Hall is an extremely common Englich surname, found widely in Scotland also, denoting someone who lived near a large house, or was employed in a manor or hall. In Ireland, it is most common in Ulster, where its source is predominantly Scottish; the Halls were one of the outlaw ‘riding clans’ who migrated to Ulster when their dominance over the Scottish Borders was broken by James 1. The name is particularly associated with Co Antrim. Elsewhere, it is also found in Munster, brought during the sixteenth and seventeenth century plantations, and in Leinster, due to the long association of parts of that province with English rule. It is rare in the western province of Connacht.

The surname is one of the most common and famous in Scotland, coming from the Norman baron Wlater Fitzgilbert de Hameldone, a supporter of Robert the Bruce in the fourteenth centruy. His name came from the now deserted village of Haleldone (Old English hamel, ‘crooked’, and dun, ‘hill’) in the parish of Barkby in Leicestershire. The arrival of Hamiltons in Ireland is inextricably linked to the Plantation of Ulster in the seventeenth centruy, when a large number of the powerful Scottish landowners granted territory in the province were members of that family. They gained possession of vast tracts of lannd in counties Armagh, Cavan, Fermanagh and Tyrone, and settled many of their kinsmen on these estates. Sir Frederick Hamilton fought in the army of the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus before settling in Ulster, and his grandson Gustavus Hamilton was created Viscount Boyne in 1717.

Hayes is a common surname in England, whre it derives from various places of the same name and from the Norman De la Haye, but in Ireland it is almost always the most common anglicisation of the Irish O hAodha, from the personal name Aodh, ‘fire’, which was very popular in early Ireland. No doubt this popularity accounts for the fact that the surname originated separately in at least twelve differant locations, including southwest Cork, Limerick/Tipperary, south Donegal, Sligo, Monaghan, Meath, Mayo, north Tyrone, south Down, Armagh, and Wexford. As well as Hayes, the surname was also anglicised as ‘O’Hea’, particularly in southwest Cork, and as ‘Hughes’, since Aodh was invariably translated as ‘Hugh’. This last anglicisation is most common among the five septs origination in the Ulster counties.

There is an English surname Healy, derive form te Old English heah, ‘high’, and leah, ‘clearing’’wood’, but almost all of those bearing the name in Irelandare descendants of one of two Irish families, the O hEilidhe, from eilidhe, ‘claimant’, and the O hEaladaighthe, from ..........., ‘ingenious’. The O hEilidhe had territory in southeast Co. Sligo, on the shores of Lough Arrow, one of the most beautiful parts of the country, where their seat was at Ballyhely. The O hEaladaighthe, whose name was originally given the more phonetically accurate equivalent ‘Healihy’, were based in the parish of Donoghmoe in Muskerry in Co. Cork, where they retained considerable power and wealth up to the seventeenth century. The surname is very common and widespread today, though significant concentrations are to be found around the original homelands in Connacht and Cork. The best known modern bearer of the name was the journalist, John Healy, of the Connacht family, renowned for his passionate defence of the rural way of life.

In Irish the surname is O hEigceartaigh, from eigceartach, meaning ‘unjust’. The name appears to have arisen first in the area now divided between counties Derry and Donegal, where the O hEigceartaigh were a branch of the Cinel Eoghain, that large group of families claiming descent from Eoghan, one of the sons of Niall of the Nine Hostages, the fifth-century monarch who supposedly kidnapped St Patrick to Ireland. However, today the surname is much more common in Co Cork, at the other end of the country. Traditionally, the Cork (O’) Hegartys were claimed as a branch of the more historically prominent northern family, but ecertach was a common personal name in Munster, and it seems more likely that the surname arose separately there. At any rate, O’Hegartys are recored in west Cork as early as the thirteenth century, and remain strongly associated with the area.

The original Irish form of the name is O hAonghasa, from the personal name Aonghas, anglicised ‘Angus’, one of the pre-Christian Celtic gods. This was quite popular, and it gave rise to the surname in several distinct localities; in the north of the present Co Offaly, from where the family later spread into the adjoining counties of Clare and Tipperary; in the southwest Co Cork, where they formed part of the Corca Laoidhe tribal grouping, descened from pre-Gaelic origins, and in east Cork, in the territory between the present towns of Fermoy and Mitchelstown. The east Cork family produced the most famous bearer of the name, Richard Hennessy (1720-1800), who fought with Dillon’s Brigade in the French army, and founded the famous brandy distillery in 1765. Today the surname is still strongly associated with Co Cork, though significant numbers also appear in counties Limerick, Tipperary and Clare. In the latter area, the name has also been anglicised as ‘Henchy’ and ‘Hensey’.

There are several Irish, Scottish and Norman originals for this surname. In Munster it is often the anglicisation of Mac Inneirghe, from inneireighe, meaning ‘abondonment’, and has also been rendered into English as MacHenry and MacEnery. This family were prominent in Co Limerick. In Co Tyrone, it is found as an anglicisation of O hInneirghe, from the same root. At least two other Gaelic Irish origins for the name exist in Ulster, the Mac Einri, descended from Henry, son of Dermot O’Cahan (died 1428), situated in the north Antrim/Derry area, and the O hAiniarriadh, originally from southeast Ulster. In addition, the surname appears in Connacht, where it seems to derive from a branch of the Norman FitzHenrys, who settled in west Galway in the Middle Ages. To complicate matters further, Ulster contains many Scottish surnames based on Henry as a personal name - Henderson, Hendry, McKendry, Hendron etc - which have long been confused with similar-sounding Gaelic Irish surnames in the same areas.

The original Irish for Hickey is O hIcidhe, from iceadh, meaning ‘healer’. The Hickeys were part of the tribal grouping, the Dal gCais, which produced Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland who defeated the Vikings in 1014. This grouping had its territory in the area now part of Co Clare and north Tipperary, and it is this area with which the Hickeys remain closely identified. Their surname arose because of their position as hereditary physicians to the royal O’Brien family. From their origianl homeland, the name spread first into the neighbouring Co Limerick, and from there even wider, so that Hickey is today one of the most common and widespread of Irish surnames.

In form, Higgins is an Englich name, from the medieval given name ‘Higgin’, a diminutive of ‘Hicke’, which was in turn a pet form of Richard. In Ireland, however, the vast majority of those bearing the name are of Gaelic Irish stock, Higgins being used as an anglicisation of the Irish O hUigin, from uiginn, meaning ‘Viking’. The original Uigin from whom they claim descent was grandson to Niall of the None Hostages, the fifth-century king who founded the powerful tribal grouping the Ui Neill, and they are therefore regarded as part of that grouping. Originally based in the midlands, part of the southern Ui Neill, they moved west over the centuries to Sligo and Mayo, and more than half of those bearing the surname today still live in the western province of Connacht. Don Ambrosio O’Higgins rose to become Viceroy of Peru for Spain, and his son, Bernado, is widely remembered in South America as the ‘Liberator of Chile’. Ambrosio was born in Ballinvary, Co Sligo, and took the Spanish title Baron de Valenar, Baron Ballinvary.

The Irish version of the surname is O hOgain, from a diminutive of og, meaning ‘young’. The original Ogan from whom the family claim descent lived in the tenth century and was an uncle of Brian Boru, the High King who defeated the Vikings at Clontarf in 1014. Like Brian Boru, they were part of the Dal gCais tribal grouping, whose original territory took in Clare and parts of Tipperary. The (O’)Hogans were centred on Ardcrony, near the modern town of Nenagh in north Tipperary, where their chief had his seat. From there the surname spread far and wide, and is today one of the most common in Ireland, with particular concentrations close to the first homeland, in counties Clare, Tipperary and Limerick. In addition, significant numbers are to be found in Cork, where it is thought that the name may have had a separate origin, in the southwst of that county.

Hughes is common in England and Wales, where it is a patronymic, deriving from the father’s name, and quite a few Irish bearing the name, particularly in Ulster, will be of English and Welsh stock. Elsewhere, it is almost always one of the anglicisations of the Irish O hAodha, from the personal name Aodh, ‘fire’, the second most popular such anglicisation after ‘Hayes’, since Aodh was invariably translated as ‘Hugh’. Perhaps because of the example of the settlers, Hughes was the most frequent anglicisation amongst the Gaelic Irish in Ulster, where there were O hAodha at Ballyshannon (Co Donegal), Ardstraw (Co Tyrone), Tynan (Co Armagh), Farney (Co Monaghan), and south Co Down. In places, too, Hughes became the English version of Mac Aoidh or MacAodha, more usually given as Magee or McHugh.

Hurley has become the English version of at least three distinct original Irish names: the O hUirthile, part of the Dal gCais tribal group, based in Clare and north Tipperary; the O Muirthile, based around Kilbritain in west Cork; and the O hIarlatha, from the district of Ballyvourney, also in Cork, whose name is more usually anglicised ‘(O’)Herlihy’. The principal concentrations of Hurleys are today found in counties Topperary and Limerick, where they spread from the original Dalcassian homeland, and in Cork. An interesting example of the pseudo-translation of surnames is found in Clare, where some whose name was originally Hurley have now become ‘Commane’, since the Irish for the hurley-stick used in the sport of hurling is caman.


In form at least the surname is Scottish, deriving from the place of the name in Annandale in Dumfriesshire, which was originally ‘Johns town’. The original John was a Norman landowner in the area in the twelfth century, and instead of taking on the straightforward patronymic ‘Johnson’, his descendants adopted the placename as their surname, becoming Johnston(e)s. This family, the source of virtually all Scottish bearers of the name, became one on the strongest and most unruly of the Border clans, and their long feud with another clan, the Maxwells, was notorious for its ferocity. When the clans were eventually ‘pacified’ and scattered by James II, many Johnstons fled to Ulster where, like large numbers from the other clans - Elliots, Armstrongs, Nixons and others - they settled mainly in Co Fermanagh, where the surname is today the second most numerous in the county. As well as these Johnstons, however, many others whose name was originally Johnson adopted the Scottish name. Such adoptions occurred predominantly in Ulster, and affected those of Scottish and of native Irish origin, with the Maclans of Caithness translating their surname as Johnson, and then altering it to Johnston in many vcases, and the MacShanes of the Armagh/Tyrone district, a branch of the O’Neills, doing likewise.

Jones is an extremely common surname in England and Wales, one of the wide range of names derived from the personal name ‘John’. It is a patronymic, coming from the genetic form ‘John’s’. Its widespread popularity in Wales is due to the form adopted in the Welsh translation of the Authorised Version of the Bible, Ioan, phonetically close to the modern surname. In Ireland it is quite widespread, coming among the two hundred most frequent names, and is understandably most closely associated with areas where English influence was strongest.

Joyce derives from the Breton personal name Iodac, a diminutive of iudh, meaning ‘lord’, which was adopted by the Normans as Josse. A number of English surnames arose from this Norman original, including Joce, Joass, and Joyce, this last being far more frequent in Ireland than anywhere else. The first bearer of the name in Ireland was a Thomas de Joise, of Norman Welsh extraction, who married a daughter of the O’Brien Princes of Thomond in 1283, and settled in the far west of Connacht, on the borders of the modern counties of Mayo and Galway. Their descendants became completely gaelicised, ruling that territory, today still known as ‘Joyce’s Country’, down to the seventeenth century. The surname remains strongly associateed with the area, with a large majority of Joyces originating in counties Galway and Mayo. The most famous modern bearer of the name was James Joyce (1882-1941), author of Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake, said to have been the only twentieth-century novelist to publish nothing but masterpieces.