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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 OSawan, 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 ONeills 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 ones 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 OMurnane 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.
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)