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Most Frequently Occurring Anglo-Norman Surnames
(Based on Matheson) Lawless/Lillis
This is a nickname type surname of obvious meaning which appears to have been borne by many unrelated men in earlier times. Thirteenth century sources record the name in several Munster and Leinster counties. In later centuries one branch was especially prominent in Kilkenny City while the name remains well distributed in Ireland today. In County Limerick the surname has become Lillis.
This occupational surname occurs in several Leinster counties in the thirteenth century and is found in Meath and Tipperary (Cashel) in the sixteenth century. While some Masons are of New English origin many must descend from earlier Anglo-Norman settlers.
This family descend from Elias fitz Norman, one of the early settlers who acquired lands in Waterford, Tipperary and Kerry, and who died around 1214. His eldest son, Richard, inherited the east Munster lands, which soon passed to the Rokelle family via his granddaughter Margery; her descendants now bear the Waterford surname Rocket. In time the name born by the descendants of the younger son, William fitz Elias, who had inherited the Kerry lands, transformed itself via Gaelic into McElligott. The family were prominent gentry in that county until the seventeenth century dispossessions and the surname remains common there today.
This common Mayo surname is said by McLysaght to belong to an offshoot of the great Burke lineage. Surprisingly little seems known about its early history.
This is a rare example of a toponym of Irish origin, denoting an Anglo-Norman whose first place of settlement in Ireland was County Meath. In the thirteenth century we find families of the name in Kildare, Offaly, Cork and Limerick, and it is in these very same counties, along with Meath itself, that we also find Miaghs (the anglicised Gaelic form) in the sixteenth century and later. The Cork Meads were especially prominent as merchants in Cork, Kinsale and Youghal, and the name remains common in this county.
The greater portion of Irish Morrises must descend from Jordan de Mareis, nephew of the famous Geoffrey de Mareis the Justiciar of the early years of the invasion. This family came to Ireland from Devon but Mareis, the French word for a marsh, indicates an ultimate Norman origin for the family. Jordans lands lay in various parts of County Tipperary and it is from this county that the family later spread to other parts of Ireland. One important branch moved to Galway in the fifteenth century and became one of the famous Tribes of Galway, and leading merchant family of that city. The descendants of this family, (who include Lord Killanin, ex-president of the International Olympic Committee), later adopted the form Morris, although some Tipperary Mareises became Morres. In Mayo Morrises may in fact be Prendergasts, as outlined below.
(Both forms are interchangeable and have no localised significance)
Gilbert de Angulo (a place in South Wales) was among the first settlers in County Meath while his son, Jocelyn was the ancestor of the Costello family of Mayo (see Part 3); in Meath the family were long counted among the nobility of that county. In early times we also find the surname in Dublin, Kildare, Kerry, Limerick and Cork, those of the latter county descending from one Richard de Angulo, one of the first settlers of the early thirteenth century; the territory of this clan was located just north of the Nagle Mountains. In Kerry the Nagles were merchants in Tralee and Dingle.
From the thirteenth centuryonwards this surname is common in West Limerick from where it spread into surrounding areas. Originally de Naase/del Nashe, it appears to derive from an English locative description. The name is still principally found in Limerick and Kerry.
This surname has at least three origins in Ireland. Firstly, the Leinster Nugents, who descend from Hugh de Nugent and his relatives. Hugh was one of the first settlers, some of whose descendants became barons of Delvin and later earls of Westmeath. Hugh was of Norman ancestry and his surname is derived from one of several Nogents in Normandy. The Ulster Nugents are likely to derive from English settlers of the seventeenth century whose ultimate origin is identical to those of Leinster. Finally, the Nugents of Munster are not true Nugents at all but are descended from a thirteenth century Cork family called de Wynchedon (an English locative) whose descendants adopted the form Nugent via a Gaelic mesne form (this family still sometimes used the form Winsedon in the late 1500s). This occurred because of the similarity of the Gaelic forms of Nugent and Wynchedon. A branch of these false Nugents settled in East Limerick during the sixteenth century, accounting for the presence of the surname in that county today.
A shortened form of Prendergast (for which see below).
In Kerry this (common) surname is born by a branch of the FitzMaurices (see Part 4). The Leinster Pierces descend from early settlers whose surname is derived from Piers, the French form of the Christian name Peter. Here the surname was especially associated with Meath and Kildare.
In mid and northern Leinster this surname has two origins; firstly from an Anglo-Norman family associated with Meath since the thirteenth century and secondly, from New English settlers in Offaly during the plantation of the 1560s. The descendants of both families are now indistinguishable. The name is ultimately derived from a French Christian name. Further south Pigotts are really Bekets, (derived from yet another French Christian name), being descended from an early settler called Rhys (a Welsh Christian name!) Beket who obtained lands in Kilkenny and North Cork. Here once again Gaelicisation is the culprit behind the surname change. The Pigotts of Cork (and Wexford?) are of his stock.
the Plunketts are said to descend from a John Plunkett who obtained lands in Meath early in the conquest. The absence of the locative article in the early references to this surname suggest that McLysaght may indeed be correct in deriving Plunkett from the French word blanchet (from the root blanc = white), although it should be noted that there is an English surname, Plucknett/Plumkett, which derives from Plouquenet, a place in Brittany. For many centuries the Plunkett family were prominent in the governance of Ireland, due, no doubt, to the location of their lands on the borders of the Pale. Though loyal to the English Crown for many centuries, the Plunketts nevertheless remained steadfast Catholics, managing to retain much of their ancestral estates despite this. Saint Oliver Plunkett, Catholic archbishop of Armagh, martyred at Tyburn in the 1670s, was of one of the aristocratic lines of the family. The aristocratic Plunketts are represented by no less that three families of earls, those of Fingall, Dunsany and Louth.
The Power lineage became established in County Waterford at the time of the conquest, from where branches spread into Tipperary, Cork and Kilkenny. This is certain despite the absence of genealogical details of the first generations of the family. Most authorities derive the surname from a French word meaning poor but this seems to be merely yet another example of the deplorable habit of follow the leader. This derivation ignores the consistent early use of the form le Poher, almost certainly derived from the earlier le Pohier, a native of Picardy in France a district from which many settlers accompanied the Normans in their conquest of England. In Waterford the family established a lineage in the eastern half of the county which constituted a distinct lordship down to the seventeenth century confiscations. These warred incessantly with the loyalist city of Waterford. Power Head in County Cork is named from a local branch of the family.
Maurice de Prendergast was one of the first settlers in the train of Strongbow, Prendergast being a place in that part of Pembroke in South Wales earlier settled by Flemings. Maurice and his son Philip and grandson Gerald acquired extensive lands in Wexford, Cork, Limerick and Mayo, most of which duly passed via Geralds daughters toother men. On most of these lands we find early branches of the family settled, who must have been relatives or bastards of the above mentioned lords. These were the ancestors of the later Prendergasts of Mayo and Wexford while those of West Limerick exchanged their lands there for others in South Tipperary, and were the ancestors of the Prendergasts of that county. The Mayo branch assumed the native patronym MacMorris and their territory is preserved in that of the barony of Clanmorris in that county. Most of these later resumed the form Prendergast.
For the derivation of this French surname see Part 2. All Irish Purcells seem to descend from Walter Purcell, who came to Ireland in the early thirteenth century in the train of the Marshall. Walter obtained lands in Kilkenny while his son Hugh later obtained lands in Tipperary in marriage with an heiress. Several junior branches derive from other family members of the same period, located on lands in Carlow, Limerick and Kilkenny. Today Purcells are especially present in Kilkenny, Tipperary and Dublin.
This surname appears to have three distinct origins in Ireland. In Offaly we have the descendants of the McRedmond family, stated by McLysaght to have been a branch of the Galway Burkes. Most Redmonds however originate in County Wexford, where a family of the name were settled on the Hook Peninsula since early in the invasion, claiming descent from one Alexander Raymond. While most Wexford Redmonds must descend from this man it seems that some descend from a branch of the McMurroghs, native kings of Wexford, the lands of these McRedmonds lying in the north of the county.
About half of all Rices in Ireland today are found in the province of Ulster, especially in Armagh, Down and Louth, and McLysaght has shown that these are not true Rices at all but members of a disguised Celtic family, the O Maolchraoibhe of Oriel. In Leinster and Munster the surname derives from the very common Celtic Welsh Christian name Rhys, and so must denote one descended from a man so named. In the thirteenth century the surname can be found in Kerry, Cork, Tipperary, Meath and Kildare, and several distinct Rhyses may have been the ancestors of these families. In Kerry the family were important merchants until Cromwells time.
The ancestor of all Irish Roches would seem to have been Godebert the Fleming, who held Roch Castle in Pembroke in 1130. His son Robert fitz Godebert de la Roch, accompanied in turn by several of his sons, was one of the first invaders of Ireland. These men, and their sons in turn, obtained lands in Fergenel in Wexford, and in Tipperary, Limerick and Connacht. Historians have long been unable to tie in the Cork Roches with this family, but it has recently been shown that the first of this family, whose Christian name was probably David, had a connection with the Wexford line and was thus of the same stock. The quick spread of Roches to nearly all Irish counties within a couple of generations is a remarkable feature of this fecund family. Probably the most important line of the family in later centuries was that of the Roches of Fermoy, County Cork, long one of that countys leading lineages. The late Lady Diana was descended from this family. The surname is today most common in Cork, Limerick and Wexford.
About the Author Dr. Paul MacCotter obtained his MA in history by
independent research at UCC in 1994. After this he continued his studies into
general and specialist genealogy and medieval history. During this time he
continued to study, research and publish in the areas of medieval history,
Anglo-Norman history, church history, genealogy, and Irish surname studies.
MacCotter currently has nearly fifty papers published and four books. He was
awarded his PhD in UCC in 2006. His book, Medieval Ireland: territorial,
political and economic divisions has come to be regarded as a major
reference work and MacCotter as a leading authority on this aspect of medieval
Irish history. He worked as Historical Consultant for the Heritage Council
funded INSTAR project, Making Christian Landscapes, and obtained a prestigious
Government of Ireland fellowship, in 2010. Dr. MacCotter currently continues
his academic research, and is an assistant lecturer in the Schools of History
and Adult Continuing Education, UCC, and runs his own genealogical and
historical consultancy (www.paulmaccotter.com)