The Tribes of Galway.

Have you ever heard of "The Tribes of Galway"? Maybe your family came from one of these tribes? When people talk about Irish names, they often use words like ‘clan’ or ‘sept’ or sometimes even ‘tribe’ to describe particular groups of families? In this letter, we look at one particular group of ‘Tribes’ in Ireland.

Now Reading:

The Tribes of Galway.

A few weeks back, we headed north from Cork to the city of Galway and nearby Connemara. What a beautiful part of the world—maybe you have been there? One of the first things you notice on approaching Galway city is the series of traffic roundabouts that dot its’ periphery.

These fourteen roundabouts have a family name planted in the middle of each—names such as Kirwan, Blake, D’Arcy and so on. These are the surnames that belong to the ‘Tribes of Galway’.

Helen Blake from Australia was on to me recently with the following introduction:

‘Hi Mike, thank you for the newsletter. I am a descendant of the Blake family of Menlo in Galway and Towerhill, Co. Mayo. My Menlo connection goes back to the 3rd Baronet. Then the family branched off to Towerhill, my GGGG Grandfather being Isidore Maurice Blake of Towerhill and Oldhead. The Blakes of Menlo Castle, Co. Galway, held the lands of Clonyne and Clooneen or Towerhill, parish of Touaghty, barony of Carra, Co. Mayo. My GG Grandfather Dr Isidore Maurice Blake came to Australia in 1842.’

Isn’t it a privilege (and so rare)—as I remarked to Helen—to have so much Irish lineage recorded for future generations? Now, while Helen mentions Menlo Castle above, if you head into the centre of Galway city, you will also find a medieval townhouse known as ‘Blake’s Castle’. You see, the Blake family were one of the fourteen ‘Tribes of Galway’.

The Tribes of Galway.

A fort was built where Galway city now stands in 1124 AD. It was erected by Turlough O’Connor—King of Connaught at the time—on land controlled by the local O’Halloran family. However, it soon came under successful attack by the local (and fierce) O’Flahertys who assumed control of the area.

O'Flaherty Castle at Aughnanure outside Galway City.

O’Flaherty Castle at Aughnanure outside Galway City.

About one hundred years after the building of this fort, the Normans arrived in Connaught in the shape of the de Burgo family (the modern surname Burke). Richard Mór de Burgh captured Galway fort in 1232 and established a small walled town which he proceeded to ‘plant’ with merchant and craft families. Over the next hundred years, Galway grew and thrived under the Burkes, establishing a reputation as an important trading port. However, in 1333, the town of Galway broke away from the in-fighting Burkes, and received the first stage of a royal charter in 1396.

The town eventually became ruled by a group of fourteen merchant families—each taking it in turn to assume Mayoral duties. One of Helen’s ancestors—John Blake fitz William became the third mayor of Galway in 1487.

The merchant family names were: Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, D’Arcy, Deane, Font, French, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris and Skerrett. Thirteen of these families were of Anglo-Norman origin while one was Irish Gaelic in origin (Kirwan).

Looking from Spiddal to the Galway Quays.

Looking from Spiddal to the Galway Quays.

Galway became a prosperous and strategically important town—at one time it was the main port for trade with France and Spain on the Island. Relationships between the residents of Galway and their Gaelic and Norman (but Gaelicised) neighbours were rarely ‘quiet’. Indeed, the following prayer was hung over the west gate of the city—facing the territory of that same clan:

 ‘From the Ferocious O’Flahertys may God protect us’

Galway took the side of royalist Catholic forces in the Confederate wars from 1641—and when Cromwell arrived in Ireland to punish the losing Catholic side, he granted the merchant families in Galway the derogatory nickname of the ‘Tribes of Galway’. The families decided to hang onto this nickname in that typical Irish mixture of defiance and contradictory respect.

Lynch's Castle, Galway City.

Lynch’s Castle, Galway City.

The town of Galway was besieged by Cromwell’s forces and the residents surrendered in April of 1652. Following this, the ruling ‘Tribes’ lost much of their power and were replaced by local protestant families.

However, some of the families held onto land across the Counties of Galway and Mayo, and by the time the monarchy was restored in the 1690s they were rewarded for their loyalty with a partial restoration of their power, titles and lands. It is these families, like the Blakes, that have maintained lineages and genealogies to the present day.

Kirwan Court, Galway City.

Kirwan Court, Galway City.

These family names—Martin, Lynch, Blake, French and Joyce—are found in quantity across the counties of Galway and Mayo today, mixed in with the O’Flaherty, O’Halloran and Burke surnames.  You will also find many descendants of these families living in Australia as we write—neighbours of Helen Blake and her own ‘Tribe of Galway’.

Do any of your Irish family names descend from the Tribes of Galway? Do let me know in the Comment Section below.

Slán for now, Mike.

  • Ann-Marie Gillick says:

    Hi Mike,

    Great to see Aughnanure Castle. I have written to you before regarding the development of the name Gillick from Ulick Bourke, died 1343, of the Owles, Co Mayo and his son Henry who was the first to use the Name of MacUlick . The deaths of both are apparently recorded in the ‘Annals of Loch Ce’.

    I would love to be able to diminish the gap between Henry who died in 1359 and my own 3xGreat Grandfather Thomas Gillick. There must be a story in the gradual Westwards drift of the Clan.

    Thanks for all you do in furthering Irish knowledge and culture.

    God bless and the blessings of Easter to you and yours,

    • Mike says:

      You have indeed Ann-Marie – and there is definitely a story there! I’d say you can certainly bring the story forward from 1359 to the 1600s! Mike.

    • Dee says:

      To Mike; I found out the name BUCKB Y IS THE FAMILY NAME-not Buckley. Any help here. from d.

  • Peggy Kirwin says:

    This is great info as I try to figure out where in Ireland the Kirwins came from. Thank you so much.

    • Mike says:

      You’ll find that spelling Kirwan is normally used Peggy in Ireland – spread across many counties including Galway, Kilkenny, Dublin etc. Mike.

      • cate says:

        I’m looking for Kerans/ Kearns – mine left Ireland for Montreal – anyone have an idea on a county?????

    • james smyth says:

      My wife’s mother is a Kirwan from Kilkenny. It is a well known name in the area around Castlecomer.

  • Mary O'Neill Leidner says:

    Dear Mike, I was delighted to finally find the name French in the Tribes of Galway. My Grandmother was Katherine French,. I don’t know much about them except for the relatives that I have met. Her Father Had several brothers Ed French James French, and sisters Elizabeth French, Helen French. I think her father was Thomas French. I don’t know when they emigrated but I am going to ask my cousins. thanks for helping solve these mysteries.
    Mary O. Leidner

    • Mike says:

      The Frenches were clustered in many parts of the country Mary – the eariler Norman Frenches in County Wexford especially. Mike.

    • Debi McGuin-Carrigan says:

      Hello, my mothers maiden name is French. I have gone back as far as I can with a few gaps. The French Family of Ireland were originally DeFreyne from France, you will notice the similarities of both the DeFreyne and the French “Coat of Arms”. And when I last visited Ireland in co.Roscommon, there was still a Lord DeFreyne living in Frenchpark, co. Roscommon but he was not there during the time that I was visiting. There is a Frenchpark gravesite with so many gravestones of the French Family.

      My Great Great Grandfather was born in the Isle of Wight, and yet everything that my Great Grandfather had listed was relating to co. Roscommon, Frenchpark and being Irish. And that we were in fact originally “The Tribes of Galway”. It is the gap of finding out why his family went to the Isle of Wight and/or why he was born there.

      My Great Grandfather was sent to Montreal, Quebec Canada by his mother Mary Frances Harrigan and step father Mr. Wood, after the death of his father in San Francisco, California, USA in the 1860’s. He was raised under the Anglo-Catholic Church by Father Wood (his step uncle) however it is said that my Great Great Grandmother, Mary Francis Harrigan- French – Wood, never left her Catholic faith. Both my Great Grandfather and Grandfather became Anglican Priests.

      I would love to share any information with you and possibly you have information that you can share. There is a book that I purchased in Galway called the Tribes of Galway, and it definitely game me so much information and explained the way things were in Ireland from the beginning of their arrival to Ireland.


      Debi McGuin-Carrigan

  • Nancy Ireland says:

    Hello From Virginia. Great to see the pictures of Beautiful places. Love to look at the castles and imagine back to the times they were built and the people who lived there, How they thought, what they dreamed of and their daily lives. I wish i knew the History of my Families beginnings. I Know some of my Husbands. I know from links that Mike and Carina have posted and information they have shared that there were people of the name Wells in Ireland. I cant get past my Grandfather, who i never knew to find his family beginnings. I love this site and all that Mike and Carina share and do to help us know more of Ireland and its heritage and of our heritage. Thank You Both!!!

  • Hi Mike,

    Lynch is one of my family names, but unfortunately I don’t know the county where they are from.
    As for County Mayo, I have traced my Boyle ancestors to that county, and I have found evidence that my Boyle ancestors as well as families named Joyce, Lally, and Walsh were evicted from their lands by Bishop Plunkett in 1860. There is a book about the incident titled “The Mayo Evictions of 1860.” It is a fascinating story. Thanks for all the good information about the Tribes of Galway.

    Brigid Edmonds

  • Kathy Looney Sylvie says:

    I love all the information you share! Thank you! My mother’s family -Cashore- is from Galway. I can’t find any real information on them, though. It seems to be an unusual name. In fact, my Mom refused to believe her father was Irish until her Irish-American father-in-law confirmed it!

  • Teresa Thomas says:

    Yes Mike, our family name is Lynch. I believe one of the tribe names

    • Mike says:

      They were indeed Teresa – and Lynch is also one of those surnames found in many distinct parts of Ireland. Mike.

      • Clare Lynch Kaiser says:

        I am a Lynch as well and I know my Great Grandparents were from Ireland. I know they settled in Philadelphia and each brother had a Lynch meat market. ((circa 1910)
        There were three boys. Any information would be a blessing.

        Thank you,
        Clare Lynch Kaiser

  • Marge says:

    My two daughters by my first marriage are descendants from the Athy merchant family.

  • Paulette Faulkner says:

    I am trying to find my surnames Avery, Stewart, Roberts, Glover, Ryals, Morgan, Jones, Smith, Warren Little, Peacock

    Thank you Paulette

  • dennis kelly says:

    still looking for Kelly’s in county leis(queens county) looking for James Kelly left for USA 1837- 1840 .

  • Helen Blake says:

    Hi Mike, thanks for the letters and particularly this one on the Tribes. As you know it is of personal interest to me. I hope we can find some other Blakes as a result of this letter as I would love to hear from any that may also read your news.
    best wishes
    Helen Blake

    • Mike says:

      Thanks Helen – good to hear from you. Mike.

    • Carrie Bolden says:

      My mother’s maiden name was Blake. Her grandfather, Mike Blake was born in county Kerry in 1828 and came to the United States in 1850. His father’s name was Bartholomew Blake. That’s all the information I have found so far but I am proud to find out my family name is one of the Tribes of Galway!

      • Mike says:

        Lots of Blakes all over those parts even today, Carrie. Mike.

      • Mike, I too am also a Kelly, my father said are Black Irish, I learned that Black Irish are a mixture Spaniards, who came to Galway for repairs to the Armada, I met a man in Oregon that was Black Irish. Have you heard this before,\? He was dark with black hair like my Father, a Kelly, Kelley, O’Kelly. O’Celliegh. Have you heard this tale before? Pleased to be part of this site, Thank you. Nancy Kelly-Bushly

    • Sarah says:

      Message for Helen. Hi Helen. My mother was a Blake from Galway. Her father Leo Marlay emigrated to Australia possible post 2nd world war. He died in Australia in 1952. I am trying to trace any decendents

  • Bob Rogers says:

    Mike – I’m trying to confirm my Irish surname if Kelledy being a dirivative of O’Callada.

    They were mostly from county Louth (Dundalk) area around Carricamacross…(hope I spelled that right).

    The other side of my family would be Grimes (who I’m trying to confirm as being Norse, and of course Rogers, which I believe to be Norse as well. Roger(s) shows up in English history when William the conqurer shows up from Normandy.

    I’ve been told a time or two that Rogers is a dirivative of MacRaudri (hope I spelled that Right also).

  • Gett your shield and likewise your axe and also play a
    youthful Viking in Faculty of Dragons and in addition pput together to deveelop your
    very own heritage!

  • Collin D'Arcy says:

    Hi Mike,

    My Grandfather James D’Arcy was born in Gorey , Wexford in 1870. Would he have been part of the D’Arcy tribe of Galway?

    Thanks in advance,

    Collin D’Arcy.

  • Dorsey Naramore says:

    I would like to weigh in on the conversation regarding the “D’Arcy” family. I have seen much speculation that this family was either of Norman or English origins. We now have scientific evidence that most likely neither is the case.

    The “D’Arcy” family from Galway was most likely “Dorchaidhe” originally, and this is supported by DNA test results from several different “Dorsey” men who trace their lineages into Galway/Clare/Limerick. Prior to DNA testing there was a whole lot of speculation (I was one believer of this) that because of the spelling of the surname that it had originated in Normandy, France. Through DNA testing we have discovered that these lineages that are localized to this region, are indeed biologically ancient Irish.

    Much has been written on the Tribes of Galway, and there is some pretty good studies regarding why the name was changed to reflect Norman origins. Upon arriving in the States, my particular line changed the spelling from “Darcy” to “Dorsey” on their naturalization papers. But the DNA signature is unmistakeably ancient Irish.

  • Thomas Lynch says:

    Hi Mike, I am curious to find out as much as I can about my ancestry and I want to track back the Lynch family in which I am related as far back as possible and I was wondering if you could help me?

  • Chris Grissom says:

    I recently discovered that my 4x GGF Michael Maher (Meagher) was born in Baile an tSeipeil, Inis Orr, Oileain, Arainn, Condae na Gaillihme, Eire. My 3x GGF Eugene Francis Lane Meagher immigrated to America in 1861 to Masschusetts, U.S. It listed his occupation as “Stonecutter.”
    I suspect that the location is Gaelic. Could you tell me what it means?

    Thanks! I’m loving learning more about my heritage. Still exploring everything.

    Chris Grissom

  • Tina says:

    Hi, love reading your articles. My family name is Browne from Galway. When they eventually came to America they “e” was dropped. My maiden name was Brown. I understand there is quite a story on how we ended up in America. Do you know if any?

    • Nancy Burley says:

      My great grandmother was Annie Brown(e) born Jan 1855 who came to Boston in 1872. Her husband was Michael Rigney who’s father was Martin Rigney from Co Roscommon. Annie’s parents were Michael Brown and Margaret and from what I understand never came to the US. We know little although there is a cousin looking for a family history his grandmother wrote out. We do believe the Brown(e) side is in fact from Galway.

      • Mike says:

        Lots of Brownes up in Galway and Mayo Nancy – I wrote a letter last April about Admiral William Browne, father of the Argentinian Navy, and a County Mayo man. Mike.

  • mathew skelton says:

    hi my name is mathew my grandmother was from tuam, but her maiden name was Burke where do they originate from from roughly are they a galway family. or from somewhere else in the county, her mother was a hogan from roscommon, not to sure where they came from before there have only visited the area once along time ago, what a beautiful part of ireland very interesting history to the city and beyond. cheers mathew

    • Snowy says:

      We don128#&7;t fly flags at all at our house. In Australia NOBODY flies flags and I was absolutely amazed at how so many people over here do .. and not just country flags either, flags for every occasion LOL. We do have 3 flags here but they are awaiting flag boxes to put in the kids bedrooms after Randy flew them on his last deployment.

  • Ceilidh Morris says:

    Greetings Mike,
    I’m not having much luck finding out about the Morris clan. Is not much known? Do you know where I can find more information? Did the Galway Morris’s originally come from England?

  • Shannon French says:

    Hi! Thrilled to find your site. My grandfather came from tipperary Ireland, Justin French. Now 89, and memories not clear Im looking to learn about our history. As a child he spoke of being in the tribes of galway, with norman, welsh and viking heritage. He’d talk of viking stories, unfortunately I don’t remember much, and his alzheimer’s disease he only recalls fuzzy bits and pieces. He married a Lorretta Leonard also from tipperary. All I know of her family is they came from a long line of farmers. They have been back to Ireland many times, my grandmother’s memory is still good I am hoping she will have more information. She is from a Fitzgerald and Leonard family line. The JFK Fitzgerald’s my grandparents were in attendance of the family funeral for JFK because of my grandmother’s close relation. That’s about all I know!

  • Shanna says:

    Is there a possibility of spelling Kerwin a different way? I am looking for the roots of my husbands relatives whose last name is spelled Curvin. I’ve wondered if they could have come from Ireland.

  • karen allen says:

    My maiden name is Joyce, i was always told we came from Galway, and one of the 7 tribes, I was also told my great Grandfatger, came across the oceon and landed in North Caroline, but thats all i know.

  • Lynn Fant Johnson says:

    I have always been told that my family are descendants of one of the Tribes of Galway (Fant = ?Font). I don’t have any information about them in Ireland and how they came to the United States. Can you tell me where I can start looking? I’ve traced them in the USA but not Ireland.

    Thank you for a great article!

    • Craig Walker says:

      I have a book that was written about the genealogy of the Fant Family going all the way to 16th century Ireland. Our family was active in the Whiteboy movement, and there is the remnants of a castle (Fants Castle) near Fantstown.
      In Fantstown, Co. Limerick. My Aunt went to see it, and it’s used as a hay barn now.

  • Craig Walker says:

    My Great-Grandmother was a Fant. From what I’ve been told, they were one of the 12 tribes. Was it common for Font to be changed to Fant?

  • Sheila Hardy says:

    My pre marriage name was Mc Donnell my father was born in Kildare . I am told that the name was originally Scottish, is this correct? Thank you

  • Teri Moore says:

    Dear Mike,

    I have just stumbled on to your wonderful book and website and as it stands I am just beginning my journey to find out about my Irish and Scottish backgrounds. I know very little, but it is a start. I know my Great Grandmother’s last name was Galloway. Would that have any connections to Galway? And my other Great Grandmother was Mary Kathleen O’Malley from County Cork. I am not sure when she came over to the USA, I believe in the early 1900’s. I do know the family dropped the “O’ after they arrived here. Or so I am told. Like I said it’s a beginning. Can you tell me anything about either surname that could jumpstart my Irish roots journey. If so I would be very grateful.

    God Bless and Keep you,

    Teri Moore

  • Lyne Lavoie says:

    Am trying to find info on my maternal grand-mother. Her name was Mary Kierwan (not sure if this is correct spelling but this is how the cemetery spelt it . I know she was sent to Canada in or around 1901 without her parents, do you kn ow how I can find more info. Thanks very much

  • Barbara Brady says:

    Hi Mike,
    I’m trying to find the origin of my maiden name,Travers.I think they hailed from Leitrim but I’m not sure.Also,my maternal grandmother’s name was Geoghan,from Galway.Sometimes it’s spelled differently.Im not sure which is correct.I look forward to hearing from you.

  • Sue Keenan says:

    Hello Mike,
    My mother’s maiden name was Lynch, a very common name I’m sure, but I see that Lynch may be one of the Galway tribe names. Her grandmother’s name was Bradley, and there was a Gallagher there also, do any of these cluster of names show up in any particular areas in Ireland? Thanks for all your intersting info.

    Sue Keenan

  • Cynthia Edgar says:

    Hi Mike and Good Morning! I loved this article on the Tribes of Galway! Thanks for posting. Earlier you told me my ancestor’s name of McManus might have been from Co. Roscommon, North of Galway, and now could you please tell me where my last name of Edgar, which of course is my Husband’s family name, came from? When I ask him he says it originated from all those people “over there” that hate each other! Ha-ha- I’d take that to mean it’s English, Irish; both Catholic and Protestant, and Scotts! Would you look it up for me please? Thanks and have a great week!

    • Mike says:

      Glad you enjoyed it Cynthia – Edgar? It is a Scottish name that mostly appears in east Ulster (Antrim and Down). Mike.

  • William A. Martin says:

    Mike, thanks so much for your information. My Grandfather, also William A. Martin, told my Mother we are from Ireland but, were more French than Irish. This is the most information I have found so far. It seems this fall into place. Bill Martin

  • Fran Reddy says:

    Mike, I have a brick wall and it is with the name Ierfus. My husband’s gr-gr-grandfather married an Annie Ierfus and her name never comes up in any search I have ever done. It is such an odd surname but we all believe it sounds French. Maybe it was from one of those French tribes?? She married James Reddy (born in Ireland in 1824) and they had a son, Michael in Springtown, ON. Canada on July 6, 1850.

    • Mike says:

      Lerfus is an unusual one alright Fran, it does not show up in my records (or an equivalent sounding name). I think it is a good assumption that it is of non-Irish origin until some more facts come to light. Mike.

  • My great grandfather came from Tipperary. Research by distant cousins in that area trace their genealogy back to a William Kirwan in Kilkenny in the 1700s. My theory is that after Cromwell took over the lands, they dispersed to a more Catholic friendly area, then made there way up to Tipperary where there may have been more land available. Does that sound right?
    Having divorced a Burke several years ago, I felt a sense of history repeating itself with the Town of Galway (Kirwans, et al.) breaking away from the in-fighting Burkes.

  • Edward Reed says:

    My Grand parents came from Co. Mayo from Bell Mullet. They left for UK in the 1850s, and they settled in Hartlepool a ship building and fishing. There name was Melia sometimes named Mahlia.


    • Mike says:

      Interesting Edward – Melia was a version of O’Malley used in County Mayo also. Mike.

    • janet wayte says:

      Hi, just looking for the name Melia.From some research found it is common in Southern Italy and from that area originally.Although here it is a variation of O’ Malley .Wonder if you could advise on this information.

  • Elizabeth Jones says:

    My 3rd great grandmother was Catherine Lynskey from Galway. I understand that at some point Lynskey/Linsky became Lynch. Is that true? I would guess that any Lynches who can trace their family back to Lynskey/Linsky were probably not members of the Lynch family that was one of the tribes of Ireland.

    • Mike says:

      Probably not Elizabeth – but hard to tell for certain as the Lynskey spelling comes from around Galway and Mayo also. Mike.

  • says:

    My second cousin was married to a Joyce. That was as close as I got.

  • Michelle Rochon says:

    I have recently joined and enjoying all the information … Some day maybe I can make it to Ireland to do further research.

    Our Sisk lineage has been difficult to find. I can find documents where my 2nd great grandfather entering the Port of New York in July, 1851. And where he married my 3rd great grandmother in 1847 (there is a tale hear, because my grandfather was adopted by his granduncle to keep the family name, there is a generation isn’t being counted).

    That is the last place I can prove with documentation. John Sisk and Mary Mahoney married on February 16, 1847, address Unkn., Kilbehenny, County Limerick from the Church Marriage record from

    Karol DeFalco who shared information back one more generation, but there are no documents and there are some dates which are different.

    Anyway, sorry for the long way around…I am enjoying your newsletter.

  • Denise Wood says:

    Hi Mike,

    Although I love visiting Galway and feel a certain kinderence to it, my quest is to find a place my great grandfather referred to ‘Ballynails’ (or at least it sounded like that. We know he was from Tipperary. originally. Do you have a connection with that part of the country as well? Many thanks.
    Enjoy your newsletter.

  • Susan Hudson-Johnson says:

    Through DNA found I am 47% Irish. My Father told me the sir-name Swires was changed to Hudson upon coming to the states . This is only one line of the Irish. Most of my research showed one primary place we were from was Cork. Would be interested in hearing what you know.
    Thanks so much for your letters, they are very enjoyable!

  • Carolyn Burke Lane says:

    I have many Irish ancestors, but I am having a hard time finding them. My dad’s name was Edward Burke, his dad John Henry Burke and his dad John Burke and I can’t find anything beyond that. My mother’s maiden name was O’Donnell and on that side we have Buckley, Halloran, McCrink,,Mahoney. My dad’s great grandmother was a French married to a Baxter who came over from Belfast in the early 1800’s. Edward Baxter was a tinsmith in Belfast. I have a lot off research to do.

  • Beatrice Flood Dunham says:

    I am looking for The Father of Willie Oscar and Archie Flood. The only information I have on Him is that He apparently came to the States, serving someone for His passage, and he came to Georgia. Willie Married Lula Davis ,and resided in Laurel , Mississippi .

  • Pihiff says:

    Hi Mike,

    I’m trying to find the origine of my name. I live in Canada, but I come from Brittany (France),
    My name is “Pihiff”
    When I was Young, my English teacher told me, it was an Irish name. In Brittany, the name “Pihiff appeared in 1700, and all those have this name originate from the same village. CAMORS in Brittany.
    I did some research, I found “Lihiff” in USA “Pimiff” in Scotland” and “Piniff” on the passenger list of a ship leaving Porstmouth to New York,
    What do you think about that ?


  • Jerri Burke says:

    This is a bit of the information that my dad had found out about our ancestry for the Burke’s. It is great to see that info is out there! Both my dad and I love our heritage!

  • Charlotte says:

    Hi Mike,
    Can you answer me this?
    Family name Flayhart born in Pa. but came from Ireland. I was told that some times they used
    Flayharty in USA too. Can this be the Flayharts from the tribe of O/Flahertys in Galway. Seems that the Flayharts in America added a y in their name.
    Thanks for your help.

  • Hi Mike, I have quite a different name, but my son found my maiden name on the list of Irish names in Savannah Georgia. Our name is Qualtrough and I am told it might be from McWalter. Originally, my grandparents came from Ireland to settle on the Isle of Mann, then to Pittsburgh Pa. Where I was born. You don’t hear the name too much but my son who was born in Atlanta , Ga. Travelled to Savannah to obtain a wedding ring for himself and wasn’t allowed to buy it unless our name was on the Irish heritage list, and it was. The county Gallway is where they were from! I would so appreciate any information on our family name. Thank you so much Mike… Ms. Lee Qualtrough Nader

  • Sabina says:

    Hi, Sorry guys, but that is not Lynch castle on the photo.
    That is Blake’s castle in Galway!

  • Isabella Castelaz says:

    Hi Mike!
    My grandmother’s maiden name was Martin, and she is 70% Irish. I could only trace them back (so far), to the 1770’s in Longford, Ireland. There is a large population of Martins’ in Illinois, where the Martins’ have been since the 1850’s. Do you think there is a big chance of being related to the Martins’ of Galway?

  • I still don’t know any more then I started with. McCotter where is it from anyone make it simpler for me appreciate it if so an thanks. Have a beautiful day… Karen

  • David Martin says:

    I am an Irish desendant. I am from the USA. Good reading through here. My Great grandmother was from Ireland. Came across to the US through Ellis Island around 1913. She died before i was born, i would have like to have known more about my ancesstry there in Ireland. This site is quite helpful. Thanks!

  • Cathy Hammerschmidt says:

    I have always been told my ancestors came from Ireland. My maiden name is Botkin and found my ancestors changed the spelling when they came to America and the original spelling is Bodkin. I traced my ancestors to Galway and discovered they were part of the tribe. I hope to discover more on your site. Thank you!

  • Christine Marie Kerr says:

    In our family reunion book of years ago we were told that our ancestors came from Northern Ireland if you go by the family tree that was drawn up on the Kerr surname. which is my maiden name is Kerr. But in the past when my father was a live and way younger he had made the comment that we were Scottish also. Is possible that our surname originated from both regions some how Scottish/Ireland?

  • Patricia M Tusing says:

    Hi there,I have CONNOLLY, O’CONNOLLY,AND CONLEY in my family tree.

  • Rebecca Powell says:

    My maiden name is McClary ancestor was born in Philadelphia in 1754 – Andrew – imagine that, right? Anyway, he married a Lynch IN NC. My mother is down from a Killeen, and I saw some from Longford, but I have no idea if it’s County Longford,or city, or village. Any suggestions? Btw, my DNA is only 35% British Isles, but 41% western and central europe *sigh* can’t have everything, I guess lol (24% scandinavian)

  • Carmella Vest says:

    I don’t know how far grandfather he is but his name was Isaac Taylor and he was from Antrim.He was born in 1704? Not sure.He came to the US through one of the Carolinas. Down through the years they settled in and around Nashville,Dowelltown Indian S prings. Tennessee.Have a pretty good trail from there.I just need to find out his family and why did he come alone.And why he came to begin with…How do I go about doing that with no money? Thank you.

  • Jay weamer says:

    My grandmother was of the Bodkin tribe via her mother who was a Plagarty , my great grandmother married into the Bodkin’s when she married Michael Bodkin back in 1800 ‘s . My grandmother came to the US in the 30’s and married into a family with surname of Scott who settled in the state of Virginia in the hills a few hundred years ago , what I am trying to find is location of my grandmother’s surname of Plagarty ! Any info on that name

  • Sunny says:

    I’m hoping to get more infor on my great great grandfather Jeremiah Burke. So far I’ve found on by that name in Galway County, have the Parish and such but nothing on the family. Need help

  • Colleen O'Connor Scharber says:

    Hi Mike,
    Am having a ball looking back on my Iris family. Our family name is O’Connor from Kildysart, in Clare County. The O’Connor were blacksmiths in Kildysart for generations. We are connected to the McNamara’s as well, as there was a McNamara Fyne in West Clancullen and a McNamara Reagh in East Clancullen. My 3rd Great Grandmother was Mary McNamara, and I’m not certain which McNamara clan she comes from. Somehow she was related to a distant cousin Thomas McNamara a Clare rebel who was hanged in 1710 by the British I believe! Fun to figure all of this out. I will take my search to Ireland…someday! Thanks for all ofo your info…know anything of the McNamara’s or O”Connors of Ennis/Kildysart in Clare County?

    All the best, Colleen

  • Jim Martyn says:

    My last name is Martyn, from Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The unusual spelling of Martyn led me to a wiki page that stated Martyn originated in Galway.

    Unfortunately that is about all I know about my family history.

  • Matias says:

    Dear Mike: Hi, I’m from Argentina and my English is very bad. My name is Matthew Deane, and I have already 4 generations in this land. My father spoke of Ireland and would like to know more about the origin of my family in that country, which I visit. Can you help me?. Thank you!.

  • Julie Kane says:

    I am a direct descendant of Gregory Browne, whose name was on the 1652 “Refusal List” of those who refused to sign the Articles of Surrender of Galway to Oliver Cromwell’s forces. His property was seized and he was transplanted in 1656. In 1682 his son Anthony was granted the townland of Fort Browne in Clonbern, Galway (formerly “Cappanagoin”) by royal patent. Anthony also owned the townlands of Laughil, Lenaboy, and Cornaminaun. Their descendant Gregory Browne (abt 1800-1870), my second great-grandfather, lost everything in the Encumbered Estates Auction of the 1850s and emigrated to New York City in the USA, where he died. Anthony Browne of Fort Browne (abt 1754-1840), my third great-grandfather, is mentioned in Anthony O’Kelly’s poem “The Eudoxologist.” He and his wife (the former Jane Burke) are buried in Clonbern Graveyard.

  • John Smith says:

    A Mrs Finaughty and her son John relocated from Ireland to England in the late 1700’s. Some in the family believe they came from Galway. John Married Lucy Mouls and they had three children. John then died in England, but Lucy came to South Africa in 1820. We still have members of that Finaughty family in this country some of which like Bill Finaughty became a famous pioneer hunter.
    I’d like to know if Finaughty is a common name in Ireland and if its like that they in fact did come from Galway!
    Thank you for your wonderful and informative Newsletter! John Smith – Durban, South Africa

  • Kim says:

    Hello! I am just getting started on this part of my ancestry. I have found that my relatives were in the Athy Tribe. Is there more information I can find? I read somewhere that the first Athy was technically an Athee which he adopted from the French town , Gerard Athy. He preferred the Athy spelling though. I also know well read that Captain George Athy was sent to the colonies as an indentured servant for Judge Thomas Dent in Maryland. So any extra info would be awesome. Thank you!!! Kim

  • Rosemary Garnett says:

    Hello I have traced my great great grandfather back to arriving in Australia with his family on the Navarone in 1858 , His name was Denis Caulfield Tuohy, I am having trouble finding any marriage, or birth records (about 1817) for him or his family. His wife’s name was Anne McKeon and he came from Galway perhaps Clonrush, Whitegate. I wonder if the middle name of Caulfield has any relationship to the area?

  • Hi Mike,
    My Name is Sandra Arlene Gregory however the names I am looking for seem to originate in Kilkenny from what some in my family have relayed to me.
    My Grandfathers name was John McNeill and my Grandmother was Georgianna Archdekin, or Archdeacon. I only know they immigrated to Ontario Canada probably mid 1850’s as there are many Archdekins there in the cemetery. The Archdekins then moved to Missouri and were farmers. I do not know how my grandmother met my grandfather though.
    Any help would be appreciated.
    Thanks Sandy small s

  • Oh, forgot the name Van Cleve which seems to appear a lot from some in family.


  • Cecilia says:

    Yes, my family name is Joyce, My brother recently submitted his DNA and it connected/matched up with the Joyce’s in Galway, Ireland,
    Thanks for your lovely website. From Canada, born in Scotland.

  • Shirley says:

    My GG grandfather is Morgan Henry Morris b. abt 1854 in Galway and immigrated to the US abt 1871. I have no sibling or parent information. Several of his children were Catholic Nuns/Priests. In researching the 14 tribes, I have not found much information on the Morris family. I can only speculate that Morgan Morris is a descendant of the tribe Morris. Do you know of any available resources on the Morris tribe specifically?

  • Anne Flippin says:

    Hi, Mike – my goodness, you must have a triple PhD in all things Irish! How wonderful for all of us that you share all your knowledge. I stumbled on your site accidentally and so glad! I have had a ton of trouble finding much info on my paternal grandmother’s maiden name of Coyne. I was amazed to see you had it in the earliest list of names in Connaught. In all my research, I’ve seen it here and there, more than a number of times in Connaught, but was never sure that it originated there since I don’t see it much. I am stuck on my g-g-grandfather William Coyne who was born in Havre-de-Grace, Maryland, but further back than that I have not been able to find anything that definitively hooks him up for me. There are lots of Coynes scattered up north (mostly I see them in Ohio and a few in neighboring states), but I am from the south (just north of New Orleans) and I don’t see that name down here. Surely would like to connect the one who left Ireland and my William Coyne. At least I am sure where they came from now, though, thanks to you. I also have Patterson, Smith (what an unusual name!), Groves, Parkhill, Duncan, and Welsh on my dad’s side – thanks to a forward-looking g-g-g-g-grandfather who wrote out the whole family history of his side, I know they were all around Ballybogan/Lifford parish in Donegal. I think Ballybogan may be nothing but a field now. Supposedly several Smith brothers were originally from Scotland quite a ways back. On my mother’s side, I am a Sullivan – yeah – a name everyone knows! BUT I have yet to connect the Sullivans from here to there. Do you have any suggestions on how to figure out if a person comes from Sullivan Mor or Sullivan Beare? On this side, I also have Gray and Hamilton, which names I have also seen in Ireland around the same area as above. Perhaps it is possible ALL of them came, even if not at the same time, to the Plantation? Well, thanks SO much for your help and all you do. Sorry this is so long. I am very, very glad to have found your site. Coming to Ireland at last in October.

  • Anne Wiens says:

    Lots of Irish in my mother’s family tree, starting with an Esdel (which somehow became Asdell when they crossed the pond) and a McVicker.

  • Eva says:

    New here from Ohio,and I’m doing The McGinnis family history from Londonderry Antrim Co. Bertha Lottie McGinnis was my Great Gramma. Her relatives are from Londonderry hopefully I’ll find out more info about them. I enjoy reading and seeing all about Ireland. Thank You.

  • […] came from two of the most illustrious families of Ireland – the Blakes of Galway (one of the Tribes of Galway), and the O’Donnells of Tirconnell. She later married and left Sligo for Dublin, and it is […]

  • Rob says:

    Yes. I am descended from both French and Kirwan families.
    (Patrick French of Monivea)

  • Michael J. Murray says:

    Kirwin / Kirwan from maternal grandfather with forebears from Galway.

  • […] you ever heard of “The Tribes of Galway”? They were a group of merchant families who established the City of Galway from about the 13th […]

  • Marcia Thornley says:

    I just stumbled across your site after I typed my mother’s maiden name “Carroll” and my married name “Thornley” into Google just to see what came up. We are traveling to Ireland in June so I thought I’d see what I could find. Really enjoying reading about the surnames in particular Charlotte Blake Thornley and her son Abraham Bram Stoker, the creator of Dracula!

  • Christine Williams says:

    My husbands mother was born and raised near Galway near Killefin. Not sure of that spelling. We are trying to find all info relating to the Hennelly family. Some of the family is still there but we are now raising Dexter cows and want to use the colors of the family’s clan. Have any idea where I could get more info?

  • Gary McMaster says:

    Hi Mike. I came across your site by accident (via Pinterest). I presently live in Melbourne Australia – my parents decided to leave Northern Ireland in 1970 just as the “Troubles” were beginning to impact families, friends, and workmates etc.
    I welcome your input in order to discover if my paternal heritage is Irish – Scottish Surname: McMaster from County Antrim and County Down and if my maternal heritage is Anglo- Irish; Surname: Mathers – also from County Antrim and County Down.
    I want to develop a Family Tree but its nigh on impossible to gather information from ‘down-under’ and the cost to obtain information is impossible because you are required to book a timeframe, in-person to access data, which means a flight back to Dublin or Belfast, is required. My paternal heritage shall continue. I have 3 sons and one grandson to date. A family tree would enable them to appreciate their roots from Ireland. Bye for now. Warmest regards, Gary McMaster

    • carina says:

      Gary, do sign up for the free weekly Letter from Ireland and find lots of tips to help with your research
      Best of luck with the search!

  • […] McHugh was born in Dublin in 1913 to a family of schoolteachers. She attended University College Galway, and was on track to become a schoolteacher herself, when she decided to surprise her family and […]

  • Janice Jones says:

    I am descended from the Joyce family. My great great grandfather Edward Joyce at 21 emigrated from Ireland in October 1851 from Galway on the ship the Caroline to NY. He settled in the Cleveland, Ohio area. Trying to find more info on him and his family.
    Thanks, Janice Jones

    • carina says:

      Hi Janice,
      Welcome to The letter from Ireland and thanks for sharing the Irish surname in your family. To help you get started ..

      We have found that most people find the following step-by-step guide very useful for tracing their Irish ancestors.

      Each step – and more detail – is laid out here:

      Step 1- we talk about how to trace back to your first Irish ancestor in your own country.

      Step 2 – we show how to use Irish online records to discover more.

      There is even a bonus suggested Step 3!

      Do go through this guide – it’s important to give it the time – and let us know how you get on.

      We find that some people like assistance in going through this – but do not want to hire a genealogist. We created The Green Room (see more here) for people who want this low-cost assistance.

      Hope this helps with your question – all the best, Mike and Carina.

  • Gary Bret Kines says:

    In my research I learned that before Joyce’s Country, it was O’Halloran’s Country and before that, was O’Kynes’ Country. Back in the 1960s or early 1970s, a Galway newspaper that has since gone away featured histories of indigenous regional family surnames, and one issue featured the history of the O’Kynes (O Cadhain). I’ve been trying to find a copy of that article for years. I was told about it by a priest back during my first visit to Ireland in 1977. Can you help at all? Many thanks.

  • Thomas Melvin Swihart says:

    hmmm. doesn’t every family have a geneologist? I apparently am a dscendant of Gerard d’ Athee mentioned in the Magna Carta of 1215. King John brought the Athees, or Athys, or Atheys, from Normandy in the early 1200s. Eventually after hanging around in England for a while, and then in Southerns Wales, The Athys migrated to Galway and became one of the original 14 tribes of Galway. Apparently the last Athy died in the 1800s. In fact, in Galway every year is a celebration with family flags commemorating the 14 tribes. Every flag is represented by members of the family except the Athys. A group of Athys left Galway in the 16oos or early 17oos, and migratetd to Maryland here in America. A female Athy married into the Swihart line. Any information you could give me would be helpful.

    • Carina says:

      Thank you Thomas for your comments above and do keep an eye on our Letter from Ireland each week for extra information.

  • Pyers says:

    Mary Blake of Towerhill Co. Mayo was my Great Great Grandmother married to Denis O’Conor Don MP (died 1847). Their eldest son was Charles Owen O’Conor Don MP. Mary’s sister, Honoria Blake was married to Edward O’Conor the younger brother of Denis. They had just one son who died in infancy.

  • waring McCrady says:

    My father was the “principal representative” (i.e. “head,” following the old primogeniture rules) of that branch of the Lynch family that became so influential in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in South Carolina. As far as the last name “Lynch” is concerned, this branch of the family has died out, though there are numerous cousins of various last names who descend from its Lynch stock.
    Our South Carolina Lynches came over in the 1600s after the Cromwellian troubles. They seem to have been Anglican by the time they got here. In the 1720s they wrote back to Ireland for a clear genealogical chart. It was made for them in 1726 and descended right to this house, where I am now writing, and was much copied by various cousins over the years. I have an excellent reproduction digitalized from the original parchment. It gives a fanciful version of the origins of the family in Austria, but actually begins the direct descent with “Thomas Lynch, 2d Son of Lynch of the Knock in ye County of Dublin, [who] Seated himself at Gallway in ye Province of Conaught.” He “Married ye only Daughter of Marshaell Marsall.” The descent then proceeds through fourteen generations to the 1720s (the last three of which are in South Carolina).
    I have always understood that the Fourteen Tribes intermarried considerably, and I would greatly like to make the connections between these named Lynches and the other tribes. Unfortunately, the parchment rarely gives wives’ names, though it does mention that “Jonack Lynch, 3d Son” of “Stephen Lynch fitz-Dominick, who built St Augustines Abby of Gallway in the year 1500,” married “Ellish Skeritt,” and that his son “Peirce” married “Ellin Martin,” and their son “Thomas Lynch 3d Son of Peirce married “Margaret Quin” as his second wife. It was their “Jonack Lynch 3d Son [who] Removed into Carolina.” So I can cite only those four women and do not know how they may connect to other tribal trees.
    It would give me great pleasure if anybody “out there” would like to correspond in connecting this Lynch line with the other tribes. Our Lynches bore the family arms as silver, the chevron black, and the three trefoils green, if that heraldic variation is of any help.

    —Waring McCrady,

  • Susan Mersereau says:

    My 6th great grandmother was Mary Lynch born about 1740. She married Dennis Mahony. I don’t know who Dennis Mahony’s parents were. I think they married in Cork, Ireland abt 1760. I don’t know who her parents were so that line is not anywhere complete. My 4th great grandmother (Margaret Mahony) married Peter Jordan in St. Mary’s, Cork Ireland so I think I have relatives across the spectrum. The Jordans could’ve originally been a Norman but I have nothing past the Irish group.

  • Maureen Locke says:

    My father’s grandfather, Michael McNevin, we believe was born in Ireland around the mid-1850’s and emigrated to the U.S. We have no other record but a check with a person in the Dublin Castle Genealogical Records told me the McNevins were from County Galway and came down to Dublin. How would I check that to see if Michael was born in Dublin or County Galway?

    • carina says:

      Try as a starting point then join us in The Green Room to get extra expert help with your search.

  • Maureen Locke says:

    My father’s grandfather was Michael McNevin. We believe he emigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1850’s. The Dublin Castle Genealogical Records person told me the McNevins were from County Galway. Some of them moved down to Dublin, and they were either in Galway or Dublin, no place else. How would I find the McNevins in Galway? We’d like to know where he was born.

  • HEATHER says:

    Have just done an ancestry DNA and found my heritage match is 85% Galway. My Grandma was a beautiful lady who I unfortunately never got to meet and was called Mary Ellen Lynch, which I think she is related to the Lynch of the 14 tribes. So excited now to do my family tree and find out more ..

  • Edward Athey says:

    George Athy went to the USA as an indentured servant in the late 1600s. We are still around.

  • Cindi Noland says:

    My family came from County Carlow Ireland name was O’Nolan changed to Noland – was from O’Nullain O’Niallon to MacAIRT 115th Monarch of Ireland and his son 117th Monarch of Ireland or so a relative looked this up of mine

  • Joseph P Blake says:

    Thanks for this information.

  • Mary Athey Jennings says:

    We descend from George Athey who left Galway in 1662 and settled in Maryland. My daughters and I are coming to Galway in June to visit…any places associated with Athey we should visit? Thanks

  • Kathleen Egan says:

    Many years ago – probably in the 1950’s, an uncle of mine researched our family name, Egan, and sent us a page that looks like a scroll. It said that the Egans and Keegans were “a noted sept of Ui Maine” that peopled the counties of Galway, Roscommon, Clare and Offaly. My husband and I are coming to Ireland and will be touring the West, including Galway and Roscommon, starting June 3rd. I don’t know when or who of the Egans migrated to the US, possibly my great grandfather and I understand that they came through Canada (Nova Scotia). My grandfather supposedly became a US citizen by fighting in the Spanish-American war. Om my maternal grandmother’s side the names are Nolan and Dunn, but I don’t know any more about their origins. I am interested in learning in general about the associations of these names.

  • […] origin. One example is my County Galway Grandmother’s name of “Dolphin.” A Norse family that arrived in Galway about the 1200s from the northeast of […]

  • Pam Townsend says:

    I have only just found out about the fourteen familes (tribes) of Galway. I am descended from James Skerrett who was my 4th great grandfather. He actually married a Blake (don’t know her Christian name yet). Their son Charles Blake came to Australia as a convict arriving at Van Dieman’s land on 24 ay 1836. His wife arrived 18 months later with their two daughters. I am keen to learn more about these families.

  • Chris Athey says:

    We, like many others posting here, are descended from Captain George Athy.

    I’m curious that “Athy” seems to be the more common spelling in Ireland, yet shows as “Athey” on this map:


  • Crystal Koch says:

    I am not certain but my Grandfather George Christopher Blake and Great Grandfather George William Blake on my Mother’s side who lived in Minnesota May be from the Blake Clan in Galway. How would I find out? Thank you for any help!

  • It appears that my 6th great grandmother was Katherine Kirwan of Galway. She married James Butler of Doon.