Introductory Remarks

The subject of names presents an attractive field for investigation, but some of its most interesting aspects are beyond the scope of the present treatise, which is necessarily confined to those variations and peculiarities affecting our national records of Births, Deaths, and Marriages.

In January, 1894, I prepared for the late Registrar-General a Special Report on Surnames in Ireland, with notes as to numerical strength, derivation, ethnology, and distribution, based on information extracted from the Births Indexes of the General Register Office for the year 1890. This treatise was published as an Appendix to the Twenty-ninth Annual Report of the Registrar-General, and presented to Parliament.

There is, unfortunately, no complete record of the surnames in this country. An attempt was made by the Census Commissioners of 1851 to compile such a work, but when only partially done it was given up.

Our national Indexes of Births, Deaths, and Marriages for the last thirty-six years probably contain almost all the surnames in use in this country, but the information is necessarily scattered over many volumes, and the task of presenting in a complete and readable form the surnames of the population yet remains to be accomplished.

Apart from the official purpose for which they have been prepared, the Indexes form a most interesting study. Like the figures in the kaleidoscope, names are continually changing, old names dropping out and new ones appearing.

In addition to our Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Norman surnames, we find Highland Gaelic names, represented by “MacDougal,” “MacGregor,” “Macintosh.” Welsh names are found, such as “Morgan,” “Richards,” “Apjohn.” Danish names appear as “Dowdall,” “Dromgoole,” “Gould,” “Coppinger.” There are many Huguenot names, as “La Touche,” “Du Bedat,” “Lefroy,” “Dubourdieu,” “Le Fanu,” “Drelincourt,” “Dombrain,” “Crommelin,” “Boileau,” “De Blacquiere.” Italian names are represented, as “Bassi,” “Ceppi,” “Casciani.” We have various German Palatinate names, as “Bovenizor,” “Delmege,” “Switzer,” “Doupe,” “Teskey,” “Shire,” and “Moddler.” Jewish names are found, such as “Cohen,” “Levi,” “Aaron,” and the Indexes are now showing the result of the recent migration to this country of Jews from Russia in such names as “Rabinovitch,” “Weiner,” “Matufsky,” “Hesselberg,” “Stuppel,” “Rossin,” “Winstock,” “Greenberg,” “Maisell,” “Statzumsky,” “Coplau,” “Wachman,” “Wedeclefsky,” and “Fridberg.”

None but those actually engaged in registration work can have any idea of the practical difficulties which are encountered by persons searching the Indexes, owing to the great variations in names in Ireland.

These variations are not only in spelling and form, but entirely different names are used synonymously by the same person or by members of the same family.

Many of these cases are direct translations of Irish names into English, or vice versa, while in others they are equivalents, modifications, or corruptions of them.

In a country where two different languages are spoken, it might be expected some such cases would occur, but in Ireland the practice is much more widespread than is commonly supposed.

In addition to the changes attributable to the difference of language, time has a powerful effect in altering names, which have also a tendency to assume various forms in different districts.

Illiteracy also operates in corrupting names, while they are also frequently varied in spelling and form at pleasure.

It is proposed in this treatise first to analyse the orthographical changes usually met with, and then to consider the use of different surnames interchangeably.

As some peculiarities have been met with in Christian names which affect the Indexes, it has been deemed advisable to insert a notice of them.

To the alphabetical list of surnames, with their varieties and synonymes, is prefixed a short explanation of the principles on which it has been prepared. The list is followed by an Index, enabling the reader to trace without difficulty each variety to the principal name or names with which it has been found to be used interchangeably.