This Irish Genealogy site offers the Irish descendant (from New York, Canada, UK, Australia...) the chance to trace their Irish family tree and search for their surname origins and the records of their Irish ancestor's birth, marriage or death.
Most Frequently Occurring Anglo-Norman Surnames
(Based on Matheson) Cusack
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 dArci, 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 Reaneys 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 MacLysaghts 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. Gibbons 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. McLysaghts 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 Reaneys 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 surnames 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 Irelands 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.
About the Author Dr. Paul MacCotter obtained his MA in history by
independent research at UCC in 1994. After this he continued his studies into
general and specialist genealogy and medieval history. During this time he
continued to study, research and publish in the areas of medieval history,
Anglo-Norman history, church history, genealogy, and Irish surname studies.
MacCotter currently has nearly fifty papers published and four books. He was
awarded his PhD in UCC in 2006. His book, Medieval Ireland: territorial,
political and economic divisions has come to be regarded as a major
reference work and MacCotter as a leading authority on this aspect of medieval
Irish history. He worked as Historical Consultant for the Heritage Council
funded INSTAR project, Making Christian Landscapes, and obtained a prestigious
Government of Ireland fellowship, in 2010. Dr. MacCotter currently continues
his academic research, and is an assistant lecturer in the Schools of History
and Adult Continuing Education, UCC, and runs his own genealogical and
historical consultancy (www.paulmaccotter.com)