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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Jim I Carolan or O'Carolan?? (72* d) RE: Carolan or O'Carolan?? 08 Aug 06

Tentatively dipping a toe in...

With some years of experience of research in Irish parish records of Leitrim, Cork and Kerry I have noticed that in the first half of the 19th century only a very small number of people are recorded with O-prefixed names.

I am currently working on a parish in Leitrim with records from 1820 onwards. Almost the only name prefixed with O is O'Neil. This always appears in this form. Other typical O names like O'Rourke, O'Donohue, O'Brien, O'Donnell appear hardly at all. They are much more more usually seen as Rourke, Donohue, Brien/Beirne or Donnell etc.

On following the subsequent history of some of these families I find that many went to America and in many cases their descendants, with some of whom I have been in touch, have, at some point after leaving Ireland, adopted the O prefix.

There is a similar pattern with the Mac/Mc names. While there is a higher percentage of these in the parish records, there is also a very big increase of the use of these prefixes in more modern times and, in particular, in America.

It seems to me, therefore, that it is the descendants of these people who have asserted their Irishness by adding on the O/Mac/Mc etc.

Many of these records are from well before the famine and, although it is certainly possibly that names were changed because 'Irishness' was frowned upon, this would not explain how the O'Neils got away with it.


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