Today I wanted to highlight one of our FREE databases - 'Distribution of Surnames in Ireland, 1890' (available here)

This statistical report is based on the births registered in Ireland during the year 1890. This data was derived from Robert R. Matheson's Special Report on Surnames in Ireland.

As the former Chief Herald of Ireland, Donal Begley, pointed out "Its value lies in the fact that it provides authoritative information as to the numerical strength and distribution of family names throughout the country" (Irish Genealogy: A Record Finder, Heraldic Artists Ltd).

In recognising the usefulness of this data in helping to focus a search, it should be noted that it provides a snapshot of Irish surname distribution in the late 19th century after Ireland had experienced significant population change caused by factors such as the Great Famine, emigration, rural to urban migration etc.

As such, one might expect differences between this data and the distribution of surnames in Ireland in the first half of the 19th century. A further limitation is the fact that it includes only surnames having five or more birth entries thus excluding some of the rarer Irish family names.

Results are displayed for surnames having five or more entries in the births indexes of 1890, together with the number registered in each of the four provinces, and the counties in which these names are principally found along with any variations in spelling where applicable.

We have also included a flipbook showing the first few pages of the original report (the entire report is available to our Guild members). This includes the top 100 surnames in Ireland in 1890:

Mathesons Special Report image

1. Murphy

2. Kelly

3. Sullivan

4. Walsh

5. Smith

6. O'Brien

7. Byrne

8. Ryan

9. Connor

10. O'Neill

11. Reilly

12. Doyle

13. McCarthy

14. Gallagher

15. Doherty

16. Kennedy

17. Lynch

18. Murray

19. Quinn

20. Moore

The report also contains chapters looking at surnames from various origins including surnames:

  • From personal names e.g. McShane
  • From rank or occupations e.g. Colgan
  • From the animal, vegetable or mineral kingdoms e.g. Darragh
  • From locality e.g. Adair
  • From person peculiarities or attributes e.g. Casey

For more information on the origin of surnames, you may wish to consult: