Saturday, March 10, 2012

Surname Saturday: Irish Surnames: Did you know?

In the 14th century, two hundred years after the Anglo-Normans invaded Ireland, many of their descendants could no longer read English. It was thought by the English Government that they were becoming 'too Irish'; therefore, any Englishman living on the island of Ireland was compelled by law to use only surnames which were deemed to be of English origin.

A 1366 Statute in English law reads as follows:

"Every Englishman do use the English language, and be named by an English name, leaving off entirely the manner of naming used by the Irish."

In the 15th century a law was enacted compelling Irishmen, who resided in particular districts of Ireland in which they might find themselves living near to English persons, to use only English surnames.

The law of 1465 reads as follows:

"Every Irishman that dwells betwixt or amongst Englishmen in the County of Dublin, Myeth [County Meath], Vriell [County Louth], and Kildare shall take to him an English Surname of one town, as Sutton, Chester, Trym, Skryne, Corke, Kinsale; or colour, as white, blacke, browne; or art or science, as smith or carpenter; or office, as cooke, butler."

So...

If ever you are wondering about the origins of an Irish family surname such as Cook or Butler, or why the surnames of your Irish ancestors appear to inexplicably change, this may have something to do with it.

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Source: Sir Robert E. Matheson: Special Report on Surnames in Ireland with Notes as to Numerical Strength, Derivation, Ethnology, and Distribution; Based on Information Extracted from the Indexes of the General Register Office, Alex. Thom & Co. (Ltd.), Dublin, 1909.

Copyright©irisheyesjg2012.

7 comments:

  1. ...and I've been having a hard enough time trying to connect my Irish-American surnames to their roots in the homeland...

    :(

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  2. Hi Jacqi,

    Don't give up. It's all out there somewhere, I hope.

    Cheers,
    Jennifer

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  3. Interesting! This helps lend credence to popular thought that in that time period a family picked a surname sometimes depending on what they did for a living, etc.

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  4. Hi Dawn,

    Thanks, your comments are much appreciated. Perhaps families had them chosen for them, at least in an Irish context.

    Cheers,
    Jennifer

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  5. Love it when you share things like this, and I have a couple of that little book. I'll have to read it more carefully.

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  6. Always such a wealth of information! Found the book at Archives.org. Found a lot of useful information regarding distribution of names and may have actually narrowed down where my Greenes were from. Only 47 Greenes as opposed to Green at 105. Could be that I'm getting just a bit closer to finding the family. Thanks!

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  7. Hi Ashling and Cheri,

    Thanks, your comments are much appreciated. Great link Cheri; glad you were able to find it on there.

    Cheers,
    Jennifer

    ReplyDelete

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Cheers, Jennifer

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