Monday, May 18, 2009

My Irish Surnames

The theme for the 13th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture is Irish names.

Share with us the surnames in your Irish family tree, but don't just stop there. Do a little research and tell us the origin of one or more of those surnames, the stories of how they might have changed over the years, or tales of how they've been mixed up and misspelled, etc.

Want to focus on your family's given names instead? Share with us the story of your ancestors' Irish first names (given at birth or nicknamed later), the "grandparent" nicknames in your Irish family tree, or any other Irish name stories that you'd like to share.

I decided to focus on four of my Irish surnames.  All of them become brick walls when trying to research them in Ireland, so I thought this surname exercise might help open new doors. 

Each surname heading is a link to the Internet Surname Database record for the surname, which you can use to find out more information about the surname.


Many of the resources I have found indicate that Cahills were prevalent in County Clare, County Cork, County Kerry, and County Tipperary.  Right now, I can trace my Cahills back to my third great-grandfather, Michael Cahill, who lived in County Kilkenny.  Do they trace back further to these other counties?  I hope to answer that question someday.

Researching this name in the U.S. hasn’t been too bad.  More often than not, it is spelled and indexed correctly.  I know of many spelling variations, such as Cale, Cail, Cahil, Cahell, Kahill, Khill, Cayhill, Kayhill, and the original form of the name, O’Cahill.  And although I haven’t had too much trouble, it is on this surname that I thought of creative ways to perform searches.  You can read more about that in my post Bingo! (and a few lessons learned).


I can trace my McMahons back to my third great-grandfather, Timothy McMahon, of County Tipperary (which was kindly noted on his son’s death certificate).  I have not done much research on this surname outside of the U.S. as of yet.

This surname can be tricky while doing research.  I’ve found that it’s usually spelled correctly, however, when indexed, it can be McMahon or Mc Mahon.  So I always have to do at least two search passes to find whomever I am looking for.  In the U.S., I’ve not run across any instances where Mac is used instead of Mc, but I always include that in my searches when I can’t find Mc, just in case.


This is an interesting one for me.  I have two Ryans, both third great-grandmothers, but from two different lines in my paternal line.  Margaret Ryan hails from County Tipperary, where she married Timothy McMahon (above).  I have no idea as to the whereabouts of Mary Ryan, who was born in Ireland and likely died there.  She married John Millet, and their daughter, Margaret, married into my Cahill line.  I do know that their daughter was born in County Kilkenny, so at least that’s a starting point.  I do wonder if Mary and Margaret are related somehow, but have yet to track down their parents.


I can trace my Mulligans back to my third great-grandfather, James Mulligan, of Dublin.  Again, this is one I have not focused on outside of the U.S.  I imagine it will be an interesting search, simply because Mulligan is a popular name, and Dublin is, well, the largest city in Ireland!


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