A Letter from Ireland:

The Irish Surname Egan


Irish Surname EganLiz Egan Nilsen was on to us – wondering about the Irish surname “Egan” (you can read Liz’s question and story at the end of this mail).

Origin of the Irish Surname Egan.

Egan – a shortened form of “MacEgan” comes from the Irish “Mac Aodhagáin” (phonetically pronounced “Mock A-agawn”). This is derived from the popular first name “Aodh” – just a diminutive version of same. The prefix of Mac is rarely used with the surname today.

Home Counties of the Egans.

The MacEgans started out as a family of the Uí Maine sept (based in the modern counties of east Galway, Roscommon and parts of Offaly. They were a Brehon (Judge) family to the chiefs of the Uí Maine – the O’Kellys. Over time they moved further south towards Ormond (east Munster) in modern County Tipperary. It’s there that they established the stronghold we are familiar with today.

Castles of the Egans.

In North Tipperary – to the east of the river Shannon – you will find a number of castles belonging or associated with the Egan sept. They are Aghnameadle Castle, Killaleagh Castle, Iretons Castle and Behamore Castle.

Liz Egan Nielsen’s Question and Story.

Hi, Mike and Carina,

How did the name Egan (MacAogain) originate? I know that “Mac” indicates “son of” (or, according to some sources, “grandson of”), but I’m unsure of who the original “Aogain” was. While the name “MacAogain” is that which is commonly used today, it seems to me the original spelling had many more vowels in it!

The only Irish ancestor I have knowledge of is my great-grandfather, Thomas Egan, who lived in Nenagh, County Tipperary before emigrating to the United States and settling in New York City…probably The Bronx…some time in the mid-1800s. I also know that the Egans were Brehons and I am very proud of that fact, although I cannot trace my lineage to any specific one of them. I will say this, though…throughout my entire life, I have had a very deep sense of justice; I like to see those who do wrong punished for it, and I like to see those who have done good praised for it. Perhaps it’s a trait that runs in the family?

My story is of my Grandpa Egan (grandson of Thomas Egan from Nenagh and his namesake) and his wife, Elizabeth Riley Egan. They were married for better than 60 years when a fall caused him to be removed from his home by ambulance. As the attendants carried him out the front door on a stretcher, he grabbed my grandmother’s hand and said, “I love you, Lizzie.” That was 56 years ago and it still brings tears to my eyes when I think of it. Grandpa died several days later, without having seen my grandmother again. She could not get to the hospital to visit him.

The night he died (a few hours after St. Patrick’s Day had ended), I woke in the middle of the night and saw him standing under the light in my hallway, looking in my room at me. I knew immediately that he had passed. He was the only person who showed me love during my childhood and I adored the man. I later overheard my father telling my mother that before he died, my grandfather was calling for Elizabeth. No one knew who he meant because he always called my grandmother “Lizzie” and my aunt (his daughter) was always called “Betty.”

I was the only one called “Elizabeth,” but grandpa had so many grandchildren that they didn’t think it could be me. I, however, knew better. This is another of my cherished memories that also brings tears to my eyes. I never told anyone in my family this story because I was afraid of being punished for lying.

Thanks for being here, for sharing your knowledge, and for giving so many of us the opportunity to correspond with you!


If you would like to add what you know about the Egan surname, tell the story of your Egan family OR ask a question – please do so below in the comments section.

Remember – at Your Irish Heritage we consider an “Irish Surname” to be one that belongs in your family. It may belong to an ancestor who lived in Ireland at one stage. We consider old Gaelic, Viking, Norman and planter names to be all Irish – if they fit this criteria.


  • Karen Mooney says:

    My 2 G Grandfather was Hugh Mooney from Tipperary. He married Sarah Egan from Kinnitty, Offaly. She was born in 1840 and I believe her parent were Daniel (b 1803 and Mary Russell b 1818) Daniel and Mary had 6 children. Hugh and Sarah Mooney came to Canada I think in 1865 and settled in the Kingston, Ontario area. I haven’t been able to find out any information for Hugh Mooney or his family.

    • Mike says:

      Hi Karen – thanks for sharing. Mooney is a name (from the Irish Ó Maonaigh” that comes from a number of counties – Offaly being one of them (into North Tipperary). It could be that Hugh and Sarah were no more than a bicycle ride apart! Mike.

      • Karen Mooney says:

        Thank you Mike! According to the baptism records, they had three children born in Offaly and another 8 children after arriving in Canada.

    • Kate Kearney says:

      Hi Karen,

      We’re related! Hugh Mooney and Sarah Egan are my 3rd great-grandparents. I have the same information for Sarah’s parents but have Hugh’s father as William Mooney born in 1816, Tipperary. Their daughter Maggie Mooney is my g-great grandmother.

      Let me know if you’re able to dig up any more info.

  • Jane Zielny says:

    my great great grandfather (Martin James Egan) was from Ferbane, County Offaly. Does anyone know of online Irish records for the county other than ancestry.com? Thanks,

  • Mary Beth Hodupp says:

    Very heartwarming story Elizabeth Egan Nielsen! Loved it!

  • What a beautiful tribute to Elizabeth’s grandfather. A grandparent can make all the difference in a child’s life. I very much can relate to Elizabeth’s story. Thank you Elizabeth.

  • Liz says:

    Mike…thank you so much for featuring my story. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. I have an update! Since writing to you, I starting wading through the paperwork I have here, collected by my uncle back in the 1980s (no internet to help!). I have learned that my Great-Grandparents emigrated from Nenagh to the US in 1860 and that they are buried in the same cemetery as my grandparents. Although I no longer live in New York, I am planning a trip to visit all four of the gravesites. Much as Ireland called me “home” twice, I feel as though I’m being called to do this. I really want to let my great-grandparents know that they haven’t been forgotten. My great-grandma died in 1895 and my great-grandfather died in 1908, when my dad was a year old.

    • Mike says:

      Hi Liz – thanks very much for sharing the update – I’m sure other Egans will spot these stories over time! All the best – Mike.

    • Mary Lou Egan Gilman says:

      My great grandfather immigrated from Nenagh to Lima, New York in the 1850s. He was John Egan. He had two brothers, Martin and James. I believe his father may have been James and his mother Ellen, as he named his firstborn boy and girl James and Ellen.

      My Great granda was a horseman. First he provided horses to the Union Army in America, and then took all his stock and started a railroad building business (horse powered) though the American midwest and west. I’ve been looking for ancestors for two decades.

      • Dennis Egan says:

        I am an Egan from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada whose great great grandfather, Anthony Egan, emigrated from Tipperary circa 1850. Anthony and sons Edward and John were noted railroad building pioneers in Canada. Anthony had 8 kids and 26 grand kids that were mostly boys so the family tree is loaded. Working on the family story in Canada if anyone is interested and also would love to learn about his family connections back to Ireland that are currently unknown.
        Your email interested me because Anthony Egan initially was in upstate NY (Watertown) in the early 1850s and then Ontario, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, N. Michigan before settling in Winnipeg. He was also involved in RR construction in the US starting with the Grand Trunk line from Fort Gratiot to Detroit. Also, Anthony’s sons were named Charles, John, Patrick, Martin, Anthony, Michael and Peter.

  • Donna Gazzaniga-Woods says:

    My Egan is Mary, spouse of John H Farrell. They were married, and lived in, Troy, New York. They are my great grandparents, the parents of my grandfather, Thomas Leonard Farrell. Have never been able to trace anything before these two. I heard John was born in the state, Mary in Ireland. Both families were supposed to be originally from Roscommon area, so fits with this YIH topic.

  • Steve Treacy says:

    My Mary Egan, b. Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo, married John Dockery. Their daughter Catherine Egan Dockery was born 1 Oct 1825 in Kiltimagh.

  • Valery E. Madore says:

    I’m very pleased to make your acquaintance. My name is Valery Elizabeth Egan, daughter of David Edward Egan of Quincy, Massachusetts – son of James Edward Egan of Medford, MA – son of J.E. Egan/Mary Ellen Denny of Charlestown, MA – it gets hazy in the mid-1800’s, though. Possibly next ancestor is James T. Egan born around 1840 in Galway? Married to Margaret E. Barry? I would love to learn more!

  • Jacinta Egan says:

    My father Liam Denis Egan born 1921 from passage west is my only connection to my Irish heritage.I was born and live in australia.I would love to know my Irish family

    • Mike+Collins says:

      Do check the Irish census to check on those who stayed behind.One way to learn about your ancestors!

  • M says:

    hey there

    one of my great grandmothers was born Elizabeth Egan .

    She married James Batterberry and had 9 or so children, the youngest being my paternal grandfather WILLIAM EGAN BATTERBERRY dob 27 AUGUST1871 CORK year of death 1957 AUSTRALIA.

    I am keen to learn any thing about her .

  • Carole Elizabeth Trainor says:

    Hello from Canada
    My paternal grandmother was Elizabeth Egan born in Prince Edward Island to Hampton area farmer Patrick Egan. She, her husband Frank Trainor and son, Carl died in a car accident just after leaving mass in the Green Rd area of Prince Edward Island in 1953.
    i never got to meet her.

  • Kath says:

    My Great Grandfather was Thomas Egan born in Galway in 1852. His father was John Egan a farmer. That is all I know of him or his family before he married a farmer’s daughter from Corbridge, Northumberland, England in 1878 in Hexham. They lived in Corbridge where they had 3 children, and then they all moved to South Shields on the north east coast at the mouth of the river Tyne around 1890. He died there in 1893 at the age of 41.

  • Anthony Watling-Darrell says:

    My grandmother was Charlotte Elizabeth Egan born in London in the late 19th century, her father was John Timothy Egan from Drisheen County Cork. Daniel Egan who was a member of the Temperance Society was her grandfather. Any information on the Egan family from Drisheen would be really appreciated.

  • Bill Egan says:

    Hello from Canada.
    My Egan ancestors came over around 1844-45 , Thomas Egan and Ann Welch, from I am told, Castlebar Mayo area. They immigrated later in life with their daughter Mary who was married to a man with the last name Gannon. They had the usual larger Irish family. My brother still runs the farm that they settled on 6 generations ago.

  • AGirlKeeps says:

    I always thought I was English and for the most part I probably am. It wasnt till after my Grandmother died and I plugged her maiden name into ancestry.com when I was suprised to see Irish on the screen. I don’t know much about my family in the isles but that they had, to her knowledge, lived in London for a while in the same neighborhood as Charlie Chaplain. She said that often my great-great grandparents would feed him and his brother at the dinner table when their parents couldnt and were good friends with my great Grandmother whos maiden name I do not know. My Grandmothers name, however, was borne Patricia Irene Eagan. She married a US soldier during WWII and had three children. She had black hair in her youth and almost lavender grayish blue eyes.

    • AGirlKeeps says:

      I forgot to mention- She was also the youngest in her family and most of her siblings died long before her. She came from a large family but I do not know how many siblings she had. I suspect she may have excommunicated form the Church when she married because it wasn’t till a few months before her death that she opened up to me about her youth and growing up. She was otherwise very quiet about her life in London.

    • Mike+Collins says:

      What an amazing story about Charlie Chaplin, perhaps that explains his love of Ireland and why he lived for a time in Waterville, County Kerry.

  • Patrick Egan says:

    I know this is a rather old thread, but for anyone who’s still looking, there’s a website for and by descendants of the Egan clan. There are bi-yearly rallies that change location. 2020 will be back in Ireland, and have a gathering at Redmond Castle. https://www.clanegan.org/

    • Carina says:

      Patrick, These posts are very popular and we will be delighted to share your link.

    • Debbie Smith says:

      Patrick do you have any information about the 2020 Event? My great great grandfather was Jeremiah Egan who immigrated from this area to America. Thanks much, Debbie Smith

    • Debbie Smith says:

      Patrick if you have any information about the 2020 Event I would like to hear more. My great great grandfather Egan immigrated to America. Thanks Debbie Smith

      • Patrick Egan says:

        My father was looking into it a few weeks ago. It’s probably going to be in the second half of June 2020, but dates haven’t been set yet. My grandparents, James and Brigid Egan (née Campbell), immigrated to America in 1929 with his brothers Patrick and John, and ended up in Buffalo, NY.

  • Dennis Egan says:

    There are two books about the Mac Egans namely:
    History of Clan Egan by Joseph J Egan and Mary J Egan published in Ann Arbor, Michigan (not been able to get a copy of this book but should be in Irish reference libraries)
    Annals of the Clan Egan by Conor Mac Hale – found this in the main NYC Library reference area and then got a copy on ebay.

    • Margie Kite says:

      I am trying to find a ANN EGAN born around 1823 in Kilkenny, Ireland, and later came to United States and than to Wisconsin where she died. She married a JOHN KELLY. Don’t know parents name.

  • Daryl Egan says:

    Can i do a DNA test to find any relatives living in Ireland or scotland today ????

  • lol says:

    my paternal g grandmother was an Elisabeth Egan.

    She married a. Batterberry [ James ] and had 8 children the youngest WILLIAM EGAN BATTERBERRY being my paternal grandfather. 18 0r 28 August 1871 – 1957. north sydney Australia.

    any. further info re elisabeth egan and her ancestry please?

    • Carina says:

      have you checked out our Green Room as this is where you could access our Ireland based genealogist and John Grenham’s site ( included free in Green Room membership)as well as lots of help with your specific ancestry research?

  • Carina says:

    Hi Betheen,
    We now have our US based genealogist in the Green Room assisting member in locating records before they make the leap to working with our Ireland based genealogist. This system has helped many like yourself.
    Check out The Green Room where you will get this expert help.

  • Mary Clogston says:

    My grandfather Michael Melican of Lisseycasey, Clare, Ireland was half Egan and we know very little about the Egan family. However our family has so many lawyers that I wonder if the love of the law is inherited. I find the information fascinating.

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