Norman ancestors , norman surnames

This is John Grenham writing in the Irish Times Monday 26th October:

The Norman arrival in Ireland in 1169 was just one end-point of their extraordinary expansion out of Flanders and northern France between the 11th and the 14th centuries.
Superior military technology, used with ruthless brutality, allowed them to conquer and settle a vast swathe of the medieval world, from Byzantium in the east through parts of Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain, as far west as the Canary Islands. When they got to Ireland, they were not using true hereditary surnames. The eldest-son-takes-all practice of primogeniture meant younger sons had to go off and fend for themselves, a factor driving their expansion. Perhaps that weakened the need for hereditary names that signalled wider family connections.
But the Gaelic Ireland they overran was in the middle of an explosion of surname-creation, with great networks of extended family names budding and sub-budding off central stems as families grew or waned in importance. The grandchildren of Brian Ború understandably wanted to flag their connection (Ó Briain), but the sons of one of them, Mathghamha Ua Briain, picked their own father as an origin point and became (in modern Irish) Mac Mathúna, McMahon. Four generations later, Constantine (Consaidín) O’Brien, bishop of Killaloe, was the source of the Mac Consaidín line, the Considines. A great multi-generational flowering of names was taking place.
As they did wherever they settled, the Normans eventually integrated. They out-Irished the Irish when it came to fissiparous surname adoption. Just a single family, the de Burgos of Connacht, spun off dozens of modern names: Davey, Davitt, Doak, Galwey, Gibbons, McNicholas (Mc)Philbin, Gillick, Jennings, McRedmond … all stemming from the forenames of prominent de Burgos, all following precisely the Gaelic Irish tradition.
The upshot is that almost all so-called Norman surnames were created and adopted only in Ireland. “Hiberno-Norman” is too grudging. “Irish” will do.
The best popular account of Norman surnames in Ireland is by Dr Paul McCotter, available online at

Here is Paul Mc Cotter’s series of articles :

Series of articles which will deal with those unique Irish surnames of Anglo-Norman origin, which constitute up to 10 percent of modern Irish surnames.
This article explains who the Normans were and their influence on Ireland
Part 2 deals with the four categories of AngloIrish Surnames.
Review of the current state of research. Deals with Surnames: Ashe – Costello
Deals with Surnames: Cusack – Lambert
Deals with Surnames: Lawless – Roche
Deals with Surnames: Russell – Woulfe

Part I

Historically there are three basic classes of surnames found in Ireland. Firstly, Celtic surnames of the oldest Gaelic inhabitants, the well known O’s and Mac’s; secondly, those of the so-called Anglo-Norman invaders of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; and finally the English and Scottish surnames of the various British settlers who arrived in Ireland during the period 1550-1720. This is the first in a series of articles which will deal with those unique Irish surnames of Anglo-Norman origin, which constitute up to 10 percent of modern Irish surnames.
Who were the Anglo-Normans?
The so-called history that was taught in Irish primary schools until very recent years dismissed the Anglo-Normans as merely the first wave of English murderers and rapists in the long 800 year saga of English colonial misrule in Ireland. Fortunately the present generation of scholars is being taught history of a somewhat superior quality. The Anglo-Normans were, in fact, a multi-ethnic group of French, English, Welsh and even Flemish (Dutch) background! In earlier centuries the modern concept of nation and race being synonymous did not exist, and many kingdoms consisted of peoples of varying nationalities united under one royal dynasty. The Anglo-Normans who invaded Ireland in the 1170s were the subjects of one such kingdom, ruled by the Angevin family. The origins of this kingdom go back to the early 900s AD, when Danish Vikings settled a large slice of northern France, still called Normandy after them. In 1066 their now thoroughly Gallicised (French) descendants invaded England and made their duke, William the Bastard, king of England. These Frenchmen of Danish ancestry conquered England and became its new ruling class. Their attitude to the old English aristocracy they had replaced became frozen in time in the new meaning they gave to the names of important classes in that society: boor (a large wealthy farmer), and churl (nobleman). The French influence on the English language was enormous, as can be seen easily today by any English-speaking student of French. For centuries after this, French remained the language of the English nobility and the first English king to actually learn to speak English in addition to French was Edward III in the 1330s! At the time of the invasion of Ireland King Henry II, a Frenchman from Anjou, ruled England, half of France and much of Wales!
The bulk of the leaders among the invaders of Ireland came from the Welsh colony, which itself consisted of two nationalities: Frenchmen (Normans) and Flemings, the latter being descended from mercenaries employed by the Normans at the time of the invasion of England. Both of these groups had of course intermingled over several generations with the native Celtic Welsh, who thus formed yet another element in the stew-pot. These native Welsh, in addition to a greater number of English, formed the bulk of the underclass of tradesman, small farmers and peasants who settled the countryside and the many new towns of the approximately two-thirds of Ireland conquered by the Anglo-Normans.
Anglo-Norman Ireland
The new invasion was very much an economic one, in which the new settlers colonised only the good agricultural land, upon which they practised their manorial system of mostly tillage based agriculture, much of the fruit of which would be exported overseas to other parts of the Angevin empire through the extensive network of new market towns and ports founded by the invaders. The years 1170-1250, which saw the Irish colony established, were ones of economic and technological boom and accelerated population growth throughout western Europe. Most of Munster and much of Leinster were settled by the newcomers, although Connacht and Ulster, being colder and wetter, saw much less settlement. Some of the coastal areas of Leinster were so heavily settled that a dialect of English replaced Gaelic, but over the bulk of the settled area it was only the old Gaelic landowners who were driven out, the bulk of the native population being retained to work as serfs on the new ‘intensive’ farms. Accordingly, in the countryside the Irish remained in the majority (albeit at the bottom of society), but in the towns the Anglo-Normans formed the bulk of the population. In the settled areas the native Irish usually had the status of serfs (some would however be granted English citizenship) and were a second class population in their own land, but of course about one-third of Ireland was never colonised and here the old native kingdoms and ways continued. Thus began Ireland’s long and still current tradition of playing host to two nationalities.
Decline and Decay
Throughout western Europe the boom of the thirteenth century was followed by the recession of the fourteenth. Climatic changes brought colder, wetter weather which in turn diminished harvests and led to famine among the large populations. Decades of these were followed by the arrival of the bubonic plague which decimated the populace, especially in urban areas. In Ireland the partly conquered nature of the country meant that in addition to famine and plague the colony was vulnerable to attacks from the Irish of the uncolonised areas, which increased in tempo and destructiveness throughout the century. Appeals for military help to England fell mostly on deaf ears as the English kings were then engaged in trying to conquer all of France in the so-called ‘Hundred Years War’ and had little resources left for their relatively unimportant Irish colony. Although some parts of Anglo-Norman Ireland, as for example eastern Ulster, were completely overrun by the Gael, about half of Ireland would remain within the colony; here however the enemy was emigration rather than conquest.
Beginning in the 1330s, successive administrations unsuccessfully attempted to ban the growing flood of mostly lower class colonists fleeing the increasing breakdown of the economy and of law and order. Peasants, tenant-farmers and tradesmen in their thousands with their families returned to England, emptying the rural towns and depopulating the manors, forcing the lords and squires to employ native Irish in their place while making their lands yet more vulnerable to Gaelic attack. This haemorrhage continued well into the fifteenth century and something of its extent is suggested in the fact that over half of the Anglo-Norman surnames recorded in Irish court records of the fourteenth century are now extinct in Ireland. Thus Anglo-Norman Ireland disintegrated from the bottom up.
It is axiomatic that the better off in society always survive times of difficulty better than the poor and Anglo-Norman Ireland was no exception. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries many powerful landed families increasingly adopted Irish customs and language in the course of ruling the increasingly Gaelic population of their territory, and many formed great lineages which adopted some of the features of the aristocratic Gaelic clans. This ‘becoming more Irish than the Irish themselves’ has however been rather exaggerated by past historians and a truer picture shows the Anglo-Norman aristocracy, whilst indeed becoming Gaelic in speech and some customs, retaining important Anglo-Norman cultural elements, especially in relation to the practice of law, descent of land and a clear awareness of Anglo-French nationality that decisively marked them apart from their Gaelic fellows. Indeed even as late as the political turmoil of mid-seventeenth century Ireland the ‘Old English’ formed a political common cause, Catholic yet fiercely loyal to the Crown, marking them as separate to the Gaelic Irish. Centuries of intermarriage between both groups had, of course, occurred by this time so that the distinction should be understood in a political rather than racial context. Ironically, the actions of both Oliver Cromwell and Charles II combined to sink the descendants of the Anglo-Normans into a union of poverty and discrimination with the Gaelic Irish from whom they finally became indistinguishable.
Anglo-Norman influence on Ireland
It would be wrong to exaggerate the gap between the civilisation of the Anglo-Normans and that of the Gaelic Irish it superseded. Nevertheless the Anglo-Normans with their mainland European heritage were sufficiently advanced in both military and economic technology to give them a distinct edge over the older insular Celtic civilisation of Ireland.
Just as with the English language so also did French have an influence on the Gaelic language, although not to anything like the same degree. Words which seem very ‘Irish’, such as for example seomra (a room) and garsún (a boy, often anglicised as gorsoon) derive from and retain the pronunciation of their French originals: chambre and garcon. Similarly many Christian names which appear so Irish today were first borrowed from the Anglo-Normans. In this category come Seán (from Jean), Eamon (from Edmond), Séamus (from James), Pairas/Pierce (from Piers), Siobhán (from Jean) and many others.
The majority of the numerous towns founded by the colonists (previously the Irish with their rural culture had had little use for towns) survive today, and a majority of Ireland’s main towns and cities were first founded by the Anglo-Normans. Of particular interest to genealogists will be the foundation by the Anglo-Normans of Ireland’s parish system in the thirteenth century. While the older Celtic church had district chapels these were not parochialised. It was the settlers who extended the existing diocesan system down to parish level. Often the new parish churches simply took over from the older Celtic ones but in addition many new churches were also built to cater for the greater population levels under the colony. It is usually possible to tell one from another by ascertaining the name of the saint to whom the church is dedicated; one with an Irish name will have originated as a Celtic foundation while one with an Anglo-Norman dedication will have been founded by the settlers. The Anglo-Norman period was, of course, before the reformation when everyone was Roman Catholic. With the trauma of the Reformation in Ireland during the period after 1536, the Established Church forcibly seized all parish churches, the majority of which were later allowed to go to ruin as this Church did not have the membership to maintain more than a certain number, thus accounting for the fact that today the majority of Ireland’s ancient parish churches are merely overgrown ruins in overgrown graveyards in the middle of the countryside, mute testimony to the population boom of the thirteenth century and to the later religious wars which deprived the entire nation, Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter, of our mutual Christian heritage.
The most enduring legacy of the Anglo-Normans was, of course, their blood, which today flows in the veins of all of the people of Ireland and those of Irish descent overseas. As an example we might take the various Taoisigh (prime-ministers) of the Irish Republic in the period since its foundation (1922) to the present. Of the ten holders of this office three (Costello, Fitzgerald and Bruton) bear surnames of Anglo-Norman origin while that of another (Lemass) is probably also of similar origin.

About the Author
Paul McCotter is both a genealogist and medieval historian, and has published several articles on the Anglo-Norman period and later, one of which is a genealogical memoir of the Carew family of County Cork spanning nine centuries. His latest work, a new edition of the Pipe Roll of Cloyne co-edited with Kenneth Nicholls of UCC, one of Ireland’s leading medievalists, contains in its notes a mass of hitherto unpublished material concerning the history and genealogy of many of the leading surnames of County Cork and surrounding counties, such as Barrett, Barry, Condon, Cogan, Cotter, Cremin, Fitzgerald, Fitzgibbon, Healy, MacCarthy, Magner, Mead, Noonan, Power, Roche and Walsh, to name only a few. Launched last December, a limited number of copies are still available in Cork bookshops or can be ordered direct from the publishers, the Cloyne Literary and Historical Society, c/o Tom Kelleher, Inygraga, Midleton, County Cork.In the next article in this series we will look at the surnames themselves.

Part II

by Paul McCotter
Anglo-Norman surnames fall into diverse categories, reflecting the multi-ethnic origins of the colonial population as referred to in Part I of this series. Four basic categories of surname exist: patronyms, formed by the Christian name of an ancestor; toponyms, taken from a placename associated with an ancestor; surnames consisting of the nickname of an ancestor; and surnames denoting the ethnic origin of an ancestor.

Surnames from Ethnic Origin

We will begin with the last, the smallest category. Walsh/Welsh/Welch is the commonest modern Irish surname of Anglo-Norman origin, the fourth or fifth commonest surname in Ireland today. The South Welsh colony was the nearest part of the Angevin Kingdom to Ireland, and accordingly a disproportionately large element of the Irish settler population had geographic Welsh origins. Along with the Welsh based Normans and Flemings came many ethnic (Celtic) Welsh, usually, though not by any means exclusively, among the lower orders of the immigrants. Most of these men were known in French, the language of law and property, simply as ‘the Welshman’, le Walys. This has become Wallace in Scotland but Walsh et al in Ireland. In every part of Ireland settled by the newcomers we find people called le Walys, and the Walshs of today must descend from dozens, if not hundreds, of individual Welshmen. In County Cork alone a cursory glance at records of the fourteenth century indicate the existence of at least twenty distinct families of le Walys.
A similar multi-ancestral situation must explain the common occurance of the name Fleming, denoting an ethnic Dutch speaker, originally from Flanders in what is today Belgium. Many Flemings had settled in South Wales in the late eleventh century, their descendants later coming to Ireland. Also in this category can be placed the Tipperary and Dublin name English, the Louth and Connacht name French (earlier ‘le Franceys’) and the widespread, if not particularly common name Brett/Britt, indicating one of Breton origin. The most interesting of these names is surely the Cork/Waterford name Lumbard/Lombard, denoting one of Italian ancestry (the name derives from the northern Italian province of Lombardy). The first member of this family to appear was one Cambino Donati del Papa, an Italian banker and royal tax official who settled in Cork City in the late thirteenth century, and from whose brother(s) descend the later Lumbards.
Toponyms form a most interesting category, tracing the route of a population movement from France to Ireland spanning two centuries. The syntax of such surnames originally took the form de followed by the placename. Naturally, most toponyms of French origin originate from Normandy. In the following sample list the Irish surname is followed by its principal Irish county of association, after which is given the modern form of the placename of origin.
De Courcy (Cork) Courci Nugent (Meath/Cork) Nogent Cantillon (Kerry) Canteloup Tobin (Tipperary) St Aubyn Devereux (Wexford) Evreux Morris/Marsh (Tipperary) Mareis Mansfield (Waterford) Manneville Verdon (Louth) Verdun Darcy (Meath) Arcy Prendivill (Kerry) Frenneville Barnewell (Meath/Dublin) Berneval Not all of the French invaders had Norman origins, as evidenced by such toponyms as Rocheford/Riceford — Rochfort (Charente Maritime), and Cusack — Cussac (Aquitaine).
Many English toponyms are found in Ireland, although the ancestors in question are more likely to have been Normans, Flemings or Bretons than Anglo-Saxons, the toponyms representing the newly won English estates of the conquerers. Examples are:
Burke (Connacht/Munster) Burgh, Preston (Meath), Bermingham (Galway/Kildare) Landers (Waterford) London Dowdall (Louth) Dovedale Dalton (Westmeath) Alton Cantwell (Kilkenny) Kentwell Hennebry (Tip./ Inkborough Rossiter (Wexford) Rochester Hodnett (Cork/Waterford)Hodnet Dillon (widespread) Dilwyn Comerford (Kilkenny), Stafford (Wexford), Stapleton (Kilkenny/Tipperary)
Unsurprisingly, South Wales contributes many Irish toponyms.
Roche (Cork/Limerick/Wexford), Barry (Cork), Prendergast (Mayo/Wexford/Tip.) Kennefick (Cork/Kildare) Kenfig Stanton (Mayo/Cork) Nagle/Nangle (Meath/Cork) Angle Stacpoole (Leinster), Cogan/Goggin (Cork), Trant (Kerry) Trewent Landy (Tipperary) Llanffey Pembroke (Kilkenny) Cardiff (Leinster)
We even have Anglo-Norman toponyms of Irish origin, such as the Cork surnames Mead and Galway whose origins are obvious, the Meath name Dease, taken from the barony of Deece in the same County, and Drumgoole, from a place in County Louth.


Patronyms similarly cross ethnic boundaries. French examples include the Cork name Garrett and the Kildare/Tipperary/Galway name Hacket (Haket). The rare Cork surname Hankard appears to derive from the Flemish Christian name Tancard. The Wexford surname Lambert is similarly derived from a Flemish Christian name as is the Waterford Wyse (Wyzo). Many patronyms were formed from Anglo-Saxon (pre-Norman English) Christian names.
Examples are: Aylward (Waterford/Kilkenny) Aylmer (Kildare) Esmond (Wexford) Everard (Tipperary).

The Leinster patronyms Wogan (Gwgan) and Howlin (Hwlyn) are of Celtic Welsh origin. Of particular interest are that small group of patronyms preceeded by ‘Fitz’, from the French fils, ‘son of’. In this category are the names FitzGerald, FitzMaurice, FitzGibbon, FitzSimmons and FitzHarris. The Kerry surname MacElligott was originally FitzElias. Confusingly however, the Laois/Kilkenny surname FitzPatrick is not of Anglo-Norman origin but was the form adopted by the native Mac Giolla Phádraig family, anciently kings of Ossory, due to pressures of anglicisation.
Of rather more interest are those surnames derived from nicknames, many of which are of French origin. A sense of humour bordering on the cruel was clearly part of life at this time. From a French background come:
Pollard (Limerick) skinhead Luttrell (Dublin) otter Mortell (Cork) hammer Purcell (Limerick/Tipperary) piglet Ferriter (Kerry) butcher Bossher/Busher (Waterford) butcher Savage (Down) fat Grace (Carlow/Kilkenny) fat Dollard (Leinster) dullard, idiot Codd (Wexford) scrotum/testicles Cott (Cork) scrotum/testicles Magner/Magnier (Cork) mangonel* (*magonel: a type of military catapult for firing large stones.)
Then we have names of English background, such as the Kildare Shortall (short neck), and the Limerick Woulfe. Many nicknames originate in descriptive terms relating to hair colouring. The Munster/Leinster name Sherlocke, of English origin, is derived from ‘bright locks’ while the widespread Browne may be either English or French; the equally widespread Russell (red haired) is decidedly French while the Galway name Blake (black haired) is English. The meaning of many of these surnames occur in both English and French forms in the early records. Well over a dozen families styled le Blond occur in thirteenth-fourteenth century records from Munster, Leinster and Ulster; by the later fourteenth century we find these families using the direct English translation White. The Tipperary/Cork surname Keating derives from the Welsh term cethyn: ‘swarthy’, ‘dark featured’.

Rare Names

Many of Ireland’s surviving Anglo-Norman surnames are of relatively uncommon occurance today while at the other end of the spectrum we have the numerous descendants of the great lineages, with names of intermediate occurance in between. As late as the mid-nineteenth century bearers of these surnames were mostly still found in the same counties their ancestors had inhabited. Two examples of uncommon names may be of interest. Boyton is a place in Suffolk, and a family called Boyton first occur in association with the Tipperary town of Cashel as early as 1235. This family were prominent Cashel merchants for centuries after and gave their name to the nearby parish of Boytonrath. Several Catholic Boytons lost their lands around Cashel in the 1650s, and some families of the name can still be found in the hinterland of Cashel. The Norman de la Montaigne (‘of the mountain’) family held lands near Castlemartyr in County Cork from the thirteenth century onwards. The form ‘Mayntayn’ occurs in the 1580s in the same area, although by then the family were no longer freeholders, while today a small number of Mountain families can still be found in the area.
Common Names
Lineage is the term given by some historians to once powerful Anglo-Norman families whose numbers multiplied greatly in the centuries following upon the invasion, and whose descendants remain numerous today. The principal lineages bore the surnames FitzGerald, Butler, Burke/Bourke, Barry, Roche, Bermingham, and Power, while other surnames which might be described as lineages include Joyce, Keating, Barrett/Barratt, and Costello. The lineages descend from great lords who, from the earliest, appear to have kept concubines, often of native blood, and so had many children, legitimate or otherwise, to settle upon their broad acres. Many generations of such breeding habits saw the formation of dozens of gentry families of the same blood settled on the lands of the senior line of the family. One example, the FitzGeralds, is illustrative. Maurice Fitz Gerald was one of the original invaders of Ireland in 1169. He was a native of the colony of Pembroke in Wales and was the son of Gerald fitz Walter, constable of Pembroke from about 1097 onwards, whose castle was at Carew. This Gerald was the son of a Norman who had come over in 1066 with King William. From Maurice’s brother William descend the Carew family while from his other brother David, bishop of St Davids in Wales, come the FitzGeralds, barons of Brownsford in County Kilkenny. Maurice himself had six sons, all of whom obtained lands in Ireland. Four of these left descendants: Thomas, ancestor of the Geraldines of Desmond, Gerald, ancestor of the Kildare Geraldines, Maurice, ancestor of the Geraldine barons of Burnchurch in County Kilkenny, some of whose descendants style themselves Barron, and Robert who settled on lands in County Kerry and whose great-grandson Maurice is the ancestor of the Kerry FitzMaurices. One of the early FitzMaurices was Piers, ancestor of the Kerry Pierses.
The Fitzgeralds
The later Geraldine Earls of Desmond and Kildare, among the most powerful of Ireland’s medieval magnates, were virtually lords of independent mini-kingdoms, generously populated with various descendants, legitimate and otherwise. The Desmonds were particularly prolific. As early as the mid-thirteenth century John fitz Thomas is recorded as siring four illegitimate sons, each allegedly by the wife of a different native chieftain, three of whom were prolific themselves. From Gilbert descended the later FitzGibbons of Cork and Limerick, John was ancestor to the Knights of Glin, County Limerick, while Maurice was ancestor to the later and numerous Kerry Geraldine family whose chief is known as the Knight of Kerry. Other later offshoots of the main-line included several FitzGerald families whose lands were located in Counties Waterford, Cork and Limerick while from the Knights of Kerry descended a nest of FitzGerald gentry families whose lands were located in south-east County Cork between Youghal and Midleton. By around the year 1600 in the Counties of Kerry, Limerick, Cork and Waterford we find approximately 150 FitzGerald and FitzGibbon landowning families claiming descent from Thomas son of the first Maurice FitzGerald. These in turn must be the ancestors to the many such families found in these counties today.

Language Changes

In the course of time the original French and English spoken by the colonists was replaced by Gaelic, only to be replaced again by English in more recent centuries. The relevance of this to surname studies will be obvious. The Cork and Limerick Norman surname de la Chapelle became Suipéal in Gaelic, only to be retranslated into English in the late sixteenth century as Supple, its modern form. The surname Nugent is that of an important and once powerful Meath family of Norman origin. The Cork and Waterford Nugents however, were originally called de Wynchedon, a form that re-emerged in the sixteenth century from its Gaelic intermediate as Nugent. Another feature of Gaelicisation was that of colonial families adopting native style patronyms. Thus the descendants of the thirteenth century Connacht settler Jocelyn de Angulo (the later Nangle) became the Mac Jocelyns, Gaelicised as MacGoisdhealbh, eventually coming back into English as McCostello, from which the Mac is often dropped today. Similarly, many of the Kilkenny descendants of the Cornishman Odo le Archdeacon, who lived in the early 1200s, adopted the form Mac Oda, the later Cody. Not all such patronyms successfully replaced the original form: the Cork de Courcys later dropped their patronym MacPatrick (from the first of the line, Patrick de Courcy).
In the next article in this series we will take a brief look at the histories of the most numerous of the Irish Anglo-Norman surnames.

Part III

by Paul McCotter
Most Frequently Occurring Anglo-Norman Surnames
(Based on Matheson)
Before we begin our survey a word about the current state of research. Much remains to be done in the area of uncovering the origins and descent of Ireland’s Anglo-Norman surnames. Little original research is being carried out today, leading to an over-dependency among scholars on the pioneering work of the late Dr McLysaght, author of a very fine corpus of work on Irish surname studies.
MacLysaght’s principal and perhaps inevitable failure, given the national scope of his work, was that of lack of detailed local knowledge of many areas, his efforts at compensation for this weakness often consisting of guesswork. Two random examples may be given. Kenneth Nicholls has shown that MacLysaght’s belief that the Anglo-Norman Mandeville family of County Antrim adopted the Gaelic patronym McQuillan, a common Antrim surname of today, was erroneous. In fact the McQuillans were a branch of the Scottish McDonnell clan while the Ulster Mandevilles abandoned their Antrim lands and retired to their County Waterford estate in the mid-fourteenth century. Their descendants remained of importance around Dungarvan for centuries after this, and in the seventeenth century adopted the English form Mansfield when their surname re-emerged from its Gaelic form, Mónbhíol, which preserves closely the original French pronunciation. Then we have the Danish origin of the Cork surname Coppinger, as advanced by McLysaght, apparently swallowing the earlier error of a Cork historian of a previous generation. Coppinger, earlier Copiner, in fact derives from the Old English copenere, meaning ‘paramour’. Many other examples could be cited. The point here is that while MacLysaght’s work remains of major importance, and is unlikely to be superseded for many years to come, much additional work remains to be done.
The importance of local studies in this field cannot be stressed enough. The general view concerning the surname Joyce is that it is a Galway name. While Galway is certainly the ancestral home of most of the Irish Joyces there was a branch of the family settled near Killeagh in east Cork from at least the fourteenth century onwards, whose descendants remain numerous in the area and in nearby Cork City. This explains the Cork City origins of Ireland’s most famous literary man, James Joyce, whose ancestors were Corkonians.
Another such example we might take would be that of the surname Carew. True Carews are of the same stock as the FitzGeralds (see Part II), i.e. descended from Cambro-Norman aristocrats. In the early Anglo-Norman period members of this family settled in counties Cork, Tipperary, Carlow, and Mayo. The name can still be found, rarely, in the last two counties while my studies have revealed that the Cork Carews are now disguised under the distinct surname Carey, itself usually an Anglicisation of the native ‘Ciardha’ those of west Cork origin being probably of native stock while those of east Cork origin are likely true Carews. Tipperary and Waterford are the only Irish counties where Carews are relatively numerous today but here, ironically, they are, in all probability, descendants of the native Ó Corráin sept of County Tipperary, whose homeland lay in the same area as that of the genuine Tipperary Carews, never numerous, who had disappeared by the end of the fourteenth century, and whose surname has been culturally ‘borrowed’ by the Ó Corráin (originally in the late sixteenth century — the habit has, of course, endured). Such are the intricacies of Irish surname study.
The greatest obstacle to the researcher in the field of Anglo-Norman surname studies today is the gross neglect and underfunding of both our national repositories and publishing effort, a story which has remained unchanged since the foundation of the state. Genealogists will be familiar with the gross underfunding and resultant understaffing of the National Library and National Archives, and so will not be surprised that a similar situation exists elsewhere. The burning of our Public Record Office by vandals in 1922 destroyed the greater share of our historical and much of our genealogical sources. In light of this one would have expected later governments to compensate by treasuring the remnants of our history: not so, not so. The Irish Manuscript Commission has struggled for decades on a shoestring budget, barely operating. Currently it does not even have a distribution network in the Republic, and farcically, one has to travel to Belfast to obtain its few current publications. Again one has to question the value of what little that house does publish. Material of limited value achieves publication while key source material, such as the seventeenth century Books of Survey and Distribution, a national survey of land ownership arranged by county, remain largely unpublished. Inconsistencies abound. The early seventeenth century Patent Rolls of James I, originally typeset in the 1830s, finally achieved publication in 1966, minus an index, which was however, promised shortly. In many ways this huge volume is almost useless without such a tool, which we still await. Another example concerns the Justiciary Rolls, all that remain of our early criminal case law and material of enormous value to students of history, genealogy, toponomy and criminology. Two volumes were published before 1922, covering the years 1295-1307. By the time of the fire a third volume covering the years 1308-1313 had been typeset; this was finally published in 1955. Material for a fourth volume, consisting of several hundred pages of longhand material on foolscap copied from the original rolls before the fire, with material covering the years 1314-1318, is held in the Archives and has, to the best of my knowledge, not even been microfilmed due to financial constraints.
Substantial quantities of valuable documentation remain unpublished and, in many cases, even unfilmed. Such a situation, probably unique in Western Europe, belies our reputation as a nation which values its history and suggests that at least in the cultural area, we are, to paraphrase Bob Geldof, something of a banana republic.
Most Frequently Occurring Anglo-Norman Surnames (Based on Matheson)
This is an English name meaning dweller by the ash tree. In the fourteenth century it is found in Dublin, Kildare, Waterford and Kerry. Today the name is well scattered and relatively common only in Kerry and Antrim; in the latter county it is, of course, a seventeenth century British introduction.
Although traditionally thought to be of Welsh Celtic origin this surname came to Ireland from Pembroke in Wales and appears ultimately to be of French origin. Originally settling around Glandore in west Cork in the early thirteenth century, these Cork Barretts obtained lands in Mayo during the invasion of the 1230s and most Irish Barretts must descend from these related stocks. Other Barretts were found in the early period in Tipperary and Kildare. In both Mayo and Cork powerful Barrett lineages forming clans along native lines thrived for centuries; the Cork group by conquering a territory just west of the city in the fourteenth century at the expense of other colonists.
In general Leinster and Munster Barrons descend from an early branch of the FitzGeralds (see Part II) while in northern Ireland (as distinct from Northern Ireland) most Barrons are really MacBarrons, an O’Neill offshoot.
This family take their toponym from the island of Barry off the south Welsh coast and appear to be of ultimate Flemish origin. From Pembroke they came to Cork in the 1180s and later obtained lands in Connacht (Castlebar, County Mayo is called from them), north Tipperary and near Dingle in Kerry. It was only in Cork that they thrived, becoming one of that county’s major lineages with three major branches and many minor ones. The senior line, the earls of Barrymore, became extinct in 1823 but Barrys remain numerous in Cork and surrounding counties.
A surname derived from the common French Christian name Benoit; the name was common and widespread in Leinster (especially Kilkenny) and Munster in the early period, doubtless commemorating many distinct and unrelated Benoits. Still today common in Leinster and Munster, the name is also numerous in Ulster, where it is of seventeenth century British origin.
The first members of this family came from the English midlands to Kildare with the first invaders in the 1170s. In the 1230s they took part in the invasion of Connacht, thereby acquiring lands in Galway and Sligo. Finally the family acquired lands in Tipperary by marriage, in the 1250s. Although the exact descent of the early generations is unclear it is certain that we are dealing with the one family, and thus that all Irish Berminghams descend from the one stock. Today the distribution of the surname still follows broadly that of the thirteenth century. Of the same stock are the Corish family, who take their name from the Gaelic patronym of the early Berminghams, Mac Feorais (from Piers de Bermingham).
Denoting one of Breton origin, early occurrences of the name are spread over Leinster, Munster and Connacht. The name remains somewhat common in Dublin, Sligo and Tipperary (Britt is almost exclusively the Munster form), the same regions the name was most prevalent during the thirteenth century.
Many brown haired men must have sired today’s Browns; in the early period the name was common throughout colonial Ireland, just as it is today.
The first of this family, William de Burgh, a native of Norfolk, came to Ireland with King John in 1185 and obtained lands in Tipperary and elsewhere in Munster. All Irish Burkes claim descent from this William. William’s son Richard was created earl of Ulster and led the conquest of Connacht from his new town of Galway. For a period, his descendants were among the most powerful lords of the colony, being the chief magnates of Connacht and Ulster while retaining extensive lands in Munster. Eventually, with the decay of central government in the colony, the family’s unity was fragmented resulting in three separate ‘clans’ emerging: the Clanrickarde Burkes in Galway, the MacWilliam Iochtar Burkes in Mayo and the Clanwilliam Burkes in southern Tipperary. The latter branch lost much of their lands to an O’Brien resurgence in the fifteenth century while those of Galway and Mayo remained powerful into the seventeenth century.
Another great Anglo-Norman lineage like the Burkes, the Butlers descend from Theobald Walter who also came to Ireland with John in 1185, and whose brother was the archbishop of Canterbury. John created Theobald the chief butler of his lordship of Ireland, hence the surname. Theobald’s original lands were not especially extensive and lay in Kilkenny, Wicklow and Carlow. The head of the family was created earl of Ormond in 1328, reflecting the growing importance of the lineage, who by the end of that century had become the chief lordly family of south Leinster. Always noted for their loyalty to the English king and his Irish administration in Dublin, the Butlers helped foster the ‘Englishness’ of their capitol, Kilkenny City, from which they ruled an extensive lordship which included all or part of Kilkenny, Carlow, Wicklow and Tipperary. Several important junior branches evolved, especially those of Cahir and Dunboyne (both of whose lands lay in Tipperary). The senior line of the family, who donated Kilkenny Castle to the state in 1968, are extant.
Descendants of Odo le Archdeacon (Mac Oda = sons of Odo), whose original lands lay in County Kilkenny and who lived in the early thirteenth century. The form Archdeacon remained interchangeable with McCody until the seventeenth century, when the latter dropped its Mac. Cody is much more common than Archdeacon today, although the latter is not extinct. In the sixteenth century the surname was confined to Kilkenny and Tipperary, where it is still most numerous today, while it has spread further afield in the interim. Buffalo Bill Cody’s ancestors hailed from Tipperary.
see Goggin.
This family derive their surname from a place in Staffordshire. Originally de Quemerford, the families original thirteenth century lands lay in Kilkenny and Waterford, from where the name has spread into Tipperary.
Derived from Caunteton, a place in south Wales. This family owe their Irish sojourn to the marriage of Nicholas de Caunteton to Mabil, sister of Raymond le Gros de Carew. Several sons of Nicholas and Mabil accompanied their uncle Raymond, one of the leading invaders of the 1170s, to Ireland, and obtained lands from the latter in Carlow, Wexford and north east Cork. The family lost their Leinster lands to the Gaelic resurgence of the early fourteenth century but went on to form a minor lineage on their Cork lands, despite losing some of these to their deadly enemies and neighbours, the Roches of Fermoy. Condon is still essentially a Cork and Tipperary surname.
The ancestor here is Jocelyn de Angulo (later Nangle), whose descendants took his name as a patronym to give McCostello in English (see Part II), from which the Mac is usually dropped today. Jocelyn was the son of Gilbert de Angulo who obtained lands in Meath, while he himself partook in the invasion of Connacht in 1235, obtaining the barony of Costello (as it later came to be called) in County Mayo. Here the Costellos formed a powerful lineage which endured for centuries.

Part IV

by Paul McCotter
Most Frequently Occurring Anglo-Norman Surnames
(Based on Matheson)
People bearing this French toponym arrived in County Meath with the first invaders and the name soon spread to Kildare and Connacht. The name arrived in County Clare in the fourteenth century. Today the name is principally found in Limerick and Clare.
This family derive their surname from one of the at least five places called Alton in England. The surname first became established in Ireland in Dublin and Westmeath in the thirteenth century and the family was long of great importance in the latter county, part of the barony of Rathconrath long being known as Daltons’ Country. By the early fourteenth century the name had spread into Connacht where it did not flourish, and later in the same century (according to MacLysaght) to Munster. Today Daltons are principally found in Westmeath, Kilkenny, Limerick and Waterford.
MacLysaght states that only in Leinster are the Darcys of Norman stock, those of Munster and Connacht being Gaelic Ó Dorchaidhes in disguise. He goes on to derive the Leinster Darcys from the English immigrant John d’Arci, viceroy of Ireland in the 1320s, but this cannot be entirely true as men bearing this surname are found in Dublin in the preceding century.
This family became established in Westmeath during the initial settlement in the twelfth century and remained powerful for long after, part of that county being known as Dillons’ Country. A branch of this family established itself in Mayo soon after. The early form of the name, Delyn, suggests that Reaney’s derivation from the Old French Christian name Dillon (from a Frankish root) is correct. In the sixteenth century the name principally occurs in Westmeath, Meath and Connacht while today its strongholds are Dublin, Limerick and Galway.
A family bearing this English toponym (Dovedale) are found in County Louth in the 1280s, and from them descend the later Dowdalls, a major family in the county for centuries after. Today the surname is still mainly of north Leinster provenance.
The meaning of this name is self-explanatory. Since its arrival in Ireland at the time of the invasion this name has principally been found in Tipperary and Dublin. The name is also common in Ulster but here MacLysaght derives it not, as one might think, from later British immigrants but from a native Gaelic surname, Mac an Gallóglaigh, meaning the son of the Gallowglass (a Scots-Gaelic mercenary).
MacLysaght derives this surname from the word pagan but gives no authority. The earliest occurrence is in Dublin around 1200, where the family was long established as a burgher family, a branch moving to Cork City in the fifteenth-century. The family was also prominent in County Meath from the fourteenth century onwards and is later found in County Waterford.
An account of this Norman-French aristocratic family is given in Part 2. Counties where those bearing the surname of this great lineage are common are all the Munster counties, Dublin and Kildare.
For the origins of this family see Part 2. Their lands lay in counties Cork and Limerick and a barony in the former county is still known as Condons and Clangibbons after them.
Like both previous entries this one concerns a branch of the great Geraldine family, whose aristocratic Norman-French ancestry is remembered by use of fitz, derived from the Norman-French fils. This lineage is exclusively associated with County Kerry, where the barony of Clanmaurice preserves the approximate outline of its earlier territory. This ‘clan’ long and heroically resisted efforts by the Fitzgerald earls of Desmond to dominate it.
MacLysaght states that a family so-called first settled in County Mayo during the thirteenth-century whose Gaelic patronym was Mac an Ridire meaning sons of the knight. He goes on to state that a second and distinct group occurs in Leinster from the fourteenth century onwards. In the sixteenth century the name principally occurs in several Leinster counties and in County Down, and today the surname is principally found in Ulster and Leinster. Clearly, more work needs to be done on the history of this interesting surname.
The majority of Irish Flemings must descend from the many individual Flemings (see Part 2) who settled throughout the Anglo-Norman colonial area at the time of the invasion. Certainly the name occurs in virtually every colonial county in the Justiciary Rolls of the period 1295-1314. A particularly important family of the name were lords of Slane in County Meath. The surname is scattered throughout Ireland and those in the three southern provinces certainly descend in general from settlers of the Anglo-Norman period. In Ulster most Flemings must descend from seventeenth century Scottish settlers, Fleming being a leading Scottish surname although ultimately of the same origin as the Irish name.
Both surnames derive from forms such as le Franceys, the Frenchman. Early records of (probably unrelated) individuals so styled occur in Wexford, Dublin, Limerick and Kerry, the prominent Wexford family, of Tacumshin, can be traced from the early fourteenth century onwards; over time the form of their name changes from Franceys to French. The Connacht Frenchs appear to descend from a Walter French who arrived in Galway City in the 1430s; according to one account he was from Wexford. I can find no evidence to substantiate MacLysaght’s derivation of the Connacht Frenchs from the de Freyne family. These surnames are well scattered today, those in Ulster may descend from planters of the seventeenth century.
This English surname occurs in Wexford in the 1280s, with which county it remains chiefly associated, while also being associated from the same period with Dublin.
Derived from gernoun, an Old French word for mustache, the principal family of this name were important settlers in County Louth from early in the settlement. Several such men sporting facial hair may be the ancestors here as the name occurs early in several distinct areas. The name is also found in early times in east Ulster and in Kildare. Today it is still found in the same areas, principally in Monaghan and Dublin.
In Ireland this is a County Mayo surname. Here the ‘Clangibbon’ descend from Gilbert (Gibbon) Burke, the grand-nephew of Earl Walter of Ulster who died in 1271. Gibbon’s descendants long formed an important sept in that county. The name is still chiefly found in Connacht.
This comes from Cogan, a place near Cardiff in Wales. This family, like most of the south Welsh colonists, was probably of Flemish origin. The family was among the leaders of the invasion of Cork; most, if not all, of them must descend from Richard de Cogan who lived in the early thirteenth century. Richard also possessed lands around Bray in Wicklow and obtained lands in Galway at the time of the Connacht invasion, which the family lost during the fourteenth century. Also in that century the greater share of the Cogan estate in Cork was overrun by the McCarthys and Barretts but they retained lands south of Cork City until the seventeenth century. Today the name is principally found in County Cork with a smaller concentration in Kildare, descendants perhaps of an early offshoot settled on the Leinster lands.
This surname derives from the Welsh word coch, meaning red. In the thirteenth-century the name occurs mostly in Waterford, of which city the family were burghers, from where it (presumably) spread to the city of Dublin and the County Cork town of Youghal. By the sixteenth-century the name is found in Waterford, Tipperary and Dublin, the same three counties where it principally occurs today.
This surname is certainly derived from the French word gros, meaning fat. McLysaght’s heart ruled his head when he derived the Irish Graces from the famous Raymond le Gros, one of the first invaders of Ireland in the 1160s. In fact they descend from William le Gras of Chipping Sodbury in Gloucestershire, several of whose sons came to Leinster in the train of William Marshall I in the early thirteenth century and obtained lands in Kilkenny, Carlow and Laois from him. William was a Norman aristocrat with a pedigree traceable back to eleventh century France. Today the name is principally found in Kilkenny and Dublin.
This name derives from an English Christian name of ultimate Norse origin. The surname appears to have three distinct origins in Ireland. Firstly, those of around Cashel in County Tipperary, where the name is on record from at least the mid-thirteenth century. These remained very prominent in the area for centuries after, and the modern Hacketts of Tipperary and Kilkenny probably descend from them. Secondly, those of County Kildare, who are really de Ridelsfords (a place in Lincolnshire), Haket being a prominent Christian name of this family. These must descend from theHaket de Ridelsford of Kineagh who lived in the late thirteenth century, the first Ridelsfords coming there at the time of the invasion; the name remains present in Kildare and Dublin. Lastly, we have the Hacketts of Ulster, particularly County Tyrone. Here the name must be a British introduction of the seventeenth century.
Derived from a French (earlier Frankish) Christian name. In the thirteenth century Herberts were found in Kildare, Dublin, Waterford and Cork; the last county also had a family of FitzHerberts. By the sixteenth century the name occurs in Dublin, Kildare, Limerick and Kerry; these Kerry Herberts are not to be confused with the English Elizabethan settlers in the same county.
Families of this name became established in Wexford and Kerry at the time of the invasion, those of Wexford said to descend from a Philip le Hore; it is not clear if they both spring from the same stock. The name derives from an old English word meaning white/grey haired. In the following centuries the name spread westwards from Wexford into Kilkenny, Waterford and Limerick.
McLysaght derives this name from Houssaye in Normandy but the early form, always a simple Hose, indicates that Reaney’s derivation from a French word meaning booted (shod) is more likely to be correct. The family first settled in Meath at the time of the invasion and soon acquired lands in Kerry and Connacht. McLysaght derives the Connacht Husseys from a native Fermanagh sept, the Uí h-Eodhusa, but this may be just another one of his groundless assumptions. Today the name is principally found in Meath, Galway, Roscommon and Kerry.
The west of Ireland Jennings must be of the Connacht family who descend from Seonín (little John) de Búrca and so are really Burkes. This John was the son of William de Burgh, a younger son of the senior line, who died in 1270. In so far as I can discover the name does not occur in the early records which would indicate that the Jennings of Cork and Armagh are descendants of later British settlers. The surname is also a common English one deriving from a diminutive of John.
Irish Jordans have at least three distinct origins. Firstly come those descended from Jordan de Exeter (i.e. of Exeter in England), one of the early settlers in Connacht, whose son acquiredlands by marriage in Waterford and Kilkenny. This family adopted the native patronym ‘Mac Suirtan’, ‘sons of Jordan’, and became a powerful clan in County Mayo. Jordan was, of course, a popular Anglo-Norman Christian name, derived from the river the Crusaders bathed in, and the surname was also common in the Anglo-Norman period in Meath, Dublin and Kildare. Today the surname is common in Dublin, Galway, Mayo and Antrim; in the latter county its introduction must date to the Ulster Plantation of the seventeenth century.
These two are actually quite distinct surnames which have become completely mixed up with each other in Ireland. Joye was an Anglo-Norman Christian name of uncertain origin while Joce was a Christian name of two distinct origins, one French, the other Breton. Many Irish Joyces have Galway origins, being descendants of the Joyce ‘clan’ who established themselves in Connemara during the thirteenth century and who later formed a sept along Gaelic lines there. Their territory was known as Joyces’ Country. Ironically these were originally Joyes and their territory earlier known as Joyes’ Country. The other region where Joyces are common today is County Cork. Here in the thirteenth century we find both Joyes and Joces, but the evidence points clearly to a Joce ancestry for the Joyces of east Cork. Other ‘true’ Irish Joyces must be those of the Kilkenny/Wexford area, whose sixteenth century ancestors styled themselves Josse. In the thirteenth century there were Joyes in Dublin and these later spread to Meath, yet strangely today most Irish Joys are found in County Waterford.
This name derives from the Welsh word cethyn, meaning dark. Well before the invasion of Ireland these Kethins had become absorbed into the Anglo-Norman society of south Wales. Hailing from Pembrokeshire, the family were among the first settlers in Wexford and soon acquired lands in Tipperary, Limerick and Cork. It would seem that this single family spawned a minor lineage, as the surname’s strongholds in the sixteenth century reflect accurately the earlier distribution of the lands of the senior line. A marriage connection with the Kildare Berminghams in the fourteenth century may explain the later Keating presence in County Kildare. One of Ireland’s greatest historians was the seventeenth century Geoffrey Keating of County Tipperary.
The aristocratic de Lacy family were lords of Meath after the invasion but these soon became extinct in the male line, leaving at least two other origins for the modern surname. The well-known Lacys of Bruree, County Limerick were originally del Esse, indicating Norman French origins. The somewhat more numerous Lacys of Leinster are derived by McLysaght from a native Wexford sept, the Uí Laitheasa.
This derives from a Germanic Christian name popularised by a Flemish saint. The family are principally associated with south Wexford, from at least 1300 onwards, and today the name is mainly found in Dublin and Wexford.
In the next article in this series we will continue to look at the histories of the most numerous of the Irish Anglo-Norman surnames.

Part V

by Paul McCotter
Most Frequently Occurring Anglo-Norman Surnames
(Based on Matheson)
Lawless/Lillis This is a nickname type surname of obvious meaning which appears to have been borne by many unrelated men in earlier times. Thirteenth century sources record the name in several Munster and Leinster counties. In later centuries one branch was especially prominent in Kilkenny City while the name remains well distributed in Ireland today. In County Limerick the surname has become Lillis.
This occupational surname occurs in several Leinster counties in the thirteenth century and is found in Meath and Tipperary (Cashel) in the sixteenth century. While some Masons are of ‘New English’ origin many must descend from earlier Anglo-Norman settlers.
This family descend from Elias fitz Norman, one of the early settlers who acquired lands in Waterford, Tipperary and Kerry, and who died around 1214. His eldest son, Richard, inherited the east Munster lands, which soon passed to the Rokelle family via his granddaughter Margery; her descendants now bear the Waterford surname Rocket. In time the name born by the descendants of the younger son, William fitz Elias, who had inherited the Kerry lands, transformed itself via Gaelic into McElligott. The family were prominent gentry in that county until the seventeenth century dispossessions and the surname remains common there today.
This common Mayo surname is said by McLysaght to belong to an offshoot of the great Burke lineage. Surprisingly little seems known about its early history.
This is a rare example of a toponym of Irish origin, denoting an Anglo-Norman whose first place of settlement in Ireland was County Meath. In the thirteenth century we find families of the name in Kildare, Offaly, Cork and Limerick, and it is in these very same counties, along with Meath itself, that we also find ‘Miaghs’ (the anglicised Gaelic form) in the sixteenth century and later. The Cork Meads were especially prominent as merchants in Cork, Kinsale and Youghal, and the name remains common in this county.
The greater portion of Irish Morrises must descend from Jordan de Mareis, nephew of the famous Geoffrey de Mareis the Justiciar of the early years of the invasion. This family came to Ireland from Devon but Mareis, the French word for a marsh, indicates an ultimate Norman origin for the family. Jordan’s lands lay in various parts of County Tipperary and it is from this county that the family later spread to other parts of Ireland. One important branch moved to Galway in the fifteenth century and became one of the famous ‘Tribes of Galway’, and leading merchant family of that city. The descendants of this family, (who include Lord Killanin, ex-president of the International Olympic Committee), later adopted the form Morris, although some Tipperary Mareises became Morres. In Mayo Morrises may in fact be Prendergasts, as outlined below.
(Both forms are interchangeable and have no localised significance) Gilbert de Angulo (a place in South Wales) was among the first settlers in County Meath while his son, Jocelyn was the ancestor of the Costello family of Mayo (see Part 3); in Meath the family were long counted among the nobility of that county. In early times we also find the surname in Dublin, Kildare, Kerry, Limerick and Cork, those of the latter county descending from one Richard de Angulo, one of the first settlers of the early thirteenth century; the territory of this ‘clan’ was located just north of the Nagle Mountains. In Kerry the Nagles were merchants in Tralee and Dingle.
From the thirteenth centuryonwards this surname is common in West Limerick from where it spread into surrounding areas. Originally de Naase/del Nashe, it appears to derive from an English locative description. The name is still principally found in Limerick and Kerry.
This surname has at least three origins in Ireland. Firstly, the Leinster Nugents, who descend from Hugh de Nugent and his relatives. Hugh was one of the first settlers, some of whose descendants became barons of Delvin and later earls of Westmeath. Hugh was of Norman ancestry and his surname is derived from one of several Nogents in Normandy. The Ulster Nugents are likely to derive from English settlers of the seventeenth century whose ultimate origin is identical to those of Leinster. Finally, the Nugents of Munster are not true Nugents at all but are descended from a thirteenth century Cork family called de Wynchedon (an English locative) whose descendants adopted the form Nugent via a Gaelic mesne form (this family still sometimes used the form Winsedon in the late 1500s). This occurred because of the similarity of the Gaelic forms of Nugent and Wynchedon. A branch of these ‘false’ Nugents settled in East Limerick during the sixteenth century, accounting for the presence of the surname in that county today.
A shortened form of Prendergast (for which see below).
In Kerry this (common) surname is born by a branch of the FitzMaurices (see Part 4). The Leinster Pierces descend from early settlers whose surname is derived from Piers, the French form of the Christian name Peter. Here the surname was especially associated with Meath and Kildare.
In mid and northern Leinster this surname has two origins; firstly from an Anglo-Norman family associated with Meath since the thirteenth century and secondly, from ‘New English’ settlers in Offaly during the plantation of the 1560s. The descendants of both families are now indistinguishable. The name is ultimately derived from a French Christian name. Further south Pigotts are really Bekets, (derived from yet another French Christian name), being descended from an early settler called Rhys (a Welsh Christian name!) Beket who obtained lands in Kilkenny and North Cork. Here once again Gaelicisation is the culprit behind the surname change. The Pigotts of Cork (and Wexford?) are of his stock.
the Plunketts are said to descend from a John Plunkett who obtained lands in Meath early in the conquest. The absence of the locative article in the early references to this surname suggest that McLysaght may indeed be correct in deriving Plunkett from the French word blanchet (from the root blanc = white), although it should be noted that there is an English surname, Plucknett/Plumkett, which derives from Plouquenet, a place in Brittany. For many centuries the Plunkett family were prominent in the governance of Ireland, due, no doubt, to the location of their lands on the borders of the Pale. Though loyal to the English Crown for many centuries, the Plunketts nevertheless remained steadfast Catholics, managing to retain much of their ancestral estates despite this. Saint Oliver Plunkett, Catholic archbishop of Armagh, martyred at Tyburn in the 1670s, was of one of the aristocratic lines of the family. The aristocratic Plunketts are represented by no less that three families of earls, those of Fingall, Dunsany and Louth.
The Power lineage became established in County Waterford at the time of the conquest, from where branches spread into Tipperary, Cork and Kilkenny. This is certain despite the absence of genealogical details of the first generations of the family. Most authorities derive the surname from a French word meaning ‘poor’ but this seems to be merely yet another example of the deplorable habit of ‘follow the leader’. This derivation ignores the consistent early use of the form le Poher, almost certainly derived from the earlier le Pohier, a native of Picardy in France — a district from which many settlers accompanied the Normans in their conquest of England. In Waterford the family established a lineage in the eastern half of the county which constituted a distinct lordship down to the seventeenth century confiscations. These warred incessantly with the loyalist city of Waterford. Power Head in County Cork is named from a local branch of the family.
Maurice de Prendergast was one of the first settlers in the train of Strongbow, Prendergast being a place in that part of Pembroke in South Wales earlier settled by Flemings. Maurice and his son Philip and grandson Gerald acquired extensive lands in Wexford, Cork, Limerick and Mayo, most of which duly passed via Gerald’s daughters toother men. On most of these lands we find early branches of the family settled, who must have been relatives or bastards of the above mentioned lords. These were the ancestors of the later Prendergasts of Mayo and Wexford while those of West Limerick exchanged their lands there for others in South Tipperary, and were the ancestors of the Prendergasts of that county. The Mayo branch assumed the native patronym MacMorris and their territory is preserved in that of the barony of Clanmorris in that county. Most of these later resumed the form Prendergast.
For the derivation of this French surname see Part 2. All Irish Purcells seem to descend from Walter Purcell, who came to Ireland in the early thirteenth century in the train of the Marshall. Walter obtained lands in Kilkenny while his son Hugh later obtained lands in Tipperary in marriage with an heiress. Several junior branches derive from other family members of the same period, located on lands in Carlow, Limerick and Kilkenny. Today Purcells are especially present in Kilkenny, Tipperary and Dublin.
This surname appears to have three distinct origins in Ireland. In Offaly we have the descendants of the McRedmond family, stated by McLysaght to have been a branch of the Galway Burkes. Most Redmonds however originate in County Wexford, where a family of the name were settled on the Hook Peninsula since early in the invasion, claiming descent from one Alexander Raymond. While most Wexford Redmonds must descend from this man it seems that some descend from a branch of the McMurroghs, native kings of Wexford, the lands of these McRedmonds lying in the north of the county.
About half of all Rices in Ireland today are found in the province of Ulster, especially in Armagh, Down and Louth, and McLysaght has shown that these are not true Rices at all but members of a disguised Celtic family, the O Maolchraoibhe of Oriel. In Leinster and Munster the surname derives from the very common Celtic Welsh Christian name Rhys, and so must denote one descended from a man so named. In the thirteenth century the surname can be found in Kerry, Cork, Tipperary, Meath and Kildare, and several distinct Rhyses may have been the ancestors of these families. In Kerry the family were important merchants until Cromwell’s time.
The ancestor of all Irish Roches would seem to have been Godebert ‘the Fleming’, who held Roch Castle in Pembroke in 1130. His son Robert fitz Godebert de la Roch, accompanied in turn by several of his sons, was one of the first invaders of Ireland. These men, and their sons in turn, obtained lands in Fergenel in Wexford, and in Tipperary, Limerick and Connacht. Historians have long been unable to tie in the Cork Roches with this family, but it has recently been shown that the first of this family, whose Christian name was probably David, had a connection with the Wexford line and was thus of the same stock. The quick spread of Roches to nearly all Irish counties within a couple of generations is a remarkable feature of this fecund family. Probably the most important line of the family in later centuries was that of the Roches of Fermoy, County Cork, long one of that county’s leading lineages. The late Lady Diana was descended from this family. The surname is today most common in Cork, Limerick and Wexford.
Part VI
by Paul McCotter
Most Frequently Occurring Anglo-Norman Surnames
(Based on Matheson)
Derived from a French term for a red-haired individual, this is, and has always been, a very common surname in all countries associated with Anglo-Norman culture; clearly involving many distinct such ancestors. In the thirteenth century the surname is found in Counties Cork, Waterford, Wexford, Kildare, Louth, Dublin, and Galway. Just as common in the fiants of the late sixteenth century, it occurs in this source in most of the above counties, in addition to Down, Limerick, Meath, Westmeath, Kerry, Wicklow and Carlow. Placenames including the surname occur in Kildare, Westmeath, Wicklow, Waterford, Cork, Carlow and Galway. While the surname is relatively common today throughout Ireland, about half of all Russells occur in the province of Ulster, and many (though not all) of these must descend from British settlers of the seventeenth century.
This is an obvious nickname type surname, the word is ultimately of French origin. The Savages first settled in County Down in the original settlement under John de Courcy in the 1180s, and here the family established a powerful base in the Lecale area of the Ards Peninsula. Surviving the fourteenth century native resurgence, the Savages eventually became Gaelicised under the form Mac an t-Sábhaisigh. They remained one of the important Catholic gentry families in Down until dispossession by the English in the seventeenth century. In the fourteenth century a family of the name was also found in County Tipperary, while today most Irish Savages are to be found in Down, Antrim, Dublin and Cork. The latter Savages descend from an obscure east Cork Gaelic clan, the O’Sawan, who were already using the alias Savage in the fifteenth century.
Derived from the Old English Scirloc, denoting a bright haired individual,. The Meath family descend from a William Scurlog, of Scurlockstown, of around 1180, while those of Wexford descend from a Thomas Scurlog, living around 1200, whose descendants later obtained Rosslare. Later in the thirteenth century Scurlogs were found, in addition to the above counties, in those of Cork, Tipperary, Waterford, Limerick and Kildare, suggesting that this surname is likely to derive from several such individuals of English origin. The Waterford family remained important gentry in that county for several centuries, while by the sixteenth century individuals of the name are found in Kilkenny and Dublin, in addition to most of the counties where they occur earlier. The surname has a well scattered distribution today.
Derived from the obvious Old English meaning. Leinster Shorts appear to descend from a family of the name resident in Dublin in the thirteenth century, while those of Ulster are really members of the Gaelic sept, McGirr, of County Armagh, who became short by pseudo-translation.
This is derived from the Old English surname Sigenod, a Teutonic compound name meaning ‘victory-bold’. Sinad was in fact an historic individual, the father to Adam fitz Sinad, one of the first invaders, who occurs in records of County Wexford of around 1200, and who was in turn the father to the David Sinod who acquired extensive lands north of Wexford town in the 1220s. As early as the 1240s several offshoots of this family are visible in Wexford, where they remained of significance among the gentry of the county, both around Wexford and in Forth, down to the confiscations of the seventeenth century. Today the surname is principally found in Wexford and Dublin.
This English nickname probably refers to a person ‘as fat as a haystack’. In the early years of the invasion the surname became established in Counties Kerry and Tipperary, it is not clear whether these families were originally related to each other. The surname survives in Tipperary where it is not particularly common, but it was in Kerry that the family ramified to form a minor lineage, whose territory is indicated by the Stacks Mountains. This family long remained among the major gentry of that county, and so many branches were thrown off that the surname had spread, by the sixteenth century, into the neighbouring counties of Cork and Limerick. Today the surname is still mostly found in Munster.
This Wexford family were established in that county since at least 1247, McLysaght derived them from an English family of Buckinghamshire origin, although there were several such placenames in England. Long important in the barony of Forth, Stafford remains principally a Wexford and Dublin surname.
This is principally a Connacht surname, while Stanton itself is a place in Pembrokeshire in Wales, from whence the family, perhaps of ultimate Flemish origin, came to Ireland. Sir Bernard de Stanton, who possessed lands in County Kildare, was the father of Philip Stanton, who took part in the invasion of Connacht in the 1230s, and obtained lands in County Mayo in addition to those in Kildare. In Mayo the family adopted the Irish form Mac an Mhileadha, meaning ‘the son of the knight’, i.e. from Philip son of Sir Bernard, and some Connacht Stantons retain this in its anglicised form McEvilly, although most use the original form of the surname. The family were long of importance among the Mayo gentry. Today the name is principally found in Mayo, Galway and Cork. In the latter county the family were established since at least the 1240s just east of Cork City, and there is some evidence that this family also possessed an interest in lands in Kildare in the early fourteenth century, and thus may have been of the same root as those of Kildare and Mayo.
This family must originate from one of the eight such places in England. An important early family of the name were established by the 1260s in County Waterford, around Dungarvan; it is not clear if they were related to those of Ely, County Tipperary, an important family of the fifteenth century, when the name also occurs around Carrick-on-Suir. From Tipperary the name spread eastwards into Kilkenny, and it is in these two counties that most of the surname are found today.
There are at least five such places in England. Roger de Sutton was an early settler in County Wexford in the 1230s, and his descendants who lived later in that century are found in possession of lands in County Kildare, in addition to those of the family in Shelbourne in Wexford. In the fourteenth century de Suttons also occur in County Tipperary, and today the surname occurs principally in Wexford, Dublin and Cork.
This surname derives from St Aubyn (St Alban) in Normandy. William de St Aubyn was one of the early settlers around Kells in County Kilkenny, around 1200, where Ballytobin locates his lands; William also possessed lands in Slieveardagh in County Tipperary. From these bases his descendants soon mushroomed, and by the 1440s there were three major Tobin clans established in south east Tipperary, in addition to the senior line in Kilkenny. By the early 1300s the family had already formed a lineage or clan in Tipperary and often were ‘beyond the law’ in their attacks on other colonists there. By the sixteenth century the surname had spread into Waterford and Cork, and today is principally found in Waterford, Limerick, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Cork and Dublin.
This surname is derived from a French Christian name, and the first of the family was Hugh Tyrel, who acquired lands at Castleknock in Dublin and in Fertullagh in Westmeath in the 1170s and 1180s. Hugh was probably the son of Rocelyn Tyrel of Herefordshire in England. Tyrrellspass, County Westmeath, takes its name from Captain Richard Tyrrell, one of the Irish commanders in O’Neill’s rebellion of the 1590s, and commemorates a famous victory by Tyrrell against the English there. Today Tyrrell is still very much a Leinster surname, and is especially strong in Kildare and Wicklow.
This family originated as Norman squires and take their name from de Valle (i.e. of the Valley), a fee near Beaumont in France. A branch of the family are found settled in Pembrokeshire by the 1130s, and it was a member of this family, Robert de Valle, whose three sons obtained lands in Carlow and Kilkenny as followers of Raymond le Gros, one of the leaders among the first invaders. He was thus ancestor of all the Walls in these counties, while other branches became established at Wallstown, County Cork in the 1260s and Dunmoylen, County Limerick, before the 1290s. These may also have originated as offshoots of the Leinster Walls. For centuries after these branches remained among the gentry of their respective counties and today, Walls are found principally in Kilkenny, Carlow, Waterford, Limerick, Tipperary and Cork.
The origins of this family have been discussed in Part II of this series. This surname is the most common of all Irish surnames of Anglo-Norman origin, and comes in at about fourth in the list of the top ten most numerous Irish surnames of today. In Gaelic the name translates as Breathnach, i.e. the Briton or Welshman, which accounts for the other forms of the surname appended above. The name is common in all provinces except Ulster, resulting in the large numbers of Welsh settlers who accompanied the Anglo-Normans during the invasion of Ireland. Placenames such as Walshtown, Walshestown, Ballinvallishig, Ballybrannagh, etc., are numerous in several counties while the Walsh Mountains in County Kilkenny locate an important branch in that county. The surname is especially common in Mayo, Galway, Cork, Waterford, Wexford, Dublin and Kilkenny. Knowledge of local history is vital in studying one’s branch of this common surname. Such study will reveal, for instance, that most Walshs in Kilkenny and Laois descend from the brothers Philip and David le Walys, invaders of the 1170s.
McLysaght believed that most Irish Warrens were really de la Varennes, from a place in Normandy, but once again, upon examining the evidence there appears to be absolutely no proof of this, and it would seem in fact that the Irish Warrens and Warings descend from a man or men bearing the French Christian name Warin/Waring. The Warrens of Warrenstown, County Meath, as well as those of Annagassan, County Louth, who probably sprang from a common root, use the early forms Warin and Waring interchangeably, while in Tipperary and Waterford in the thirteenth century a family of FitzWarin occur. Today Waring appears to be an Ulster variant of the Louth Warren. By the sixteenth century the name occurs principally in Meath, Louth and Offaly. Today Warren occurs principally in Dublin, Meath, Kerry and Cork. In the latter two counties Warren is the Gaelic O’Murnane in disguise.
Like such names as Russell, Sherlock, Brown, etc., this name is of obvious descriptive derivation. Irish Whites descend from several men of this coloration, and in the early Anglo-Norman period the name is usually given in its French form: le Blond, although some early references to White do occur. Today the name is very common in all provinces except Connacht. Numerous le Blonds/Whites occur in the settled areas of Munster and Leinster in the Anglo-Norman period, and from these must descend those of these provinces today. In Ulster some Whites certainly descend from the important County Down Anglo-Norman family of the name, whilst others must descend from seventeenth century British settlers.
This is an important Limerick City surname whose history can be traced there from the thirteenth century to the present day. It is of obvious nickname type and was common in several parts of Anglo-Norman Ireland apart from Limerick, the county in which most Woulfes are found today.
Queen Elizabeth I ruled England and Ireland for 45 years. She was the last of the five Tudor monarchs. During the reign of the House of Tudor, both the independent Gaelic kingdoms and the Norman lordships were brought under the control of the Crown.
With the Reformation, and the arrival of new English Protestant colonists, many of the old Norman families began to find themselves out of favour with the government. They were regarded by the authorities as the ‘Civil Irish’ (as opposed to the native or ‘Wild Irish’). The Irish considered them to be the ‘Old English’. In time, most of the descendants of the Normans threw their lot in with the Gaelic Irish and became indistinguishable from them in all but surname.

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