Patronymic Prefixes

In all ages and in all nations some families were more distinguished than others: some were known by the prefix De, Von, or Don; the Mac was peculiar to Scotland, while Ireland retained the O' and Mac. Without O' and Mac the Irish have no names, according to the old verse:

"Per O' atque Mac, veros cognoscis Hibernos;

His duobus demptis, nullus Hibernus adest."

Which has been translated thus—

"By Mac and O' you'll always know

True Irishmen, they say:

But, if they lack the O' or Mac,

No Irishmen are they."

Many of the old Irish families omit the O', and Mac; others of them, from causes over which they had no control, have so twisted and translated their sirnames, that it is often difficult to determine whether those families are of Irish, English, or French extraction. By looking for the sirname, however, in the page of this Work to which the "Index of Sirnames" refers, the descent of the family bearing that name may, as a rule, be ascertained.

Other families are considered as of English, or Anglo-Norman descent; but some of those families can be easily traced to Irish origin. For example: "Hort" can be derived from the Irish proper name O'h-Airt; "Ouseley" and "Wesley," from Mac Uaislaidh [Mac Oossley]; "Verdon" and "De Verdon," from the Irish fhear-donn [fhar-dun], signifying the "brown man;" "Vernon" and "Mac Vernon," from the Irish fhear-nuin (nuin: Irish, the ash tree); etc.

This volume also contains the names of the Irish Chiefs and Clans in Ireland, from the twellth to the fifteenth century, and where the territories they possessed were located; the names of the leading families of Anglo-Norman, English, and Scotch descent, who settled in Ireland from the twelfth to the seventeenth century; and of the modern Irish Nobility. Under these several heads Connellan's "Four Masters" contains very full information—more than, in case of the Irish Chiefs and Clans, is given in O'Dugan's and O'Heerin's Topographies: Connellan we have therefore adopted, save, in a few instances where we found that some of the Irish families were, inadvertently perhaps, mystified.

Some Irish sirnames are now obsolete, and some extinct; the following are the modern forms of a few of the obsolete sirnames: MacFirbis has become "Forbes;" MacGeough, "Goff," "Gough," and "MacGough;" MacRanall, "Reynell" and "Reynolds;" MacTague, "Montague;" Mulligan, "Molyneux;" O'Barie, ";Barry;" O'Bearra, "Berry" and "Bury;" O'Caoinhan, "Keenan;" O'Donocho, "O'Donoghue" and "O'Donohoe;" O'Gnieve, "Agnue" and "Agnew;" O'Rahilly, "O'Reilly" and "OReilly;" etc.