100 of the principal surnames in Ireland 1903 R. E. Matheson

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100 of the principal surnames in Ireland 1903 R. E. Matheson

Post by irishgen » 29 Aug 2007, 15:24

SPECIAL REPORT ON SURNAMES IN IRELAND WITH NOTES AS TO NUMERICAL STRENGTH, DERIVATION, ETHNOLOGY, AND DISTRIBUTION
The investigation into the personal names of the people of any country is a subject surrounded with very great interest. By means of family nomenclature much light can be thrown on the early employments and customs of a people, as well as the sources from which they have sprung. In fact, the history of our country lies enshrined in its Surnames; and on our shop fronts and in our graveyards may be found side by side the names of the descendants of the Milesian Prince, of the Scandinavian Viking, and of the Norman Knight.
So far back as 1851 the Census Commissioners for that year attempted to arrange the Surnames of the country in such a way as to show their distribution. The effort, however, proved unsuccessful, owing to the difficulties met with, and when the names were partially extracted the task was abandoned.
At the termination of the Census of 1881, the late Dr. Lyons, the M.P. for Dublin, pressed the Government to institute an inquiry into names, such as had been attempted in 1851, and his proposal was very favorably entertained, but as the work of the Census Department was then about to close, the Commissioners were unable to comply with his request.
It may be observed that as a preliminary to any successful effort to tabulate the surnames in the country, some codification of the variations in form and spelling was necessary. With this and other objects in view, from the materials collected during many years in the General Register Office, as well as special reports obtained from local officers in the Registration Service, I prepared in 1890 a treatise entitled Varieties and Synonyms of Surnames and Christian Names of Ireland, which was issued by the Registrar General for use in connection with searches in his Office, and in those of the Superintendent Registrars and Registrars throughout the country.
That book set forth the principal orthographical changes in surnames, exhibiting the varieties in spelling; the use of prefixes and affixes; spelling according to usual pronunciation; older forms of names showing the alterations they have undergone in the course of time; local variations in spelling and form, exhibiting the tendency of names to assume different forms in different localities; variations in spelling at pleasure; and changes owing to illiteracy and other causes.
It further contained examples of the use of entirely different names interchangeably by the same person, a practice which prevails in some parts of Ireland, many being cases of translation of Irish names into English, or vice versa, or equivalents, modifications, or corruptions of them. A table was also given showing cases of English names and their Irish equivalents met with in the Registration Records. The work also contained an Alphabetical List of Surnames, with their Varieties and Synonyms, and a Table showing the respective Poor Law Unions and Districts (1) in which many of the peculiarities had been found.
(1) With the Poor Relief Act of 1838, Ireland was divided into poor law unions which by 1850 had multiplied to a total of 163. In 1898 poor law unions became the basic administrative division of the country, replacing civil parishes and baronies. At that time they were divided into 829 vital registration districts and 3,751 electoral divisions, with the townlands described according to these districts and divisions. Parishes and baronies retained their importance only as a reference for pre-1898 records.
The reception which that book met with at the hands of the press and the public was very gratifying, and I determined to attempt, in connection with the Census of 1891, the interesting work of extracting and classifying the surnames of the population generally on the lines unsuccessfully followed in 1851. An unexpected occurrence, however, prevented this. The census records which previously afforded complete data for the purpose were, in 1891, rendered imperfect in this respect, owing to the insertion of a clause in the Act of Parliament, directing that in case of inmates of public institutions, initials only should be given in the enumeration forms.
The surnames of a considerable number of persons were thus omitted from these records, and the question arose whether with these imperfect data, the work should be abandoned, or whether the general results could not be obtained with sufficient accuracy from other sources.
The indexes of the General Registrar Office afford a reliable basis on which to found general conclusions regarding surnames, and though in the index for any one year all the surnames in the country will not be found, yet if a name be of frequent occurrence it is certain to be represented in the index, the number of entries opposite the name indicating its relative frequency with respect to other surnames.
The indexes further afford facilities for distributing the surnames over the country, it being the case that in each entry the Poor Law Union is indicated.
In view of these facts, I decided to take these indexes as the basis of my inquiries, and I was confirmed in my determination by the opinion of that eminent scholar, the late Right Rev. Dr. Reeves, Lord Bishop of Down, Connor, and Dromore, and President of the Royal Irish Academy, who encouraged me to undertake the task, and promised me his cordial assistance. His lamented death, however, unhappily deprived me of the benefit of his valuable aid and advice.
I may mention that both in England and Scotland the subject of personal nomenclature has received attention, and statistics relating thereto, derived from the indexes of births, deaths, and marriages, have been published by the respective Registrars-General, to which I shall further refer.
The following Table exhibits 100 of the principal surnames in Ireland (including varieties) arranged in order of numerical strength, together with the estimated number of persons bearing each name. This information was taken from the birth indexes for 1890. Estimated population of Ireland in 1890 was 4,717,959. [As a reference to the massive migration that had taken place prior to 1890, the population of Ireland in 1841 was 8,175,124. Thus, this 1890 study is also reflective of a population twice to four times that size living in the United States, Australia, and elsewhere.]
1 Murphy 62,600
2 Kelly 55,900
3 Sullivan 43,600
4 Walsh 41,700
5 Smith 33,700
6 O'Brien 33,400
7 Byrne 33,300
8 Ryan 32,000
9 Connor 31,200
10 O'Neill 29,100
11 Reilly 29,000
12 Doyle 23,000
13 McCarthy 22,300
14 Gallagher 21,800
15 Doherty 20,800
16 Kennedy 19,900
17 Lynch 19,800
18 Murray 19,600
19 Quinn 18,200
20 Moore 17,700
21 McLaughlin 17,500
22 Carroll 17,400
23 Connolly 17,000
24 Daly 17,000
25 Connell 16,600
26 Wilson 16,300
27 Dunne 16,300
28 Brennan 16,000
29 Burke 15,800
30 Collins 15,600
31 Campbell 15,600
32 Clarke 15,400
33 Johnston 15,200
34 Hughes 14,900
35 Farrell 14,700
36 Fitzgerald 14,700
37 Brown 14,600
38 Martin 14,600
39 Maguire 14,400
40 Nolan 14,300
41 Flynn 14,300
42 Thompson 14,200
43 Callaghan 14,000
44 O'Donnell 13,900
45 Duffy 13,600
46 Mahony 13,500
47 Boyle 13,000
48 Healy 13,000
49 Shea 13,000
50 White 13,000
51 Sweeney 12,500
52 Hayes 12,300
53 Kavanagh 12,200
54 Power 12,100
55 McGrath 11,900
56 Moran 11,800
57 Brady 11,600
58 Stewart 11,400
59 Casey 11,300
60 Foley 11,200
61 Fitzpatrick 11,100
62 Leary 11,000
63 McDonnell 11,000
64 McMahon 10,700
65 Donnelly 10,700
66 Regan 10,500
67 Donovan 9,900
68 Burns 9,800
69 Flanagan 9,800
70 Mullan 9,800
71 Barry 9,700
72 Kane 9,700
73 Robinson 9,700
74 Cunningham 9,600
75 Griffin 9,600
76 Kenny 9,600
77 Sheehan 9,600
78 Ward 9,500
79 Whelan 9,500
80 Lyons 9,400
81 Reid 9,200
82 Graham 9,100
83 Higgins 9,100
84 Cullen 9,000
85 Keane 9,000
86 King 9,000
87 Maher 9,000
88 McKenna 9,000
89 Bell 8,800
90 Scott 8,700
91 Hogan 8,600
92 Keeffe 8,600
93 Magee 8,600
94 McNamara 8,600
95 McDonald 8,500
96 McDermott 8,400
97 Moloney 8,300
98 Rourke 8,300
99 Buckley 8,200
100 Dwyer 8,100

The consideration of the derivation of surnames forms an interesting branch of study, but it would be impossible within the limits of this report to enter fully into the subject, and all that can be attempted is to give a brief summary of its main sub-divisions as applicable to Ireland. Surnames in Ireland may be divided into six classes:
1. Those derived from personal names
2. Those derived from rank or occupation
3. Those derived from the animal, mineral and vegetable kingdoms
4. Those derived from localities
5. Those derived from personal peculiarities or attributes
6. Other surnames
Mr. Matheson then describes each of these sub-divisions and gives examples for each in his book.

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