Todays genealogy article from our guest blogger Deborah Large Fox is about how to understand Irish names.

Patterns. I have been surprised at the number of researchers who have found that their families, especially in the 1800′s and earlier, did indeed follow a traditional naming pattern. While the pattern sometimes varied with locality or family, generally the first son was named after the paternal grandfather, the second after the maternal grandfather, and the third after the father (with daughters, reverse, with the first daughter named after the maternal grandmother, etc.). Various aunts’ and uncles’ names followed. In families where the naming pattern was not present, I have often found that it was in fact followed, but that an older child had died and the name was re-used for a later born child. So, if your ancestral names did not seem to follow a pattern, be on the lookout for a deceased older sibling, or for a sibling that you have not yet discovered.

Middle Names. I have found that Irish families varied in their use of middle names. Every researcher I ask seems to have had a different experience with middle names. Two stories are often repeated by researchers about the middle names in their families. One is that ancestors were called by their middle names to distinguish between the members of a large family with a number of identical names. In the 1800′s, baptismal records, both Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland, in the southern counties rarely list a middle name. I have found more middle names recorded in nineteenth century church records in the northern counties. When an ancestor is known in family records only by his or her middle name, finding their official or church records can be difficult indeed.
Many researchers have discovered that their ancestor’s middle name was not given at birth, but was taken as a confirmation name. This practice can wreak havoc with one’s research. Few lists of comfirmands from earlier times exist, and I have seen no lists with “taken” confirmation names.
Many researchers have reported that, at an ancestor’s baptism, the Catholic priest demanded that the parents choose a middle name for a child if that child’s first name was not that of a saint’s. Stories abound about this practice–well into the 1950′s and 60′s! I am not sure if this practice was limited to twentieth century America, but it seemed to have arisen in many American cities when Irish immigrants began breaking with the traditional naming patterns and choosing fashionable names.

Nicknames. Ahh, the nickname–created by our Irish ancestors just so that they could look down upon us one day and laugh as we spend years searching for great Gramma Nancy’s records when Nancy’s name was really Anne! And Helen was Ellen, and Ted was Edward, and Biddy was Bridget, and Dick was Richard, and Sallie was Sarah…
One word to researchers of very common surnames: in Ireland, family groups with the same surname were often given family nicknames to distinguish the branches from each other. You might have the Red Brennan’s and the Black Brennan’s, or the Tarlar Donaghy’s, to name a few I have seen. Knowing your family’s ancestral nickname, if they had one, is a crucial research tool when researching local Irish records, especially if you are researching a very common surname such as Kelly or Murphy.
Gaelic and Latin Names. Be on the lookout for Anglicized Gaelic names, especially as you go back in time and into Irish records. As you research RC church records, keep in mind that many priests, both in the US and in Ireland, wrote the names in Latin. Often, the Latin names bear no resemblance to the English or Gaelic names–Eugenio for Owen is one example.
I said it before and I will say it again, Irish genealogy research wouldn’t be so much fun if it were simpler, now would it?

For more information on your family research visit Deborah’s blog spot:

Maureen Gillis, Massachusetts & Paul Comeau, Texas.

Paul Comeau

Paul Comeau
Maureen Gillis from Hull, Massachusetts is presented with her Certificate of Irish Heritage by her cousin Paul Comeau from San Antonio, Texas.

Paul and Maureen, who received their Citzenship together are also proud recipients of the Certificate of Irish Heritage.

Their Certificates honour their Grandparents Coleman Costello from County Galway and Mary McKessy from County Limerick.

Paul says that he is “Looking forward to visiting the relatives in Inverin, just outside of Galway, in few months”

Paul Comeau & Maureen Gillis

Alan Long, Illinois, USA

Alan Long Comp

My earliest Irish ancestor is Timothy Patrick O’Brien who was born in 1841 in Tipperary. He immigrated to the U.S. aboard the transport ship England arriving in New York in 1854 as a result of the Great Potato Famine. He eventually settled in Burlington Vermont and married Johanna Hayes also from Ireland; together they had seven children. My mother is Timothy Patrick’s great granddaughter. Some of his descendants still live in Burlington and the surrounding areas.  Timothy’s occupation in Ireland before he left was that of a Silver Minor, however due to lack of mineable material in Vermont and the area of Vermont resembling his native Ireland Timothy spent the remainder of his life as a simple farmer.

As I delved deeper into my mother’s lineage I was surprised to realize the O’Brien’s are descended from the great Irish King Brian Boru. I have purchased a couple books on Ireland and Brian Boru and am fascinated not only by King Brian but by his descendants as well; they have been and are still am important and influential family in Ireland and one of royalty.

I also did not know but have found during my research that my father’s gg grandfather was John Long born in Ballybofey, County Donegal in 1788. He immigrated with his wife Margaret Roulston also of Balleybofey to Vermont around 1821, I haven’t determined the reason for leaving Ireland as of yet. John and his wife Margaret were one of the very first Irish settlers to Waitsfield, Vermont when they arrived around 1833 he was a farmer and most of their seven children continued farming on the family farm; John died in April 1872, Margaret a few years before in 1869.

I am very proud of my Irish Heritage; I had no idea the hardships and contributions the Irish people have endured and contributed; as well as these families to Ireland, Vermont and around the world. My certificate of Irish Heritage is very special to me; and is something I will always treasure.


David Andrew McNamee, Trenton, Ontario, Canada.

David Andrew McNamee

I gave the certificate to my father on June 17 for Father’s Day. He said it was “the best gift I ever received”. He will be 92 in December.

Here’s a photo of him with his certificate, which says, ‘David Andrew McNamee is a descendant of William McNamee, born 1834 in Co. Donegal’. William was his grandfather. William and his parents, who were from County Antrim, all emigrated to Canada in 1847.

Dad was born in Killarney, Manitoba, in 1920, when his father was 50 years old. His father Andrew was born in Mooresville (near Lucan), Ontario in 1870. He also has Irish ancestry on his mother’s side, all from the north. The rest were Scottish.

by Terry McNamee

Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. presented with Certificate of Irish Heritage


The Mayor of Charleston, Joseph P. Riley Jr., has been presented with a Certificate of Irish Heritage, recognising his ancestral ties with Ireland and his great friendship towards Ireland and people of Irish heritage in Charleston over 37 consecutive years as Mayor.

Speaking after the presentation, Mayor Riley said:

“I am so proud and grateful to have received the Certificate of Irish Heritage from Paul Gleeson, Consul General of Ireland.  I am so proud of my Irish heritage and of my Irish and Scotch-Irish ancestors who came to Charleston.  They came from County Antrim, Donegal, Strabane, County Tyrone, Ireland and Glasgow, Scotland.  I am so proud that I have had the opportunity of serving as mayor of the city they adopted generations ago.  I am also so proud of the citizens of Charleston of Irish descent who have worked so hard and continue to do so to make our city such a beautiful and successful place.”

The Mayor was presented with his Certificate, which depicts an emigrant ship ready to set sail from Ireland in 1853, by the Consul General of Ireland for the US south-east, Paul Gleeson. The Consul General said:

Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. Certificate of Irish Heritage “It is a great honour to present this Certificate to Mayor Riley, who has been a tremendous friend of Ireland for very many years. And it is wonderful to make this presentation in a city with such a rich and proud Irish heritage. Charleston was the biggest southern entry point for Irish emigrants coming to the United States in the early 1800s and the vibrancy and appreciation of Irish culture and traditions is still very much evident in the city today. Mayor Riley is proud of his Irish heritage and has been a great supporter of Irish initiatives in Charleston. I am delighted that we were able to recognise his contribution and ancestry as we launch these new Certificates.”



Actor Chris O’ Donnell receives his Certificate of Irish Heritage

Chris O' Donnell

Chris O Donnell admires his Certificate

Actor Chris O’ Donnell admires his Certificate of Irish Heritage yesterday outside Ashford Castle Co. Mayo. The Certificate which honors his parental Great Grandparents was presented to him by Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring. Minister Ring said: “It’s a pleasure to be able to present Chris O’Donnell with a Certificate of Irish Heritage. I’m delighted that he has chosen to visit Ireland for his photoshoot..”

Chris O’ Donnell’s parental Great Grandfather, William O’ Donnell hailed from County Donegal and immigrated to the USA in 1855 age 9 with his family, where he met and married Irish born Johanna Kennedy in 1875, they had 5 children he eldest of whom was Chris O’ Donnell Grandfather John J. O’ Donnell.

Michael John O’Donoghue, Adelaide, South Australia

Michael John O'Donoghue

Michael John O'Donoghue My Father was born in Lacken Cappoquin (Co. Waterford) in November of 1917. My Mother was born only a few Miles away in Moneygorm in August of 1921. Both of My Parents attended the same One Room School (in Affane Cappoquin) and both Walked along the same Road for several Miles, until they reached the ‘Y Junction’ at Murphy’s Forge, (Bawnfoun) where One went Left, the other Right. My Father had One Brother and Four Sisters, whilst My Mother had One Sister and One Brother.

My Mother’s Family (The Ketts) who had only recently returned from America, (the reason why her older Sister was American) to Tend the Family Farm, were quite a well to do Family in the District, having a Large Farm which is still ‘a Kett Farm’ to this Day. My Fathers Family (The Donoghues of Lacken) were less so, having simply a Cottage and a Field or two. Today the site of that Cottage bears a new House, with a new Family, who well remember The Donoghues of Lacken. In 2009, whilst attending My Mother’s Burial (Affane Churchyard opposite her One Room Schoolhouse) I was introduced to “My Neighbours” from Lacken. This was despite My never having Lived in Lacken and this being My First Visit to Ireland in over 40 Years. Unfortunately circumstances prevented My Father from dying (as was his Wish) at Home (in Ireland) and he is buried in Adelaide, South Australia.

My Father being Intellectually Gifted, did extremely well at School, but was still forced out of the Education System at an early age, to get a Job and support the Family. My Father was a prodigious Musician capable of playing amongst others Spoons, Mouth Organ, Saw, Tin Whistle, Drums, Piano, Guitar, Piano Accordion, Squeeze Box and Fiddle. My Father was a member of several Bands (all it seems at the same Time) and played regularly at Dances all over the District. So prodigious were his musical talents, that My Mother (in an effort to have some peace & quiet in Our Adelaide House) ‘forced’ My Father to build a Shed at the bottom of Our Garden, where Father spent Years filling the air with his harmonious melodies. And all from Memory (another of his prodigious Gifts).

My Mother, like many young women of her Age, (and perhaps of her social status) received a better Education (although she was far less Gifted than My Father) and was mainly ‘dead keen’ on Dancing (sneaking out of the House after Lights Out, only to sneak Back In before her Father woke her to Milk the Cows). Although both of My Parents were fluent in the Irish Language until their dying Days, My fluency is limited to a few simple phrases of Welcome and Departure. My Irish Language lessons, having gone the same way as My French Language lessons, when We moved to Australia (too far from anywhere to ever need them, was the reasoning).

What it was that drew them to each other I don’t know, but in August of 1955, in the quiet English Village of Ashtead, (Surrey) My Parents were Married and then moved into ‘32 The Street’, a Family House (which it appears her Parents bought for her). Perhaps it was a condition of their Purchase, (or not) but that they Lived there with Us, until their Deaths in 1959.

In September 1967, My Parents brought Me (only child) to Adelaide, South Australia where I still reside. Being as I am a member of a large Irish Family, (Irish Cousins too numerous to list) and being (by Birth) English, becoming Irish has always held for Me, a fatal fascination.

One could argue that I don’t Need a Certificate of Irish Heritage because of My Surname. One could argue that I don’t Need a Certificate of Irish Heritage because of My Saffron Kilt. One could argue that I don’t Need a Certificate of Irish Heritage because I possess an Irish Passport. But the fact is that I can’t hang My Surname on a wall and hanging My Passport or My Kilt is neither practical nor particularly beautiful. But hanging a superbly crafted and framed, Official Certificate of Irish Heritage issued by the Government of Ireland, is something I can Proudly Display. And I can remember that My Certificate of Irish Heritage is not available to People of Irish Heritage who were born in Ireland. And that is worth remembering. Why My Irish Heritage is important to Me isn’t in itself important. What is important is that it is important. And I can prove that by hanging and proudly displaying My Certificate of Irish Heritage in a place of honour and that really is all that is important.

My Body may forever be English, but My Heart will forever be Irish.


Richard Jenkins, Glenhaven, Australia

RJ In Ireland Shoveling Peat

RJ In Ireland Shoveling PeatMichael Lahy was my Great Great Grandfather, he was born in county Tipperary in 1793 and was baptised in the parish of Carrick-On-Suir on 21st September 1795. I do not know much about his parents John Lahy and Maria Farrell or any details of Michaels early years in Ireland. But at the age of 25 Michael came to Australia as a convict.
In 1815, at age 24, he was arrested as a ringleader in an uprising against the British landlords in County Tipperary. Of his 14 fellow conspirators all were found guilty of insurrection against the crown, one was hanged and the rest, including Michael were transported to Australia. Michael arrived in the colony on the Surrey 2 in December, 1816.
By 1821 Michael was completely rehabilitated and earned his conditional pardon, two years ahead of the time he would normally have expected it. He had been assigned to work for Sir John Jameson, a prominent landholder in the colony.
Michael led a very colourful life in Australia, becoming a significant and prominent landholder in his own right, in the Mudgee region of New South Wales. He Married Mary Anne Thurston (Daughter of a convict) on 25th July 1833 and they had eight children together, one of whom being my Great Grandmother Catherine Lahy.
Catherine married my Great Grandfather Michael Brophy on 8th November 1852. Michael had also been born in Ireland in County Kilkenny on 16th may 1817 and came to Australia as an agricultural Labourer on the 18th October 1840 on the emigrant ship Isabella. Michael had been working as a labourer for Michael Lahy on his property near Mudgee where he and Catherine met and fell in love. They had nine children together including my Grandfather Frank Brophy who was born in Mudgee in 1870.
Frank worked his father’s land near Mudgee and married Catherine Rogers (Granddaughter of a convict) on 9th March 1895 at St John’s Church Gulgong; they had seven children together the last of whom, was my Mother Noreen Brophy who was born on 2 July 1907.
I am very proud of my Irish Heritage and the certificate I have been given to attest to it. I can pass my ancestral heritage on to my own children with pride.


Daniel O’Brien, Rosario, Argentina

Daniel O'Brien

My ancestor Daniel O’Brien left the family farm at Ballinguile, Buttevant, Co.Cork about 1865 when he was in his twenties.Daniel O'Brien

He migrated to the Argentinean Pampas with a brother, Jeremiah, and a sister Johanna. They joined an increasing community of people from Cork and Kerry that had settled down in Carmen de Areco. Daniel became a shepherd at “El Ombu” a ranch owned by Daniel O’Connell native from Kanturk, a nephew of “The Liberator”.

My ancestor died of a sudden stroke at age 38. His brother Jeremiah met his fate shortly afterwards when he got killed by a rampaging bull.Johanna got married and lived to be an old granny. None of them could ever return, actually no O’Brien ever returned to Ballinguile until last year, when I travelled to Ireland with my wife, Peggy.

Apart from doing tourism and sightseeing, we scheduled our trip in advance to visit the farms and towns some our ancestors lived in, and the most important thing is that we met warm hearted people and relatives waiting for us in every place. Thus we also visited the Chapmans of Lisnacusha, Co.Longford, the McDonnels of Ballycowan, Co.Offally and the Martins of Loughnavally, Co. Westmeath.

Being at the very same spot our ancestors were born and raised was an emotive experience. We enjoyed very much our visit to Ireland and we are certainly going back again, there’s still much to be seen, not just beautiful landscapes.

The most valued treasure of Ireland lies in its people. I should not avoid to mention Luke Baxter of Co.Longford, an extremely kind gentleman with a fine knowledge of local history, he helped us to get in touch with people from these places I mentioned before, encouraging us to rebuild family and friendship links that had been broken since the times of famine and emigration. His Help was priceless.

It is never too late to get back to one’s roots, never mind how many years or centuries have elapsed. I see this certificate as a tribute paid to our ancestors; a way to keep alive the memory of those who left behind a family, friends and a distressed land to build up a future across the Ocean. The Certificate honors such sacrifice.

I’m glad to see this recognition has the seal of the Irish Republic, specially considering that my ancestors migrated to Argentina when the Republic was but a distant dream.
It was a nice surprise to find the Certificate is also issued in Spanish language, since the River Plate is a destination often ignored when talking of Irish migration. I think this is an effort for inclusion that must be applauded and commended.


Common Surname? Don’t Despair!

Ireland 1808

Today we publish our genealogy tips on common surnames from our guest blogger Deborah Large Fox.

At my genealogy presentations, I often meet people who have given up researching their Irish roots. Most of them have the same complaint: a family surname that is ubiquitous throughout much of Ireland.
“My family’s name is Kelly (or Murphy or Brennan). And, everyone is named Mary and John and Patrick. It would be impossible to find them!” Difficult? Perhaps. Impossible? Never!
Every family is unique, even if the members share a surname with millions of other Irish descendants around the world. To track a family with a very common surname, you will need to be methodical, patient, detail-oriented, and determined. You will spend much time eliminating other families with the same surname, as well as tracking your own ancestors.
As all family historians must do, it is very important to begin with the present day family and work backwards. Your aim is to discover every possible detail about your family members and to determine what distinguishes them from all others with the same name.
As you go back through the generations, spot those characteristics that make your family recognizable. Did many of your ancestors have the same profession or trade? One woman found her family in County Waterford by researching brush makers. Another is following the paper trail left by generations of ancestors who entered the clergy.
Do your relatives share any distinguishing physical characteristics or special talents? Do special nicknames reoccur in your family stories? Often in rural Ireland, one nickname is given to a family branch to distinguish them from others, the Reds O’Brien’s or the Black Brennan’s, for example (hair color is often a distinguishing characteristic of family branches).
Those with a common surname must also pay special attention to the friends and family of their ancestors. Besides researching the baptismal sponsors and marriage witnesses, do a bit of digging on the neighbors and, especially, on the business partners, fellow workers, and fellow parishioners. These people might possibly have emigrated from the same location as your ancestor.
DNA testing can be a brick wall breaker in the case of common surnames. Many DNA surname studies collect and collate family records as well as DNA matches, enabling members to map out and connect family lines that could be difficult to distinguish otherwise.
Don’t forget: you may have a common surname, but your family is unique!

For more information on your family research visit Deborah’s blog spot: