A Letter from Ireland:

The Irish Surname Ryan


Surname Ryan

Javier Tomás contacted us all the way from Argentina wondering about the Ryan surname (you can see his request at the end of this post).

Ryan is the number one surname – by a margin – in County Tipperary. The primary holders of the name come from the Tipperary/Limerick sept known in Irish as Ó Maoilriain (meaning follower of Rian – we just don’t know who/what Rian was). This was once translated into English as Mulryan – but has been shortened.

A second group of Ryans come from the Irish “Ó Riaghain” – but this name comes from County Carlow where they were  chiefs of the Uí Drona sept.

So – one Ryan was known as Mulryan originally – and another as O’Ryan – but both were shortened to Ryan over the centuries.

There are 3 castles in Ireland associated with the Ryan sept – Cully Castle, Cragg Castle and Gortkelly Castle.

If you would like to add what you know about the Ryan surname, tell the story of your Ryan 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.

Here is the request that Javier sent in:
“My surname is Ryan. We live in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I guess my grandfather´s father came from Galway. He arrived here at the beginning of the XXth century. In 1980 we visited his land, the fact is that I was a child and I don´t remember quite anything.
Thanks for your mails!.
Javier Tomás Ryan”
  • Joan Nangle Disbrow says:

    While looking up the family name (Nangle), the web took me to de l’Aigle. Because no one ever seemed to know where Gilbert de Angulo (Latin) came from, it made a lot of sense that the reason he disappeared, was because he went back to France/England where there were a lot of family holdings. It seems when they went to another country the name changed to that location. When looking for these names it helps to put yourself in their place and see what comes of it, then look into the info more thoroughly.Takes time but worth the effort. Thanks Mike for your work. Much appreciated.

    • admin says:

      Hi Joan – always interesting tracking Norman names as they do “morph” depending on country. BTW – our local garden centre here in Cork is Nangles. Mike.

  • Virginia Terese Hunt says:

    Recently, while continuing my family roots research – I found a Bridget Ryan (born c 1824) who married my 2nd great grandfather, William McKelvey (born c 1820). They had seven children, including John (born c 1860, my great grandfather) and Patrick (born 1864). Patrick (my great grand uncle) is the only child of William McKelvey and Bridget Ryan that I have so far been able to find any further information on. Patrick was born in Moyne, Co Tipperary on 24 Jan 1864 – so I am assuming that William McKelvey and Bridget Ryan may have been born/ married in that same area. I guess that would make my Bridget Ryan an Ó Maoilriain – and a follower of Rian! (I am so curious now as to who Rian was!)
    Thanks, as always, Mike for all the great information! And if there are any Ryans out there who recognize my Bridget from their family tree -please share!

    • admin says:

      Hi Virginia – thanks for sharing – lets leave your request here and see what happens! Mike.

    • Hi Virginia,
      William McKelvey and Bridget Ryan are my gg grandparents. Patrick is my great grandfather. I have a picture of him on my tree at ancestry.com. If you do a search you will find it. It’s called Baker Family tree and my user name is ripbrandon93. William and Bridget had alot of children, one which was also named Bridget. She became a nun (Sister Mary Leo). Please feel free to contact me, either on Ancestry or my email: ripbrandon93@verizon.net.

    • Beth Lindley Putnam says:

      Always looking for connections to Laurence Ryan, West Street, Callan. 1821 – 1890, a stone mason, that worked with his brothers in the Imperial Slate Quarry back in the 1840’s, before immigrating to New York state.

  • Sharon L McMahon says:

    I have just recently been able to locate information on my birth family as I was adopted when I was a baby. I have been able to locate the County Cork as the origination for the MacMahon surname, but have discovered that my great grandparents were McKinney and I am not able to locate the name in the list available to determine their origin. Can someone help me please?

    • admin says:

      Hi Sharon – McKinney is a name found in Tyrone and Antrim – often derived from the Scottish clans McKinnion and McKenzie. Mike.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Do you have any information about the surname Brannian?

  • Michelle says:

    My 2x great grandmother was Margaret Ryan (b 1838), the daughter of Thomas and Bridget Ryan of Carlow so I’m guessing she’s from the Ó Riaghain clan. My 2x great grandfather, Thomas Heagney was posted to Carlow from Tipperary when he joined the Irish Constabulary, thereby meeting and marrying Miss Ryan!

  • David Ross says:

    Hi, My GGgrandfather Thomas Ryan married Margaret Deer at Cappawhite Church, Tipperary, May 5 1829. His 3rd of six children, (also)Thomas, married Brigid Ryan (no relation) and they emigrated to New Zealand in 1876 on the Fernglen. They had fifteen children (9 boys and six girls). Two of the boys were All Blacks.
    Other Irish ancestry includes two O’Connells from Cork and Kerry, McHale from Mayo, and McElligott from Kerry. Thomas Ryan senior, rented some acres from the Earl or Portarlington which was recorded in theGriffiths Valuations. The Google map overlay on the Valuations map enables me to see the fields in Google streetview.

  • Holly says:

    My name is Holly, my mother’s maiden name is Ryan. I have traced my roots back to County Cork, my family decided to migrate to America, Poughkeepsie New York and from there to finally settle in Indiana. Someday, if not very soon I would love to visit and find out more information on my ancestors.

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