Posts Tagged “Surnames”

Genealogy and Family History Myth #3
We are not related, they spell the name wrong !
Learn more at

Family Fueds
Even my father did not quite believe me. I explained
several times that our name was O’Loughlin or
O’Loglin, etc.. in Ireland, not O’Laughlin. He would
always smile, and then think about it, but did not
really believe it I think….

Proof in the Pudding
Until… he took his first trip to Ireland and County
, and met all the families, and saw all the signs
phone book listings, and pub names. He returned,
the family met at the old cemetery on memorial day.
Two stones bore different spellings of the name.
He shook his head, stared and said, well, I guess
it’s true….

We’re not Related !
Now this has been the case for centuries. The chief
herald of Ireland had to deal with it. Take this
example from the Irish Book of Arms. Two families
were claiming to have descended from the true
O’Connor chieftain. Each declared the other was
not legitimate and even ‘spelled the name wrong’.

An O’Connor by any other Name
After much research, the chief herald found that
both families were actually one in the same. People
had just changed the spelling of the name as they
went along. You could trace it in the documents.
I have even seen O’Donnell and MacDonnell
used for the very same family with the very same
arms in the historical records in the book of arms.

How it came about
Well, let’s take a few examples…..

(1) Irish names were originally spelled in Irish, so who
was to say how to spell them in English ?

(2) Record takers could spell the name the way it
sounded to them, and make abbreviations, and they
might just have illegible handwriting that made the
name appear ‘wrong’.

(3) Yes, there could also be family feuds. I have seen
brothers in the same family spell the name differently
in Ireland and in modern day America !
You could also change how you spelled your name
to show that you were not related to that ‘bad’ family
down the road…..

Documented Spellings
To help with researching Irish names, and under-
standing who is related to who, I put together a
list of several thousand Irish names and spelling
variants. This list is helpful to remind us not to
be to set in our ways when looking for family
history. The list comes from several sources
including our own internal documents.

The names and spellings are taken from sources
like the birth index of Ireland; from the book
‘Milesian Families of Ireland’, and from sources
like the 1659 Census of Ireland.

List of Names in Print
This compilation of Irish names and spellings was
published a few years back as “The Master Guide
to the Spelling of Irish Family Names
”. It has been
divided into variant spelling groups for ease of use.
It also lists names that are not similar in spelling
at all, but have been uses as inter-changable none
the less. (Names like ‘Rabbitt’ and ‘Cuneen’ etc..)

©2012 IGF
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©2012 IGF


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Notes From

My Own Compilation

I’ve found thousands of Irish surnames
over the past 30+ years, while researching
Irish history and genealogy. We’ve now
managed to put together a Free list on the
Irish Roots Cafe genealogy page from a
database of 120,000 names.

Irish Family History Sources
My sources ranged from the old works
like the ‘Annals of Ireland by the Four
Masters’ and the ‘Irish Book of Arms’,
to more modern research found in
‘Irish Families on the California Trail’.

Included are the sources the names
are found in, useful for family researchers.
Note that you may find a clue to the likely
county of origin for the name too.

Find Out Here
Here is a link to the page where you can
see how popular your name, or the
spelling of your name was, over my 4
decades of research:

How Irish is it ?
Remember your name may be spelled
differently at different times in History.
Remember too, that it may have been
originally spelled in the Irish Gaelic
language. (These old Irish spellings
would really be the ‘most’ Irish.)

You can make an educated judgement
as to the popularity of your name in
Ireland, by the number of times it turns
up. You may also be able to determine
the most likely county of origin for the

Bragging Rights ?
Of course, you may also be able to brag
that yours is more numerous than your
neighbors name. I am not exactly sure
of what good that will do you however. (Click below for list)

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