This collection of surnames was developed through work done by the Irish Folklore Commission which commenced officially, collecting folklore material from around the country, in 1935. As the content was being accumulated, the Registrar, Seán Ó Súilleabháin, and the team working in the Commission created index cards for the content and informants.
The surnames were registered as they were given to the collectors – mainly local, non-standardized versions. The variation from area to area, or even from household to household, is significant. The surname Cafferky is a good example. The following varying forms are attributed to this same surname: O'Cafferky, McCafferky, McCafferty, Mac Eachmharcaigh, Ceafarcaigh, Ó Ceamharcaigh, Ó Ceafarcaigh, Cafferkey and Mac Ceamharcaigh.
The surname collection grew significantly over the years and it became necessary to create an organisational structure. A ‘surname headcard’ was created for the surnames with variant forms, and one surname was specified as the advised version in order to facilitate the registration process. No spelling or other alteration was made to the version that was collected. The surname headcards were used as a cross-referencing tool and to compile related versions under one surname.
We have no account of the criteria followed in selecting advised versions, or to recognise related versions of a surname. That said, Seán Ó Súilleabháin was a renowned scholar of folklore and the Irish language, and we can assume that the choices he and the team in the Commission made were based on extensive research.
As part of the Dúchas project, the surname headcards were transcribed and entered into a database developed by Gaois, DCU. The database is fully searchable here and is also available for download in XML format. This list of 2,810 Irish surnames, in both English and Irish, will be built on – and it is hoped that it will be a useful research and administrative tool in the future.
Note: This index is not a comprehensive list of the surnames of Ireland, and it is not authoritative in terms of spelling. It should also be noted that no standardization has been carried out on the surnames or on the groups of surnames.