Thursday, May 28, 2009

A celebration of Irish names: What clan are you?

The Irish have always been a proud people, and many of us who have Irish roots mixed with other heritage continue to carry on that Irish pride. As a child I was able to stand taller and beam with pride when someone asked me on St. Patrick's Day if I was really Irish. "Yes, thank-you," I could answer truthfully, "I'm half Irish!"


Here at the 13th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture we've taken that question one step further and shared the names of the Irish clans from which we hail.

Surnames were adopted in Ireland before many other countries: at least a century before the Normans set foot on Irish shores. As Edward MacLysaght states in his well-respected Irish Families: Their Names, Arms, and Origins, "Irish surnames [are] more mixed than those of a nation with a less disturbed history." This is because of "the successive invasions of Ireland from Strongbow to Cromwell, culminating in the final destruction of the Gaelic order and the long drawn out subjection of the Irish people under the eighteenth century penal code, together with the plantations of foreign settlers and the more peaceful infiltration of Englishmen in the commercial life of the country."

Historic Arms of Ireland poster thanks to the Celtic Dragon Pub Company

You can see the turbulent history of Ireland showcased in the assortment of Irish surnames that have been listed here within our carnival.

Are you part Aylward, Borodell, Bowe, Boyle, Cahill, Clune, Coffey, Connolly, Conway, Corrigan, Cowhey, Cregan, Cronin, Curry, D'arcy, Degnan, DeHority, Denison, Dillon, Donahue, Farrell, Finnegan, Fitzgerald, Galvin, Gleeson, Harrington, Harrison, Hogan, Irwin, Kealy, Larkin, Livingston, McCann, McFarland, McMahon, McWade, Moffet, Molloy, Moore, Mulligan, Mulvaney, Nugent, O'Loughlin, O'Neil, Ryan, Thompson, Tierney, Toner or Wade?

Then read on for some submissions from your cousins. However distant they may be, they share your Irish pride and possibly even some of your genealogical lines and DNA. They may be spread throughout the globe (from the United States to Canada to Australia), but you might find a connection that links you both back to the shores of the Emerald Isle. Enjoy reading!


First we'll start with a few lessons on the deeper history of some Irish surnames. Earline Bradt took some Ancestral Notes on the background of the surname O'Neil (Uá Niáll) and shares them with us at Irish Names - O'Neil. She says, "My Irish surname is one that has been the ruling monarchy of Ireland for centuries. It is associated with legends and lore and much more." I, too, have O'Neil roots and you may also - it is a very common Irish surname. Visit Earline's article for the scoop on the O'Neil name and its glorious history.

Here at Small-leaved Shamrock I've shared a little history lesson on the Cowhey surname in my own family and its connection to the Coffey name (in Gaelic they are both Ó Cobhthaigh). I've included the origins of the Cowhey branch in Cork (not to mention their appearance in Pennsylvania thanks to my family's immigrant ancestor, Patrick Cowhey). Read On the happiness of being a Cowhey for the story.

The Fitzgerald surname is the focus of much of Alanna's Genealogy Research and she shares what she has learned about its background at Fitzgerald: What's in a Name. Alanna shares a few online sources for information about the origin of her surname that you may find helpful in researching your own.

Our Aussie contributor, Geniaus, shares with us the origins of her uncommon Irish surname, D'arcy (Ó Dorchaidhe). She writes, "Of the Irish surnames in my tree I am fascinated by D'arcy, a French sounding name from County Tipperary." The author gives us a little background on its history within Ireland and back to the late 1700s in her own family at If you’re enough lucky to be Irish... You’re lucky enough! Geniaus also mentions the following Irish surnames in her family tree: Bowe, Connolly, Cregan, Curry, Gleeson, Harrington, Kealy, Molloy, Moore, Ryan, Tierney and Wade.

The Farrell (Ó Fearghail) name is the not-so-surprising focus of Alana Farrell's contribution to our carnival posted at her blog A Twig In My Tree. At Farrell or Fearghail she shares background on her surname, including its coat of arms. Alana also gives us a little intro into the history of Irish surnames in general.

Stephanie Varney, author of the new and very Irish of genealogy blogs Irish Genealogical Research, has focused on the surname in her tree which she is currently working on most: Dillon (her branch emigrated to New Garden, Pennsylvania). The name changed from the Norman French de Leon to the Gaelic O’ Duilleain and then to the more modern Dillon that we know today. Visit Stephanie's article Irish Surname Spotlight: Dillon to learn more and discover which county in Ireland actually has the nickname "Dillon's County". While you're visiting, take some time to browse around for lots of tips on Irish family history research.

Mary Beaulieu shares an interesting tale of family history at her blog AncestorTracking. Her DeHority surname has seen many changes from the original ÓDochartaigh (including Dehorty, Doherty, and Daugherty), and Mary turned to DNA testing to ensure that her supposed Irish roots were truly Irish and not French as she had originally guessed. Read her article An Irish Name for the family legend about a group of young men, including a Doherty, who may have been kidnapped from the coast of Ireland and brought to America in the 18th-century to work as indentured servants.

The Harrison, Irwin, Livingston and Moffet surnames in her family tree are the focus of M. Diane Rogers' submission to this edition of our carnival. She gives a little background on each surname within her family and mentions several sources which give a deeper history of the names, all of which appear to have been derived from English or Scottish surnames. Also read her article Irish Names! Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture - HARRISON, IRWIN, LIVINGSTON, MOFFET, County Cavan posted at CanadaGenealogy, or, 'Jane's Your Aunt' to learn about some of the given names on the Irish side of her family tree, including the woman's name which she would most like to learn more about: Delina.

Speaking of given names, Katie of You Are Where You Came From shared her submission with the note: "This is my first carnival submission, about Julia, the one name that has brought my the most insight into my Irish family's genealogy. (Names and naming patterns are my other big hobby, besides, genealogy, so I was thrilled to write this post.)" Read her article Irish Names: Julia for the story of her ancestor Julia and some mentions of the Irish surnames in her tree which include Toner and Mulvaney.

The surname belonging to Brian Zalewski's grandmother (his family's "biggest Irish supporter") is the main focus of his entry into our carnival. Brian presents What’s in a Name? posted at the Zalewski Family Genealogy blog and discusses the history of the surname Corrigan (originally Coirdhecan) in his family. He also mentions the other Irish surnames in his tree: McCann, Thompson, Nugent, Boyle and Cronin. While you're visiting Brian's blog, stop by the Corrigan Album in his Photos section to view a nice collection of vintage photographs of this side of Brian's family.

Julie Cahill Tarr gives us a list of her Irish surnames (Cahill, McMahon, Ryan and Mulligan) along with a little info on her family tree at My Irish Surnames posted at GenBlog. Her Irish surnames appear to be among her biggest brick walls, she writes, although she has had some success tracing a few lines back to Ireland. Julie shares links to each of her Irish surnames' deeper history within The Internet Surname Database. You might try searching your own surnames there - thanks for sharing the tip, Julie.

Bill West's Irish Catholic mother made some "vivid remarks" after an online talk show guest replied to Bill's question about her McFarland maiden name's history with what she must have thought was a dubious answer. Read his story and his questions about the history of this surname and his family's roots within My McFarland Quandry posted at West in New England.

Colleen Johnson has quite a bit of Irish heritage within her and a long list of Irish surnames in her family tree. Boyle, Degnan, Clune, Conway, Donahue, Finnegan, Galvin, Hogan, Larkin, McWade and O'Loughlin all figure within her list, and she shares a little intro on the background of each on her blog CMJ Office within The Names of My Ancestors.

Midge Frazel has some questions about the Borodell line of her family. Her research goes back to Ann Borodell Denison (born in the 17th-century), but conflicting information has placed her father's birth in either England or Cork, Ireland. True Graveyard Rabbit that she is, Midge shares an image of a beautiful copper casting of Ann's slate gravestone, who died in 1712. Read Irish Ancestors posted at Granite in My Blood to see it and read her story.

French-Canadian Evelyn Yvonne Theriault found some Irish ancestors in her New Brunswick line when she went looking for an addition to our Irish names carnival. Although the Aylward branch is "on the far edge of [her] family tree" as she puts it, Evelyn has done a nice job spelling out the genealogy of this line of her family and giving us an introduction to the name's history in the New Brunswick area thanks to a local history book on the area's pioneer families. Read The Irish Aylwards of Shippagan, New Brunswick posted at A Canadian Family for the story. As Evelyn states, "Not everyone's Acadian in northern New Brunswick!"

As Evelyn found and as we can see from the various contributors to this edition of the carnival, Irish heritage can turn up in many places and many families. I hope you've enjoyed taking a look at this handful of the many Irish surnames thanks to the submissions of our contributors researching their Irish roots.

Plan to join us for the upcoming 14th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture. The topic will be Irish Vacations and it will be hosted by Colleen Degnan Johnson. For details visit Upcoming 14th edition: Let's go to Ireland! Irish Vacations on the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture blog. Deadline for this upcoming edition is Friday, July 10, 2009. Hope to see you there!

Also plan ahead to join us for the 2nd Annual Small-leaved Shamrock Summer Reading Challenge. A compilation of the books read by participants will be the topic for the 15th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture. Last year's edition, Looking into the heart of Ireland, introduced us to quite a varied assortment of reading material on Ireland and the Irish. Get started now on your summer reading so that you can join us and share what you've read by August 30, 2009. Details can be found at Upcoming 15th edition: 2nd Annual Small-leaved Shamrock Summer Reading Challenge on the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture blog.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Stay tuned for the 13th Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture

Today is the scheduled publication date for the 13th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture. Normally I like to publish the carnival as early as possible in the morning so that readers can find it when they first look at their morning reading online.

Today, however, that did not occur due to some unexpected personal challenges. Thanks to all of you, readers and contributors, for your patience. This edition will be posted as soon as possible.

Thanks again for being loyal readers. I look forward to sharing the Irish names edition with you very soon.

Monday, May 25, 2009

On Memorial Day: "For you who bore the extreme sharp pain for us..."

From the The Columbia Book of Civil War Poetry: From Whitman to Walcott: "Written for more than 200,000 Negroes who served in the Union Army during the Civil War".
Memorial Wreath
by Dudley Randall

In the green month when resurrected flowers,
Like laughing children ignorant of death,
Brighten the couch of those who wake no more,
Love and remembrance blossom in our hearts
For you who bore the extreme sharp pain for us,
And bought our freedom with your lives.

And now,
Honoring your memory, with love we bring
These fiery roses, white-hot cotton flowers
And violets bluer than cool northern skies
You dreamed of in the burning prison fields
When liberty was only a faint north star,
Not a bright flower planted by your hands
Reaching up hardly nourished with your rich blood.
Fit grave fellows you are for Lincoln, Brown
And Douglas and Toussant . . . all whose rapt eyes
Fashioned a new world in this wilderness.

American earth is richer for your bones;
Our hearts prouder for the blood we inherit.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

On the happiness of being a Cowhey

When I first started researching my family history as a young lady, the Cowhey side of my family was a little bit frustrating for me. It was during the days before internet access and I lived quite a distance from the area where this branch of my family had lived. My visits to a genealogy library offered me no easy information. I learned how to use the Soundex system, carefully taking notes on how to find records for my Cowhey branch of the family, yet I couldn't find Cowheys anywhere. I was stumped.

Years later I realize that that same Cowhey surname is one of the biggest blessings in my family history research. It turns out that the relative rarity of the surname has enabled me to conclude that anyone living in Pennsylvania (and in particular - Schuylkill County) since the early 19th-century who was or is named Cowhey is almost certainly somehow related to me.

I began to fit together the pieces of the Cowhey family puzzle years back when I painstakingly went through U.S. Census records, logging data about various branches of the Cowhey family in Schuylkill County. After I had put together a nice family tree, I made contact with newfound relatives through the internet who had connections to the family. The additional information that they provided helped to fill in some of the gaps that I had in my research.

Thanks to the help from a handwritten family tree and word of mouth from other family members, I knew at that time that Patrick Cowhey was the patriarch of the family who had made the trip from Ireland to the United States, supposedly arriving about 1820. The specifics of his arrival were unknown to me, as was his place of origin in Ireland. (I have since found Patrick's arrival details thanks to the manifest for the Ship William which arrived in New York from the port of Cóbh in 1823. You can read that story at Fifteen and off to America).

It was with great interest that I found out a little more about the Cowhey surname in 2007 when I discovered Edward MacLysaght's Irish Families: Their Names, Arms, and Origins on the used book shelf at a genealogical library. I had almost walked by the shelf on my way out, but took a double turn and went back for a glance. The book looked interesting, so I picked it up for a nominal price and headed home. Opening it later I was thrilled to find an entry for Cowhey in the index. I wasn't used to finding Cowheys in any book I opened!

According to MacLysaght's book, Cowhey is the Munster (or more specifically County Cork) version of Coffey, a more common Irish surname. Also originating in the area are Cowhig, O'Cowhig and Cowey. All of these surnames, including Coffey, are variations of the Gaelic surname O'Cobhthaigh. You can read more about my excitement when I made this discovery by reading Victorious! here at Small-leaved Shamrock.

Here is what MacLysaght writes in Irish Families about variations of the O'Cobhthaigh surname:
O'COFFEY, Cowhig

In Irish this name is O'Cobhthaigh, pronounced O'Coffey as in English : it is probably derived from the word cobhthach, meaning victorious. Coffey is one of those surnames which have not resumed the prefix O, dropped during the period of Gaelic submergence. Several distinct septs were prominent in medieval times, of which two are still well represented in their original homeland. These are O'Coffey of Corcalaoidhe in south-west Co. Cork, where local pronounciation often makes the name Cowhig or Cowhey, as in the place name Dunocowhey, called after them. This sept is of the same stock as the O'Driscolls...
There is more in MacLysaght's book about the other septs of the Coffey family, but I will stop there and encourage you to get a copy of the book yourself. It is a great resource for all surnames Irish.

Another of MacLysaght's books, The Surnames of Ireland, has a map showing geographic locations of Irish surnames, including the area in Cork where the Cowhey family originated.

Another interesting source of information about the Cowhey name and other O'Cobhthaigh variations is Ancient Origins of the Coffey Family by Marvin D. Coffey reprinted online at the Coffey Cousins Clearinghouse website. It is a segment from the book James Bluford Coffey, His Ancestors and Descendants in America and the supplement Vol. II: Ancestors. The article has a nice list of resources at the bottom from which the historical overview of the surname was derived, including but not limited to MacLysaght's books.

I hope you've enjoyed this brief little introduction to the Cowhey surname. If you are a Cowhey, especially one with roots in Pennsylvania, I hope you'll write and let me know. I hope to keep this big, happy branch of the family in touch with eachother and aware of our fascinating roots for many generations to come.

For more about Edward MacLysaght's work on Irish surnames, read my article What's in an Irish surname?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Make this Saturday "Irish surname Saturday"

Genealogy bloggers who are also Twitter users have begun to participate in Surname Saturday, thanks to the inspiration and clear how-to directions from Thomas MacEntee, author of the very popular and helpful GeneaBloggers blog (among others).

This Saturday leaves us one day left before the deadline for the upcoming 13th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture whose theme is "Irish names". If you've got Irish surnames or first names in your family, or you'd like to share a story about someone else's, why not join us for a little Surname Saturday fun the Irish way.

Write a blog post about Irish names and tweet about your article using the #surname hashtag using your Twitter account. Don't know the difference between a tweet and a hashtag? Read Thomas' Examiner article on Twitter or just scoot right on over to his Surname Saturday explanation for details. Hope you'll join us!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The way down under: Pottsville miners and their pit car

The life of an anthracite coal miner was messy, dangerous and tiresome. I'm glad that someone took the time to take a photograph like the one on this postcard below, giving us a glimpse into the lives of these hard-working men in Pottsville.

The men are posing in what was known as the "pit car". According to the Cherry Coal Mine Disaster website's glossary, this type of car was "a small railroad-type car approximately 6' x 3' in size, used to haul coal, dirt and rock". It was also used to transport the miners to their dark workplace below ground, as you can see here.

This postcard has been submitted to the 1st edition of the Festival of Postcards Carnival to be published at Evelyn Yvonne Theriault's A Canadian Family blog. Visit for more postcards with the theme: Wheels.

This image is taken from a vintage postcard (date unknown) courtesy of USGenWeb's Penny Postcards website.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Five days left to join us for the carnival!

If you have an Irish name or surname in your family tree, or a good story about one in someone else's, come join us for the 13th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture. It will feature Irish names: both surnames and given names.


Share with us the surnames in your Irish family tree, but don't just stop there. Do a little research and tell us the origin of one or more of those surnames, the stories of how they might have changed over the years, or tales of how they've been mixed up and mispelled, etc.

Want to focus on your family's given names instead? Share with us the story of your ancestors' Irish first names (given at birth or nicknamed later), the "grandparent" nicknames in your Irish family tree, or any other Irish name stories that you'd like to share.


Deadline for submissions to the Irish names edition of the carnival is this Sunday, May 24, 2009. This edition will be published here at Small-leaved Shamrock next Wednesday, May 27, 2009 .

Looking forward to calling you by name (and by your Irish names and surnames) at our next carnival!

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