Summary of the most common surnames

Robert E. Matheson
Chapter II | Start of chapter

It will be seen from the foregoing Tables that the name “Murphy” stands first in Ireland, in order of numerical strength, representing an estimated number of 62,600 persons (or 13.3 per thousand of the population), and that in both England and Scotland the name “Smith” occupies the first place, representing, it is estimated, in England and Wales (in the year 1853) 253,600 persons (or 13.8 per thousand of the population), and in Scotland (in the year 1863) 44,200, or 14.2 per thousand of the population.

The second place on the Irish List is held by the name “Kelly,” representing 55,900 persons (or 11.8 per thousand of the population). In the English Tables “Jones” has the second place, representing, it is estimated, 242,100 people (or 13.2 per thousand). It is the most common name in the Principality of Wales, and its prevalence there has given it the high place it occupies on the List for the country generally. The Registrar-General for England states that in some years the Joneses contributed to the registers a larger number of Births than even the Smiths. In Scotland the second place is held by “M‘Donald,” the estimated population bearing the name being 36,600, or 11.8 per thousand.

The third place in Ireland is filled by “Sullivan,” the number of persons of which name it is estimated amounts to 43,600 (or 9.2 per thousand). In England “Williams” is the third name in numerical importance, representing 159,900 persons (or 8.7 per thousand). In Scotland “Brown” stands third, reckoning 33,800 (or 10.9 per thousand).

Several names among the first Fifty on the Irish List appear on the Lists for one or both of the other Divisions of the Kingdom. Thus “Smith” is 5th in Ireland and 1st in England and Scotland; “Murray” is 18th in Ireland, and 17th in Scotland; “Moore” is 20th in Ireland, and 39th in England; “Wilson” is 26th in Ireland, 11th in England, and 8th in Scotland; “Campbell” is 31st in Ireland, and 7th in Scotland; “Clarke” (or “Clark”) is 32nd in Ireland, 9th (taking both spellings) in England, and 18th in Scotland; “Johnston” appears 33rd in Ireland, and 16th in Scotland; “Hughes” appears 34th in Ireland, and 19th in England; “Brown” is 37th in Ireland, 6th in England, and 3rd in Scotland; “Martin” is 38th in Ireland, 31st in England, and 48th in Scotland; “Thompson” or “Thomson” is 42nd in Ireland, 15th in England, and 4th in Scotland; “White” is 50th in Ireland, 22nd in England, and 41st in Scotland.

It will also be observed that among the second fifty names on the Irish List, several appear in the first fifty of England or Scotland. Thus,—“Stewart” is 58th in Ireland, and 6th in Scotland; “Robinson,” 73rd in Ireland, and 12th in England; “Ward,” 78th in Ireland, and 30th in England; “Reid,” 81st in Ireland, and 13th in Scotland; “Graham,” 82nd in Ireland, and 40th in Scotland; “King,” 86th in Ireland, and 36th in England; “Bell,” 89th in Ireland, and 47th in Scotland; “Scott,” 90th in Ireland, and 10th in Scotland; and “M‘Donald,” which is 95th in Ireland, is 2nd in Scotland.

It will be perceived, however, that most of the names in Ireland with the larger numbers are peculiar to this country, representing the names of Irish Clans and Septs, such as the Murphys, Kellys, Sullivans, O’Briens, Byrnes, Ryans, Connors, O’Neills, Reillys, Doyles, McCarthys, Gallaghers, Dohertys, &c.

The Scotch Clans are similarly represented in the List for Scotland, such as the M‘Donalds, M‘Kenzies, M‘Gregors, M‘Leods, M‘Kays, Campbells, Stewarts, Camerons, &c.