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Clann na hEireann - BY TIP

Clann na hEireann

Family Names of Ireland Research

Clann na hEireann

In 1990 the Tipperary Historical Society came to form an association to study the origins and history of the surnames of Ireland and to orgainise and promote clan rallies. This project which initially started as a voluntary one has now grown to a stage where we now employ 15 people. In 1994 the orgainisation adopted the name Clann na hEireann and extended its research programme to include the indexation of provincial newspapers as these provide a wealth of information on births, marraiges, deaths, land sales, civil trials, business ownership etc. and also recorded over 100,000 obituary notices covering the period 1764 to 1864 the year in which civil registration of births, marraiges and deaths.

Clann na hEireann can provide histories and coats of arms on almost all the surnames of Ireland.

There are few countries in Europe which have endured such a turbulent history as Ireland during the past thousand years. As a consequence of the many upheavels the Irish people have been scattered throughout the world finding new homes in places as far apart as America and Australia.

Today, for the 70 million people worldwide with Irish ancestry, the name of that first family member who ventured away from home has been forgotten. All that remains to remind them of their ancestors is a surname, which sometimes may not even appear to be Irish. This surname, however, is still an important link from which to obtain a vast amount of information regarding the origin and history of our forefathers.

In the 10th century Ireland was the first country in Western Europe to adopt a system of hereditary surnames. Prior to this people were identified by a christian name to which was added a term descriptive of some personal attribute or feat accomplished by the individual. It was also the custom for the general area in which a tribe ruled for people to be named after the founder of the tribe. An example of this is the term Cineal Conaill which would have refered to a group descended from Conall, who occupied an area of north donegal. From this common ancestor sprang names such as O'Donnell and O'Doherty. These latter surnames were formed by prefixing 'O' meaning 'of' or 'Mac' meaning 'son' to the name of the father or grandfather or a more distant relative. Thus the O'Neills took their surname from Niall Glundubh, the O'Briens from Brian Boru and the McCarthys from Carthach.

In 1465 an Act of Parliament compelled people living within the Pale, the area around Dublin, to take English surnames. In this way MacGowan became Smith, MacShane became Johnson and MacFirbis became Forbes. It is only since the beginning of this century that the practise of prefixing names with Mac and O has been re-established.

Some religious denominations adopted Ireland as their homeland, most notably the Quakers, one of whom was William Penn, founder of the state of Pennsylvania. These families include the surnames Grubb, Goodbody and Haughton.

Clann na hEireann can assist you in searching for information about your family surname and will identify the most likely place from which to begin your quest. We can also supply coats of arms, lists of famous people associated with your name and a list of places which are linked to your name.

'It's a long way to Tipperary' went the old World War One song, but in the global village and by use of the Information SuperHighway we are as close as your computer.

For further details and queries you may have e-mail us at

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