County Fermanagh may not be Northern Ireland’s most populated county but it has so much history. Famous for its lakes and waterways, County Fermanagh also has its fair share of notable families. Surnames are more than just a way to see who is related to whom they tell a story in their own right. Surnames tell the history of a community. Often surnames indicate family traits and former occupations. Here is a closer look at how Irish surnames came to be.
Based on the frequency with which some surnames are called, visitors to the town are often compelled to ask the question: What are the most popular County Fermanagh surnames? Although a few English names have come to stay, here a few of the popular and original County Fermanagh surnames:
- Maguire: This surname is derived from the Gaelic Mag Uidhir and means any of “Son of the dark colored one”, “Son of the dun”, or “Son of Odhar”. It was during the reign of the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru, that the name appeared first in the “Ancient Annals of Ulster” published in 956. They were the Kings of Maguire from the 13th to 17th century and are descendants of Colla de Chrich.
- McManus: This family is a branch of the Maguire family. The descendants of McManus called the Lough Erne shores home. Being a branch of the Maguire family, it comes as no surprise that they are the second most popular name in County Fermanagh. You can find this surname in other counties in large numbers.
- Dolan: This surname in Irish Gaelic is a combination of “Dubh” and “shláin” meaning “dark” and “challenge or defiance” respectively. Their original territory was along the banks of the River Barrow. Over the centuries, they have maintained a tradition of literary works. So many variations of the name abound and include “Dowling”, “Dudley” and “Dunlang”.
- Cassidy: This is another County Fermanagh family that is prominence in the arts as well as religion and medicine. Worthy of note is the fact that they were the doctors to the famous Maguire family. This ancient Count Fermanagh surname originated from the lower Lough Erne region. Thanks to the emigration of the members of this family, one of them got to be the President of the US – Bill Clinton. How cool is that?
- McGovern: Originally from the Irish Gaelic “Shamhrain”, the surname means “summer” as derived from the word “Samhra”. They are descendants of Samhradhan who lived around 1100 AD. Like most of the other names, it comes with lots of variations. They are also found in other counties.
- Reilly: The Reilly family are descendants of Raghallach. You may occasionally find the variation O’Reilly. Raghallach was the grandson of Conchobar, a great King of Connacht during the 10th century. Conchobhar is also the founder of the O’Connor clan. The name is derived from Irish Gaelic O’Raghallaigh which means “sociable tribe”. They were one of the most powerful families.
- McElroy: Though you will find this surname in other counties, it is predominant in County Fermanagh. They originated from the east side of Lough Erne, at a place called Ballymacelroy. The surname is an Anglicized version of the Irish Gaelic “Mac Giolla Ruaidh” meaning “son of the red-haired lad”. McElroy was commonly mentioned in the fifteenth century work titled “Annals of the Four Masters”. Over time and following the immigration of family members, lots of variations to the name also came to stay.
- McGrath: Derived from Mac Craith, the McGrath family is one of the most popular surnames in County Fermanagh. It is also possible to find variations such as Macraith and Mag Raith. Like other popular families, the surname can also be found in other counties. They are also mentioned in both the “Annals of Ulster” and the “Annals of the Four Masters”. This Irish Gaelic surname means “prosperity” and the first Sept of their name based at Termon Castle near Pettigo.
- Flanagan: The Chief Septs of the Flanagan were found in other counties apart from Count Fermanagh. This prominent surname means “reddish” or “rudy” and is derived from Irish Gaelic O’Flannagain. They are also known to have been stewards to the Kings of Connacht. As is expected of surnames that have been around for so long, variations do exist. Two mottos are accredited to the Flanagans – “Fortune favours the bold” and “I have fought and conquered”.
County Fermanagh is home to many surnames now but the rich history of the families mentioned above will remain for generations. The study of surnames is interesting as they have become a blend of Celtic, English and other influences. They reflect the colorful and unique history that makes Ireland the wonderful and extraordinary place it is today.