Irish Surnames in the United States

 

Ever since St. Brendan the Navigator discovered America in the sixth century, the Irish have been crossing the Atlantic. The next Irish cleric to land in what is now the United States was Richard Arthur who was put ashore in 1597 by a Spanish ship in Florida.

Before the English began transporting the Irish as convicts to Australia, they had transported them to their colonies in North America. This began during the time of the Cromwellian Plantation, and in the year 1660 10,000 Irish children were shipped. The total so transported was estimated at between 60,000 and 100,000.

The Irish were spread throughout the colonies, however the colony which attracted them most was Maryland. While the British were anxious to attract all settlers this did not stop the Irish being subjected to the Penal Laws in the New World.

The Irish played an important part in the War of Independence. According to Hook on March 17, 1776, General George Washington ordered that the password for the night should be St. Patrick.

In the nineteenth century approximately 8 million people left Ireland, the vast majority of whom went to the United States. In 1860 38.93% of the foreign born population in the United States was Irish. In 1870, 33.3% of the foreign born population in the United States was Irish.

The Civil War brought an end to violent expressions of antipathy to the Irish immigrants, the Irish having distinguished themselves on both sides.

 

Surnames in the United States

There are well over a million different surnames in the United States. A small proportion of these surnames would be Irish. However a large proportion of Americans bear an Irish surname and are of Irish descent. Seventy-two of the hundred most numerous surnames in the United States are dealt with in Surnames in Ireland. Together with a large proportion of the one thousand most numerous surnames in the United States, and Irish surnames from amongst the ten thousand most numerous surnames in the United States.

The surname landscape in the United States is not so much a melting pot, as a patchwork quilt. Irish surnames are amongst the most numerous in the States of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. In addition the majority of those who bear Scottish surnames in the United States, are most likely the descendants of the Ulster-Scots.

In the same manner as Gaelic surnames were corrupted and anglicised in Ireland, in the United States many surnames became Americanised. In the United States this process was not as devastating with the Irish as with other nationalities, the Irish already had the advantage· of speaking English. Nevertheless there are many instances of Americanised corruption, to which reference is made in the main text.

United States Census Bureau Frequency List

There is reference in Surnames in Ireland to the frequency of particular surnames in the United States. The source of this information has been referred to elsewhere. Given the information available how then would one go about estimating the number of bearers of a particular surname.

Let us take Quinn (and its variants) as an example. First it is necessary to get a population figure, 275,000,000 is a rounding based upon the figure given at the present time on the web site of the U. S. Census Bureau. Quinn is number 402 in the list with .028 frequency in percent, O’Quinn is number 6,426 in the list with .002 frequency in percent, and Quin is number 15,374 in the list with .001 frequency in percent.

This gives Quinn an estimated 77,000 (275,000,000 x .028%) bearers, O’Quinn an estimated 5,500 bearers, and Quin an estimated 2,500 bearers. This gives an estimated total figure of 85,000 for Quinn including variants.

 

Tables of surnames in United States

There are two tables of surnames following. The first is a table of Irish surnames, from the ten thousand plus most numerous surnames in the United States. The second is a table of the thousand most numerous surnames in the United States.

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Table of most numerous Irish surnames in United States

The following is a list of the most numerous Irish surnames in the United States (including surnames found in Ireland that are not exclusively Irish), which is taken from the list of the ten thousand plus most frequent surnames in the United States issued by the Census Bureau. The list is ranked in order of frequency with position noted.

Here the exclusively Irish surnames are highlighted in bold; other more numerous surnames in the United States are also included with their positions in Ireland (IRL); England and Wales (EW), and Scotland (S), also listed.

Note that the first three surnames in Ireland are also the top three Irish surnames in the United States.

 

SMITH 1; 5 IRL; 1 EW; 1 S REYNOLDS 112; 113 EW

JOHNSON 2; 23IRL; 10EW; 28S MURRAY 122; 18 IRL;98 EW;12 S

BROWN 5; 37 IRL; 5 EW; 2 S KENNEDY 137 16IRL;168EW;58S

WILSON 8; 26 IRL; 8 EW; 3 S GRANT 154; 136 EW; 40 S

MOORE 9; 20 IRL; 33 EW; 87 S CARROLL 176; 22 IRL;283 EW

MARTIN 16; 38 IRL; 28EW;33S BRADLEY 181; 124 EW

MURPHY 59; 1IRL; 60EW;63S KELLEY 198

WARD 66; 78 IRL; 31 EW RYAN 203; 8 IRL; 135 EW

KELLY 74; 2 IRL; 52EW; 38S LYNCH 235; 17 IRL; 249 EW

HUGHES 88; 34IRL; 18EW; 65S BURKE 243; 29 IRL; 222 EW

FORD 102; 116 EW BARRETT 280; 145 EW

SULLIVAN 105; 3 IRL; 241EW O’BRIEN 281; 6 IRL; 130 EW

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