Spelling of Townland Names and Surnames in the Databases
and Parish Names
spelling of official [modern-day] townland names in the databases
on this website follow the spellings used in the 1901 Alphabetical
Index to the Townlands and Towns of Ireland and the spellings
on the Ordnance Survey maps.
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 could be wrong. To a large extent I have relied
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 . More recently, I have had access to a database of unofficial
place-names prepared by Terry Aiken and this has proved extremely useful
in identifying townland names in the eighteenth and early nineteenth
sources also spell the names of parishes differently e.g. the parish
of Killelagh in South Derry can appear as Killylough. Since there is
less chance of making a mistake over these earlier spellings of parishes,
I have [with one exception] simply used the most common modern-day spelling
of parishes in the databases. The exception is the database of the 1796
Flaxgrowers' List. Here I have included [in brackets] the exact spelling
of each parish used in the original document.
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 a 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.
selection of the standardised spellings used in the database can be
seen in the table below. In drawing up this table I was guided by the
following observations that I had made as result of working with surnames
in various types of sources for the county over a period of some 200
Regardless 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] that 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 name 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. Nor, if one of these names apply to you,
can you assume that your name was always spelt in the past the way that
you spell it today.
Others 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. I have
included examples of most of these variant spellings in the table.
There 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 are very different from their modern equivalents.
Irish 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 following names with the
names O'Brien and O''Bryan .and have grouped these names with Bryan
and Bryans under the standardised surname of Brien.
The 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 and these can be seen in the table. They include Adams, Arthur,
Clements, Conville, Conway, Cooke, Dougall, Knight, Michael, Nicholl,
Reynolds and Taggart.
The 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
The following standardised
surnames require individual explanations and are footnoted in the table
below. These surnames are Canning, Connor, Crossan, Crothers, Donagh,
Ferry, Fullen, Greeves, Hara, Kenny, Kerrigan, McIntyre, McGuigan, McNally,
Sherrard and Steenson.
to group these surname spellings listed in the original documents
Elshender, M'Calouner, McCalsenor, McElsinor.
McArthur, McCarthur, Macarthur.
Bannatyne, Banintine, Boneton.
Beers. See also Baird [Beard].
Broadley, Brodly, Brallahan, O'Brillaghan, O'Brullaghan, etc.
O'Bryan, Bryan, Bryans.
Brittan, Brattin, Bratton.
Kenning, McCannon, McCannen, McCanon.
Kerlin, Kirland, Kirlin, etc.
Clement, Clemence, McClements, McClammon, McClamin, McClimmonds,
Cochran, Cocherane, Cogheran, Cougheran, Coghran, Coughran.
O'Connor, McKnogher, McNogher, Nogher, Nougher, Monocher.
Conwell, McConville, McConwell.
McConvey, McConaway, McConamy, McConomy.
Crolly, Crolley, Crawley, Crowley.
McCrossan, Crosbie, Crosby.
Carruthers, Currithers, Cruthers.
Cummins, Kimin, McKimin, McKimming.
Cuningham, Coningham, Conyngham.
Diarmid, Deyermott, McDermott, McDiarmid.
Devan, Divan, Divin, etc.
O'Doherty, O'Dougherty, etc.
McDonagh, McDonough, Donohoe, Donahue, Donaghy, Donoghy, Donoughy,
Donald, McDonnell, etc. McDonald, Donaldson, O'Donnell, etc.
Feery, Feighrey, Ferris.
Fullon, Fullam, Foolan, McFalone, McLoone, McFelin, McFalin, McFelon,
Greeve, Guive, Graves, Groves.
Harrow, O'Hara, O'Harrow.
Harren, Haren, O'Harran, O'Haran.
Heslett, Heaslitt, Hazlett, etc.
Hasson, Hesson, Hession.
Henery, McHenry, O'Henery.
Irvine, Irvin, Ervine, Ervin.
Jamieson, Jamyson, Jemison.
Johnstone, Johnson, Johnsone, Jonson.
O'Cahan, Cain, O'Cain, McCain, McKane, Kean, Keane, McKeane, O'Keane.
Kernahan, Cernaghan, Cernoghan.
Kirgan, Cargan, Cargin, Cargon, McKerrigan, McKirgan.
Lafertie, Lafferty, McLaverty, O'Laverty.
McAffey, McFee, Fee, McPhee, McDuffee, McDuffy, etc.
McAleece, McLeese, McLees, McClise, McAlus, Muckalee.
McAlister, McAlester, McCallister.
McCala, McCalla, McCally, McCalley, McCawley, Macauley.
McCallin, McCallan, McAllen, McAllin, McCullen, McCullion.
McCahey, McGaughey, McGahey.
McConaghty, McConaty, McConochy.
McCullagh, McCullach, McCulla.
McElwain, McIlwaine, McIlwain.
McFetrish, McFeeters, McFeters.
McGlinchy, McClinchey, McClinchey.
Magowan, McCowan, McCowen.
McGuiggan, McQuigan, and some Goodwins .
McGennis, McGinnis, etc.
McIntire, McEntire, McAteer, McTeer, McTier.
McCay. [McCoy is listed separately, but when looking for one, check
McLoughlin, MacLoglin, M'Laghlin, McGlaughlin, McGloughin, etc.
McClain, McClane, McLane, etc.
McLarnon, McLarnan, McClarnon, McClernon, etc.
McAnnulla, McNulty, McAnulty.
McApherson, McFerson, McAferson, Ferson, Farson, Pherson.
The spelling McCready only appears in later documents.
The spelling McCrory only appears in later documents.
McVey, McVay, etc.
Mihil, McMichael, McMichell, McMihil, etc.
Milliken, Millican, Mulligan.
Mullin, Mullon, Mullins, O'Mullan, McMullan, McMillan, Millen.
Knickle, Nicoll, Nikell, etc. and the same spellings with McNicholl.
Neal, Neile, Nail and the same spellings with McNeill and O'Neill.
Pattison, Peterson, Pederson.
Poake, Poke, Polke, Pogue.
Ray, Wrea, Wray.
Reed, Reede, Ride, Ryde.
McReynolds, McRannell, McGrannell, etc.
Roulstone, Rolleston, etc.
Sherra, Shearer, Sheerin, Sherrin - see below.
Sheil, O'Sheile, etc.
Spear, Speare, Spears, Spiers, Spire, etc.
Smirell, Simeral, etc.
Stenson, Stinson - but not Stinton. Also, check Stevenson
in earlier databases.
Steevenson, Stephenson. Also, check Steenson in earlier databases.
Straghan, Strehorn Strawhorn.
Teggart, McTaggart, McEntaggart, etc.
Tuoghill, Twohill, Toaghill, Toal, Tole.
Tumlison, Tumbleson, Tumbeston.
William, McWilliam, McWilliams, McQuilliam, McGuilliam, McGullian,
have used the name Canning to include Cannon and McCannon. Although
the names Canning and Cannon are of quite distinct origins [see
Bell Ulster Surnames], they can often be confused. Having
the names together in a search may help in identifying particular
surname Connor can sometimes appear as McKnogher or McNogher or
indeed as Knogher or Nogher. Many of the Connors in the county 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 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.
you look at the 1831 and 1858/59 databases in the townland of Carnanbane
in the parish of Cumber 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. Incidentally, something similar took place in
the parish of Ballynascreen where officials used the anglicised
surname Goodwin for some McGuigans in 1831 but not in 1858/59. See
below, footnote 12.
surnames Crothers and Carruthers were used interchangeably at different
periods. For example, in the 1831 database various spellings of
the name Carruthers can be found along with a few Crothers. However
in the later 1858/59 database only one Corethers is listed, the
rest are all Crothers. I have simply used Crothers as the standardised
surname. I suspect that some present-day Carruthers searching in
1831 and 1858/59 may find that their name could have been spelt
either way depending on the whim of an official.
standardised surname Donagh has been used to group together the
surnames Donagh, McDonagh, Donaghy and Donaghue/Donahue. Normally
I would have excluded Donaghy and Donahue from this list. However,
if you look at the parish of Cumber Upper in the 1831 database you
will find 28 Donaghys of various spellings and 1 McDonagh. In 1858/59
in the same parish there are 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 therefore decided to use the
standardised surname Donagh to bring together all of the names mentioned
above, leaving you to sort out those that you want from a search.
is used to group together a collection of names that I found difficult
to disentangle between 1831 and 1859. The names include Ferry, Fairy,
Feery, Feighrey and Ferris. For example, if you look at the parish
of Balteagh in the barony of Keenaght you will find the name Fairy
listed in 1831. Yet when you look at the 1859 listings the name
is now Ferris.
like Ferry, is used to group together the names Fullen, Fullan,
Fullon, Fullam, Foolan, McFalone, McLoone, McFelin, McFalin, McFelon,
McFallin, McFullin. Initially I found it difficult to disentangle
them but having them all together in a search they make more sense
to me now.
standardised surname Greeves contains the names Greeves/Greaves,
Graves and Groves which are different names. I have grouped them
together because in the 1831 Census Returns it is not always clear
which one is which - the vowels are often difficult to identify.
Also there is the surname Guive which appears to be an Irish name
and in some places get mixed up with the other names. Having all
of the names together in one search allowed me to identify patterns
in the variant spellings.
surname Hara includes not only the common name of O'Hara but also
a number of other names such as Harra and Harrow. I also think there
are times when officials use the spelling Hara when it should be
O'Hara. Having these names all together in one search will allow
you to make decisions.
has been used to cover not only the name Kenny, which is not very
numerous, but more importantly the names McKenny and McKinney. Because
of the vowels i and e it often difficult to know between 1831 and
1859 which is which.
standardised surname Kerrigan has been used 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.
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.
surname 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.
have used the standardised surname McNally to cover both McNally
and McNulty which are two different surnames. A search of any of
the 1831 and 1858/59 databases will show a much greater concentration
of McNulty in the west of the county reflecting its Donegal origin.
Spellings such as McNulty, McNully, McAnnulla and McAnally makes
it difficult, at times, to disentangle these various names. I found
it easier to group them under the one standardised name of McNally
to ensure that I got a complete listing of all the variant spellings
from a search. Then I was able to sort out the variant spellings
resulting from the search. Incidentally Bell in Ulster Surnames
points to the fact that the name McAnally or McNally was often spelt
McAnulla around Maghera in earlier times. If you look at the 1831
database you will find about 25 McAnullas in the Maghera area whereas
in the later 1858/59 database there is only one McAnulla listed
in the entire county in the townland of Drumoolish in the parish
of Tamlaght O'Crilly. The McAnullas have not all disappeared either
they, or more likely the officials, are spelling their surname differently.
standardised name Sherrard has been used to group together the names
Sherrard , Shearer and Sherrin. I get the impression that in earlier
times Shearer was often the preferred spelling used by officials.
However, it is clear that later on the spelling Sherrard appears
to be more common. Again, family and local knowledge would be required
if you are looking for a particular name.
surname Steenson has been used as a standardised surname for Steenson
and Stinson. Often it is difficult to be sure which name is which
in some of the documents. Also I think there are times when officials
are using Steenson for Stevenson. This would seem to be the case
in the 1740 Protestant Householders' Returns when the name Stevenson
is not listed at all - only Steenson and Stinson are recorded. Again
the recording of the name Stinson does not appear to be consistent
across the documents. However, there is one name, Stinton which
is found almost exclusively in South Derry, where a clear distinction
seems to have been made in the spelling of that name. A read at
what Bell has to say about these names would be helpful.
Finally, I should
point out that I have been working with these surnames since, at least,
2000 and I have made changes to the way that I dealt with variant spellings
in the individual databases. This can lead to a name being treated differently
in some of the earlier and later databases. Apologies for that. If you
come across such an instance, the best way to handle that is to revert
back to the way a name has been spelt in column C "Surname as spelt
in document" of the databases.
MacLysaght, The Surnames of Ireland (Dublin, 1973).
George F. Black, Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning and
History (Edinburgh, 1999, first published in 1946).
Robert Bell, The Book of Ulster Surnames (Belfast, 1989).
Brian Mitchell, Surnames of Derry (Derry, 1992).
2018 W. Macafee.