Kinsearching March 14, 2010




Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     In addition to DEFENDERS OF THE PLANTATION OF ULSTER: 1641 – 1691 (see Kinsearching column dated 7 March 2010), Brian Mitchell has compiled THE SURNAMES OF NORTH WEST IRELAND: CONCISE HISTORIES OF THE MAJOR SURNAMES OF GAELIC AND PLANTER ORIGIN to mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Plantation of Ulster. The Plantation refers to the settlement of Scottish and English settlers (“planters”) in Northern Ireland in the 17th century. North West Ireland encompasses the counties of Derry, Donegal, and Tyrone.

     As the book’s title implies, Mitchell focuses on surnames that, based on numerical strength or uniqueness, either originated in or became firmly established in North West Ireland. Because identifying the nationality of forebears in Ireland is not always as straightforward as it may seem, genealogists will do themselves a favor if they will read his introductory comments. He explains, for instance, that some surnames, like KELLY, may have more than one origin; a few dropped the Mac, Mc, or O (MCTAGGART to TAGGART or O’CONNOR to CONNOR); while others were anglicized (adapted to a more English-sounding name, thus obscuring the true origin), such as MCGOWAN changing to SMITH and MCSHANE becoming JOHNSTON. Another factor was illiteracy which, combined with the process of anglicization, often led to numerous variations of the same surname. Research in records illustrate that various spellings of the surname DOHERTY include DAUGHTERTY, DOCHERTY, DOCKERTY, DOGERTY, DOGHERTY, DORRETY, DOUGHTERY, O’DOAGHARTY, O’DOCHARTAIGH, O’DOGHARTYE, O’DOGHERTY, and O’DOHERTY.

     Despite these difficulties, surnames may provide valuable clues to genealogists. Some Gaelic Irish surnames, he points out, still prevail in the localities in which they arose. Two examples are MCCLOSKEY in the Dungiven area of County Derry and MCLAUGHLIN in the Inishowen peninsula.

     Mitchell furnishes single-page histories of 324 surnames. Although compact, the narrative is chocked full of fascinating details. For each surname, facts usually include its geographic prevalence in North West Ireland today, ancient origins, any expansion or contraction of the name in association with military campaigns, different spellings, and an assortment of miscellaneous data. Since the material supplies variations in spellings, the book, in effect, provides information about fifty-seven additional surnames.

     A welcomed addition to genealogical works of this nature, THE SURNAMES OF NORTH WEST IRELAND: CONCISE HISTORIES OF THE MAJOR SURNAMES OF GAELIC AND PLANTER ORIGIN documents the source of the surnames of approximately eighty percent of the families with roots in this area of the Emerald Isle. Because North West Ireland was the home of many of the immigrants who eventually departed in significant numbers for new lives in North America, Great Britain, and Australasia, genealogists the world over will find useful data in Mitchell’s new volume.

     Sporting an attractive front cover, the 326-page paperback contains an informative introduction which lists the sources consulted by the author. A chart of the major surnames in North West Ireland shows at a quick glance the variant spellings recorded in the region. To the book's price of $39.95, buyers should add the cost for postage and handling charges. For U. S. postal mail, the cost is $5.50 for one book and $2.50 for each additional copy; for FedEx ground service, the cost is $7.50 for one copy and $2.50 for each additional book. The volume (item order 9968) may be purchased by check, money order, MasterCard, or Visa from Clearfield Company, 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., Suite 260, Baltimore, Maryland 21211-1953 (For phone orders, call toll free 1-800-296-6687; fax 1-410-752-8492; website

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