Tag Archives: Surnames

Research Help: Where Do Your Family Come From in Ireland?

People ask me all the time where in Ireland their surname may be found.  A lot of these people, their ancestor/s left Ireland pre the ‘main’ famine time so they never think to look in records that we have which are for a time later than that famine period, and they should, they should particularly look at the distribution in the Griffiths Primary Valuation as per the examples I give below.

The thing is though, we have very few records which are pre 1840 BUT we do have a land survey taken in the 1840-60 time frame and while this record did NOT include a lot of people genealogists use it as a ‘surname locator’.  As a surname locator it is not perfect, but, it helps us work out places that we could be searching in for people of our surname.

It is reasonably easy to work with when you are looking for locations of a surname which is relatively uncommon in a county, even in the whole country but not much use if you are looking for an ‘O’Brien’ from somewhere in Ireland e.g. on looking for the surname O’Brien in all of Ireland I get a result of 10589 entries.  On looking for O’Brien in County Cork, I get a result of 1210 entries.  O’Brien in County Kilkenny gives me 32 entries (I am actually finding that figure unbelieveable!!).  Having given you these figures you can see the difference between O’Brien in a county and the surnames I am working with below.

Genealogists use the Griffiths Primary Valuation to source out areas in a county that a surname was found and from that they then decide which parish records they can check out.

I’m dealing specifically with Roman Catholic records here, for other religions we do not have as many parish records. I’m giving you two examples.  The first for a reasonably uncommon surname in one county (while over all of Ireland it is actually a common surname).  The second example is for a surname which is common in the county I have chosen. The first surname is ‘McNamara ‘ and the county is Roscommon.  I’m working that surname for a friend of mine who I told I would try to help her with her McNamara search a long time ago.  The second surname is Lyons and the county is Galway.  Galway is where my Lyons family came from (in the short term – we come from farther down the country at an earlier time)

Example 1 : McNamara, Roscommon

Griffiths Primary Valuation Search Page

I filled in only two boxes.
Family Name : McNamara
County: Roscommon

I left all other boxes empty and clicked search.
The result was 50 entries.

50 entries does not necessarily mean 50 different people. Some of these entries may have been for the same person leasing land with a house on it and leasing land with no house. Some of the entries may have been for a person who was leasing out the land to someone else. The names of the parishes which are given are civil parishes, *not* religious parishes.  The names of Roman Catholic parishes are different in a lot of instances to the names of the civil parishes.  So, you don’t look at the names of the people who were given, you look at the names of the parishes and we’ll say here that the McNamara family we are looking for were Catholic.  We need to look at the names of the civil parishes and then see first of all if there are Catholic parishes of the same name and it is with these that we begin our real search.

As you look down this list you will see the differences in spellings between the name of the civil parish and the name of the Roman Catholic parish.  You will see question marks showing those civil parishes I could not match up with a particular Roman Catholic parish.  Eventually it may turn out that I have to look at the locations of these civil parishes and see if I can match them with RC parishes in that area.  That’s a different days work after I have finished searching the parishes for which I have RC parish names.

Civil Parishes listed  vs Roman Catholic parish of same name

St. Peter : St. Peter’s & Drum (Athlone)
Kiltoom  : Kiltoom (Ballybay)
Fuerty  : Athleague & Fuerty
Termonbarry : Tarmonbarry
Kilgefin : ??? Kilkeevan (Castlerea)
Roscommon :: Roscommon & Kilteevan
Gran  :: ????
Drumatemple :: ?????
Ardcarn :: Ardcarne & Tumna (Cootehall)
Kilronan :: Kilronan (Arigna)
Killukin :: Killukin & Killumod (Croghan)
Ballintobber :: Ballintober & Ballymoe
Moore :: Moore
Estersnow :: ????
Clooncraff :: ????

Nancy had a John McNamara.  There were men called John listed in Killukin, Roscommon, Kilgefin, and Termonbarry, so that leaves us with four main parishes to begin searching in, I’m very glad that Nancy thinks that her McNamara family came from Roscommon and not just ‘somewhere’ in Ireland.  McNamara is a common enough surname and there were nearly 4000 entries in the Griffiths for that surname in all of Ireland

 Example 2: The surname Lyons in Galway county.(Galway city is not included in this search)

Griffiths Primary Valuation Search Page

I filled in only two boxes.
Family Name : Lyons
County: Galway (the City of Galway is not included in this search)

I left all other boxes empty and clicked search.
The result 247 entries.

You can immediately see the difference between the number of entries for McNamara in Roscommon  (50) and Lyons in Galway county (247).  A lot more work involved in sorting out the number of Roman Catholic parishes to be checked.  Note here though, Galway is a much bigger county than Roscommon having over 80 Roman Catholic parishes compared to 33 in Roscommon. So, entries for the surname Lyons in Galway are in the civil parishes of (and I have the name of the Roman Catholic parish listed beside the name of the civil parish below).

I have made one mistake when creating this table, I forgot to tell the table to show 100 entries so when you look at it it will show you only 10 entries.  Please click on the number you can see above the table and increase the number 10 to 100 if you want to see all the entries on the one page.

Civil Parish:Roman Catholic Parish
Abbeygormacan:Abbeygormican & Killoran
Addergoole:Addergoole & Kisleevy
Aughrim:Aughrim & Kilconnell
Ballymacward:Ballymacaward & Cloonkeenerril
Ballynakill:??Duniry & Ballynakill listed below
Clonkeen:???Cloonkeenerril above??
Duniry:Duniry & Ballinakill
Fohanagh:Fohenagh & Kilgerill
Kilconla:???Donaghpatrick & Kilcloona
Kilconnell:???Kilconly & Kilbannon??
Kilcummin:Oughterard (Kilcummin)
Kilgerrill:Fohenagh & Kilgerill
Kilkerrin:Kilkerrin & Clonberne
Killanin:Killanin (see also Oughterard)
Killeroran:???Killian & Cilleroran??
Killian:Killian & Cilleroran
Killimordaly:Killimordaly (Kiltullagh)
Killoran:???Killian & Cilleroran??
Kilthomas:Peterswell (Kilthomas)
Kiltullagh:Killimordaly (Kiltullagh)
Moylough:Mounbellew (Moylough)
Oranmore:Oranmore (Kilcameen & Ballynacourty)