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Names and Naming Practices in the Fitzwilliam Accounts from 16th Century Ireland

Analysis of Usage

by Heather Rose Jones

© 1999 by Heather Rose Jones; all rights reserved.
Layout and editing Arval Benicoeur.

Appearance of Elements in Multiple Functions

The following table shows the distribution of elements (excluding the women's given names) according to context-language and function. Numbers are given for English/Latin respectively. Numbers are for unique individuals only.

Most of the particulars of distribution are simply a matter of statistics -- the most popular names are the ones most likely to appear in multiple categories. (Needless to say, a name that only appears twice could hardly appear in three categories!).

There is a clear correlation between function and name-origin in many cases. Unmarked patronyms are all of Gaelic origin (or are Irishized versions of names, such as Seán). Patronyms using Welsh ap are all of Welsh origin (suggesting that they are most likely fixed surnames, not true patronyms). Patronyms using fitz are all of English origin (although Patrick is tough to call, its use in Ireland as a given name derives from English practice, not Irish). Patronyms using ó are all Gaelic, but those with mac may be either Gaelic or English. Unmarked patronyms overwhelmingly come from the Latin records, while, as noted previously, Gaelic given names overwhelmingly come from the English records.

Several of these trends lend strong support to the theory that given names in the Latin records (the only elements, recall, that are given Latin inflections) may conceal a number of Gaelic given names for which English substitutions have been made -- perhaps for the very purpose of ease of Latinization. If so, it is difficult to guess which names may be substitutions for what, with the exception of Thadeus for Tadhg -- which was commonly done and stands out because of the rarity of true examples of Thadeus in the period.

                Given   Patronym
                Name    Mac     Ó      Fitz      ap     -s      -       Total

3 or more categories

John            2/4                                                     11 (both)
  Seán          1-2/    1/                                               /2
Niall           1/              5/                              1/      7
William          /1     1/1             2/1*            1/              7

*Almost certainly a fixed surname, however.

Two categories

Artt            1/      1/                                              2
Brian           3/                                               /1     4
Ceallach                1/                                       /1     2
Feidhlim                1/      1/                                      2
Henry           1/      2/                                              3
Hugh            1/      1/                                              2
Laoiseach               1/      1/                                      2
Muchadh          /1     1/                                              2
Patrick         1/1                     1/                              3
Thadeus          /1                                                     2 (both)
  Tadhg                 1/

One category

English & Latin

Richard         2/3                                                     5
Jacob            /3                                                     4-5 (both)
  James       1-2/
Michael         2/1                                                     3
Eoghan          3/                                                      3
Barnaby         1/                                                      1
Conn            1/                                                      1
Donnchad        1/                                                      1
Maredudd        1/                                                      1
Toirdhealbhach  1/                                                      1
Edmund           /2                                                     2
David            /1                                                     1
Edward           /1                                                     1
Failghe          /1                                                     1
Luke             /1                                                     1
Oliver           /1                                                     1
Raymond          /1                                                     1
Robert           /1                                                     1
Solomon          /1                                                     1
Walter           /1                                                     1
Aodhagán                 /1                                             1
Odhar                   1/                                              1
Randolph                1/                                              1
Conchobhar                      1/                                      1
Díomasach                       1/1                                     2
Donn                             /1                                     1
Suileabhan                      1/                                      1
Tuathal                          /1                                     1
Gerald                                  /1                              1
Hywel                                            /1                     1
Rhys                                            1/                      1
Bréanainn                                                       /1      1
Connall?                                                        /1      1
Dubhchú                                                         /1      1
Séaghdha                                                        /1      1
Bynames          -          in patronym
Baron           1/
Beare           1/
Bretenaugh       /1
Buidhe          1/
Dubh             /1
Fionn?           /1
Fionnghlas      1/1
Gallda          1/
Galtrim          /1
Mór             1/1             1/
Og               /1
Ruadh           2/1

English Surnames

Brandon          /1
Butler           /1
Dowdall       2-3/1
Lombard          /1
Miller          1/
Pentheny        1/
Plunkett         /1

Name Patterns

The following codes are used in the analysis of the name patterns:

g given name b descriptive byname
l locative t title
m mac o ó
a ap z fitz
d de

Latin Records


Three of the four women in the record have English surnames. The fourth bears what is probably an unmarked patronym, using an Irishized name of English origin.

gs (Domina) Elionora Buttler
Janeta Plouncket
Katerina Lumberte
gg Margareta Shene


Of the 26 different men in the Latin records, slightly over half have bynames that are patronymic in format.

7 unmarked (names in patronyms are all Gaelic)
3 ó (following names are all Gaelic)
2 mac (following names both Gaelic and English)
2 fitz (following names both English, these are most likely fixed surnames rather than true patronyms)
1 ap (following name is Welsh, this is almost certainly a fixed surname rather than a true patronym)

It is worth noting that the entries that are recorded with Gaelic given names have either mac or ó patronyms -- the men with unmarked patronyms are all recorded with English given names, even though the father's names are all Gaelic. There are two possible interpretations: either the unmarked group come from families that have undergone more Anglicization (both stripping the patronymic markers from their surnames -- and most likely using fixed surnames -- as well as shifting to the use of English given names); or the two groups represent different levels of Anglicization in the recording process, with any Gaelic given names being replaced by English "equivalents" as well as having patronymic markers being stripped out. Note that several of the unmarked patronyms clearly derive from the genitive form of the root name, rather than the nominative (e.g., Kellie) so we don't seem to be seeing a shift to the use of true patronyms that are simply unmarked.

Patronymic-style Bynames
gag Waltero Aphoell
gg Edwardo Shane
Davido Connell
Roberto She
Edmoundo Brenan
Iohanne Brian
Iohanne Doughan
Iohanne Kellie
gmg Morgho McWilliam
Salemon McKegan
gog Willelmo Odoyne
Luca Othole
Phallie Odempsie
gzg Edmoundo Fitzgerald
Olivero Fitzwilliams
Non-Patronymic Bynames
gb Ricardo Roe
Michaele More
Remoundo Oge
Iacobo Bretenaugh
Ricardo Fian
Thadeo Duf
gl Ricardo Galtrim
Johanne Fynglas (possibly a byname instead)
gs Iacobo Dowdall
Iacobo Brandon
gstdl Patricio Hussie Barone de Galtrym

English Records

Patronymic-style Bynames
In the English-language records, about two-thirds of the individuals have patronymic-style bynames (including those using ap and fitz which are most likely fixed surnames). Compared with the Latin records, there is a drastic decrease in unmarked patronyms and a corresponding increse in mac and ó patronyms, with the former slightly outnumbering the latter. One category not found in the Latin records have a patronym without a given name. Based on context, these appear to be references to the chief of the clan bearing that name. One name in each of these categories is more complex -- either a complex clan-name indicating a particular branch of the family, or a multi- generation patronym (also including a clan-name).
gag John Apprice
gg John Neale
gmg Owen Mac Hughe
Con Mc Henry
Owen Mac Thighe
Richarde Mc Gwilliam
Leyso Mc. Moroughe
Nele Mac Leyshe
Bryan Mc Felym
gmgmgog Brian Mc Henry Mc Shane Oneyle
gog Henry Oneyle
Calloghe o Conner
Shane O Nele
Hewgh Odempsie
Tirrillawghe Oneyle
gogmt Art Onele Mc Baron
gzg Barnabee Fytz Patrycke
Bryan Fitzwylliams
Michaell Fitzwilliams
mg Mc Guyre
mgb Mac Randolphe Boye
mgog Mc Art O More
ogb O Sullevan Beer
Non-Patronymic Bynames
The only major difference between the Latin and English records in this category is a strong decrease in the relative number of descriptive bynames. Of particular interest is the last, with an English (presumably hereditary) surname followed by an Gaelic (presumably personal) descriptive byname.
gb Owen Roe
Shane Galte
Phelim Roe
gl Richard Finglas
gs James Dowdale
Patrick Dowdall
Myhell Pentenye
Meredethe Wylliams
Donnawghe Myller
gsb James Dowdale More

Duplicate References

Given that the Latin and English records come from the same narrow timespan (only five years total), and that multiple mentions of the same individual are common within each group, it is surprising that there is only one possible individual who appears in both contexts: Latin Iacob[us] Dowdall and English James Dowdall.

Most duplicate references differ only in spelling variation, if they differ at all, e.g., Edward[us] Shane vs. Edward[us] Shene or Brian Mc Phelim vs. Bryan Mac Felyme. The Latin records are considerably more consistant in spelling, even for Gaelic name elements.

Since none of the Latin records has more than a single byname (unless one counts Baron de Galtrym), there is no scope there for variations based on addition or omission of elements. However three individuals in the English records appear to be recorded with variants of this type. In the case of James Dowdale (More) it is possible that the variants represent two different individuals (possibly even a father and son, given that Mór may sometimes be used in the sense of "senior"). In the case of Art Oneyle (Mac Baron), the omitted part identifies a particular branch of the O'Neills, and is not acting as a patronym. The case of Brian Mc Henry (Mc Shane Oneyle) is somewhat more typical, where the first mention of the individual gives a fuller (more formal?) version of the name -- presumably including two generations of patronym as well as the clan-name -- while a second mention within the same section of the text gives a shorter, two-element version. It is not certain whether John Neale and Shane O Nele are the same individual. At the very least, the two citations demonstrate how the same name elements can appear both in transcription and "translation" in the same document. (Alternately, if John Neale is a different individual, he may simply come from a more Anglicized background.)

A Note on Welsh Name Elements in the Data

Three individuals in the record have identifiably Welsh-origin name elements: Walter[us] Aphoell John Apprice Meredethe Wylliams Very little can be said for certain, based on so little data. Note that none of these also include any Gaelic elements, and that the only one having a Welsh-origin given name also has a later form of patronym -- perhaps suggesting a more recent arrival in Ireland, although without knowing to what extent Welsh immigrants to Ireland maintained their native naming practices, this can be nothing more than speculation.


Hogan, Edmund. Onomasticon Goedelicum (An Index, with Identifications, to the Gaelic Names of Places and Tribes). Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1993.

Longfield, A.K. Fitzwilliam Accounts 1560-65 (Annesley Collection). Dublin: Irish Manuscripts Commission, 1960.

MacLysaght, Edward. The Surnames of Ireland. Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1980.

Ó Corráin, Donnchadh & Maguire, Fidelma. Irish Names. Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 1990.

Reaney, P. H. & Wilson, R. M. A Dictionary of English Surnames. New York: Routledge, 1991.

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