Tag Archives: Irish surnames


This is a very rare category of surname. I have only been able to identify a few. The earliest Irish surnames were based on the names of a male ancestor; O’Neill ( Ó Néill, descendant of Niall), McCarthy (MacCarthaigh, son of Carthach). Some of these names were very old, dating back as far as the late ninth century, but adoption of hereditary names was a lengthy process among the Irish. Some names only date back to the 16th century, a result of septs dividing and new branches taking new surnames.
It is my belief, though, that the adoption of place name surnames took place after the English invasion and occupation of parts of Ireland, beginning in the late 12th century.
At that time most English people had not adopted hereditary surnames. The same could be said of many Irish, but the clan system in Ireland meant that many who didn’t have an inherited surname of their own would be counted as being of the sept, and therefore the surname, of their recognised king or chief.
The English saw the clan system as a barrier to the complete subjugation of the Irish and the imposition of the feudal system. So they set about breaking the link between chief and clan, and the surname became a target.
The Statutes of Kilkenny of 1367 introduced by the English ordered all Englishmen and “Irish dwelling among them” to use English surnames, speak English and adopt English customs. By that time some English settlers were becoming more like the Irish and some had Irish as well English names, Bermingham became MacFheorais,
d’Exeter MacShiúrtáin, Mandeville MacUighilín.
So where the English were able to impose their rule English surnames became de rigueur, while elsewhere Irish clan names and hibernicised English names were unaffected.
In adopting English style surnames some Irish may have opted for place-names they were associated with. It’s also possible that English settlers chose  new names from their new homes, so such names cannot tell us anything of the origins of their bearers, English, Welsh, or Irish.
I think it’s important to establish that some Irish county names, usually imposed by English administrators, might appear to have been adopted as surnames, but surnames such as Louth and Mayo can usually be shown to be English imports with other meanings.

So, on to some examples of this rare type of Irish surname. Irish language versions are in brackets

Athy (Ataoi), from the town of Athy in Kildare, though the surname now belongs in the main to Galway. The Athys were one of the fourteen “tribes” of Galway, families that dominated the economy and politics of Galway City.

Corbally (de Corbaile), the name of townlands in twenty Irish counties, though Dublin, Meath and Louth are where the surname is mainly found. Corbally means “odd townland (no further explanation). Corballis, a variant, is found as a place name in County Meath, and as a surname in County Louth.

Craughwell (Ó Creachmhaoil), there is a village of the name in East Galway, where the surname is found. However, the Irish language version of the name takes the form of a patronymic (Ó meaning ‘descendant’). Ó Creachmhaoil would be pronounced “Oh Crahweel”. So identification of Craughwell as a toponymic-type surname is not beyond doubt.

Dease (Déise), from Deece in Couny Meath, “in which county the family has been continuously since the thirteenth century” (MacLysaght, “The Surnames of Ireland”).
I remember reading that this name was adopted by a branch of Anglo-Norman family of Nugent (originally de Nogent), but I can’t remember where I read it.

Dromgoole, Drumgoole (Dromgúl), was a place name of County Louth (Dromgabhail), and a surname of Louth, Dublin and Meath.

Finglas (de Fionnghlais), a place name of County Dublin, meaning “clear stream”, and a Dublin surname.

Galbally (de Gallbhaile), place names in five counties, meaning “foreign townland”, i.e. held by settlers of non-Irish origin. MacLysaght (loc. cit.) tells us the name is in Kildare since 1359.

Santry, (de Seantraith) Santry is in Dublin but the surname belongs to County Cork.

Slane (de Slaine), there are places of this name in Meath and Antrim. The surname belongs to Northern Ireland. Slaney, which, as a surname is found in Waterford, may be a variant or a lost place name.

Trim (de Truim), a place name of County Meath, the surname belongs mainly to County Wicklow with some of the name in Monaghan.

Finally, an Irish surname that MacLysaght suggests is locative –
Powderley which he posits as deriving from Powerlough, County Meath. He writes (loc. cit.), “My suggestion … is supported by the fact that references to the surname since 1750 are nearly all to Co. Meath and Louth. I have not met it earlier than that date.”




A name that has been in the news of late, and one I’d never heard before. I thought that it looked similar to the Irish Minogue, but the ending looked too English, very like Pinnock. A search of the literature on English surnames produced nothing. So I turned to Edward MacLysaght’s “Surnames of Ireland”, and there it was. Minnock, according to this source is a variant of Minogue, Irish Ó Muineóg. Minogue is found mainly in its original homeland, East Clare, and in neighbouring Tipperary where there is a townland called Ballyminogue. Minnock belongs to the County of Offaly, with some bearers in neighbouring Leix.
The meaning of the name is unknown, Presumably Muineóg was a male given name.
I would add that, according to George Fraser Black (“Surnames of Scotland”) there is a place in North Ayrshire called Minnock, which I have yet to locate. Black suggests that this is the origin of a Scottish surname, Minnoch. A connection to the Irish Minnock seems unlikely.


NEYLON another Irish surname, in its original form Ó Nialláin, pronounced Oh Neelawn.
Neylon appears in the Hull civil register in the 1840s.
The 1851 census has a John Neylon, living with an Irish family named Cunningham in the Groves, East Hull. John was a cotton weaver, aged 16, born Ireland. He may have been related to the Cunningham family, and been employed at the Hull Flax and Cotton Mills in Cleveland Street. The Groves was an area that accommodated a substantial number of Irish and cotton mill workers. There were other Neylons in Hull at the time, but I have no record of them.
My next Neylon notice is of another John – or was he the same John? This John Neylon was a stevedore and beerseller living at 64 West Street in the West End (Directory). There was a Neylon’s Place in West Street in 1869, but this was probably a temporary name, and may have just been given to a row of houses the first of which was occupied by someone called Neylon. The West End, as I’ve noted in connection with other Irish surnames, was the main area of Irish settlement in West Hull.
My next notice is from the 1881 census –
Edward Neylon, head, married, 50, boatman, born Roscommon, Ireland
Charlotte Neylon, wife, 51, born Hull
William Neylon, son, unmarried, 24, born Hull
James Neylon, son, unmarried, 22, born Hull
Henry Neylon, son, unmarried, 15, born Hull
Catherine Neylon, daughter, 11, born Hull
Thomas Neylon, son, 7, born Hull.
All at Pickwell Court, Albion Street.

A John Neylon and an Edward Neylon were listed among a group of Irishmen who signed nomination papers of Charles Norwood MP, Liberal candidate for Hull Central at the 1885 general election. This was the election at which the Irish parliamentary party, led by Parnell, had decided to support the Tories instead of the Liberals. The breaking of ranks by some Hull Irishmen led to some expulsions from the local branches of the Irish National League (Eastern Morning News, 21st November 1885).

Neylon, as previously stated is an English language version of the Irish name Ó Nialláin, which belongs historically to County Clare. The earliest reference to the name in the Irish annals is to one “Aillill Ua Niallain”, a leading churchman who died in 1089 (Chronicon Scotorum).Other mediaeval references suggest the the O Niallans were a clerical family, holding positions in the church. Some later O Niallans were medical men, medicine was an hereditary profession in Gaelic Ireland.
The Irish chronicle known as the Annals of the Four Masters has the following entry under the year 1599 –
“Master O’Nialan (James, son of Donnell the doctor, son of Auliffe, son of Donough O’Nialan” died at Baile Uí Alle. This is of interest for the ‘doctor’ reference, but also for the name Baile Uí Aille, or Ballyally. This was the home of the O Niallans at the time.
Brian Ó Cuiv, in his “New History of Ireland” (vol.iii, p.519), mentions an Irishman, James Neylon, who graduated in Arts and Medicine at Oxford in 1545 and 1549*. Ó Cuiv goes on to suggest that this may be the James Nealan, physician, who is recorded in official documents as being given protection in 1560. He might also be the James who died at Ballyally in 1599.
Later, in the 1690s Edward Nealan, Daniel Nealan, and James Neilan, all of County Clare, were outlawed as Jacobites in the wake of the defeat of King James II’s forces, and the accession of William and Mary.

*The date, 1549, is a correction (17.6.2013). I had written 1599 in error.


MULCHINOCK This rare Irish surname is on record in East Hull in the 1870s.
Patrick Mulchinock married Catherine Meekin in Sculcoates (St. Charles Church?) in 1881
Michael Mulchinock married Ann Sheridan in Sculcoates (St. Charles Church?) in 1884
Patrick Mulchinock was living at 4 Spittle Street, and
Bridget Mulchinock was living at 2 Spittle Street in 1884 (Burgess Roll)
Spittle Street was in the Groves, one of the areas of Irish settlement in East Hull.
Michael Mulchinock was sworn in as Police Constable no. 404, Hull city Police Force, October 1914 (A.A.Clarke, “The Policemen of Hull”, 1992)
William Mulchinock, a Hull man serving with the Durham Light Infantry, lost his life in World War 1 (“Golden Book of World War One Casualties”, EYFHS, Hull 2012).

THe surname Mulchinock in Ireland belongs exclusively to West Cork and Kerry. In its original Irish form it is Ó MaoilSionóg. Though it has the appearance of an ancient name I have found no examples of the name in the middle ages when hereditary surnames were being adopted. The earliest notice to date is of two men, Anthony Mulsenoge and Maelimnery Mulsenoge in Co Cork during the Cromwellian expulsion of Catholics and transplantation to Connacht. These men were exempted from transplantation. (O’Hart’s “Landed Gentry of Ireland”).
Probably the best known person of the name was William Pembroke Mulchinock (1820-1864), a poet whose fame rests on the lyrics to one song, “The Rose of Tralee”. William was a native of Tralee, Co. Kerry, the son of a local shopowner. His uncle, however was a landowner in the county, whose heir was William’s older brother, Edward Mulchinock of Clogher House, whose descendants were still in possession of the estate into the 20th century.

The exact meaning of the surname Ó Maoilsionóg has not been explained. It is a patronymic, “descendant” (literally “grandson”) of Maolsionóg, a male given name meaning “servant, devotee” of Sionóg. It is this last component which remains a mystery. My guess is that it is either the name of some forgotten minor saint, or that it is a variant of the name Seanán. Saint Seanán (d. c. 544 A.D.), whose name was also spelt Sionán, was a holy man who lived on Scattery Island off the Kerry coast.


KERWIN The experts who take note of this name make it a variant of the Cumbrian surname Curwen. I have yet to see evidence of a connection between Curwen and Kerwin, but it is a possible origin.
Earliest references to Kerwin that I’ve seen place it in the south of England. There is also a mysterious surname, Kyrven that is mentioned in Letters and Papers, Henry VIII, anno 1537; Robert Kyrven, a leading citizen of Coventry.

Notices I’ve collected for the name in Hull suggest that some local Kerwins may have had an Irish, Kirwan, origin. For example, the register of Holy Trinity church records the marriage in 1820 of John Kerwin and Bridget Fitzpatrick. This couple are probably identical with John Kirwan and Bridget Fitzpatrick who had four children baptised at St. Charles Catholic church after its opening in 1829.
Other Irish Kerwins occur in the 19th century census returns; for example, Patrick Kerwin an Irish-born labourer living in Middle Street, West End, in 1861.
The spelling Kerwin occurs in the civil registers for the Hull district from 1875, but the spelling Kirwin occurs from 1849 (i.e., the years following post-famine Irish emigration), and Kirwin is a variant of Kirwan in Ireland.

None of these instances prove an Irish origin for Hull Kerwins, certainly not for Kerwins elsewhere. There is likely to be another origin, whether an altered spelling of Curwen or an Old English given name with the -win component that occurs in Goodwin, Unwin, etc. Win means friend, unwin, enemy.

The Irish surname Kirwan, Kirwin, was in its original Irish form Ó Ciardhubháin (modern Ó Ciarabháin), a family famous as one of the fourteen “Tribes of Galway”, the fourteen merchant families who dominated the city, and provided all its mayors and aldermen. The first Kirwan in Galway was William who settled there in 1488. His younger son, Patrick, was Warden of Galway city c. 1500. William’s elder son was the ancestor of a long line of aldermen of the city.
Curwen was the name of an English family of the Anglo-Scots border. The name comes from a place name of the Scottish side of the border, now called Colvend, but once called Culewen, as was the family.
Gilbert de Colwenn in Cumberland 1322.
Robert Curwen in Yorkshire 1379.
Sir Henry Curwen was sheriff of Workington, Cumberland, in the reign of James I.

Addendum, 30.4.13: it appears that there is, or was, a minor Norfolk place name, Kerwin or Kerwen, viz –

“Aliva or Avelina le Mareschall was living in the 34th of Henry III, when a fine was levied between Maud de Belhous, and Aliva of the fishery of Whytford, and the moiety of the fishery of Kerwin in Tudenham Faldgate, (that is North Tudenham,) which Aliva granted to belong to Maud, so that neither she nor her heirs should take any reeds therein, or have any right of common in Kerwen …”

(From: ‘Mitford Hundred and Half: Hokering’, An Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: volume 10 (1809), pp. 228-231. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk)


HIGO I believe that this surname is of Irish origin and was originally the Irish surname Igoe.
The census of 1881 has John Higo, coal dealer, born Mayo, Ireland, living at 6 Pleasant Place, Collier Street, with his wife Catherine (born Hull) and children, Mary, James, Thomas and Catherine.
Same census has Daniel Higo, labourer, born Ireland, living at 1 Providence Place, Collier Street, with wife Ann, born Ireland, and daughters Mary, Ann, Harriet, Bridget, Kate.
Collier Street was in the old West End, one of the areas of Irish settlement in Hull.
Daniel and family are recorded in the 1871 census with their surname spelt ‘Igoe’.
A family with the surname spelt Igo is in the census of 1861 in Mill Street in the old West End; Catherine, a widow, and her son and three daughters, all born Ireland.
Francis Finnegan, in her book, “Poverty and Prejudice” (1982)*, a study of the Irish in York in the mid-19th century, informs that Igoe, from Mayo, was one of the commonest names among York’s Irish community. York, like Hull, drew its Irish residents largely from North Connacht; Mayo, Sligo, Roscommon in particular.

There are differing opinions of the origin of the surname Igoe in Ireland. Patrick Woulfe in his “Irish Names and Surnames” mentions a belief that Igoes descend from survivors of the Spanish Armada who came ashore in Ireland. This can be ignored. Others associate the name with English (Cornish?) Jago, and some of this name are known to have acquired confiscated land in 17th century Ireland. Edward MacLysaght (The Surnames of Ireland) states that the Igoes are MacIagó and a branch of the O’Hanleys (Ó hAinle) of Roscommon, adding that MacIagó was also adopted as an Irish language version of Jago.
Personally I subscribe to the O’Hanley connection, based on a line of descent recorded in the O’Clery genealogies; viz., Iago (that is Aedh), son of Muircertach, son of Raghnall of Brian’s battle, son of Murchadh, son of Domhnall, son of Tadhg, son of Muircertach, son of Ainligh, ancestor of Ó hAinle.
According to this Iagó was really called Aedh (modern spelling Aodh), and he lived in the late 11th century. Brian’s Battle was Clontarf, 1014, against the Danes. Iagó may have been a nickname, meaning unknown.
Being a branch of the O’Hanleys appears to have granted them no favours. The Annals of Connacht record that one Diarmait MacIago was slain by the sons of Gilla na Naem O hAinlighe in 1465.
Then in 1641 Ferrall Mackigoe was dispossessed of his lands near the town of Roscommon by Dualta O’Hanley. (Calendar of State Papers, Ireland).
By the 19th century the MacIagó/Igoes had dispersed from Roscommon into neighbouring counties, particularly Mayo.

*The title of Dr. Finnegan’s study has been corrected as I had mistakenly named it “Poverty and Progress …”


In Irish, MagFhinn, ‘son of Fionn’.
This is a predominently Ulster surname, though the variant McGing belongs to North Connacht. It cannot be ascertained whether this last is a separate sept. According to Edward MacLysaght’s “Supplement to Irish Families” (Dublin) 1964, “MacGinn and its composite form Maginn are approximately equally numerous and are now found respectively in Counties Tyrone and Down. MacGinn, or MacGinne is listed in the ‘census’ of 1659 as a principal Irish name in the barony of Oneilland, Co. Armagh, i.e. the territory which lies between Tyrone and Down.”

In Griffith’s evaluations of the mid 19th century, however, it appears that Maginn was the favoured spelling in Co. Tyrone, and McGinn in Co. Down.

It is possible that the original home of the MacGinns was in County Down. Here are some notes on place names in Down which appear in the early records of the name.
Magheralin: Irish Machaire Loinn Rónáin, the plain of the church of Ronan. This St. Ronan founded a religious establishment here in the seventh century. One version is that he built a church in 637. He is sometimes called Ronan Fionn, but there are other saints called Ronan Fionn, unless the same Ronan is associated with more than one location.
Moira: Irish Magh Rath; Ronan was said to be of the “community” of Corco Rusen of Mag Rath. Does this refer to his kindred, or to an ecclesiastical community? Corco Rusen, “seed of Rusen”, appears to be the name of a kinship group.
Corco Rusen: names of population groups were often transferred to their territory, so Corco Rusen Mag Rath is another name for Magh Rath or Moira.
Ballymagin: Irish Baile Mhic Fhinn, “townland of MacGinn”, the name of a townland in the parish of Magheralin.
Tober Ronan: i.e., Tobar Rónáin, or Ronan’s well, which was situated in Ballymagin.
Iveagh: Irish, Uíbh Eachach, the name of the ancient kingdom (Uí Eachach Cobha or Uí Eachach Ulaidh) co-terminous with the diocese of Dromore, in which Magheralin was situated. It was also the name of the dominant population group in the kingdom. The barony name Iveagh (Upper, Lower, etc.) became the title of the ennobled McGenis chiefs, descendants of the ancient kings of Ui Eachach Cobha.

The place name Ballymagin establishes the connection of at least one early MacGinn with the parish of Magheralin and early instances of the name establish a close connection between the family and the church of St. Ronan. At this period (15th century) we are dealing with an ecclesiastical family, one of several associated with the diocese of Dromore. Kieran Clendinning in his short history of the parish of Magheralin writes, “From 1407 to 1526, there were eight canons [of Dromore] holding Magheralin, five of whom belonged to the established clerical family of Maginn.”

Patrick Magynd appointed vicar of Lann Ronan (father a priest, mother an unmarried woman) April 1407
Adam Magynd, priest of the diocese of Dromore, promoted Canon and Archdeacon of Dromore
(father a priest, mother an unmarried woman) Dec. 1414
John Magynd made vicar of the parish church of St. Ronan de Land, in the diocese of Dromore
(father a priest and a canon of Dromore, mother an unmarried woman) Jan. 1422
Patrick Magynd (deceased), rector of Clonduff, diocese of Dromore Nov. 1429
Donald Magynd, clerk, promoted canon and appointed prebendary and curate of St. Colman,
attached to the Cathedral of Dromore 1444
John Magynd, priest, who had two sons priests, mentioned sub anno 1474
Mark Magyn, canon of Dromore 1485
William Magynd, archdeacon of Down 1492
John Magynd, canon of Dromore 1492

All the above notices are from the Calendar of Papal Letters. The description “father a priest, mother an unmarried woman”, refers to the Irish custom of married clergy, which was forbidden by the church. However, as most Irish priests were married, and were members of priestly families, it was necessary for the Vatican to give special dispensations for them to hold office, as it was for any “bastard” to be ordained at that time.
Patrick Magynd 1407, and Patrick Magynd, mentioned 1429, are the same person, according to Kieran Clendinning

James McGinn of Ballymacbredan, Magheralin, pardoned 1611
James McArt Magyn, of Dromara parish, Co. Down, was tenant of church lands c.1610 had to surrender them 1641
James McGinn listed among the (mostly McGenis) landholders of Kilwarlin, Hillsborough 1656
Daniel Magin, “owned estates in Dromatihugh townland but confiscated during the rebellion”
(Ros Davies). Rising in the North? Dromatihugh, near Hillsborough, Co. Down.
Ronan Maginn, Bishop of Dromore, 1670-1697?, was born Drumatihugh, son of Daniel, above.
Dr. Patrick Maginn, brother of Ronan, and son of Daniel, above; Franciscan priest, chaplain to Catherine of Braganza; interceded with Charles II to restore some land to (Arthur Magenis) Viscount Iveagh; co-founder, with Dr. Malachi O’Kelly, of the Irish College in Paris, c.1674; later Abbé (parish priest?) of Thuly in France; died 1683.

By the mid-17th century the name was to be found in the Barony of Oneilland, Co. Armagh; seven of the name were counted in Petty’s census.
Hearth money rolls, Co. Armagh, 1665:
Shane McGinn, Knockrour [Cnoc Reamhar? Knockramer? Seagoe parish, barony of Oneilland East]
Henry McGinn, Ballenemy [Ballynamoney? Seagoe parish]
Edmond McGinn
James McGinn } Derryinner [Derryinver? Montiaghs parish, later Seagoe]
Shane Boy McGinn
The Parish of Seagoe is immediately to the west of Lurgan town, Magheralin a couple of miles to the east.

Two Maginns merit an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Edward (1802-1849), and William (1793-1842).
Edward Maginn, coadjutor Bishop of Derry from 1845, was an advocate Of repeal of the Union and a supporter of the Young Ireland movement. He was born in the parish of Fintona, County Tyrone, the son of Patrick Maginn and Mary Slevin.
William Maginn, “learned and libellous” author and poet, was born in Cork the son of John Maginn and Anne Eccles. It is noteworthy William’s mother was of Fintona, County Tyrone, so it’s possible that his paternal ancestry lay in the same district.