April 28, 2011

Irishtown Part 2: What's in a Surname?

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For part 1, see Irishtown: How Stats Tell A Story About Woburn, Massachusetts.

On March 23, 2011,  IrishCentral published an article titled, "The ten most popular family names in Ireland."

After reading through the list of names, I realized that it could be an excerpt from Woburn High's football roster. The surnames sounded so familiar that I did a quick check to see how many Woburnites correspond with IrishCentral's top ten. Here are the results. Bear in mind that I gathered data using an online phone book at HelloWoburn.com. Numbers reflect listed individuals, not listed families/dwellings.

1. Murphy

Murphy is the most popular surname in Ireland. And while I can't say with complete certainty that it is the most popular surname in Woburn, it is definitely up there. There are over 150 Murphys living in Woburn.

Counties the Murphys likely came from: Wexford, Roscommon, Cork, Sligo or Tyron.

2. O'Connor

There are over 40 O'Connors living in Woburn, and on top of that, there are over 30 Connors.

Counties the Connors and O'Connors likely came from: Clare, Connacht, Derry, Kerry or Offaly.

3. Kelly

There are over 30 Kellys living in Woburn, as well as over 50 Kelleys.

Counties the Kellys/Kelleys likely came from: Antrim, Derry, Galway, Kilkenny, Laois, Meath, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary or Wicklow.

4. O'Brien

Woburn is home to over 40 O'Briens (and 1 O'Brien ice rink).

Counties the O'Briens likely came from:  Clare, Limerick, Tipperary or Waterford.

5. Ryan

If you haven't encountered a Ryan on a trip to Woburn, here's a tip: go to a Colonial liquor store. There are over 60 Ryans in Woburn.

Counties the Ryans likely came from: unsure. Please leave a comment if you have information!

6. Walsh

There are over 60 Walshes in Woburn.

Most Walshes have their ancestral roots in Wales, as the name Walsh is synonymous with "Welsh". Welshmen immigrated to Ireland in great numbers during the 12th century.

7. Byrne

There are over 10 Byrnes in Woburn, as well as over 30 Woburnites with the derivative surname, Burns.

Counties the Byrnes/Burns likely came from: Wicklow or Dublin.

8. O'Sullivan

Woburn is home to less than 10 O'Sullivans. However, drop the "O," and there are over 100 Sullivans living in Woburn.

Counties the O'Sullivans/Sullivans likely came from: Munster. 

9. McCarthy

There are over 50 McCarthys in Woburn.

Counties the McCarthys likely came from: Cork 

10. O'Neill

There are over 10 O'Neills in Woburn, over 10 O'Neils and a handful of O'Neals.

Counties the O'Neills likely came from: not sure, add a comment!

P.S. Hey there! If you liked this post, I have a hunch you'll love NEON DRUID: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Fantasy. It's a collection of 17 short stories all rooted in Celtic mythology.

P.P.S. You can also check out my new blog, Irish Myths, where I unveil the secrets of Celtic mythology, Irish mythology, and Irish folklore.

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