Clare County Library
Clare Genealogy
Home | Search Library Catalogue | Foto: Clare Photo Collection | Maps | Places | Archaeology | History | Search this Website | Copyright Notice | What's New

Some Historical Notes on the Guerin Surname in Co. Clare by Pat Guerin
Irish/Gaelic Origins: 1641: Book of Survey (Forfeitures) and Distributions

As well as being a census of the inhabitants of Ireland, this survey provided the detailed maps necessary to permit the redistribution of the land of the country amongst the victors of the English wars in Ireland in the latter half of the1600s - Cromwell’s soldiers in 1649 and those who supported William of Orange in his 1690 – ’91 campaign. To make this land available it was necessary to dispossess the resident Catholic (Papist) proprietors; Co. Clare was lumped in with Connaught as a place to which those dispossessed Catholics (Papists) could be relocated. In taking up their allotted land grants in Connaught these Papists, in their turn, dispossessed existing landholders. The Book of Surveys and Distributions summarised and recorded the winners and losers in this carousel.

There are three entries of interest in the Book in relation to Quin Parish:[7]

Townlands.           Proprietors in 1641.          To whom disposed of.
Ballyroughan.  John, Daniel and Teige, sons  
of Donald Reagh MacNamara; 
Rory O'Guerane
Joane Mahoone (sic);
Peter Crainsborough.
Cant, (Ballymulkane  
& Cloghrinnagh).
Donagh MacNamara; John
MacNamara; Earl of Thomond;   
Thomas O'Guerane.
William Lysaght;
Peter Crainsborough.

Some of these ‘O’Guerane’ names in the list recur in The Inchiquin Papers.

In connection with the spellings in the extract, Frost’s comments are interesting: “Those who were employed by Sir William Petty to survey the country being chiefly Englishmen, they could only write the names of places phonetically, in accordance with the sounds, in which they were designated to them by the natives.”

Presumably the same phonetic limitations applied to the writing of surnames. To the English ear of the late 1600s, the surname O’Guerane, in its spoken Irish or Gaelic form, seemed to warrant the inclusion of the letter ’u’ after the opening ‘G’ in order to properly commit the name to paper. It may well be that an English official with some familiarity with the French language might find the whole Gaelic guttural pronunciation with its rolled ‘r’s, and the Ó Géaráin name in particular, more evocative of the many similar sounding words in the French language which begin with ‘Gu’ e.g. guerre (war). Thus the phonetic etymology of the name Guerin in Ireland for many of the present day bearers of the name could well be:

Ó Géaráin > O’Guerane > Gueran > Guerin,

with occasional intermediate detours along the way through some of the thirty odd variants listed earlier (Gearan, Gerin etc.).

Fr. Woulfe in his “Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall” (Gaelic and non-Gaelic Surnames) has an equally interesting footnote on this. “It may be remarked that the anglicised form was in most instances originally much nearer the Irish pronunciation than at present, owing to the a change in the sound of the English letters,[8] and partly to the corruption of the Irish forms. Thus O’Brien and O’Neill were originally pronounced O’Breen and O’Nail”. That is to say, where the English officials of the late 1600s committed the Gaelic name sounds to paper as O’Brien and O’Neill, a present-day native English speaker (without any knowledge of Gaelic) undertaking the same exercise would record the names as O’Breen and O’Nail. In a similar way O’Guerane (of the late 1600s) would most likely nowadays be recorded as O’Gay-r-awn.

NLI Ms 977 is the manuscript reference in the Genealogical Office, Dublin, to the Book of Survey and Distribution for Co. Tipperary. Ballina town, at the Tipperary or eastern end of the bridge across the Shannon at Killaloe, lies in the civil parishes of Templeically and KillmcStully in the Barony of Owney & Arra. A check made in the manuscript under these parishes could find no Guerin/O’Geran or any variant of the name listed as owning land or property.

Back Arrow
Irish/Gaelic Origin: Co.
Clare Clans and Septs
Up Arrow

Forward Arrow
Irish/Gaelic Origin: 1654-1656: The
Civil Survey; 1659: Pender’s ‘Census’;
The Inchiquin Papers; Guerins of Ennis