Irish people with English-sounding names

From the website of the parish of Inishmagrath in County Leitrim, [] a piece about local families reminds of how our Irish ancestors got English names:

“Examination of the Annals show that for many centuries the Mac Conshnamha (Mac Connava) family were the chieftains of Muintir Chionaith.  The Mac Conshnamha name was later translated as Forde”.  In the 1901 Census, the Ford family still has members there. 

The Penal Laws included the requirement that O be dropped from surnames, or that the surname be translated.

The surname Smith is famous for being ordinary! The spelling variations of the name as Smith, Smyth, Smithe, Smythe, is of little historical significance and probably only reflects the writing styles of the day. It is the fifth most common surname in Ireland, and the most common name in England, Scotland and Wales. It is also a very common last name in Germany, Canada and Australia. Indeed it is not unusual for people in English-speaking countries to adopt the surname Smith in order to maintain a secret identity, if they wish to avoid being found!

In Irish it is Mac an Ghabhain (MacGowan), meaning ‘son of the smith’ and its translation to Smith became widespread, particularly in County Cavan where the sept originated and were one of the most powerful families. The vast majority of the family in Cavan anglicised their name to Smith. The usual modern gaelic form is MacGabhain. On the borders of Cavan, Leitrim, and to the north west in Counties Donegal and Sligo, the English form, MacGowan, is still often used in preference to Smith.


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Irish/Scots-Irish Special Interest Group meeting

Hi everybody, This is a reminder that the Irish/ScotsIrish Special Interest Group will meet on the third Thursday, Feb 15th, 2018, at Crossroads Mall Community Room at 12:30 pm.
As you may be aware, changes have occurred with the Legacy User SIG.  Marilyn Schunke will address those changes, and how it may affect us.
Guy Bennett has agreed to make a presentation on resources available for research at the Bellevue LDS Library.
We usually meet at the Crossroads Mall Food Circus around Noon for Lunch and a chat.  Please join us.
Regards    Peter
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Another useful site

Your free and independent guide to finding your Irish ancestors


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Finding Your Irish Immigrant Ancestors


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The Irish Landed Estates Database and Court Files

The Irish Landed Estates Database

Contributed by Joanne McEntee

One could be forgiven for supposing that the contemporary terms ‘ghost estates’ or ‘abandoned estates’ merely exist as part of the historic nomenclature of the now defunct world of operating Irish landed estates. Yet the ghost estates of yesteryear are now as visible and accessible to the public as their twenty-first century brethren thanks to the recent launch of the Munster Landed Estates Database. Complementing the already existing Connacht database and maintained by the Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Studies, National University of Ireland, Galway, the Landed Estates Database provides a comprehensive and integrated resource guide to landed estates and historic houses in Connacht and Munster, c. 1700-1914. Seeking to assist and support researchers working on social, economic, political and cultural Irish history, this user-friendly website should not confound even those claiming not to be au fait with the rapidly expanding world of digitization. The fact alone that the website records over 4500 houses and provides images for approximately half of those bears testament to the Trojan work of the researchers Marie Boran and Brigid Clesham in undertaking such a monumental task.

For novices to the site, perhaps an exploration of the ‘estate’ option would prove must fruitful starting point. Containing a description of the estate, the names of the families associated with it, the houses it contained, and details of reference sources for more information, for this resource alone the database should be highly commended. Researchers armed only with a surname are also able to complete searches under the ‘families’ option.  Although over 2700 families are included in the database it comes as no surprise that an overlapping of surnames frequently occurs. Within an Irish context many families sharing surnames did not, and do not even to this day, necessarily share a direct bloodline. In order to address this, attempts have been made to distinguish between different family groupings by reference to either the name of their residence or the name of the barony where most of their land was located. In some instances, environmental boundaries are even extended to county parameters in order to classify a particular family unit. Examples include the Kellys in Roscommon and O’Briens in Clare. The map search option also deserves special mention for contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of local between such gentry houses.

Another welcome aspect of the database was the decision to include some estates <500 acres where there is evidence that these were part of the family, social, and political network which constituted landed society, thereby providing a more nuanced  and richer depiction of contemporary Irish society. Consequently, the more humble 164 acres owned by Sarah Helena Kelly, wife of Edmond Walter Kelly (Dunkellin) receives the same attention as the Browne estate (Westport), which was comprised of some 114,881 acres in 1876. The project can be accessed through ( or contacted via email: ( Unfortunately, a similar resource does not exist for Ulster and Leinster although Tarquin Blake’s Abandoned Mansions of Ireland (Cork, 2010)  ( sheds a glimmer of light on the big house in these as yet neglected provinces.

Spanning over two centuries, the Landed Estates Database provides a comprehensive and integrated resource guide to landed estates and historic houses in Connacht and Munster, c. 1700-1914. It remains to be seen whether a similar database will be constructed of building developments in Ireland in the two decades straddling the recent turn of the century.

Joanne McEntee is completing doctoral research on the nineteenth century Irish landed estate, as part of the Texts, Contexts, Cultures programme in the Moore Institute, NUI Galway. This project is funded by PRTLI 4.

Landed Estates Database:

As of today the search is misdirecting to computer language, so only the “Families A-Z” search is working. I will edit this notice when I see that that error has been corrected.  Meanwhile,  after you open the link above, click on Families, choose an initial letter and search for a name. Putting a name in the search box might also work.

The Landed Estates Web site is a searchable, online database of all Landed Estates in Connacht and Munster, c. 1700-1914, maintained by the Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Studies, National University of Ireland, Galway.


Ireland Landed Estates Court Files

What is in the Collection?

During the 1840s, Ireland suffered a massive famine. Many tenants died, and others emigrated, hoping to find relief. As a result, landlords lost their major source of income, and their estates went into debt, culminating in a high number of foreclosures. It is estimated that between the years 1850 and 1858 around 8,000 estate foreclosures were handled.

In 1849, an act was passed which established the Encumbered Estates Court. This court handled the sale and accounting of bankrupted estates. In 1858, the Landed Estates Court was established. This court handled both unencumbered and encumbered estates.

These records were created to provide a detailed accounting of bankrupted estate sales. These records are generally reliable. This collection covers records for the years 1850 to 1885. These records consist of maps, which are hand-drawn, and tenant lists which are typed on preprinted forms. The records are divided by county and lot.

Citing this Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.

Collection Citation:

“Ireland Landed Estate Court Files, 1850-1885.” Database with Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2017. National Archives, Dublin.

____________________________________________________________________________________________CONTEMPORARY PRINTED SOURCES:

  • HUSSEY DE BURGH, U. H. The Landowners of Ireland: an alphabetical list of the owners of estates of 500 acres or £500 valuation and upwards in Ireland. Dublin: Hodges, Foster and Figgis, 1878
  • PARLIAMENTARY PAPERS. Return of Untenanted Lands in Rural Districts, Distinguishing Demesnes on Which There is a Mansion…, HC 1906,
  • PARLIAMENTARY PAPERS. Return of owners of land of one acre and upwards, in the several counties …. in Ireland. HC 1876, LXXX ,
  • Royal Dublin Society Statistical Surveys, most available surveys for counties in Connacht and Munster online at
    • Dutton, Hely: A statistical and agricultural survey of the county of Galway. Dublin: Printed at the University Press by R. Graisberry, 1824
    • Dutton, Hely. Statistical survey of the county of Clare. Dublin: Printed by Graisberry and Campbell,
    • McParlan, James. Statistical survey of the county of Sligo. Dublin: Printed by Graisberry and Campbell, 1802. 630.94172 McP
    • McParlan, James. Statistical survey of the county of Mayo. Dublin: 1802.
    • McParlan, James. Statistical survey of the county of Leitrim. Dublin, 1802. (Available at
    • Townsend, Horatio. Statistical survey of the county of Cork. Dublin: 1810.
    • Weld, Isaac. Statistical survey of the county of Roscommon. Dublin: 1832.
  • SLATER, Isaac. Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1846. (London: Slater, 1846) and
  • Taylor, George and Skinner, Andrew. Maps of the Roads of Ireland. (London, 1778 & 1783, reprinted Irish University Press, 1969) available online at
  • Walford, Edward. County Families of the United Kingdom, 1860.
  • WILSON, William. The Post-Chaise Companion or Travellers Directory through Ireland. The author: Dublin, 1786

More About Irish Estate Records:

Most of our Irish ancestors were tenant farmers, leasing plots directly from the landowner or sub-leasing from another Irishman. Land records are a good source for family history information, even if our ancestors didn’t own real property in Ireland. 

Noble families and Church of Ireland clergy were the major Irish landowners prior to the 20th century. Tom Rice shared good information about land ownership and estate records in his class last Saturday. He explained how estate papers may include details about leases, tenants, evictions, emigration, and other economic and social conditions.

Of course, the key is knowing the name of the townland where your ancestor lived.  If you know the townland, Griffiths’ Valuation will help you identify the landowner (at the time of the valuation). If you’re lucky enough to have ancestors from Connacht or Munster, you may find information on the Landed Estates Database. (Read more at


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Irish Census: ‘lost’ records now online

National Archives of Ireland

The newly released documents have been published online by the National
Archives of Ireland, in partnership with genealogical companies, FindMyPast
and FamilySearch.
Thousands of Irish census documents, many dating back to the early 19th
Century, have been made available to the public online for the first time.

The vast majority of pre-1922 records were destroyed by a fire at the Public
Record Office in the Irish Civil War.

But some of the documents that survived the fire, and others held elsewhere,
have now been collated and put online.

They include partial census records from 1821 to 1851, a substantial amount
from counties now in Northern Ireland.

Pre-famine Ireland

Surviving documents from the 1821 census include household returns from
large parts of County Fermanagh.

Many of the 1831 census records for County Londonderry have survived, and a
substantial amount of 1851 census documents from County Antrim also remain

Most of them are not the original documents, but are contemporaneous copies
of census forms that were archived in offices in what later became Northern

1911 Census of Ireland document

The 1901 and 1911 censuses are the only pre-partition censuses to survive in
comprehensive form

The surviving documents had previously been available to order from the
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) but they have now been
published online
, to access free of charge, by the National Archives of Ireland.

It undertook the project in partnership with genealogical companies,
FindMyPast and FamilySearch.

In total, the newly available documentation relates to more than 600,000
individuals on the island of Ireland.

Documentation disasters

In addition to the Northern Ireland census records, they include documents
from counties Cavan, Meath, Galway and Offaly and Dublin.

Many of the records are from the years leading up to the Irish famine
, which is
reckoned to have killed nearly one-eighth of the entire population.

The three partners involved in the project have described the online
additions as a “substantial record of an important period in Irish history”
and an “invaluable resource for anyone tracing Irish ancestry”.

For people of Irish descent, tracing their family roots is notoriously
difficult because of a series of documentation disasters.

Full government censuses for the whole island of Ireland began in 1821 and
continued at ten-year intervals until 1911.

No census was taken in 1921, because of the Irish War of Independence.

Bomb explosions

However, many of the records were completely destroyed prior to 1922, by
order of the British government, on grounds of confidentiality.

The original census returns for 1861 and 1871 were destroyed shortly after
they were taken.

Documents from the 1881 and 1891 censuses were pulped during the First World

The majority of the returns for the four censuses carried out between 1821
and 1851 were destroyed by a major fire at the Public Record Office of

When the Irish Civil War began in June 1922, the government-owned building
based at Dublin’s Four Courts was among the first casualties.

Almost all of the records it held, some dating back to medieval times, were
destroyed in bomb explosions that set fire to the office on 30 June of that

100-year rule

As a result, the 1901 and 1911 Irish censuses are the only pre-partition
censuses to survive in comprehensive form.

Census records are normally kept confidential and only released 100 years
after the original surveys were completed.

However, because so many Irish census documents have been destroyed, the
100-year rule was suspended and the public were given early access to the
1901 and 1911 censuses.

Catriona Crowe
Catriona Crowe from the National Archives of Ireland said the newly
published documents were a very valuable source of information

They have been available to search online
for free via the National Archives
of Ireland for the last few years.

Catriona Crowe, the Head of Special Projects at the National Archives of
Ireland, said the newly released documents also include “census search”
forms, which recorded the personal details of Irish people who asked to
search through the 1841 and 1851 censuses.

The searches were often undertaken by pensioners seeking to prove their own
date of birth, in order to qualify for the Old Age Pension, which was
introduced in 1909.

The search applicants had to give their name, address and parents’ names,
crucially including their mother’s maiden name.

‘Tragic loss’

The documents were kept in an administrative section of the Public Records
Office in Dublin and survived the 1922 fire.

Ms Crowe said they were a very valuable source of information for people who
have very little information about their relatives from this period.

“The National Archives is delighted to be involved in this partnership,
which allows us to make many of our important genealogical records available
free online at a time of scarce government resources,” she said.

“We look forward to rolling out many more records in the coming years,” Ms
Crowe added.

Cliona Weldon, general manager of, said: “Having such a
priceless set of records available online to access for free is a huge
benefit for everyone wanting to find their Irish roots, especially after the
tragic loss of records in 1922.”

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Online Catholic parish registers from the National Library of Ireland available in summer

John Grenham: Irish Roots
Online Catholic parish registers from the National Library of Ireland available in summer

Mon, Dec 1, 2014, 15:35

A huge change is coming soon for everyone involved in Irish genealogy. By summer 2015, the National Library of Ireland will have a dedicated website making its collection of Catholic parish register microfilms freely available online. These records are – by a long way – the single most important source of historical Irish family information, one of the greatest legacies of the Catholic Church to Ireland.
It is important to understand precisely what the website will do. The Library’s aim is to reproduce on the internet the service already available to the public in the microfilm reading room in Kildare Street in Dublin, where images of 98 per cent of parish registers before 1880 can already be viewed by anybody, without payment or membership or proof of identity.
The new site will offer precisely the same (sometimes frustrating) opportunity to look at (sometimes blurred) photographic reproductions of the original records. But instead of having to travel to Dublin from Buncrana or Ballymena or Boston, you will now be able to view them online. With this service, the Library is simply taking at face value the word “National” in its own title.
What are the implications? Clearly, once these images are as easily available in Salt Lake City and Bangalore as they are in Dublin, swarms of transcribers will descend. Ideally, the results will be free, though some transcripts may sit behind paywalls. On the other hand, there will be nothing to stop any local history society in the country from just putting a transcript of their own parishes online. The more the merrier.
Some opposition can be expected. The existing transcription-only service at will protest loudly. But would they not be better advised to use the images to improve their own offering and increase their head-start on competitors?
It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of what is about to happen. When the Irish public service gets things right, it can get them spectacularly, gloriously right.

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