Thursday 14 November 2013

Surnames in the County of Down

'Twere long to tell the great & good 
     of these and other days,
Montgomeries, and Hamiltons, 
     and Hills, and Castlereaghs;
Here sleeps the great apostle 
     of the island of the west,
Here ruled the "proud de Courcy," 
     here Percy sunk to rest;
And hundreds more, by lofty deeds, 
     have nobly won renown,
Yet the soil is not exhausted 
     of my own county Down.


The two counties of Down and Antrim are intimately related, in other respects, as well as in their geographical contiguity. They are nearly of the same size; their population consists of the same three great elements; in both is supported in the same way; and they are, as nearly as possible, of the same relative importance. Their points of coincidence, therefore, as well as their points of dissimilarity, present interesting subjects for reflection.

Speaking in round numbers, Antrim is to Down, in extent, as seven to six; but its hilly and comparatively barren portions occupy a wider area. Hence the population of Down is scarcely one-twelfth less than that of Antrim, and its families and inhabited houses are in the same proportion. But, if we compare the rolls of county voters, that of Down rises in numbers so as to exceed that of Antrim by more than five percent. We at once conclude, therefore, that there is a greater number of large farms in Antrim; and a very slight degree of observation is necessary to show that this is the fact.

The list of voters for Down, which I have analysed, is that which was used at the contested election of 1852. It extends from the 15th of March, 1851, to the 1st of December, 1852; and, therefore, includes the very day on which the census of the whole county was taken. It thus admits of the most satisfactory comparison with the population tables. There were, in 1851, 10,028 voters in the list, 63,625 inhabited houses, and 328,751 individuals. Adopting the nearest whole numbers, we find the proportions to be the same as in the case of Antrim viz., that each name in the list represents six families, and thirty-six individuals.

There are fourteen baronies, or rather baronial subdivisions, in Antrim; and we find precisely the same number in Down. In the latter county, Upper Iveagh and Lower Iveagh are each permanently subdivided into an upper and a lower division; and Locale and Aids are also permanently subdivided into upper and lower portions. Thus there are, practically, the fourteen baronies. In the present instance, however, that division has not been preserved. All the voters in Ards, Lecale Upper Iveagh, and Lower Iveagh, respectively, have been formed into one alphabetical list; so that the accompanying map is divided into ten baronies only, instead of fourteen.

These, again, are far more widely different in area than those of Antrim. Upper Iveagh alone, for example, includes more than a fourth of the whole county; while Dufferin is less than one-ninth of that size, and Newry scarcely one-tenth, or a fortieth part of the whole county. It must be obvious, therefore, that the difficulty which was felt in Antrim, of selecting the names, relatively to the whole number in the barony, becomes here greatly magnified. Thus, a comparatively frequent name may scarcely secure a place upon the map among the hundreds of population in Dufferin; while a comparatively unfrequent name may secure a prominent place among the thousands of Upper Iveagh: still the plan is adhered to, as on the whole the best. In the larger baronies, a much larger number are represented in the higher Classes; but probably very few appear which in other circumstances would have been omitted. The difference, therefore, is more in the style of printing than in the actual names which appear.

Selecting all those names which occur six times or upwards in any barony, there are 252 which fulfil this condition; and, as some of them occur with the required degree of frequency in several divisions, these 252 surnames are printed on the map 440 times.a

The actual number of distinct surnames in Down was not ascertained; but the number in each of the divisions given here was carefully reckoned. They range from 656 in Upper Iveagh, to 129 in Mourne; and average 358 for each of the ten subdivisions. The number of separate surnames cannot possibly be less than 800, but more probably it approximates closely to 900. [The average for Antrim was 217 to each of its fourteen subdivisions: and the entire number was estimated at 700.]


Arranging the whole 252 names in tabular form, and placing opposite to each the number of times it occurs in each of the ten divisions, the sums exhibit, as before, the leading county names. There are twenty names which occur fifty times or upwards in the printed list, and up to 122 times: that is to say, each of them represents from 300 to 732 households, or from 1,800 to 4,392 individuals. The name which reaches the highest limit is the well-known one, SMITH; this, therefore, is the lending name in the county of Down. The other nineteen, given in the order of their frequency are Martin, McKee, Moore, Brown, Thomson, Patterson, Johnson, Stewart, Wilson, Graham, Campbell, Robinson, Bell, Hamilton, Morrow, Gibson, Boyd, Wallace, Magee.b

As the order of names in the county is not at all affected by the union of baronies just noticed, the proportions which the leading names bear to the whole may be here stated, and may be compared with similar facts in Antrim. The coincidence is of the most surprising kind; so that if the number of voters were not slightly different in the two cases, one descriptive paragraph might suit for both, figures and all. I am tempted to place them in juxta-position.

"There are six surnames which comprise 633 in the printed list; and ten which embrace 913, or nearly one-tenth of the whole. If we take the first fifteen, they embrace 1,2 5[sic] names, or more than one-eighth; and the forty-one which have have been given in the text and note, embrace 2,384 names, or one-fourth of the whole. The first sixty-seven comprehend 3,179, or one third of the whole; and the first 157 extend to 4,768, or half of all the voters, householders, and individuals in the county. Of course, the remaining half of any of these is spread over about 550 surnames." Journal, vol. v., p. 326.
There are six surnames which comprise 639 in the printed list; and ten which embrace 958, or nearly one-tenth of the whole. If we take the first fifteen, they embrace 1,286 names, or more than one-eighth; and the forty which been given in the text and note, (with three others) embrace 2,519 names, or more than one fourth of the whole. The first seventy comprehend 3,342, or one-third of the whole; and the first 162 extend to 5,014, or half of all the voters, householders, and individuals in the county. Of course, the remaining half of any of these is spread over about 700 different surnames.

The distribution of the names cannot be ascertained in the same way as in Antrim, as in the present instance there are only ten columns instead of fourteen. If the whole of the divisions were given, it is possible that some of the names which seem to occur in all might be wanting in one or two. The names which appear to be best distributed are Brown, Campbell, Johnston, Patterson Robinson, Thomson, and Wilson; for each of them is found in all the ten baronies. If, however we look to those names which occur with sufficient frequency to entitle them to a place on the map, Moore and Smith are the best distributed; for each of them is printed on the map in eight of the ten baronies. Johnson, McKee, and Patterson, are next in order, each of them being printed seven times; while Brown, Martin, Thomson, and Wilson, occur six times each.

The worst distributed name in the whole county is Annett. It occurs only in the barony of Mourne, or parish of Kilkeel, and there to the extent of eighteen names, or 108 families. Now, in the whole of Mourne, there are only 273 voters, so that this elan comprises the unusually large proportion of one-fifteenth of the whole! Fitzsimmons is next in order, exhibiting forty-one names in Lecale, and one in each of two other baronies. In point of mere numbers in a barony, this is the highest degree attained anywhere in the two counties; but there are 1,164 names in Lecale, so that the forty-one are only the twenty-eighth part of the whole, and are, therefore, less concentrated. O'Hara, or O'Hare, has thirty-five names in Upper Iveagh, and only five anywhere else; while McKeating occurs only in two baronies, of the first Class in Lecale, and of the fourth Class in Ards.

[By placing in vertical columns the numbers which represent the leading names, in each of the two counties, we ascertain those which preponderate over the joint area, and their order of succession. Thus, Thomson, which is first in Antrim, takes precedence of Smith, which is first in Down; the former having 223 names in the two lists, and the latter 212. The order of the first twenty-five names in the two counties, is as follows:-- 1. THOMSON, 2. Smith, 3. Wilson, 4. Moore and Stewart (equal), 6. Brown, 7. Johnson, 8. Martin, 9. Boyd, Campbell, and Patterson (equal), 12. McKee, 13. Bell, 14. Robinson, 15. Graham, 16. Wallace, 17. McMullan, 18. Crawford, 19. Hamilton, 20. Kennedy, 21. McAlister, 22. Morrow, 23. Miller, 24. Gibson, 25. Craig. These represent 3,228 names in the two lists; that is to say, 19,368 families, or 116,208 individuals. Now, the population of the two counties jointly, is 681,018; so that these twenty-fivec surnames embrace seventeen per cent., or from a fifth to a sixth of the whole.]


The plan laid down in reference to Antrim has been followed here also. Whenever a name occurs six or seven times in any barony, it is printed on the map in Italics; when eight or nine times, it is represented in Roman Letter; when ten times (and upwards to fifteen), in BLOCK TYPE; and when fifteen times and upwards, in Small Capitals. This arrangement was adopted somewhat arbitrarily, but answered the purpose in the case of Antrim; it is open to question however, whether it is quite the best. In the case of Down, for example, the large numbers run high;d and so many as seven or eight reach twenty-five or upwards, in a single barony. Further, when a name appears at several points on the map, its culminating point is marked by the prefix †; or if the two highest numbers be equal, there are two such marks. In a few instances a name occurs twice only, the numbers being equal; in that case the symbol is omitted. The leading name in each barony is followed by the mark ==; and, when a name occurs at one point exclusively, it is preceded by the symbol ∴--

It is somewhat singular that, in Down as in Antrim, the two highest names in any barony are names greatly concentrated and little known throughout the county. Thus, McMullan and McCreedy in Antrim, both situated in Carey, occur jointly fifty seven times; while in Down, Fitzsimons of Lecale, and O'Hare of Upper Iveagh, occur seventy-six times in those two baronies. They thus represent, at those two points only, a joint population of nearly 3,000 souls.

While the leading barony name reaches forty-one in Lecale, the leading one in Newry reaches only seven; all the names, therefore, which occur in the latter division, are of the fourth or lowest Class. The reason of this is easily seen. The "Lordship of Newry," as it is called, contains the smallest list of voters of any division in the county, but not the smallest number of surnames; for "the frontier town of Ulster," like any other town, absorbs the population from various points. Hence, there is not here the same fixity of occupation which is so strongly illustrated in the case of the Annetts, in the adjacent district of Mourne.

It sometimes happens that a name appears to be lower in numbers than it really is, from the fact that it lies near a barony boundary. Some names are reckoned in one district, therefore, and some in another; and the result appears to contradict the experience of a person familiar with the locality. Thus, the Erwins or Irwins, of Lower Iveagh and Kinclarty, tend to the same point; the Lowrys of Dufferin and Upper Castlereagh, and the Thomsons of Lower Iveagh and Ards. In many instances, it is obvious that persons of the same name have effected a settlement at several points; but, in others, the parental seat can be distinctly shown, and the result of changes can be traced in the diminishing ripple of population as we recede from this point. Thus, the stronghold of the numerous Thomsons is in Kinelarty; they are found still numerous, but in diminished numbers, in the adjoining baronies of Upper Castlereagh and Lower Iveagh; they are again in diminished numbers in the still remoter baronies of Lower Castlereagh and Upper Iveagh; and, at greater distances, they scarcely secure a place on the map. In like manner, Bell culminates in Lower Iveagh; Smith in Lecale; and Patterson in Upper Castlereagh. The original seat of the Martins was Lower Iveagh; they still cast a well-marked shadow in Upper Iveagh, and Upper Castlereagh; it is a penumbra only in Kinelarty, Lecale, and Ards; and elsewhere it is quite indistinguishable.

The different races are less distinctly marked in Down than in Antrim, and the introduction of a "contour line" (or line passing through a number of points on the same level) on the map, does not aid us so much as was expected; yet of forty-three Macs and O's we find twenty-one in Upper Iveagh; and eleven of these occur nowhere else. Some of them reach high numbers.

Of the 252 surnames which appear on this table, there are 157 exclusive, or appearing only at one point. Of course, the remaining ninety-five appear 283 times. Only a small proportion of the exclusive names, just seventy-nine, or one-half are of the lowest Class; while thirty-one are of the third Class. For reasons already stated, so many as forty-two are of the second Class; and live averaging more than twenty-five names each, are of the first Class. There are thirteen names, each of which occurs several times, but nowhere rises above seven; and fifteen others, each of which exhibits varieties of eight and nine. In general, however, names reach their maximum limit (as will be seen from the map), in numbers of the first and second Class; and more than half of all which do so are in the large baronies of Upper and Lower Iveagh.

To be continued...

[a] In the map of Antrim there were 180 surnames, occurring in all 333 times. Of those which occur in Down, there are 170 that are not printed in the Antrim map, and 104 in Antrim which are not printed in the Down map; while eighty-two are common to both. In the list, at the close of this article, these last names are printed in Italics.

[b] The next twenty, in the order of frequency, are Scott, Murray, McCullough, Orr, Graham, Anderson, Russell, Hanna, Murphy, Fitzsimons, Ferguson, Heron, Reid, McDonnell, O'Hare, Jamieson, Kerr, Sloane, Carson, Crawford. The first twenty names occur seventy-seven times each, on the average; [in Antrim seventy-three times:] each, therefore, may be taken to represent 462 households, or 2,772 individuals. The twenty mentioned in this note occur forty-three times each, on the average: [forty-two times in Antrim:] each, therefore, represents 258 households or 1,548 individuals.

[c] M'Neill, Hunter, and Hill, among the loading names of Antrim, do nut appear in Down; and Magee, in Down, appears nowhere in Antrim.

[d] The 440 names on the map of Down, and the 333 on that of Antrim, are thus distributed, in their various classes:
FIRST CLASSDown,12per cent.,Antrim,9per cent.

The above article is reproduced from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. 6, 1858.

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