Spelling of Townland Names and Surnames in my Databases
Spelling of Townland Names in myDatabases
spelling of official [modern-day] townland names in the databases
follow the spellings used in the 1901 Alphabetical Index to the
Townlands and Towns of Ireland and the spellings on the Ordnance
Survey maps. In most of the databases the townland name entered in the
Townland column will be the official [modern-day] spelling e.g. Altaghoney
and Gorteade. However, particularly in the earlier databases you will
find this kind of entry - Altaghoney [Altohoney] and Gorteade [Bollymonny].
In both instances the actual spelling of the townland name is different
from the modern-day spelling so I have included the former in brackets
beside the latter. As you can see in the Altaghoney example the actual
spelling is simply a variant spelling. However, in the Gorteade example
the name of the townland is completely different. Usually this only
occurs in seventeenth-century databases. Clearly, some of my interpretations
of these earlier spellings and their relationship to modern townland
names could be wrong.
Co. Londonderry, I
have relied, to a large extent, on the suggested modern-day names, written
in pencil, on the transcripts of sources such as the Hearth Money Rolls.
However, some of these are wrong. I have also used Munn's book on place-names
throughout the county, originally published in 1925, plus two more recent
books published as part of the The Northern Ireland Place-Name Project
undertaken by the Department of Celtic Studies, Q.U.B. - Gregory Toner's
book on the Moyola Valley  and Patrick McKay & Kay
Muhr's book on Lough Neagh Places . For Co. Antrim I have
relied heavily on S, T. Carleton, Heads & Hearths: The Hearth
Money Rolls and Poll Tax Returns for County Antrim 1660-1669 [PRONI,
Spelling of Surnames in my Databases
with surnames, creating the databases was not always easy. Not surprisingly,
the spelling of surnames in the original sources varied a great deal
both within and between documents over the centuries. The names in these
documents were entered by various officials and there is some evidence
to suggest that this led to regional spelling of surnames, particularly
in the earlier sources. Certainly, the spelling of surnames had become
more standardised by the time of the Griffith's Printed Valuation of
c.1860. Remember too, that the originals of the seventeenth-century
Hearth Money Rolls and the eighteenth-century Religious Returns were
destroyed in the 1922 Four Courts fire. The only sources we now have
are transcripts of those originals and many of these are typed, suggesting
that they are probably a transcript of a transcript. Let's not forget
that the databases are further transcripts! In transcription it is relatively
easy to mistake an "e" for an "a" or an "r"
for an "n" and so on.
key problem in creating a database of names from original sources is
to produce a database which is relatively easy to search and sort whilst,
at the same time, remains true to the spelling of the names in the primary
source. This is particularly the case with seventeenth and eighteenth-century
in seventeenth-century sources were written down by officials who, if
they were not familiar with the spelling of a surname, spelt it phonetically
in a way that made sense to them. For example, McGoldrick can
be spelt as Megolrake, McCandless as Micandlass, Ewing as Youing, Brewster
as Broster and so on. However, the greatest problem with names
in early sources is the fact that the spellings of some surnames in
these documents are completely different from their modern equivalents
e.g. in earlier documents Alexander often appears as McCalsenor or McElsinor.
entering surnames into the county databases I have used two columns
or fields in each database. One column contains the spelling of each
surname as it appears in the original document. A second column contains
standardised spellings of surnames which should make it easier to find
names in the database and keep variant spellings of individual surnames
together in a sort. Standardised spellings are not intended to replace
the spellings that appear in the original documents and you can, of
course, ignore the standardised spellings altogether and simply search
the column that contains the actual spellings in the original source.
In fact if you are unable to find a surname in the standardised column
of any database you may find it in the actual spelling column.
deciding on standardised surnames I was guided by the following observations
that I had made as result of working with surnames in various types
of sources for Co. Londonderry and North and Mid Antrim which cover
a period of some 200 years.
of the period, there are certain surnames such as Brown [Browne],
Carr [Kerr], Dixon [Dickson], Gray [Grey], Maguire [McGuire], McGee
[Magee], McGill [Magill] and Miller [Millar] which are spelt one
way or the other. Nevertheless officials, for whatever reason, managed
to misspell these names from time to time. Some of the misspellings
e.g of Brown [Broon and Brune] suggest that phonetic spelling of
names was quite common in earlier times. Clearly, a standardised
surname would overcome the problem of missing one of these names
in a database. Deciding on a standardised spelling here is simply
a matter of choosing one spelling or the other. Note that the one
that I have chosen does not imply any priority of one spelling over
the other. Note that if one of these surnames applies to you,
you cannot assume that your surname was always spelt in the past
the way that you spell it today.
surnames such as Cunningham, Hassan and Stewart, for example,
have more than one variant spelling in the sources that simply
reflect the way officials spelt the name across the county at
different times in the past. Cunningham [Cuningham, Coningham,
Conyngham], Hassan [Hassin, Hasson, Hesson, Hession], Stewart
are some surnames where their spelling in early documents bears
no relation to their spelling in later documents. These include
surnames such as Alexander [McCalsenor, McElsinor, etc. in earlier
documents], Ballentine [Bannatyne, etc.], Bradley [Brillaghan,
Brallahan, O'Brillaghan, O'Brullaghan, etc.], Cummings [Kimin,
Kimming, etc.], McAfee [McDuffee, etc.], Pollock [Poake, Polke,
etc.] and Trainor [McCreanor, McCraner, etc.]. I have used
the later spelling as the standardised spelling to group together
spellings of those surnames that are very different from their
Connor can sometimes appear as McKnogher or McNogher or indeed
as Knogher or Nogher. Many of the Connors in Co. Londonderry are
descended from the O'Connors of the barony of Keenaght, a very
old tribal group predating the O'Cahans of the Cenel Eoghain who
overthrew the O'Connor sept in the twelfth century. According
to Bell the name was also made McConnor [Mac Conchobhair in Gaelic]
which became anglicised as McKnogher, Nogher, etc. I decided to
use Connor as a standardised spelling for all of these surnames.
names, particularly those beginning with O’ or O and a space,
can create problems in databases. Furthermore, in some periods
officials included the O’ and at other times they dropped it.
At first I thought about dropping the prefix O' in the standardised
spelling of most Irish names and did so on my CD Researching
Derry and Londonderry Ancestors. However, I decided to retain
the O' prefix in the databases on this website. But, I should
warn you that when looking for O'Kane, for example, you should
consider also looking at Kane in nineteenth-century databases.
If you are searching any of the Excel databases you should use
a "contains" search where you type in Kane. This will
"bring out" all of the Kanes, O'Kanes, McKanes, etc.
My impression is that many people who are listed as Kanes in the
1831 and c.1860 databases may have been O'Kanes. In fact some
may have been McKanes. Note that in the case of O'Mullan which
tends to appear more so in the earlier databases and less frequently
in the later databases, I have used the standardised name Mullan
to include O'Mullan and its variant spellings. McMullans, McMullens,
etc. and McMillens have been standardised as McMullan. Note that
I have dropped the O from the fiollowing names with the
names O'Brien and O''Bryan .and have grouped these names with
Bryan and Bryans under the standardised surname of Brien.
other prefix which can cause chaos in a database is Mac or Mc.
In most cases I have retained this prefix in surnames. Within
the sources the Mc can appear as M', Mc, Mac, etc. I have always
used Mc in the "standardised spellings" with no space
between the Mc and the rest of the name. Note that some internet
databases do put a space after the Mc. Quite often if I look for
my own name under McAfee I get a nil result because the name is
entered either as Mc Afee or M'Afee. I have dropped the Mc in
a few cases. Note that in the case of McReynolds and its variant
spellings McRannell and McGrannell, I have used the standardised
spelling of .Reynolds. Again with
McAtaggart and McAtagart I have used the standardised spelling
McIntyre is spelt in many different ways throughout the documents
- McIntire, McEntire, etc. Sometimes it is also spelt as McAteer
or McAtier.In fact as Bell in Ulster Surnames points out
the original Scottish and Irish surnames have become confused
and McAteer, in particular, has become lost in McIntyre. For this
reason I have included both names and their variants under the
standardised surname of McIntyre. Local and family knowledge would
be required to disentangle some of these names.
following surnames Irwin/Irvine, McCaughey/McGaughey, McGeogh/McGeough
and Louden/London have been standardised using the first name
in the aforementioned list. I have done this because it is very
difficult, particularly in the 1831 Census Returns, where names
are hand written, to distinguish between vowels in the handwriting.
In other words some Irvines could be Irwins and vice-versa.
If you look
at the 1831 and c.1860 databases in the townland of Carnanbane
in the parish of Cumber, Co. Londonderry you will find the name
Crosbie in 1831 and the name McCrossan in 1858/59. This is because
the officials were using the anglicised version of the surname
in the earlier document. Therefore, I have used the standardised
surname of Crossan to cover that name plus McCrossan and Crosbie/Crosby.
Note that some Crosbys are not McCrossans but I will leave it
to you to work out those that are not.
is the name McGuigan. Most of the time the surname McGuigan, apart
from the usual variant spellings, is not a problem. However, in
the 1831 Census Returns an anglicised version of the name, Goodwin,
is used for some of the McGuigan families in the parish of Ballynascreen.
By the time of Griffith's in 1859 only the surname McGuigan was
listed in Ballynascreen and there are only three Goodwins listed
in the entire county.
Also, I noticed
that in the 1831 database for the parish of Cumber Upper, Co.
Londonderry there were 28 Donaghys of various spellings and 1
McDonagh. In 1858/59 in the same parish there were 8 Donaghys
and 18 McDonaghs. Clearly some of the 1831 Donaghys are now being
listed as McDonaghs in 1858/59 [see Bell Ulster Surnames].
I began using
the standardised surname Kerrigan to group together a collection
of names which appear to be used interchangeably between 1831
and 1859. These names are Kerrigan, Kirgan, Cargan, Cargin, Cargon,
McKerrigan, McKirgan. See, in particular, the parishes of Ballyaghran
and Lissan in Co. Londonderry. Because I was looking recently
at the name McKirgan in the Portstewart area I decided to use
the Mc again. If you are looking for any of these names adopt
a flexible approach to your search.
that the surnames in each database are presented alphabetically by standardised
surname. A quick scroll through the list of surnames in any of the
databases will familiarise you with the standardised names that I have
chosen, and, I repeat - there is no significance in the spellings
that I have chosen - I am not suggesting that this is how a particular
surname should be spelt. It is simply a method of grouping together
surnames in the original source which, I think, are variant spellings
of the same surname and keeping them together in both a sort and a search
and use a "contains" search in Excel.
that some of the standardised names that I used on my CD relating to
Co. Derry are slightly different e.g. I use the standardised name Kane
to cover Kane, McKane, O'Kane, and all variant spellings of these names.
I did the same with Neill, Connell, Donnell, etc. If you are using the
databases on the CD then you should read the paper on the CD that deals
with the spelling of names on the CD. Again, scrolling through the names
will reveal what I have done.
Copyright 2012 W.Macafee.