Irish Surname Variations

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Many people insist that the way they spell their surname is the ‘exact’ way that they have to find it spelled. They don’t understand that way back then, whenever then was, surnames were spelled phonetically a lot of the time. Take for example my own family, my grandfather was an educated man, he could read and write and he certainly knew how to spell, yet, he had 8 children and of those 8 children, 4 of them have their name spelled one way and the other 4 another way.  So I have 4 grand Uncles or Aunts whose surname is spelled Gallivan and then I have another 4 of the same family who surname is spelled Galvan.

If I was a family history researcher and I didn’t know that these 8 children were all siblings, I’d spend the rest of my life looking for the missing 4.  If I took it that the surname was supposed to be Galvan and stuck with that, then I’d spend forever looking for their ancestors and I’d never find them.  Real needle in the haystack stuff.

On top of this mixed spellings of one family, my gggrandfather and his siblings were all registered with the surname Gallivan, yet, years ago when I told my Limerick mother in law I was off to Kerry to find my Gallivans “Aha” ses she “you’ll not find any Gallivans in Kerry, you’ll only find Galvans” and sure enough, I found no Gallivans but I did find Galvans, and I found all my Gallivans buried as Galvans, where as their brother had been buried in Celbridge, Kildare as Gallivan, the name he had been baptised with.

So, I know this because I knew these people or some of them. I have just found a lovely set of stones with name differences on them, yet, they are the same family so I’d like to show them to you.  This photograph was taken at a graveyard in Kilcross, Co. Roscommon.  The surname is Maguire or McGuire – the same family spelling their name differently.

McGuire and Maguire family plot

McGuire and Maguire family plot

I believe that you will be able to read the surname McGuire on the black stone, then the larger stone was erected by a Maguire living in Passage, N.J., and he erected this stone in memory of his parents, but we also have a Mary Lizzie McGuire named at a later date on the stone.

I hope the knowledge that surnames can be spelled differently will help someone

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