Monday, 27 April 2015

Farrell surname variants in Irish Surname Dictionaries

The previous post looked at the Farrell surname in Irish surname dictionaries. This post looks at some of the variants of the Farrell surname which may be genetically connected to the Farrell surname. Once again the dictionaries consulted are those of Woulfe (1923) and MacLysaght's main publications (The Surnames of Ireland, 1991; Irish Families, 1985; More Irish Families, 1996).

So far, apart from the 37 people with the surname Farrell, the DNA project has attracted a variety of Farrell surname variants, including the following (arranged alphabetically). The table also shows the number of people with each variant currently in the project and the numbers indicates which of the entries below refer to that particular surname variant.

Click to enlarge

Farrell surname variants in Woulfe (1923)

[1] Ó FAIRCHEALLAIGH—I—O Ferrally, O'Farrelly, Farrelly, Farley, &c.; 'descendant of Faircheallach' (super-war); the name of a distinguished ecclesiastical family who, until the suppression of the monastery, were coarbs* of St. Mogue, or erenaghs* of Drumlane, in Co. Cavan, and are now very numerous throughout the county. There was another family of the name in the neighbourhood of Duntryleague, in the east of Co. Limerick, but it has long since disappeared from that district and is probably extinct. (p520) ...

[2] Ó FEARGHAILE—I—O Farrialla, O Ferralla, Farrelly, Frawley, Farrell, &c.; 'descendant of Fearghal'; a variant of Ó Fearghail, which see; sometimes metathesised** to Ó Freaghaile, anglicised Frawley. (p524) ...

[3] Ó FEARGHUIS, Ó FEARGHUSA—I—O Farguise, O Farris, O Ferris, O Farrissa, Fergus, Ferris, Farris, Farrissy, &c.; 'descendant of Fearghus' (super-choice); the name (1) of a medical family in West Connacht who were hereditary physicians to the O'Malleys; and (2) of an ecclesiastical family in Co. Leitrim who were coarbs* of St. Mogue, or erenaghs of Rossinver. At the end of the 16th century, the name was very scattered. (p524) ...

[4] Ó FEARGHAIL—I—O Ferrall, O'Farrell, Farrell, Ferrall, Farrahill, Frahill, Fraul; 'descendant of Fearghal' (super-valour); the name of several distinct families, of which the best known are the O'Farrells of Annaly, in the present Co. Longford, of which they were for many centuries the ruling race. The head of the family resided at the town of Longford, which was formerly known as Longphort Ui Fhearghail, or O'Farrell's fortress. In later times, the O'Farrells divided into two great branches, the heads of which were known respectively as O'Farrell Boy, the yellow O'Farrell, and O'Farrell Bane, the fair O'Farrell. The O'Farrells maintained their independence as a clan down to the year 1565, when Annaly was reduced to shire ground by the lord-deputy, Sir Henry Sidney. Though suffering severely from the plantation schemes of James I, the O'Farrells were able to take a prominent part in all the political and military movements of the 17th century, and many of them were afterwards distinguished officers in the Irish brigades in the service of France. This family is now very numerous. Other families of this name were seated in Wicklow and Tyrone. The name is also written Ó Fearghaile and Ó Firghil, which see, and sometimes, by the aspiration of the initial f, changed into Ó hEarghail, Ó hEarghaile, which see. (p523) ... (this is also the subject of the previous post).

[5] Ó FIRGHIL—I—O Ferrill, O Phirell, O'Freel, Freel, Friel, Freal, &c.; 'descendant of Fearghal' (super-valour); a variant of Ó Fearghail, which see; the name of a family of Cinel Conaill who derive their descent from Eoghan, brother of St. Columcille, and were hereditary erenaghs of Kilmacrenan, in Co. Donegal. The name is still common in that county, but pronounced Ó Frighil, which see. O'Freel had the privilege of inaugurating O'Donnell as chieftain of Tirconnell. (p528-9) ...

[6] Ó hEARGHAIL—I—O Herrall, O Herrell, Harrell, Harrel, Herald, &c.; a variant of Ó Fearghail (which see), owing to the aspiration of the initial f. (p563) ...

[7] Ó hEARGHAILE—I—O Harrily, O Harely, Harrily, Harley, Herley, Herly; a variant of Ó Fearghaile, which see. Compare with Ó hEarghail. (p563) ...

[8] Ó FREAGHAILE—I—Frawley; a metathesised** form of Ó Fearghaile, which see. (p533) ...
Other possible variants of the Farrell surname in Woulfe (1923)

[9] FEARADHACH, genitive -aigh, Farry, (Ferdinand); an ancient Irish name, meaning 'manly'; rather common in early times; retained until recently among the O'Maddens and O'Naughtons of Connacht, by whom it was anglicised Farry. Finally it was turned into Ferdinand. Latin — Ferdachus. ...

[10] Ó FEARADAIGH—I—O Farry, O'Ferry, Farry, Ferry; 'descendant of Fearadach' (manly); a scattered surname, but found chiefly in East Ulster. ...

[11] Ó FHARRAIGH, Farry, Forry; a rare Mayo surname. ...

Farrell surname variants in MacLysaght (1985-1996)

Surnames of Ireland (1991) lists the following surname variants:
[12] Farley A common English name used as synonym of Farrelly especially in Co. Cavan.

[13] (O) Farrelly Wolfe gives Ó Faircheallaigh but Ó Fearghaile, a variant of Ó Fearghail – see previous entry – is acceptable as an alternative. An important co–arb family. People of this sept are still numerous in its homeland as Map, not elsewhere. IF Map Cavan.

[14] Farris This has been used in Connacht and adjacent areas for Fergus. It is mainly found in Leitrim and Cavan. Fr Livingston informs me that in Co. Donegal Farris is an anglicized form of Ó Fearaigh. See Fairy, Ferris and Paris.

[15] (O) Farrissy Ó Fearghusa (fear, man - gus, action). Formerly an important sept in Mayo and Leitrim but now rare. Though seldom found now, it was also a Munster variant of Fergus; Ferris is much more often so used. MIF

[16] (O) Fairy Ó Fearadhaigh (for question of derivation see MacAree). A Donegal sept of the Cenel Conaill; as Ferry it is now quite numerous in Co. Sligo and frequent also in other parts of Connacht in sixteenth-century records.

[17] (O) Fergus Ó Fearghuis (fear, man - gus, vigour). The name of two Connacht septs: (a) a medical family with the O'Malleys and (b) an ecclesiastical family in Leitrim. The name has become Ferris in Kerry. MIF Map Mayo.

[18] Ferris In Kerry a variant of O'Fergus. It is also traditionally a cognomen of a branch of the Moriartys. In Ulster it is the name of a branch of the Scottish clan Ferguson formerly MacFergus. MIF See Farrissy.

[19] Frawley Ó Freaghaile. A metathesized form of Farrelly in Cos. Clare and Limerick. MIF

Irish Families (1985) includes an entry for (O) Farrelly:
[20] (O)FARRELLY, Farley O'Farrelly - Ó Faircheallaigh in Irish - is the name of a Breffny sept associated in both early and modern times principally with Counties Cavan and Meath. Their leading family were erenaghs of Drumlane, Co. Cavan, and were also coarbs of St Mogue until the suppression of the monastries in the sixteenth century. The Gaelic poet Feardorcha O'Farrelly (d. 1746) was born in Co. Cavan.

The O'Farrelly sept seated at Knockainy, Co. Limerick, mentioned as such by O'Heerin in his fourteenth century "Topographical Poem" and still numerous in Co. Limerick when the 1659 census was compiled are no longer to be found there: even a century ago O'Donovan commented on the fact that they had disappeared.
In parts of Ulster Farley is used as a synonym of Farrelly, which leads to confusion since Farley is common English name. Cardinal Farley (1842–1918), Archbishop of New York, who was born in Co. Armagh, is an example of the use of this synonym.

More Irish Families (1996) includes entries for Fergus (Ferris, Farris, Farrissey) and Frawley (Farrelly): 

[21] (O) FERGUS, Ferris, Ferguson The name Ó Farghuis or Ó Fearghusa take several forms in English. Apart from Farrissy, which in modern times occurs only occasionally, the two usual forms are Fergus and Ferris. Fergus or O'Fergus is seldom found outside Connacht. Persons so-called, who are mainly in Co. Mayo at the present time, are of the sept of O'Fearghuis, which provided hereditary physicians to the O'Malleys. Knox in his History of Mayo tells us that O'Fergus held the parish of Burrishoole in 1303 and ranked then as a minor Chief, a status no longer obtaining in 1585, since they do not figure in the Composition Book of Connacht, though we know from the Strafford survey that they were still considerable landholders in Burrishoole and Carra about the year 1635. In that document the name is spelt Farregish, Faregesie and O'Farressie, while in the Mayo Book of Survey and Distribution, compiled some 50 years later, it occurs frequently as O'Farrissy. It must also be remembered that in the Connacht County of Leitrim there was an ecclesiastical family of the same name who were coarbs* of St Mogue and erenaghs* of Rossinver: O'Connell in his work on the diocese of Kilmore calls them O'Ferguson. It was in the northern end of that county, adjacent to Co. Sligo, that Petty's "census" shows them, as O' Fergussa, to have been most numerous in 1659. In the Fiants of the previous century they appear chiefly in Co. Sligo. In the form of O' Fergus or O'Fargus it occurs there only once - at Spiddal, Co. Galway. It may be of interest to add that in 1362 an O'Fergus was vicar of Omey, an island off the coast of Connemara.
Ferris (alias O'Farris etc) is more numerous both in the old records and today than Fergus. The name Ferris is now very numerous in north-east Ulster where it is that of a branch of the Scottish clan Ferguson – Fairy and even O'Ferry have been used as synonyms of it there but these are properly [sic; probably?] anglicizations of Ó Fearadhaigh, a Cinel Conaill sept. Ferris is also well known in Kerry. W.F. Butler in his Gleanings from Irish History States that Ferris there is traditionally believed to be the cognomen of a branch of the O'Moriartys. There were 27 families of Ferris in the 1911 census of Co. Kerry and the name was there at least as early as 1586. It occurs to five times in the diocesan wills of Ardfert and Aghadoe in the eighteenth century. From Tralee came three interesting characters. The amazing and chequered career of Richard Ferris (1750-1828), ex-priest, spy, politician and business man, is outlined in Richard Hayes's Biographical Dictionary of Irishmen in France; his brother, Edward Ferris (1738-1809), was a distinguished priest who, after many vicissitudes in France and Rome, became the first president of Maynooth college; while a kinsmen of theirs, another Edward Ferris, was also a political agent in France.
Other notable men were the exile Father Cormac O'Fergus, who came to Cork from Lisbon in 1571 and, while preaching at Clonmel, was captured and thrown into prison; the two O'Fearghusas of the O'Naghten poetic circle about 1725; and Dr Fergus the well-known patron of Gaelic learning at the same period. Late Bishop of Achonry and secretary to the hierarchy was Dr James Fergus. O'Farys etc., was also in Co. Wexford in 1659 and is still there, but as Vargus and Vargis, until quite recently used interchangeably with Ferguson. Ferguson, of course, is itself a Scottish name and has numerous in the north-eastern counties of Ireland, whence came Sir Samuel Ferguson (1810-1886), one of the best poets of the Irish literary renaissance and founder of the Protestant Repeal Association.
There was also a Norman name occurring occasionally in mediaeval records which must not be confused with O'Farys: Mgr. de Farys, for example, was canon of St Patrick's Cathedral in 1302.
Carrickfergus in County Antrim is said to be named after Fergus mac Rough, the "Red Branch" Hero of the Tain and reputed ancestor of several Ulster septs. This legendary personage is not to be confused with Fergus Mac Erc, Prince of Dalriada in North Antrim, who in A.D. 470 crossed to Scotland and founded the Gaelic kingdom there. Map
[22] (O) FRAWLEY Woulfe's statement that Frawley (Ó Freaghaile) is a metathesized form of O'Farrelly is correct but he gives no further information about these names. In Irish Families (p. 140) I mentioned that a century ago O'Donovan commented on the fact that the Co. Limerick sept of O'Farrelly had disappeared from that county. It is true that the name in that form is no longer there but as Frawley it is numerous there, and even more so in the neighbouring county of Clare. The change from Farrelly to Frawley dates from the seventeenth century, Fraly and Frally being the usual forms in the eighteenth; many testators so called are in the diocesan wills for Killaloe and Limerick and in rentals such as that of Lord Kenmare's Co. Limerick estate.

These are a selection of the main variants but there will be others. It is quite clear that the surname variants are of multi-origin and this will likely be reflected in many different genetic signatures of the members of the DNA project.

However, there appear to be several broad categories based solely on the nature of the surname:
  • those who are a close variant of Farrell (including Ferrall, Ferrell, Farrelly, Frawley) - there are probably several distinct groups (within this larger group) who will have a common genetic signature indicating a common ancestor.
  • those who are a close variant of Farris (including Faris, Ferris, Farrissy, Fergus, Fairy, Farry, Ferry, and even Ferguson) - again, several smaller genetically distinct subgroups will probably emerge from this larger group.
  • Farley - largely an English name, but sometimes interchanged with Farrelly, especially in Co. Cavan.
  • Rarer categories, with no immediately apparent link to any of the categories above (Ferrill & Friel; Harrell, Harley & Herley).

Explanation of some terms in the text:

* coarb/co-arb, erenach/erenagh ... A coarb, from the Old Irish comarbae (Modern Irish comharba), meaning "heir" or "successor", was a distinctive office of the later medieval church among the Gaels of Ireland and Scotland. In this period coarb appears interchangeable with "erenach" or "erenagh", denoting the episcopally nominated lay guardian of a parish church and headman of the family in hereditary occupation of church lands. The coarb, however, often had charge of a church which had held comparatively high rank in pre-Norman Ireland, or one still possessed of relatively extensive termon lands. Such lucrative monastic offices as “coarb” (comarbae “heir” to a saint) or “erenach” (airchinnech “superior”), otherwise transmitted by natural or nepotic descent within ecclesiastical families, which were often the politically displaced branches of royal dynasties.

** metathesisis = the transposition of letters, syllables, or sounds in a word, e.g. Farrelly becomes Frawley


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  2. Maurice, this is an excellent reference resource for the Irish surname variants of Farrell. May I make a comment based on research I have undertaken on the origins of Farrells of northwest Ulster (Donegal/west Tyrone/west Derry/Fermanagh. There seem to be 2 main groups of the surname 'Farrell' in this region with both making an appearance c.1610.

    1. A group descended from native Farrells of northwest Donegal. Examples are Owen McPatrick Farrall (1611), Toole McFarrell (1618-9), Brian O'Ferell (1625), Farsey O'Farrelly (1626), Morris, Philem, James and Roger O'farrle (1636), Donnel O'Ferrell (1642), and O'Ferills (1659). The surname in this region was anglicised from Ó Firghil and sometimes the same individual was referred to in both languages. Later Ó Frighil became common and this was anglicised to O'Friel/O'Friell/Freele/Friel. The earliest reference to Ó Firghil was in 1261, so although the 'Farrell' surname only appeared c.1610 in this region, this group has much earlier origins here. It would be interesting if this group was eventually found to be a distinct genetic family within the Farrell DNA Project.

    2.A group descended from Farrells involved in the Ulster Plantation c.1610 with a probable origin in Scotland. This group is mainly found between Derry city and Ballyshannon in Donegal to northwest Fermanagh. The origin of this group is obscure. The name may have been anglicised from Scottish Gaelic or it may have come to Scotland earlier from Ireland. It may have evolved from completely unrelated source(s) in Scotland and/or England. For example, in the late 1500's in the Angus region of Scotland the surnames 'Pharare' 'Farar', and 'Ferrell' were interchangeable in certain records. A descendant of this group has been placed in the 'R1b-Genetic Family 4' of The Farrell DNA Project.
    The surname Farris/Ferris/Ferriss/Feris of Ulster has been found to be genetically closely related to this group of Farrells/Ferrells, and individuals with these surnames have been placed in the same genetic family as above in the Farrell DNA Project. This surname is again associated with the Ulster Plantation of c.1610 with a Scottish origin proposed, and possibly linked to the earlier surname of 'Farnish' in southwest Scotland. Although you mention this surname in your groups [3],[14],[15],[17],[18] and [21] in your post Maurice, it is unlikely that the Ulster branches of the Farris/Ferris/Ferriss/Feris variants related to the Ulster Plantation are linked to these.

    Useful information relating to these 2 groups are; Group 1- F. Mac Giolla Easpaig, 'Gaelic Families Of Donegal', in W. Nolan, L.Ronayne and M. Dunlevy (eds), Donegal, History and Society (Dublin,1995), pp 806-8. Group 2- Forthcoming publication on the history of the Farrells of northwest Ulster by Dr Sam Hanna, and The Farris Surname Group of FamilyTreeDNA.

    1. Thanks for your excellent feedback Sam. The research you have done is very interesting indeed and will be of great importance when we start looking at the genealogical backgrounds of the various genetic families. Some people within the project have already done a lot of work on their genealogies and I hope to publish brief summaries of each of these as individual blog posts in due course.

      I also look forward to the upcoming publication of your book. Please keep us posted about publication dates and where it can be sourced.

  3. Maurice, have you seen Barry McCain's new book entitled 'Finding the McCains, A Scots Irish Odyssey', where he used DNA testing to break through the brick walls he had encountered in conventional genealogy ?

  4. Barry McCain used DNA testing to trace his ancestors to Ireland and then back to mid-Argyll in Scotland where he was able to tap into clan genealogy which took him back to c.1200s.
    This underlines the importance of building up the Farrell DNA database and for Farrells to join the Farrell DNA Project.
    Maurice, presumably once the Farrell database becomes sufficiently large we will have the capacity to replicate some of the successes seen by the McCain DNA Project ?

    1. Absolutely. More and more connections are being made to the ancient genealogies thanks to DNA testing. Brad Larkin reviewed the current "State of the Art" in his excellent presentation from Genetic Genealogy Ireland in Dublin last October 2014 ...