Aherne is an anglicisation of O hEachthianna, from Eachthiarna, meaning ‘lord of horses’, and is also found in the variants ‘Heran’ and ‘Hearne’. Eachthiarna was a relatively common personal name in Gaelic society, borne by, for instance a brother of Brian Boru. The surname originated, in fact, in the sept or tribe of Brian, the Dal gCais, and has always been strongly associated with their homeland in Co Clare. The family territory was in the southeast of the county, around Sixmilebridge, up to the end of the Middle Ages, when they migrated south and east, to counties Cork, Limerick and Waterford. To this day, Ahernes are most numerous in counties Cork and Waterford.
The arms of the family include three herons, in an obvious pun on the name.

The name has two quite distinct origins, one Scots Gaelic, the other French. Ailin, meaning ‘little rock’, is the root of the Scottish name, originally MacAllan. The first recorded arrivals bearing the Scottish name came in the fifteenth century, as hired soldiers (‘gallowglasses’) imported to Donegal by the O’Donnells, and the migrations of the following two centuries brought many more.
In other cases, the surname derives from the old Breton personal name Alan, which in turn came from the Germanic tribal name Alemannus, meaning ‘all men’. the same root provided the modern French name for Germany, Allemagne. Followers of the invading Normans were the first to carry the Breton version of the name to Ireland. Irish families bearing the name may be of either origin, though the fact that two-thirds of the Allens are to be found in Ulster - they are especially numerous in counties Antrim and Armagh - suggests that the majority are of Scottish extraction.

This surname originates in the area along the western Scottish borders; the first recorded bearer was Adam Armstrong, pardoned in Carlisle in 1235 for causing another man’s death. They were among the most notorious of the riding Border clans, who also included the Elliots, the Grahams and the Johnstons, famous for their lawlessness and plunder. When the power of these clans was savagely broken after 1603 by James 1, the Armstrongs scattered, and many migrated to Ulster, where a large number settled in Co Fermanagh. Even today, Fermanagh is home to the largest concentration of Armstrong families in Ireland, although the name is quite common throughout Ulster, particularly in counties Antrim and Tyrone. As well as those of Scottish origin, however, a good number of Irish Armstrongs are of Gaelic Irish extraction. Many of the Trin-Laverys of Co Antrim and the Trainors of counties Tyrone and Monaghan had their surnames mis-translated as Armstrong, from the presence of the Irish for ‘strong’, trean, in their original names.



The name Barrett is now concentrated in two widely separated parts of Ireland, in Co Cork and in the Mayo-Galway region. The Irish version of the name is Baroid in the south and Baireid in the west, and this may reflect two separate origins. At any rate, families of the surname first appeared in these areas in the thirteenth century, after the Anglo-Norman invasion. Its Norman origin derives it from the old Germanic personal name, Bernard or Beraud. A separate derivation gives its origin as the Middle English ‘Barat’, a nickname for a quarrelsome or deceitful person. The western family, originally based around Killala in Mayo, were thoroughly absorbed into Gaelic society very quickly, and in the Middle Ages began to split into various sub-clans, among them McAndrew, Timmons and Roberts. The Cork settlers were not so Gaelicised, giving their name to the large barony of Barretts in the middle of the county. The arms of the family are based on word play, a pictorial version of barrettes, French for ‘short bars’.

The first bearer of the surname to arrive in Ireland was Robert de Barri, one of the original band of Norman knights who landed at Bannow in Co Wexford in May 1169, and a brother of Giraldus Cambrensis, historian of the invasion.. The name comes from the earlier association of the family with the island of Barry, seven miles southwest of Cardiff in Wales. From the start the family were prominent in the settlement of east Cork, and were soon absorbed into the native culture, forming subsepts on Gaelic lines, the most important being Barry Mor, Barry Og and Barry Roe. The names of two of these are perpetuated in the names of the Cork baronies of Barrymore and Barryroe, and many other Cork placenames are linked to the family: Kilbarry, Rathbarry and Buttevant (from the family motto Boutez en avant), to mention only three. The surname is now very numerous in Ireland, but still inextricably associated with Co Cork. As well as the Norman origin, two relatively uncommon Gaelic surnames, O Beargha and O Baire, have also been anglicised as Barry.

In Ulster, where it is found most frequently by far, this surname is generally of Scottish origin. In Scotland it originated as ‘Baty’, a pet form of Bartholomew. The family were well known in Galloway and along the Borders, where they were one of the infamous ‘rich clans’. After the destruction by James 1 of these clans many Beatties migrated to Ulster during the Plantations. Their settlements were concentrated especially in Co Fermanagh, where they remain numerous.
Some Beatties, outside Ulster, also have a separate Gaelic origin, from Mac Biataigh, meaning ‘providers of food’. The same original was also sometimes transliterated as Betagh.

The surname is one of the 100 most common in Ireland and is found most frequently by far in the northern of the country, particularly in Ulster, where it is especially numerous in counties Antrim and Down. In Ulster, Bell is almost always of Scottish origin, the family being one of the infamous ‘riding clans’ along the Borders, descended from Gilbert le fitz Bel, bel meaning ‘beautiful’ or ‘handsome’.

Boyle, or O’Boyle, is now one of the fifty most common surnames in Ireland. In Irish the name is O’Baoghill, the derivation of which is uncertain, but thought to be connected to the Irish geall, meaning ‘pledge’. In the Middle Ages the family were powerful and respected, sharing control of the entire northwest of the island with the O’Donnells and the O’Dohertys, and the strongest association of the family is still with Co Donegal, where (O)Boyle is the third most numerous name in the county. The majority of those bearing the name are of Gaelic origin, but many Irish Boyles have separate, Norman origins. In Ulster, a significant number are descended from the Scottish Norman family of de Boyville, whose name comes from the town now known as Beauville in Normandy. The most famous Irish family of the surname were the Boyles, Earls of Cork and Shannon, descended from Richard Boyle, who arrived in Ireland from Kent in 1588 and quickly amassed enormous wealth . His earliest known ancestor was Humphrey de Binville, a Norman lord in Herdfordshire in the eleventh century.

Although Bradley is a common English surname, derived from the many places in England so called, in Ireland the vast majority of Bradleys are in fact descended from the O Brolchain sept. How English ears could have heard this as the equivalent of ‘Bradley’ remains one of the many little mysteries of Anglo-Irish relations. Brollach, the root of the name, means ‘breast’.
The name originated in Co Tyrone, and the territory inhabited by O Brolchain families covered the area where the present day counties of Tyrone, Derry and Donegal meet. From early times they appear to have migrated widely; one branch established itself in the Western Highlands of Scotland, while another settled in Co Cork. The many Bradleys in that county to this day descend from this branch. Despite their travels, however, most Bradley families in Ireland today still live in their ancestral homeland.

The surname derives from the Irish Mac Bradaigh, coming, possibly, from bradach, meaning ‘thieving’ or ‘dishonest’. The name is among the sixty most frequently found in Ireland, and remains very numerous in Co Cavan, their original homeland, with large numbers also to be found in the adjoining county of Monaghan. Their power was centred on an area a few miles east of Cavan town, from where they held jurisdiction over a large territory within the old Gaelic kingdom of Breifne. There have been many notable poets, clergymen and soldiers of the name, including Thomas Brady (1752-1827), a field marshal in the Austrian army, the satirical Gaelic poet Rev. Philip MacBrady, as well as three MacBrady Bishops of Kilmore, and one MacBrady Bishop of Ardagh. The pre-Reformation Cavan Crozier, originally belonging to one of these MacBradys, is now to be found in the National Museum in Dublin.

There are several distinct Gaelic origins of the surname, both Mac Braoin and O Braoin, from braon, meaning ‘moisture’, or ‘drop’. The Mac Braoin were originally located near the town of Knocktopher in Co Kilkenny, but migrated to Wexford after the Anglo-Norman invasions in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Co Wexford is still the area of the country in which the surname is most common, though a separate Wexford sept, the O Briain, also had their surname anglicised as Breen. These were descended from Bran Finn, son of Lachta, King of Munster, and uncle of Brian Boru. However, the O’Breens, rulers of Brawney, a territory near Athlone in counties Offaly and Westmeath, were the most powerful of the name in the Middle Ages; as they lost power the name mutated, and many in the area are now to be found as O’Briens. The surname is now also quite common in north Connacht, Co Fermanagh and in Co Kerry.

This is one of the most frequent surnames in Ireland and is to be found throughout the country, though noticeably less common in Ulster. It derives from the two Irish originals O Braonain and Mac Branain. The Mac Branain were chiefs of a large territory in the east of the present Co Roscommon, and a large majority of the Brennans of North Connacht, counties Mayo, Sligo and Roscommon, descend from them. O Braonain originated in at least four distinct areas: Kilkenny, east Galway, Westmeath and Kerry. Of these the most powerful were the O Braonain of Kilkenny, chiefs of Idough in the north of the county. After they lost their land and status to the English, many of them became notorious as leaders of bands of outlaws. A separate family, the O Brainain, are the ancestors of many of the Brennans of counties Fermanagh and Monaghan, where the name was also anglicised as Brannan and Branny.

This in one of the most common surnames in the British Isles, and is among the forty commonest in Ireland. It can derive, as a nickname, from the Old English Brun, referring to hair, complexion or clothes, or from the Norman name Le Brun, similarly meaning ‘the Brown’. In the three southern provinces of Munster, Leinster and Connacht, where the name is usually spelt with the final ‘e’, it is almost invariably of Norman or English origin, and was borne by some of the most important of Norman-Irish and Anglo-Irish families, notably the Earls of Kenmare in Kerry and Lord Oranmore and Browne and the Earls of Altamont in Connacht. The assimilation of the Connacht family into Gaelic life is seen in their inclusion as one of the ‘Tribes’ of Galway. In Ulster, where it is more often plain ‘Brown’, the surname can be an anglicisation of the Scots Gaelic Mac a Bhruithin (‘son of the judge’) or mac Gille Dhuinn (‘son of the brown boy’). The largest concentrations of the name in this province are in the counties Derry, Down and Antrim.

The common English surname Buckley derives from a number of places of the name, and was used as the anglicisation for the Irish O Buachalla, derived from buachaill, meaning ‘boy’ or ‘herdsman’. In seventeenth century records, the surname is principally found in Co Tipperary, but today counties Cork and Kerry have the largest concentrations. Numerically, it is one of the most frequent Irish surnames; almost three-quarters of the Buckleys in the country live in Munster, however. Other, rarer, anglicised versions of the name are Bohilly, Boughla and Boughil. One well known Corkman of the name was Dermot Buckley, one of the last of the eighteenth century Rapparees, or highwaymen, whose exploits around the Blackwater valley were legendary.

Burke, along with its variants Bourke and de Burgh, is now by far the most common Irish name of Norman origin; it is estimated that over 20,000 individuals now bear the surname in Ireland, a figure that probably represents only a fraction of the world-wide total. The first person of the name to arrive in Ireland was William Fitzadelm de Burgo, a Norman knight from Burgh in Suffolk, who took part in the invasion of 1171 and succeeded Strongbow as Chief Governor. He received the earldom of Ulster, and was granted vast tracts of territory in Connacht. His descendants adopted Gaelic laws and customs more completely than any of the other Norman invaders, and very quickly became one of the most important families in the country. In Connacht, which remained the centre of the family’s power, new septs were formed on native Irish lines. William Liath de Burgh, a great-grandson of the original William, was the ancestor of the two most influential clans, the MacWilliam Uachtar of Co Galway, and the MacWilliam Iochtar of Co Mayo. Other descendants founded families which created distinct surnames; ‘Philbin’ derives from Mac Philbin, son of Philip (de Burgh); Jennings, now common in Co Galway, is an anglicisation of mac Sheoinin, son of John (de Burgh); Gibbons, found in Mayo, was originally Mac Giobuin, son of Gilbert (de Burgh). According to legend, the arms of the family originated during the Crusades, when King Richard dipped his finger in the blood of a saracen slain by one of the de Burghs, drew a cross on the Saracen’s golden shield, and presented it to the visitor.

The surname Burns is Scottish and northern English in origin, and in Ireland is found most frequently in counties Antrim, Down, and Armagh, and in Ulster generally which is home to more than two-thirds of the Irish who bear the name. It comes from the Middle English burn , meaning ‘a stream’, and would have referred to someone who lived close to a river or stream.
The most important source of the name is the Scottish Clan Campbell. The ancestors of the poet Robert Burns moved from Burnhouse near Loch Etive to Forfar, where they became known as the Campbells of Burness. In 1786, Robert and his brother adopted the spelling ‘Burns’ as a surname, and his subsequent celebrity inspired others to follow his example. In Ulster, Burns was also used as an anglicisation of the Irish O’Byrne and MacBrin.

The surname Butler found in both Ireland and England , is Norman in origin, and originally meant ‘wine steward’, from the same root as modern French bouteille, ‘bottle’. The name was then extended to denote the chief servant of a household and, in the households of royalty and the most powerful nobility, a high-ranking officer concerned only nominally with the supply of wine.
In Ireland the most prominent Butler family is descended from Theobald Fitzwalter, who was created ‘Chief Butler’ of Ireland by Henry II in 1177. His descendants became the Earls of Ormond in 1328 and Dukes of Ormond after the restoration of Charles II in 1660. Up to the end of the seventeenth century, the Butlers were one of the most powerful Anglo-Norman dynasties, sharing effective control of Ireland with their great rivals the Fitzgeralds, Earls of Desmond and Earls of Kildare. From the Middle Ages right up to the twentieth century their seat was Kilkenny Castle.

Byrne or O’Byrne, together with its variants Be(i)rne and Byrnes, is one of the ten most frequent surnames in Ireland today. In the original Irish the name is O’Broin, from the personal name Bran, meaning ‘raven’. It is traced back to King Bran of Leinster, who ruled in the eleventh century.
As a result of the Norman invasion, the O’Byrnes were driven from their original homeland in Co Kildare into south Co Wicklow in the early thirteenth century. There they grew in importance over the years, retaining control of the territory until the early seventeenth century, despite repeated attempts by the English authorities to dislodge them. Even today, the vast majority of the Irish who bear the name originate in Wicklow or the surrounding counties.