area .
      Did you go to Ireland in 2015 as you had planned?
      Was Donegal and Sligo beautiful ?

      Noreen O’Donnell-West

  • eugina mead says:

    my grandfather’s parents came from Ireland and I have not seen the last name mead really anywhere in the surnames…I guess my question is mead a irish last name?

    • Mike says:

      Hi Eugina – it can be either English or Irish. Normally it is spelled Meade and found in Cork city and county. Mike.

  • Suzann Kipp says:

    Hello Mike, wondering if you have any information about the surname Conlin, I have also seen it spelled Conklin. Thanks, Suzann

  • patricia says:

    I was in Ireland recently and had an ancestry search done on the surname Durkee. It said it was from the Netherlands. My mother insists her family is Irish. I asked many people and they had never heard of the name Durkee. I would like to know what is correct.

    • Mike says:

      Hi Patricia – I don’t actually have that name on my records so I cannot give you a definitive answer. Mike.

      • Adele (Durkee) Finney says:

        Try “Durgey”. Extensive research has been done on the Durgey/Durkee family line in the U.S. See The Society for the Genealogy of Durkee.

  • pam haus says:

    Ok Mike, I do have a question. I have not sure of the exact . relationship..but it would be the brother of my great great grandmother….gr gr uncle DR PETER CROSBIE from Sligo….. is there an easy way to determine where he was trained ? US or Ireland? The family has been in the since 1830’s …any suggestions? Not sure when he emigrated an haven’t had too much luck tracing him thru census records. I know where he is hurried but that s about all. I thought the DR. Might make it easier.
    Thank for any thoughts.

  • jeffrey says:

    well do you have anything about the Fitzpatrick name?

  • Erin says:


    I have been researching my family history and have hit a road block as to where they actually came from in Ireland. My family last name is McCue. My great great great grandfather came to New Jersey in 1851 along with his 3 brothers. On their Naturalization papers 2 of them have the last name spelled the way I mentioned above, and my ggg grandfather has it spelled McHugh along with his other brother. Just wondering where in Ireland the name is mainly associated with?

    • says:

      Hi Erin – yes, it is almost certainly McHugh – it covers a wide ground in the North-west of the island – from Galway/Mayo/Sligo up to Donegal.

      In Galway specifically, one brach came from around the Tuam area and another in Connemara. Mike.

    • Mary Greene says:

      Erin I have been researching the McCue family. I would love to know the names in your family list as my 2x great grandfather Michael McCue Born in 1836 in Ireland may be related to your McCues. he settled in Ossining,
      Westchester Co. NY

  • Marcia Holdsworth says:

    Mike that was so interesting – have a big brickwall getting back into Ireland GRACHAN (Michael & Martin ) – was the anglicised version given to my maiden name in late 1800’s in Tasmania, however I have seen so many variations on certificates Greghan, Graghan, Greaghan, Grahon, to name a few – have read about O’Greachan – hmmm !! Another genie has informed me of surname Grehan on Irish website in Roscommon – same first names and birth years family were told they had lived in Clare! one day!

    Signing up for your newsletter – truly fascinating

  • Deborah Cline says:

    I have also begun the genealogy journey and discovered my surname “Harvey” is descendant from Sneer King Kvenland and Jokull Frostasson. But how can I be certain the information is correct? I’ve also found family ties to Cormac Na Maccarthy Reagh (which County is that name from?) and onto Mathias Gherardini.

    I don’ t know how you keep it all straight 🙂

  • Deborah Cline says:

    I have also begun the genealogy journey and discovered my surname “Harvey” is descendant from Sneer King Kvenland and Jokull Frostasson. But how can I be certain the information is correct? I’ve also found family ties to Cormac Na Maccarthy Reagh (which County is that name from?) and onto Mathias Gherardini.

    I don’ t know how you keep it all straight 🙂

    OH…How do I track down an O’Rourke from Ireland? There are so many and I end at William O’Rourke (1779 County Down, Ireland to 1869 Iowa, USA). It seems even harder to track by the women in the family

  • Cathy says:

    Hello Mike

    My family, surname Campion, came from Cork and settled in Somerset and London. I have traced them back to Thomas Campion and Ellen Lewis who married in Cork in 1822 – I can’t trace anything further back than this. Thomas was a Shoe/Boot Maker. Is it possible you can tell me anything about them or their names?


    • Danielle Campion says:

      Hi Cathy

      I too am a Campion, and from what I have found when researching, the Campions landed in kilkeeny and Laois from England, and were of Norman descent..
      could be wrong!
      Im interested to find my heritage and where it really all began!!!! So any info would be great from the fellow readers. Im from Dublin.

  • Sandra McCafferty says:

    Hi Mike, my grandfather originated from Northern Ireland I believe & there is a parcel of land that is now a small park which has remains of his ancestors house on it. Can you tell me anything about the McCafferty name please

  • Sandra McCafferty says:

    Also my dad says his middle name of Coyle wasa family tradition as a middle name.

  • My mother told me her mother married a Jex whose family was from Ireland; she often told us we were descended from Irish kings. I can’t find anything for a Jex beyond my grandfather, and your article doesn’t seem to include any similar names. I’m figuring it could have a “ch” or “sh” sound, rather than “j,” and might be bastardized from Jacks or Jacques, but they look to have been French or English, rather than Irish.

    Any help you can give me for this name would be much appreciated.

  • Mabel Buttlar Madden says:

    Hi.. My name is Mabel and I am an Irish mix. I am quite curious and wonder if I have any relative living in Ireland. My late grandpa name was Charles William Butler Madden.

    • Kathie Madden Gerecke says:

      Hi Mabel, I’ve been researching my Madden family. I have gone back to my gr gr grandfather who came to the USA in the early-mid 1830s. He may have been from Co Cork, but am still looking for proof of that.

    • Diane King says:

      I am from South Africa. My ancestor, Selina Butler, came from Fermoy, County Cork. Her father was a Colonel Butler whom I believe was in the Inneskillan Dragoons (?spelling?) at the time of the Irish uprising. Charles and William were family names; my grand-father and his one brother were William and Charles… I am just starting out on my ‘journey of discovery’ regarding my roots!

    • Jennifer butler-madden says:

      Hello, I’m not sure if you will get this message. But I am a butler-madden. Perhaps we could connect? My mother has huge amounts of info going back many years.

  • Gerard Dennison says:

    Where did my great-great parents come from in Ireland? Patrick Dennison was born in 1807 and his wife Julia McCarthy Dennison was born in 1815. After the potato famine they migrated to St. Celestin Province of Quebec Canada. Their youngest son John was my great grandfather who came to Lewiston Maine in 1878. There are no church records in Ireland that I can find. Only possibilities in Griffiths like Parish of Powerstown, Kilkenney. The Canadian census records only note Ireland place of birth but no town or county.

    By Gerard Dennison, Auburn, Maine

    • Caleb Cote says:

      I am also looking for where they are from and who their parents are. Let me know if you find anything.

  • Smurfet says:

    Our last name is Quigley & the lore is they came from Cork. We don’t know if it was town or county. They came in the 1840’s but nobody seems to know much.

  • Kathy wilkinson Sack says:

    i just found your site and joined. Great information! My 2nd great granparents immigrated in the 1840’s from banteer, county cork. Grand mother was a Coleman and grandfather last name “wilkinson”. This name seems more English to me. I know may mean ” son of William” but is it an Irish name? Thanks for your comments.
    Kathryn Wilkinso

  • David Englishby says:

    Really pleased to have found your site, and what I have seen briefly already excites me as to where you may lead me! As you wrote earlier I see some familiar queries arising from my own surname! Englishby was I believe originally Mac anGollagliadh, and also had a Gallowglas connection, perhaps even originally of French roots! Can’t wait for things to start, many thanks, in anticipation, Dave Engishby, Banbury Oxfordshire, UK.

  • Janie says:

    Hi, I’m just beginning to research my Irish heritage….I believe my family’s name was O’Fallon and have seen it written as O’Faolain….any idea from where the clan originates or where I might find relatives living today? Are there other spellings I might look into? I’ve been told I come from nobility and would be curious if that is the case. Then again, aren’t we all noble at some level…

  • John Youngbauer says:

    Thank you for all that you do to help people find their origins. I have been told that my great great grandfather John A. McSorley hailed from County Fermaneh, Northern Ireland. Does the name McSorley or MacSorley originate in Ireland or Scotland?

  • Lori Matheson Smith says:

    Hi Mike,
    Interesting site! Just found it today.
    I’ve been doing a ton of family history and it seems many roads lead me back to Ireland!
    I have Freeborns who were from Donegal, Cowans from Dublin, Scott from Armagh, and Cornish (Cornwall?). Also a Peard from County Cork. I know there are more, but these come to mind. What a wonderful site you have! I’ve been reading much of it, and it is very, very interesting! I am from central Ohio (USA). Thank you!

  • Elisha johnson says:

    I am a Irish Johnson I wonder if how my mom and dad last names where spelled back then my mom is brown while my dad is Johnson please tell me

  • lulu kelly says:

    Mike we are Kelly’s and Doherty’s we thought we were from the Cork but when my husband did the DNA we have found most of his matches are from Buncrana, Donegal. Does this seem right! Just curious your thoughts on this.

  • Marybeth says:

    Hi Mike. My GGG Grandfather was born in Dubin – William Shields Foster. Most of my research says Foster is an English name. I don’t know William’s father’s name or how he may have been born in Dublin. Is Foster considered an Irish name? The rest of my family is Bleakley, O’Hickey, O’Boyle, O’Sullivan and O’Fallen or O’Phalen

    • Mike says:

      Lots of Fosters in Ireland, Marybeth – but the name did come to Ireland from England/Scotland originally. Mike.

  • Carla McGuire says:

    Hi, I’ve been trying to find where my grgrgrgrandfather Greenbriar Gabriel McGuire might have come from in Ireland. I know he was born in 1822 and came over here to the USA as he died in Elkton, KY and his son my gr gr grandfather Greenbriar Gable was born here. Any ideas where the McGuire’s might be from?


  • Leigh says:

    The name I am having difficulty with my is CLORAN from Galway. I have found some but they are not connected to mine. My great great grandmother, Mary, came out to Australia at the age of 20 on The Persian with over two hundred other young Irish girls January 1854.
    Having trouble finding any Irish records for her or her family and I did visit Ireland last year and searched high and low.
    Mary was the daughter of Patrick CLORAN and Ann BURKE. Patrick was a farmer. Mary’s 1st child was named John Patrick, so her father’s name may have been the same.
    Any help with the surname or other advice gratefully received.

  • Carol Hestbech says:

    My mother’s ancestors were mostly Irish. One of my ancestor, Michael Harty came from Lismore, Waterford, Ireland. I suspect his last name was from ancient name. They had a placename named Duntara, Ireland, however, this name either has been changed into another name or just disappeared. Is this name came from Meath County? Another one is Griffen from Ireland. I believe this name appear in
    around 1500s. It seems to me that Harty and Griffin is common name . My father’s great grandfather last name was Cavender from London area. However he was borned at the county of Armaugh, Ireland. I was told his last name was Cavanaugh before converted to Cavander when it was before or after moved to London area. Can you please tell me those originally last name were and what area they came from in Ireland. Thank you.

  • joseph mccorry says:

    hi my surname often gets confused with mccrory. are they similar or related. my grandfather with his wife came from Ireland in the early 1900’s. I believe all of their children were born in the usa. I have since received inquiries from people who may be relatives from Canada.

  • Debbie says:

    I am new to the whole Ancestry research. I started a few years back while both my parents were still living. My father was ill for a while and wanted me to start researching our family. He and I would enjoy looking at all the family pictures together and discussing where we originated from. I was in hopes I would have answers before he and my mother passed. I feel as though I failed. So now, it is even more important to me to discover our past. Our name is Dunn. Any info would be greatly appreciated. I am determined. Lol

  • Marie says:

    In Ulster Plantation Records 1608 (Barony of Raphoe)
    I found the following: ” 1/3 of the quarter called Drumalls to Michael Mc Loghery & Owen Mac Intire”. Following that entry in 1608 then next is in 1665 as follows: Hugh O’ Loughery in Moneen”. After these the spelling is Lowey/Loughrey/Loughery as well as Laughery. Would there be a connection from my fin dings to safely say they were all of the same clan and could the first in 1608 be Scottish?

  • I enjoyed your article. I think it might explain my situation with a 3rd great grandmother. I descend from farmers in New Brunswick, Canada. Those who were there before the 19th century were the English CASEs, a New England loyalist family and the Sinnett/Zenettes, a French family. Irish families emigrated to New Brunswick as well in the first half of the 19th century and intermarried with the local people. I have an ancestor, Thomas LISTON from Ireland, who married Letitia Sinnett. He died young by 1853 or so, and Letitia married a Simpson Murphy. Letitia’s sister, Elizabeth married an Ogden. The two women when widows moved with their children to Massachusetts around 1890. Both passed away there, and I was able to find their death record or certificate. The record for my 2nd ggrandmother Letitia states that her mother was Rossanna CARL, born in Ireland. Elizabeth’s death record says her mother was Rosannah MCARDLE, born in Ireland. Based on your article, I can see how the names are related: drop Mc in one case. And I noticed that in the old Irish spellings was not pronounced, so CARDLE -> CARL is plausible. But why in the same family would there be this kind of discrepancy, and how does this inform my future research? In each case, the informant was a daughter. I’d be really grateful for your insights.

  • E McGuire says:

    My youngest’s name is MANLEY.. I was told by dad that it’s Irish and originated on the Isle of Man…??? True? Thanks.

  • Therese Croteau says:

    Growing up near Chicago, I heard my late mother, an O’Sullivan, say: By ‘Mac’ and ‘O’ you’ll always know true Irishmen are they, but when they lack the ‘O’ and ‘Mac’ no Irishmen are they. Did you ever hear that before??

  • Tom Scalese says:

    My mother was Elizabeth Marie Donahue from Providence, Rhode Island. Her father was Patrick Francis O’Donoghue born on Crow Hill farm in Cappoquin, County Waterford just north of Dungarvin. Name was changed to Donahue when he came to America. Recently we found members of the family living in the Ireland, USA, Canada, England and Australia thanks to the internet…

  • Pat says:

    Have found McKenna line back to Tyrone. We are stuck. Went to Canada from there. Need info on his birthday about 1818. Any suggestions? He emigrated to Canada in 1840 with wife and one child.

  • Jim Culbert says:

    Thanks, Mike, for this introductory article on surnames of Ireland. I am coming to this quite late since you first wrote it (20 mos. ago!) and think this would be of some interest to other members of the Guild of One-Name Studies with Ireland connections. My particular surname of interest is Culbert, and I descend from Moses Culbert, who emigrated from Co. Donegal in 1828 to the USA. Culbert is not a surname of irish origin, and based upon what I have found so far I hypothesize that the Culberts likely first came to Ireland from Scotland during the time of the establishment of the Ulster Plantations. Unfortunately, there appear to be NO records in Ireland that would bridge the gap between the arrival of the Culberts and their Scottish brethren in Ireland in the 17th Century and the still existing Ireland records dating from the mid-to-late 1800s. By then, many had already left Ireland for other countries. One piece of this migration story that has always intrigued me is the claim that Irish emigrants had to have presented documentation before leaving Ireland, but I have not found any info. on the specifics of what that documentation might have been, how it was used, and where that documentation might have ended up. Do you have any recommendations for tracing trans-Ireland migrants such as the Culberts? For example, I have read histories on the Ulster Plantations and they do not offer specifics on the tenants, only the undertakers.

  • Carol MacNamara says:

    Hi Mike. Enjoyed this article alot since we have had this discussion about the Mc and Mac versions of my husband’s MacNamara. His great grandfather came to America from Scotland but his parents were born in Ireland. We think they were from County Clare but no idea about villages. We are planning on a trip to Ireland next year but I am hoping to find out more specifics as to where they came from.

    • Marilyn Sliva says:

      Carol, that part got me too. My grandfather was born Joseph McGuire but changed his name to Joseph MacGuire after his parents died. He always claimed he wasn’t Irish but Scottish (thus the change to MAC). Found out his parents were born in Scotland but his grandparents were, indeed, from Ireland – just haven’t found out where yet. Hoping to get to Ireland finally next year, but saved a screen shot of MIke’s answer about the Mc and Mac to show my siblings, Good luck on your hunt.

  • Ellen Ennis Fritz says:

    Dear Mike,

    My maiden name is Ennis. I have been unable to trace my ancestors back to Ireland from Philadelphia, PA in 1857 when my great grandfather was form. I so much want to find out where they came from in Ireland. Do you have any idea where would be most likely.

  • Maureen Cheetham says:

    My grandmother was born June 1895 in – we believe – County Cork with the surname of Cheeper. I have been unable to find any information on this name. Can you direct me to where I can get more information? She married Patrick Hitchinson before emigrating to Canada and living in Montreal, PQ.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • Mike says:

      Hi Maureen – I just checked the 1901 Irish census and there is no Cheeper on the records. Can you recheck the original spelling? Thanks, Mike.

  • Donna Leonard says:

    i have a copy of my family tree, started at William Leonard married Mary Graham way back when i just cant remember now can you tell me what part of Ireland the Leonard came from, feel free to email me if you please also i wonder if there are any family left in Ireland? thank you have a great day

  • Christina says:

    My surname prior to marriage was Lemmon. Hearsay within my family is that the name is Irish and came from somewhere up north, in County Tyrone. I can’t find anything to confirm/deny this. Nor can i find anything of note about there being an “O” or “Mac” with the name, nor anything about the Lemmon people. Can you shed some light?

  • Nancy Dettbarn says:

    I have two Irish lines I’m trying to find records on- one was Mullholland and the other O’Neil. They married. Which area would you suggest to look? Thanks so much.

    • Mike says:

      Nancy- O’Neil can be a number of unconnected places in Ireland, but Mullhollands can be Derry, Donegal, Limerick or Meath. If they came from around the same area, I would start with Derry. Mike.

  • Angela Flowers says:

    I have traced my Fathers family back to Edward William Colford born around 1799. He immigrated to Canada in 1820…..from Wexford, Ireland. I can’t find much on Colfords in Ireland( or if this was even his last name) from 1820 on , I have been able to trace most….however anything prior to 1820…his siblings, parents…how he came to Canada etc, have been a mystery……if you could point me in the right direction that would be most appreciated. Thanks Again!

  • Denis Boyle says:

    Unable to sign up for your email, would not take

  • Paddy Roe says:

    Hey Mike,

    I am having major trouble finding information on my fathers line, I have looked just about everywhere, Im really stuck. The last name is Roe, first name Daniel. He passed in NZ in 1875 at the age of 45. Family notes say from Co. Tipp, Death cert says late of Dublin. Any suggestions I would be forever grateful 🙂

  • Patricia Penn says:

    I’ve been trying to find the origins of my Grandfather’s surname.,.Holomon. We are Irish on my Great grandmother’s side .Eugenia Baker from County Cork. But Sadduck Holomon is supposed to be from Ireland and I find no info on…Any help or suggestions? Thank you…

  • Jan Corley says:

    My g grandfather was Robert Carson McAloney who married Elizabeth McColl then to Mary Riley. Elizabeth is my g grandmother. I am seriously thinking of taking a trip to Ireland next year and am trying to find out if there are any living relatives. I would really appreciate help if possible. Robert was born in Londonderry.

  • Sue Nelson says:

    Hi Mike,
    I’m awed at the extent of your knowledge! My family name is McNeeley. I haven’t been able to trace them back to Ireland, but my mom always said we were Scotch-Irish. I know they came to America in the 1700’s.

  • Patricia Bowe says:

    Always wondered where the last name Bowe, came from in Ireland, family came to USA around 1855. I have been told the Gaelic spelling, the short version is Bhaudghaigh …. Thanks

  • Patricia says:

    What about the last name Sturgeon?

  • Phil Burk says:

    my gggrand father was born at sea from Ireland. his name John Burk (sic), from what part of Ireland does the Burk come from.

  • Pamela says:

    My maternal grandmother was a Milligan, They were from Tyrone, Ireland. I’ve been told they can’t be from the north as they were Protestant. Surely not everyone in Northern Ireland is Catholic. They were from a town called Drogamore or something sounding like that. Not sure.

  • Angel Chesser says:

    I know my ancestors are mostly Scots-Irish with names like McDonald and O’Higgins, but they dropped the O…..and I’ve been told there are a lot of Chessers in Ireland where my husband’s ancestors are from, but is Chesser an Irish name? What is it’s origin?

  • Lynda says:

    Loved the article on names.. my g-grandmother was Nora Moynahan from County Cork – came to California abt 1888 – apparently alone.. any idea of where in Cork I could find more Moynahan’s?? or is this a derivative of another name?

  • Patricia Gilbert says:


  • Joanne Passmore says:

    my relatives were Gallivan.. O’Gallavin.. we were told that they had something to do with kings way way back. I can’t find out any information.. I believe it was in the 400’s or later times.. Any ideas? My Gallivans were from Kerry Co. My Great great grandfather Timothy married and Ellen Sullivan in Killarney in 1815 according to a church record

  • Rob Melton says:


    My grandmother Eula Reily Melton always fiercely said her family name was spelled “Reily with only one L” and now I wonder after reading your great introduction if it may hold a clue to a specific line of the family Ó Raghailligh.

  • Dawn Kyle Donalson says:

    What about a name like Donalson? I know the Irish spell a first name Donal, but was wondering about the Scandinavian use of “son” as the ending. My father’s family came from Scotland to Ireland. My middle name is Scottish (Kyle) for my grandmother’s side of the family, but the last name from his father’s side is unusually spelled (without the second “d”). I do believe the Donalsons were from the Dublin area which did have Viking populations. Thought I’d get your take on it. Thanks.

  • Rob Geraghty says:

    My family name was supposedly adopted by the O’Roduibh clan of Roscommon in Connacht around the the 12th century when a chieftain of the clan became a chieftain of the high king. The title was Oireachtach, which led to Mag Oireachtaigh and later to Geraghty.

  • Terry McAtee (Lehman) says:

    Dear Mike,
    Apparently I was born with a complicated surname.
    McAtee (spelled any way possible phonetically) may be either of Irish or Scottish origin, according to sources I have found.

    “Northern Irish: Anglicized form of Gaelic Mac an tSaoi ‘son of the scholar or wise man’.
    Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press”


    “The surname McAtee probably is of highland Scottish extraction and is associated with the clan McIntyre. Though it was a highland name, originating on Iona and later found on both Bute and the Inner Hebrides, it is no longer found in the Highlands or Islands. The McAtees arrived in Ireland as part of the plantation of Ulster in the early years of the 16th century when King James 1st of England (who was also James 6th of Scotland) settled Protestants from the British mainland in north east Ireland.

    Other anglicized spellings of this name are MacAtee, MacEntee, MacYntie, & MacEtye. McIntyre or MacIntyre is however, a form of McAteer (Mac an tSaoir), meaning “Son of the Carpenter”. It is believed by some that these two names may be related. ”

    Source: ‘The Family of McAtee’ facebook page.


    “In the mountains of Scotland’s west coast and on the Hebrides island, the ancestors of the McAtee family were born.
    The name comes from the Gaelic form Mac-an-Tsaoir, which denotes the son of the carpenter or wright.”

    First found on the Isle of Iona, where they held a family sear from early times and their first records appeared on the early census rolls taken by the early Kings of Britain to determine the rate of taxation of their subjects.”

    Source: House of Names – McAtee

    I have begun a McAtee and surname variant DNA project to help us solve our ancestry and origin mysteries. All of our project members are so far, R-M222, subclade S588. (Origin either Scotland, Ireland & a bit of England, primarily.)

    I would very much appreciate it if you give me insight as to the actual country of origin, and which meaning is accurate.

  • Jude Bailey says:

    My maiden name was Hamill. I have a copy of the family history. It says there were several brothers that came to America in the 1700’s. Supposedly they settled in Charleston, SC. My Dad was proud of his Irish ancestry. I knew they came from the County Tyrone. Would love to visit someday. Interesting article.

  • Billie Redmond says:

    Mike Just saw this site today, I think I am going to like it. Redmond is easy to find, their are so many. But having trouble with the name Otwell. Any suggestions. Thank you.

  • Nolan Bailey from Rowlett, Texas says:


    Don’t forget Bailey as in Bailey’s Irish Creme….

  • Cynthia Edgar says:

    Hi! My family names are Mc Manus and Meyer. I found McManus on the map, but not Meyer. Can you tell me where both those names originate from? Thanks!

  • Anita says:

    Noted the photo of pub David Twomey. My ancestry is Irish by way of a Patrick Twomey. How I would enjoy walking in his country.

  • Jack Shepard says:

    Your site looks interesting. I have done quite a bit if work on my ancestry, and have been most interested in the maternal side which is McReynolds or as also known as Mcrannels, among other spellings and sources. Thanks for any insights you can bring to my knowledge of this fine old name.

  • Amanda Cribbie says:

    Where does the name Cribbie stem from? That is my maiden name.

  • Jane says:

    Are there any Gooley’s in Ireland today?


  • Moira says:

    Hi Mike. I would like to know if the name Benstead has anything to do with the Irish.

  • Beatrice Flood Dunham says:

    I Have been looking For My Greatgrandfather’s Place Of Birth
    Flood is the Surname.
    He lived in Georgia, Where He Fathered 2 Sons, Willie O. Flood and Archie Flood.
    Willie Married My Grandmother Lula Davis.
    Willie was killed and Archie married My Grandmother.
    I don’t have any dates, except My Father’s Birthdate to go by October 31, 1903/

  • Marnie Fettis Honeyman says:

    Researching family from Belfast – Fittis, Proud, Penny, Orr, and Johnston or Johnson – please help me if they are true Irish!

  • Caitlin says:

    I recently learned that my family name is Irish where I originally thought it was Scottish. Do you know what area the surname “Hilferty” comes from?
    I’ve been told it was somewhere in Northern Ireland.


  • Maggie says:

    Hi Mike

    This is very interesting!! My GG Grandmother was a McKissack. I understand the McKissack clan belongs to the McDonald clan. Do you have a chapter on which clans belonged to which clans?

  • Chantell Morgan says:

    Hi Mike, Could you tell me anything about the origin of my last name Morgan? I am currently doing my family tree and am stumped at the moment, I have my grandfathers details who is Sean Morgan and his date and place of birth and his mothers Surname which is McEnroe (both from Ireland) but then its just a dead end. I know Irish records are hard to research could you point me in the right direction. Thank you

  • Denise says:

    My grandfather believed our name “Leeman” came from an ancestor that was a boat man on the River Lee. I have not been able to find any information on Leeman in Ireland.

  • Rhoda Ross says:

    Interesting article and easy to understand. Thanks. Researching the Quinn family who were suppose to be from the Borris, Carlow area. Originally would have been O’Quinn but what other spelling would there be, having trouble finding records in Ireland.

  • Carol Brown Parker says:

    My earliest ancestor I have found was John Brown born December 1700 in Drumbo, County Down. He emigrated to Connecticut, USA.

    I believe, no proof, that he is ancestor came from Scotland because the Campbell’s were slaughtering the smaller Clans. We may have been from the Clan Lamont as they changed their surname to Brown, Green And White so they would not be killed. OR my Brown ancestor could have been a Irish male with his ancestors that were always Irish.

    Our eyes are green and high cheek bones like the Irish. An Irish man said by looking at me that I was definitely Irish.

    I am at a roadblock as you have stated that many documents were burned in a fire. Do you have any suggestions as I have exhausted the Ancestry World Deluxe and family Would appreciate any help or suggestions please. This has been a 32 year search.

    Sincerely Carol Brown (My father’s line and mine)

  • John Nilon says:

    Hi Mike, my name in Australia is Nilon, but the original Irish is either Neilan or Neylon, originally from Benvoran, County Clare, Legend has it an English official misspelt the name when my GGGfather arrived in 1841.

  • Lesley Nippell says:

    The earliest Cooley reference I have found is Irish -an old prose epic called “Tain bo Cuailinge” or “Cattle Raid of Cooley (Koolee)”. The earliest copy of this ancient epic is 8th century, based on a tradition even earlier. ( from: How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill) Cuailnge (Cooley) was an area in Ulster in Northern Ireland. Donn Cuailnge is the name of the best bull in Ulster, or perhaps even Northern Ireland, and is desired by the queen of a neighboring clan. When negotiations fail a raid ensues. So this very early mention of our name is to an area and it’s famous bull – not a person! Cattle raids were still occurring among the clans in the Scottish Highlands in the 1700’s. (Speaking of the late 1700’s) Year by year the clan battle cries and the tales of ancient cattle raids began to fade from peoples memories.

    Can you enlighten me regarding other references to the evolution of the surname Cooley?

    • Padraic O Cearbhaill says:

      Cooley: Quite numerous: Ulster, Galway-Mayo and scattered. Ir. Ó Cúile, Mac Giolla Chúile. In Ulster a synonym of Cowley. Also Kilcooley in Connacht. SI.
      Mac Giolla Chúille: Kilcooley, Cooley: annamh: Gaillimh & rl. Sloinne a bhain leis an gClár, deir de Bhulbh agus gur ón ainm Mochúille é.

  • Dennis Maher says:

    Just looking for the Maher name information. I have plenty of Maher’s in my family tree, but have had no success in tracing them beyond a Census record that says, born in Ireland. Is there a place I could write that might be able to help me in Ireland?

    • Padraic O Cearbhaill says:

      Maher, and its principal variant Meagher, are the anglicised versions of the Irish Ó Meachair, from meachar, meaning “hospitable”. The surname originated in Ikerrin near the modern town of Roscrea in north Tipperary, where the family retained their traditional lands right up to the modern period, resisting the encroachments of the Norman Butlers. The name remains very strongly linked to the traditional homeland, with the bulk of present-day Mahers living or originating in Co. Tipperary. Formerly pronounced as 2 syllables, as the Irish original would suggest, the name is now more often pronounced as a single syllable.
      With 203 births in 1890, Maher was one of the 100 most common names in Ireland, ranked 85th, with the bulk of the births recorded in Tipperary and the adjoining county of Kilkenny. . Today it stands at number 78.
      Captain John Meagher was one of the most famous casualties of the seventeenth century wars in Ireland. Having taken to a life of outlawry, he was finally captured and hanged in 1690. Thomas Francis Meagher (1823-1867) was one of the founders of the revolutionary “Young Ireland” movement. Transported to Australia, he managed to escape to the U.S., where he became Brigadier-General of the Irish Brigade of the Union Army during the civil war, and was later Governor of Montana
      T.J, Maher (1922 – ) , a prominent public figure for more than 20 years, he has been president of the Irish Farmers’ Association, the Irish Co-op Society and a member of the European Parliament.
      Lory Meagher (1899-1973) was considered one of the best hurlers of all time.. He won 3 All-Ireland medals with his county, Kilkenny, in 1932, 1933 and 1935.

  • My mother was from Carrigallen, County Drumiff in Leitrim. Her maiden name was Kiernan. can you tell me anything about this of this name. My father was a Fitzgerald from County Tipperary and I know some of the history of the Fitzgerals Know they were Norman and that they steadfastly held the Catholic faith.

    • Karen says:

      I recently read about the McGoohan and Fitzpatrick families from Leitrim…if you search for the biography of actor Patrick McGoohan . ..he had Fitzpatrick’s on his mother’s line. Hope this helps you .
      Happy Hunting !
      Karen Marshall

    • Karen says:

      Sorry . .I misread the surname you were looking for! In another reply via this post…someone posted that Fitzpatrick was the only surname with Irish origins. Don’t know if that is accurate or if it will help you.
      Good luck !

  • john says:

    my grandmother last name was Henry, i believe she made mention of having had roots in CORK.anything you can tell me about this.

  • Carolyn says:

    I have signed up twice now. How long will it take to get subscription letter??

  • Debra Gtbney says:

    A relative traced my maiden name back to Ireland and found that the name was originally McGibney. We only were able to go back to when the fire destroyed records. I see you explained about shortened names and areas where certain people came from. Is there a way to trace to any relatives still living there, and how do we know that they are relatives. Just wondering.

  • Kay McLellan says:

    Maiden name of Chapman from Co Armagh with Sturgeon as Grandmother’s maiden name.

  • Kathleen McConnell Purinton says:

    Love reading your posts, my maiden name is McConnell I understand it is as common in Ireland as Smith or Jones is in the states. do you have any info on it?

    Thank you.

  • Andrew Eves says:

    Trying to trace my Grandfathers side of the family his surname is Griffin and possibly emigrated to the UK during 1700s from Ireland so what part of Ireland could they have come from?

  • susan mccaw says:

    Hello Mike;

    Im sure im not the only one that says Ancestry is not for the faint of heart lol… I started a few years ago and it is like opening Pandoras Box. I know that the McCaw name started out been McCau, and had changed over the years.

    My ancestors come from Co. Antrim, and Tyrone, from what I have found out, but I have found nothing on my GrGrandfather Johns father, I believe that John McCaw came over here to Canada in 1845 about the time of the Famine. But that is where the lineage ends, its like it just stopped, I have read that some times records didn’t start been recorded til later.

    Its frustrating, because with out John McCaws background, that is the biggest piece to my ancestry puzzle. Do you realize how many McCaws there are lol.. and John’s and Williams its like they all got on the boat and came to Canada lol..

    I do think that is limited in what they have. I have found other sites and unless you can network with others its mind-numbing. thanks 🙂

  • Donald Brady says:

    Where did we come from ?

  • garry scott says:

    scott is it irish?

    • Padraic O Cearbhaill says:

      No, it is the name of a Scottish clan from the Borders, many of whom settled in Ulster during the Plantations.

  • Jennifer says:

    My family surnames are Daugherty and Fitzsimmons. Can you tell me what part of Ireland these names originated from? By the way, this is a fascinating article!
    Thank you!!!

  • Robert Shaw says:

    I really enjoyed the article on surnames. I looked for the origin of the surname King in Wikipedia and it said maybe it was from Conroy from around County Galway. It is fun working through this.

  • TJ says:

    Fascinating article, helped me immensely! My g-g-g-grandmother came from Cork to Tasmania in 1838. Her maiden name has varously been recorded as Demager, Demazer, Demizigier, Demeger, Demmerger & even Devonshire! I’ve never found any relatives for her even though I’ve searched under all these variations. Do you have any other suggestions as to what her surname origin would be?

    • Padraic O Cearbhaill says:

      Might be Danaher.

      Danaher: Quite numerous: mainly W Limerick. Ir. Ó Danachair. Originally Ó Duineachair (humane). The sept came from N Tipperary. MIF & SGG.
      Donagher: Quite numerous: Donegal, Midlands. See Danagher.
      Ó Duineachair: Danagher: cuíosach líonmhar: Luimneach. Clann a bhí suite in aice le Aonach Urmhumhan roimh ionradh na Normannach. Brí: duine + car (grá) ach maíonn muintir Uí Dhanachair as iarthair Luimnigh gur mar seo a litríodh a sloinne riamh.MIF.

      Variants and total numbers.
      Click to see county numbers.
      Danagher 21
      Danaher 43
      Daniher 5
      Dannaher 29
      Danneher 3
      Deneher 11
      Dinneher 7
      Donagher 63
      Dunnaker 6

      Recorded variants listed in other sources.
      – Click here for all sources.
      – Click on a name for its sources.
      Ó Duineachair


      Enter another name above to see counties where households of this second surname and Danagher households were both found.

  • justine says:

    Hello! I have some digging on my maiden name Corkery I’ve traced it back to a Richard Corkery native of Co.Cork Ireland died before 1865 came to Canada Ontario area. But I cannot find Any thing before that.

  • Cailin says:

    Many surnames with records:
    King born 1834-6 Belfast Co. Antrim
    Mageean born 1830 Downpatrick Co. Down
    Boyd. born 1844. Newry Co. Down
    Phee/Fee. born 1813-16 Pettigoe Town Co. Fermanagh
    Cripps/ Cribbs born 1807 Co Queens Co/Laois
    Pinkerton. born 1784-6 Co Antrim

    Noted King and Boyd on the surname map.
    Presently focusing on the King ancestor BUT any
    information would be much appreciated.
    My GF JA King emigrated to Canada in 1911. The Phee, Cripps, Pinkertons to New Brunswick CA

  • Kim Roos says:

    I had found somewhere in my search that my relatives came from co. clare but have not been able to make the paper trail “leap” back to Ireland although I would so love to! Most of my relatives are dead or far dispersed. My names include: Lennon (my granmother) her Paternal grandparents were James S Lennon and Jane Mc Alvey (both from Ireland) and maternal were James Conlin and Bridget Scanlon any ideas of where to look and what names could be included? Thx

  • Betty Breedlove Huff says:

    According to family lore the Breedloves were from Ireland. That they came over during the potato famine (were running from the law} Have you ever hear of anything close to Breedlove being from Ireland.

  • Robert Furlong says:

    I have tried to get more information on my surname ( Furlong ) and found it is a Norman name from south west England is there anything else known about this surname. All your information on Irish names is very informative.

  • Maribeth Walsh says:

    I know that there are many, many Walshes, but my clan has no info on where my Walsh family began. Which county had the most Walsh names?

  • Cebi says:

    Mike, my family name is Burns, and I’m told (but can’t validate) that my great great grandfather Patrick Burns came to the US from Ireland. We have no dates or county of origin 🙁 Any info on the Burns name?

  • My mothers maideb name was garrity she came from roscommon what is proper spelling?

  • Christy Harshman says:

    I have signed up for your newsletter. Thank you for helping all of us. My Question is my 3x great grandmother is supposedly called Kate Ralin, born about 1800 in Cork. She married John Welton, also Cork born. I have recently been to Ireland, and know that there is no Ralin, can you guess for me what the original name actually was? We say it “Rawlyn” or “Raalin”, soft a, soft i. My 2x great grandparents, Michael Welton m. Mary Dacey (our spelling), (I think maybe Deasy in Ireland) came to Minnesota, US in about 1852/ 1853. They prospered here but they left an incredibly beautiful place behind, and their families. It must have been so hard.
    Anyway, Thank you in advance for whatever you may be able to tell me. Christy

  • Brian Mehaffey says:

    Why is it I can’t find Mehaffey anywhere on the Irish names map?

    • Padraic O Cearbhaill says:

      Mehaffey: Quite numerous: Down-Armagh-Tyrone-Derry etc. Ir. Mac Dhuibhshíthe (Dhuifíthe). See also Mahaffy.

  • Rian says:

    My name is is Alden. I have been told my surname originated as a Saxon name until the religious persecution in about 1100 sent many parts of my family to Ireland where they became Saxon-Irish. Do you have any info on the Alden name being Irish?

  • E MICHAEL McGuire says:

    My great great grandfather and grandmother(Bernard and Iola McGuire) came over in 1849. They started in Ill. on railroad working. My great grandfather Edward moved to Iowa working on railroad as did my grandfather Edward. I will be returning to Ireland for my eighth time in March 2016 for St Patricks Day and the 100 year Festival for freedom from England!

  • I have tried, many times, to trace my family back to Ireland but have always become so discouraged. Then I was told “McBreairty” is not Irish but Scottish. Could you tell if my last name is Irish? If so, could you tell me the original Irish language version of my surname? I have always thought McBreairty was actually Irish!

    • Mike says:

      Hi Christy – McBrearty is Irish – found in County Donegal mostly. Mike.

      Break down those Brick WallsGo here to Bring Your Irish Ancestry to life

    • Padraic O Cearbhaill says:

      Mac Briartaigh: Mac Brearty: líon beag i dTír Conaill. Truailliú é seo ar Mac Muircheartaigh; tá Mac Murty ar an dul céanna in Oirthear Uladh. MIF.
      MacBrearty: Quite numerous: Donegal-Derry-Tyrone. Ir. Mac Briartaigh, properly Mac Muircheartaigh, good mariner, usually Mac Murtry, q.v.
      MacBriarty: Very rare: Belfast. Ir. Mac Briartaigh, see Mac Brearty.
      MacBrierty: rare: Belfast area. Variant of Mac Briarty, q.v.

  • Michael Emmett says:

    Great article Mike, I have been doing research on our surname Emmet/Emmett. My grand parents claimed to be devout Irish descendants. In your opinion is Emmett an actual Irish surname? Thanks in advance for any concideration., Mike Emmett.

  • Kirby Hurley says:

    a real rookie at this but planning a trip to Ireland in August and have looked for the “Hurley” name which appears to show up in Limerick and also in Cork….just wondering where to start or just show up at the Pubs and ask about ancestors….not sure about what these DNA tests that are advertised as nailing down where the name really surfaced and if those trace by to true ancestors…..

  • lisa says:

    Hi Mike, hoping you can give me some insight. My maiden name is Bunting, great grandmothers were Ann Creigh and Catherine McGoldrick, not sure of correct spelling ?

  • Virginia Helen Gladney says:

    My Mother always said she was Irish. Her Mothers maiden name was Mary Boyle. She was born in NJ. She married a Frank Jackes, who was from Germany. But they had 7 children who are all deceased now. My Grandmother died when the children were young and some we’re in an orphanage. That’s about all the info I have. Thank you.

  • susan thomas says:

    my grandmother’s maiden name was Little. what can you tell me of this Irish name?

  • Theresa Ryan Schoen says:

    Looking for anything on the Name RYAN and where it comes from (what area in Ireland) Thanks for any Help.. 🙂 Even the correct Spelling would love to know..

  • Matthew McKernan says:

    Hey Mike,

    I have done some investigating on my own on my family. I am a McKernan was wondering if this name derives from County Caven…my mother’s maiden name is Donelly. My father is adimate staying that we are from Cork is this true or did the McKernans move from Caven to the south. Please advise….

  • Matthew McKernan says:

    Hey Mike,

    I have done some investigating on my own on my family. I am a McKernan was wondering if this name derives from County Caven…my mother’s maiden name is Donelly. My father is adimate stating that we are from Cork is this true or did the McKernans move from Caven to the south. Please advise….

  • Gloria Boyd says:

    Is Boyd Scottish or Irish I have been told both thank you for your help

  • When tracking my Irish history (50% Irish) the Murphys are so common and my immigrant great grandfather was a John Murphy. But he married Margaret O’Leary (Ua Laoghaire) from Macroom County Cork and her uncle was the famous Irish priest and Gaelic author, Peader Ua Laoghaire. She also left a written history of the Barnaby O’Learys in Cork. Left to track in Murphy, McCarthy and Hogan.

  • Hennen or Hennon says:

    I know my family tree goes back to Ireland in the 1700,s but that is all I know..

  • Paula Elaine Tipsword Boren says:

    My grandparents were John and Maudie Smith. My grandmother’s maiden name was Comer and the great-great grandmother was a Flannigan. I would love more information on my family tree.

  • Paula Elaine Tipsword Boren says:

    My grandparents were John and Maude Smith. Grandma’s maiden name was Comer. Her mother’s name was Flannigan. I would love to have more information about my family tree. I am proud of my Irish heritage.

  • Keith Ellis says:

    Hi Mike, my maternal grandmother was a Hanley, I think from Limerick, my paternal grandfather was an Ellis, i dont know if this is an Irish surname or not ? Can you help me trace that surname ? Thank you Keith

  • Sharleen Culkin Parker says:

    My maiden name was Culkin. My father always said he was Irish and my research shows that my GGGpa was from Ireland. His wife was Pigeon. Any help with that? Please??? Thanks so much!
    Sharleen Culkin Parker

  • Ginny Martin says:

    My family name was Cahill and Foy from county Mayo. Is that where the name s originated?

  • Chris says:

    My last name as I spell here in the states is Flynn…I’ve found some info saying it had a O’ that was dropped upon arrival to the states…is there a more precise record of spelling on haND other than O’Flynn or Flinn that I have seen….Thanks

  • Amy Nichols Vowell says:

    What does this mean for the name Nichols/Nickels/Nickells? We believe it is from Ulster. Too many spellings!

  • Aaron N. Gleim says:

    I would like to know where my ” SWEENEY ” name comes from in Ireland ….as well as the surnames of McCLUNG & McCOWN ( McCOWAN ) ….

    • Wendy says:

      Hi Aaron, I’m very very new to all of this. My maiden name is McClung. I was from New Zealand. In approx 1858 a McClung family travelled to Kati Kati in the North Island of New Zealand from the Ulster Plantation in Ireland…

  • Moira E. Croley says:

    Where does the name Croley come from? Is it Irish or Welsh or both? What does it mean?

  • Sharon Corrigan Wilt says:

    I would like to know more about the Corrigan’s.. We traced them back to Owen Corrigan, he was born in about 1795. We can find nothing about his parent’s. He was and assisted emigration from the Shirley Estate to Canada in 1845. He was born in Carrickmacross. Hope you can help.

  • Nancy Brazwell says:

    We have tried to trace our name back, ran into dead ends… The names are Toner , Devlin and Brady can you help? Thank you have enjoyed reading all the articles..

  • Margaret says:

    Loved the article – was delighted to find out more about the McInerney name. Can you tell me where they originated in Ireland? On the other side, would love to know location of the Mc Mahon & Mc Manus origins. Thanks for your consideration

  • Cindy Milne says:

    My maiden name is Bowlin I’m told they were Irish but probably spelled differently. Is it an Irish name or do I keep looking. My gr granfather Joel Bowlin married Viola Carney so I know I’m Irish through her but what about Bowlin? Cindy

  • Linda says:

    Trying to find where the surname “Conaghan” comes from in Ireland

  • Kate Reid says:

    I was named after my Grandmother Kathleen Mary Ryan from Tipparary, She was born in Toomavera and I suspect went to the Workhouse in Nenaugh. She left Ireland when she was 14 and went to New Zealand. Her sisters joined her. I have no other information. My maiden name was Kathleen Mary McCormack. Any info would be fabulous, because the trail goes cold. She was born in 1895

    • Carina says:

      That’s the work we do in The Green Room Kate and if you join us there we will set you on the path. Takes time to research the ancestors.

  • Elizabeth McSheehy Campbell says:


    Thank you for the information that you give us, the readers. It is funny that you mention that Irish names were given an English surname because the english knew of names that were similar. My mother was a Cantwell and she was 100% Irish and my dad was a McSheehy and he was only 50%. We were also always told that the Mc should be written with two quotation marks under the C and that would denote the pronunciation to be Mac not Mc

    • James Sheehy says:

      Yes its mac and all the Macsheehy family are gone now they went extinct. Im a sheehy we are all thats left i say we as in the 2000+ with the same surname :). Mac Síthigh is the name in irish.

  • Anne Clarke says:

    Could you tell me where the surname of my ancestor which sounded like Holt or Hoyt in his Irish dialect originated from.
    He was born 1813 somewhere in Ireland , possibly Naas. He is a mystery to our family and the brick wall I would love to break down. Thank you.

  • Carney says:

    My source for information has been a book written in 1912 by an ancestor of the patriarch John & his wife, Mary (Urie) McClenahan. The book states that “John was born in the neighborhood of Banbridge or Rathfriland, County Down of Scotch-Irish ancestry, Oct. 29, 1780.” He was the only child of a second marriage of both parents, his mother’s name Mrs. Carson. I have since found and believe to be true that his father was David McClenahan.
    Could all of this be true? When I have entered the surname McClenahan in various data bases of Irish it tells me it is not an Irish name. Thanks, Carolyn

  • CINDY says:

    I think finding my history would be very interesting. Cork Ireland before he came to Canada Finnigan was his last name my great Grandfather was Jude.

  • Bev Clarke says:

    My great grandmother was a Smith from County Cork.
    I never thought of Smith as an Irish name

  • Diane Foster says:

    My mother’s maiden name was Knight. I don’t believe this is an Irish name. Can you enlighten me?

  • Carol Delahoyde says:

    My husbands surname is Delahoyde and I know his family is from Ireland since after 1066. I know there are Delahoydes near Dublin is there another area where they might be from.

  • Patricia Dunn says:

    I’m lucky in that my mother’s family has always passed down that we’re from Mayo. The name has several variants – I believe the real spelling is O’Gahdra (O’Gara). Have been to Loch Gara and Moy Gara – awesome experience! I don’t really understand the meaning, though – something about dogs!
    My father’s family was different – Mullen from the north – probably Derry. Absolutely no information. I understand there are many more Mullens in the States and Australia than Ireland.
    Thank you, Mike for all your hard work!
    Patricia Dunn

  • Frankie McCreeley-Dunn says:

    Hi Mike! My grandmother was born in Belfast (Dunn / O’Duinn) but her mother, my great-grandmother was born a McCreeley (spelled several ways on different documents…she was born in Carlingford to the McCann clann. But we always wondered about the origins of McCreeley -we have heard its origins are everything from Louth to Donnegal. Ideas? Info?
    Go raibh mile maith agat!

    • DM says:

      Aye, it’s very confusing! My gg father was Michael McCann, who came from County Cork, I was told. He was the first Irish Fire Chief of Stockton, Ca., so when I go to “Ancestry”, I have a lot of “alleged relatives”! Then I was told we came from County Roscommon. Another said it was originally Mac Canna, & is Scottish! I think I’ll just say I’m “Celtic”, & let it rest!

  • Janet Crozier says:

    Hi Mike, I have married a Crozier, whose dad Beauclerc Crozier came to New Zealand around 1950 but was born in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh in 1910-11. Can you tell me if he has any living relatives in Ireland as we are traveling there later this year. Thank you, Janet Crozier

  • Michael Whitty says:

    My ancestors ( Whitty ) came from County Wexford, I am having a problem going back any further than 1720, any ideas where I should go next?

  • Kathleen Elaine Dunn-Tschakert says:

    Good afternoon Mike.

    My ancestral surname is Dunn. In searching for info re our Irish beginnings the results are truly confusing.

    Counties: Laois, Fermaugh, Cork and even England itself have been suggested/stated as our origin. Oh also Leitrim.

    Can you shed more light on this? I do know my Great-Grandfather was brought to Ireland in 1837 when he was 2 yrs old and the family settled in Virginia, but that is the extent of my knowledge.

  • Tonya Knutson says:

    I believe I have Irish heritage with the family name Sweeney and Thornton and possbly Slattery. Just starting with this, so any info you can provide would be most helpful.

  • Ellen Fitzsimmons says:

    With the article about surnames I noticed you did not mention “Fitz”. As a Fitzsimmons I would be interested in any information.

  • Catherine Odihso says:

    The Reece Family from what have been told came for County Cork. Would like to know if I can find their history without paying for it on so many sites that require credit cards. Would also like to know Family Crest and Tartan if our family has one. All my history info so far I can’t get out of the USA-Ohio when Grey Glendon Reece is from I need to find Ireland connection if possible Mum’s 87 this year and has been wanting to know before she’s not able to remember anything anymore.

  • Karen says:

    Hi Mike,
    Just discovered this website and I am really excited about getting the newsletter . ..and maybe even being able to solve some of my family tree mysteries .

    I have records that show my Timothy Corbett and Catherine Sheehan came from Boherbue Cork Ireland . I would like to know if you have any other information about these lines farther back ?
    Also…I saw in your article about surnames . .that CARE was a name from Cork also. Does the Carey surname appear in any other county? My gg grandmother was born between 1829 and 1834 …on a ship coming from Ireland to New York. I have NO other family information about her…her name was Helen Carey . ..oldest daughter named Mary Ette Marshall .
    Any information is greatly appreciated !

  • Cathy says:

    My great grandmother was Mary Agnes Gallagher and my great grandfather was Michael Joseph Finnegan. Finnegan is one of the oldest Irish names, so I’ve been told, but I can’t find anything about them anywhere I look. Even at Scottish/Irish festivals here in the states there is never any information on Finnegan. They came to the USA in the 1880’s from Galway. So far, they are a mystery.

  • Mary Klevorn says:

    I am looking for my great-great grandparents, Michael O’Dowd and his wife Catherine Quinn who lived in County Sligo. Their daughter was Mary O’Dowd who eventually came to the USA, St. Louis, MO.
    Any information would be most appreciated.

    • Carina says:

      Welcome to The letter from Ireland where we help you discover more about your Irish Heritage and hope you discover some new info each week Mary.

  • John Lavelle says:

    My Irish family name is Lavelle. My mother’s maiden name was McGowan. Both families are from Co. Mayo. My mother’s family came over during the Troubles and my father’s family came over during the Famine. My father’s family is from Achill Island, there are still Lavelle’s there.

  • billymac mcyoung says:

    me name be macyoung but here in usa its mcyoung with two lines under the c. what yee no on me name me bucko?

  • Ellen Ennis Fritz says:

    My maiden name is Ennis. I am trying to trace my ancestors back to Ireland to find out where they came from. General maps list Ennis in Meath and West Meath. Anyone have any comments?


  • Linda says:

    My grandfather always said we were from county Clare but all my research says County Roscommon. The family name I seek is Ferry . Am I barking up the wrong ancestors ? Coming to Ireland in May and really want to touch the correct Old Sod ! Help ?

  • Rena MaryCharles Pride Benoit says:

    my 4th great grandmother was from Londonderry, Northern Ireland. She was Catholic. Her maiden name was Henessey. I can’t find anymore about her. a friend once told me the old church had burned and the records lost. Her name was Margaret and she was born in the early 1800’s. would love to know more about the area at that time and more about the name Hennessey. Can you help?

  • Patrice M. Valliere says:

    My mothers maiden name was Quinlan
    My Grandmothers maiden name was Donnely

  • Deborah McCotter Rosburg says:

    I was told through the family when I was young that my great grandfather came to America. The name I was born with is (supposedly) not the name he had in Cork. I do know that it was said he came from Cork and the name I have now is McCotter. How do I find out what the name was in Ireland, since it’s said that it was changed when arriving here?

  • Liz O'Neill DeSantis says:

    My family names are Connolly from Clones and O’Neill from Fermanagh…

    I know the Connolly General Store was family owned..I don’t know much about the O’Neill side except for a few names of relatives I’ve not yet found.

  • K. Butler Flynn says:

    My maiden name is Butler, my married name is Flynn. And yes, I do have the red hair to go with the name.
    As the names James &’John are majorly popular, where would be the best place to look for the Butler records. Seems that Wexford was on ancestry, am hitting too many brick walls & the stubborn Irish redhead is getting a head ache. Can you help me.

  • Jeanne Cleland Donovan says:

    I was told my family lived in Belfast Northern Ireland. Last name of Cleland. Yet I cannot find any information on this name at all. Is it possible there is an alternate spelling and we came from Scotland?

  • Tina Tully says:

    what about Sturgeon’s? That was my mom’s maiden name. My grandfather was Edgar Sturgeon, my grandmother Verna (Miller) Sturgeon.

  • Tammy Land says:

    Had the great pleasure if visiting Ireland last July. A few of my family members are totally obsessed now!
    My great grandparents last name was Walsh. Grandma’s maiden name was Collins. Where did these names originate, and do you think we’re related?!
    Love what you do here!!

    • Joanne Close says:

      Tammy- I understand that Walsh and alternatively Welch are designators for someone originally from Wales. We can imagine someone in a village being known as Michael the welshman then evolving into Walsh . I had thought they were latecomers to Ireland but from Mikes’ various reports incl the one on tribal areas and families, I see that Walsh was already among them by 1150 at least. There was a lot more traffic between Ireland and Scotland and Wales than we usually remember- being the closest shorelines. I have also read that there is another name (spelling very tentative here) that of Brennaugh which also meant stranger or something and often indicated the family Walsh. I hope Mike will be able to tell us about that.

  • Jim Manon says:

    sir name: Mannon, Mannen , Manon

  • Gayle McMillan Smith says:

    My mother’s maiden name was Egan. My father’s name is McMillan. I am just beginning to research the family heritage. What can you tell me about these? Thanks!

  • PAT NIELSEN says:

    cant find any thing on GAGE OR(GAUGE)

  • PAT NIELSEN says:

    my children want to know the name TRIMBLE THER FATHERS NAME

  • Caroline Bleil says:

    This was an interesting read, and I thank you for all your hard work! Although I am mostly German, I do have an Irish bloodline. A paternal GG grandmother was Irish, her maiden name being McKinney. Her parents were both born in Ireland, but I cannot, for the life of me, find out anything about them. On her father’s death certificate, it says his name was James McKinney and his widow’s name was Elizabeth Martin McKinney. They lived in Michigan and a census report showed they had several children, one of whom was a Robert Shanks. I did find where she emigrated with a son, Robert Shanks (and presumably a husband named James Shanks, but it didn’t say so), so she was apparently married once before, in Ireland. I did finally find out that a James Shanks and an Elizabeth Martin were married on 7 August 1846 in Banbridge, County Down, but I can’t find out anything more, such as where they actually lived, when she was born or where, who her parents were, or anything similar about James McKinney. It’s a real puzzle, for sure. Can you shed any light on this at all? I’ve hit a brick wall. Records in Michigan haven’t helped me at all either.

  • Marguerite says:

    Michael McKenna born in Ireland married Rosie who was born in Ireland – son Peter Mckenna born in 1832 Clonmel Tipperary County. Any information is appreciated.

  • Georgiana Dawson says:

    Hi Mike. Supposedly my gggrandfather was a stowaway on a ship. Do not know where it originated or where he was from. Landed in US about 1847. Name Denis Daly. Can you help?

  • Georgiana Dawson says:

    Looking for Daly’s or O’Daly. What area?

  • Michael Regan says:

    I’m Michael Regan.
    What can you tell me about the Regan name.
    Thanks MBR

  • Lew Roman says:

    I’m looking for the surname of Darrah. They were born in Londonderry in the late 1600’s early 1700’s

  • Cherrill M c Grath Moshier says:

    My father Richard Patrick Mc Grath was born in USA right after the Boat docked in 1909 after arriving from Ireland. His father had the same name. My father’s mother died after the birth. His father remarried and had ten children raised in Boston, Mass. My father married Mary Donovan and they had 6 girls and 3 boys.

    My mother’s mother was Florence Gertrude Neil from Ireland and married Robert Curtis Critz Gallinger. I would be quite interested in learning more about my Family. Tracing my Gallinger side I am told he was German or Swiss. Thank You

  • Carol-Jeanne Shaw says:

    I have many lines from Ireland and can’t find many of them. Logue, McGinnis (Maginnis), McClatchey, Kelly, Brown (so I am told) I only know that the Logue family came from county Derry. Any other clues as to where the rest came from? Or is that too broad a question?

  • Thank you so much. Lately (the past 10 years) I’ve encountered many people that identify McCrory as Scotch/Irish and in Scotland it was Reardon. I have traced my family back to 1680 Ireland (County Antrim) and it’s still spelled McCrory. None of them have traced it back any further than I have yet they insist that all Mc & Mac are from Scotland. I have always doubted what they said. Again, thank you.

  • Bonnie Sauve says:

    I have an ancestral map of Ireland and I found my family name French on my mother’s side in Wexford in the town of Forth. My map says the Frenchs are descended from the Normans. How can I find out when they arrived in Northern Neck Virginia?
    My great grandfather Samuel French fought in the War of 1812. My Grandmother French had a map of Ireland on the wall and told me the family was from Ireland. There was a George France who fathered a child named Samuel France December 1778 in Northumberland County, Virginia. The surname was sometimes spelled France. If George is my three times great grandfather, how can I find out when he came to America from Ireland?

  • Catherine Browne says:

    Any information for Fallahee (one of many spellings) or Harrington from County Cork? My gg grandfather was Patrick Fallahee from Ireland, I have found several references to County Cork as his birthplace and his wife was Ellen Harrington from Ireland as well.

    I would appreciate any hints as I have hit that blasted stone wall on this! Thank you!!

  • Annette McKenna Stavrou says:

    I was able to trace ,somewhat, my gg grandfather leaving Sneam in 1869. My father says he remembers somewhere that our name being spelled with a C, not K in McKenna. Any thoughts? Thanks

  • Bobbi Towery says:

    Hi Mike, First I’d like to thank you for creating this website. It’s very interesting and informative. I was hoping I might see someone else who has an ancestor by the name of O’Harigan but I’ve had no luck. I don’t know much about her at all except that she married James Brookshaw ( Changed to Brookshire in the USA) who fled from England to Northern Ireland in about 1670. Then they sailed to America on the Barque “Friendship” in 1674 but I’ve had no luck in finding anyone who has any additional information on this surname. I’ve heard stories growing up that my ancestors were from Ulster but I’ve never found any proof of that either. Does the name O’Harigan sound familiar to anyone out there?


    Where do I go to find the original pronunciation of my Irish names? Glass and Neal
    I have been told that we are Scotts-Irish and both families were in the United States by the early 1700’s

  • Marie chalk Scott says:

    Some of my gggrandparents went to England at the end of the famine and settled in Wednesbury Staffordshire England. This was an entirely Irish settlement or ghetto. All of the census state that they were from Ireland but not where in Ireland. The names that I am trying to locate are Thomas CHALK married to Julia FLANNERY/Judith FLANNELY and James KENNY married to Mary SWEENEY/SWAINEY. The surnames that are listed as two were the variations of names found on their children’s baptismal certificates from the same church. Some of the family stories of Thomas Chalk are that he was escaping from the British after an uprising and changed his name to Chalk. I cannot find any proof of this. He and Julia had a son, Thomas in 1847 in Ireland. I keep hitting one brick wall after another when my research takes me to Ireland. This is only the beginning because I have a lot of Irish names in my tree. My DNA has proven that Ireland is the place that I need to be. LOL!

  • Vic Grimes says:

    Looking for the name Grimes. My 3rd and 2nd great grandfather s born in ireland. Could be Ballyglass in Mayo. John was born around 1820 and son around 1848. Dickson/dixon also turns up. Plus Cassell.

  • Neisa says:

    So glad to find this! It really helped, cause my last name is Fluharty and I always wondered why I’d always find O’Flaherty and not just Flaherty. I never realized also that my grandmother’s maiden name Patrick could have been a shortened version of a bigger name. But I’ve also heard that Patrick might be Scottish? Either way I hope to find more about the Fluharty family.

  • Jamee Carlin says:

    This letter was both informative and helpful. Now to get to work on those tricky surnames! I’m sure I will need some advice …

  • Theresa Brown says:

    I have traced my paternal grandfathers line back to Patrick Ludgate, 17 Mar 1805 – County, Cork, Ireland, where the trail goes cold. I can’t find any record of his parents names, or birth records. I know he sailed from the Port of Cork, Ireland to Canada in June of 1834. He would have been my ggg grandfather, and I’d love to learn more about our Irish heritage. Any suggestions?

  • jean says:

    my grandmothers maiden name was morgan and my grandfather was McCann don’t know where in ireland but my dad told me they were from ireland

    • DM says:

      It’s pretty confusing, right? My name is Denise McCann, & I was originally told we were from County Cork, but I’d later been told that we were from County Roscommon. After having my ancestry DNA done, it turns out that I’m much more Scotch than Irish!
      Another distant relative says we were originally “Mac Canna”, & it’s Scottish. Go figure!

  • Kerrin Shott says:

    My great grandmother Mary Ann Huston (or Hueston) was born in 1861 in Armagh. Looking to find her Irish family. She married my great grandfather who was an English soldier, who was serving in Ireland. I cannot find any birth records other than their marriage in 1880 (her civil registration shows her named spelled as Hueston but on my grandfathers English birth certificate she spelled her last name as Huston). I do not know where to look as I have been told all the records have been destroyed. Any suggestions. Thanks Kerri

  • Karen M. Carty says:

    My Great Grandmother birth name was Margaret Holligan born May 1839. Her parents were John Holligan and Mary Mylos. She embarked on a Steamer Circassian from Galway, Ireland and St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada to New York 8 arriving in the U.S., 8 August 1859. HOLLIGAN AND MYLOS do not appear in any of your collected data.

  • Richard Travers says:

    My great grandmother Mary Myers (Myres) ? was born 1827 in Tipperary Parents were James Myers and Nora Dwyer. She married Thomas Patten 02 Feb 1846 in Church of St John the Baptist. Cashel. They came to New Zealand in 1849 . I am hoping to find out more about Mary. Thanks All the best.

  • Marlene Kerr says:

    Hi my family name was Day but on the records he was married O’Day and 3 of his children were named O’Day, then he moved from Liverpool to Australia – the rest of the children were named Day. We are going to Ireland in June wondering were the best place to do some research while we are over there. He was Richard O’Day born about 1858 father Richard O’Day Caver and gilder– married Hannah Hussey 1979. Can not find a birth for him. He dropped the o in day while in Australia. He then returned to England and married a second time some children again name O’Day and day. He died in 1942 as O’Day. Very confusing would love to trace him back to Ireland as with my great grandmother a Hussey parent record birth in Ireland. Cheers Marlene Kerr O’Day Day.

  • Mary Ann Lowrance says:

    Abner Brooks Casey – Tyrone – arrived in Boston from Ireland in 1725 at the age of 25 along with his brother.

  • Helen (Seddon) Martin says:

    Hi Mike
    My Irish forebears were McGregor and McNamara from County Cork and Scanlon and Morris from County Tipperary.
    My husband’s Irish family included Walsh from County Cork and also Dardis – we don’t know where the latter came from, as they arrived in Australia via a generation or two in New Zealand. Can you help?

  • Hi Mike, my mother an O’Sullivan who was very proud of her Irish heritage said to me that a lot of her family dropped the O but apparently her line didn’t so I’m wondering why most of the records for her family don’t seem to exist because it’s not just the O’s I can’t find it is most variants of the ancestors first names. Could the fire in 1922 be to blame or something else.

    Thanks Mary-Ellen

  • I belong to an Ancient Order of Hibernians in Waterloo, Iowa USA and just received my first letter from this website and I think it is the most fantastic thing an American-Irish person could ever wish for. I will be giving your address to all of our members so they can enjoy this as much as I have. Thank you.

  • Deb says:

    Criminy, Mike! My maiden name is Collins! How did you manage not to mention it?

  • Marilyn Darné says:

    Hi Mike,
    I am descended from the MacCarthys, Lynchs and Hurleys.
    How do I find the origins of these surnames ?
    Thanks and well done on all your interesting work !

  • Marilyn Darné says:

    Hi Mike,
    I am descended from the MacCarthys, Lynchs and Hurleys.
    How do I find the origins of these surnames ?
    Thanks and well done on all your interesting work !

  • Peter Lloyd says:

    Hi Mike,

    A very interesting read. I am 6th generation Australian, but have had my DNA tests done and confirmed that I am 38% Irish. Not surprising given the Egans, Ryans, Kellys and Kennedys in my Maternal line. The one that stumps me though was my Irish g.g.g. Grandmother who was transported to Australia as a convict in 1839. She was from county Kerry, and her maiden name was Walker, which to me is decidedly English, not Irish. I have read somewhere that English mercenary’s settled in Kerry after helping out with a local conflict, and that may be the origin of the name.

    The lack of online records doesn’t help of course. Can you shed any light on how Walker could become an Irish surname

    All the best

  • Hope Mann says:

    I understand that great grandparents were Thomas Finn and Elizabeth Glory. I understand that Thomas Finn was born in Carlow. I cannot find any record of Elizabeth Glory. They had 5 children, Hannah, Patrick, Elizabeth, Edward and Thomas, all who were born in Carlow migrated to Geelong, Victoria, Australia. Their children’s births range from 1817 to 1834 and all migrated to Geelong, Victoria, Australia…..There are so many Thomas Finns that I don’t know where to look next

  • Peter Manning says:

    Just starting my journey with ‘A Letter From Ireland’ and finding it quite exciting. Thanks,

  • Mark McCallick says:

    My Irish ancestors came from County Donegal. Inver and Bruckless. My surname is McCallick. I believe it was originally McCallig and the n anglazied to McCallick when my ancestors came to America. Could this name have come from the Irish Gaelic name. O’Ceallaigh??

  • Deby says:

    Look for for family that has lyster name

  • LouAnne says:

    My Mom always said we were Scot-Irish. Can you define this term or tell me why it was used. Mom’s maiden name was O’Neil.

  • Neil Baehnisch says:

    My grand mother on my mothers side was a McNally. I am trying to find out where in Ireland the McNally’s are from.

  • val mcleish says:

    When I looked at your site this morning I found an alphabetical list of counties with the most popular names according to your subscribers, shown alphabetically under each county, I since joined your site. I need to go through this list again for each county but can only find the names in pretty drawings. Please can you find me the original site I had and I will be eternally grateful. Many thanks Val.

  • David Geaney says:

    Hello Mike
    Just new to your site and love it. Always thought grandad came from Cork you list Geany could we have evolved our name from here
    Regards David

  • cathie says:

    where does the Ferguson name come from

  • Shawn Patrick Ireland says:

    My last name is Ireland, only able to find it in England as one from Ireland.

  • Carolyn Condon McLean says:

    Always find it difficult to find the Irish names of Condon and McKenna.