The Surnames of Moycullen (Part 4)

Finnerty through Griffin

Frank Clancy with Brian O'Halloran

Edward and Nappy Griffin, Newtown
Courtesy of Tim Griffin

The book Maigh Cuilinn – A Muintir, published by Cumann Staire Ruairí Ui Fhlatharta, Moycullen Historical Society in 2008 (now out of print) included a section on the Surnames of Moycullen, researched by the late Frank Clancy. He relied on the work of Edward McLysaght in his History of Irish names, Roderick O’Flaherty, James Hardiman and others. Here Frank Clancy’s work is updated with new information gathered through the Moycullen Heritage DNA Project and the work of Rev. Patrick Woulfe in his Irish Names and Surnames.  

This is the latest in a series on the Surnames of Moycullen. Initially, the surnames presented here are those that were in Clancy’s original work. In due course, additional names prominent in Moycullen as well as extinct surnames recorded in Blake’s Census will be included.



The main reasons for the widespread introduction of English and Scottish surnames into Ireland was the Plantation of Ulster in the first decade of the seventeenth century and the Cromwellian settlement of the 1650s and 1660s (To hell or to Connacht!). Moycullen parish and its neighbouring parishes were not planted by English Cromwellian planters but by native Irish families transplanted from their lush farms in other parts of the country to the much poorer farmlands of Moycullen. The majority of transplanted families came from Thomond- mainly County Clare, and to a lesser extent north Tipperary and parts of County Limerick – hence the large number of surnames of County Clare origin in the parish today.



Originally Feenaghty and now corrupted to Finnerty, this name stems from a branch of the Siol Muireadaigh (Silmurray)  sept of County Roscommon. Meaning a descendent of Fionnacta (fair-snow) according to Woulfe, this surname is rare in Moycullen; it was not found recorded in Blake’s Census although a Catherine Feenaghty of Tullokyne married in the parish in 1813. The name was not found in Griffith’s Valuation, but the families of two brothers Patrick and John lived in Newtown through the latter half of the 19th century and Finnertys are recorded there in the 1901 and 1911 census. The name is more prevalent historically in nearby Killannin parish.


This is the only Fitz name of Gaelic-Irish Origin with the main sept being located in Ossory, Counties Kilkenny and Laois. The name is also in County Fermanagh where they are of the MacGuire stock. The Moycullen Fitzpatrick family of Knockbane House were of the Ossory sept:  Joseph Fitzpatrick (1805-1888), the family patriarch was born in Grantstown, County Laois. He married Mabel O’Flaherty, sister of Anthony O’Flaherty and lived at Knockbane until his death. The Fitzpatricks were recorded in Knockbane in the 1901 and 1911 Censuses although their estate was vested to the Congested Districts Board in 1902.


The present-day surname Gavin was recorded as Guane in early Moycullen parish records. Historically, Gavins are of two distinct septs, one of North Connacht (Mayo) and the other South Munster (Cork). County Mayo is their main location now.

The Moycullen Gavin families are of the Mayo sept. The earliest recorded Gavin in Moycullen parish records was James Guane of Oldtown who died in 1787. Six Guane men were included in Blake’s Census, three in Knockaunranny, two in Oldtown and one in Newtown. The families of these men were noted in Griffith’s Valuation in the 1850’s as Gavans or Gavens in all three townlands.

By the 1901 Census Gavin families were still represented in their three original ancestral townlands but in addition were also found in Poulnaclough and Coolaghy and in 1911 in Knockranny as well.


The Geoghegan Gaelic landlord family of Castletown Geoghegan in County Westmeath were dispossessed of their lands and transplanted to Connemara in the 1660s. The name is now numerous throughout County Galway, notably in the townlands between Oughterard and Maam and in the vicinity of Inverin.

Geoghegan was not a common name in Moycullen. A Richard Geoghegan from Cartoor married Mary Flaherty in Moycullen in 1786 but the surname was not recorded in Blake’s Census. No Geoghegans were included in Griffith’s Valuation. A single Geoghegan family was included in the 1901 and 1911 censuses, that of Royal Irish Constabulary pensioner William Geoghegan from County Laois who took up farming in Uggool.


This is the name of an important Connacht sept, and a blood relation of the Royal O’Connors. It is most numerous in County Roscommon and east County Galway. According to Woulfe, they were chiefs of the Munntear Roduibh which was the clan name of the Roscommon Mageraghtys . The family was dispossessed of their ancestral lands in Roscommon about the middle of the 16th century.

Early Moycullen parish records generally spelled the family name as Heraghty until the 1830s.  Three Geraghty families were recorded in Moycullen at the time of Blake’s Census, two of which were resident prior to the inception of the census in 1786. The Tullokyne Geraghtys counted Murtagh Geraghty (circa 1750-1806) as their family patriarch living in a clachan along with his four sons Dermot, Michael, Bartholomew and Thady. The other Geraghty family were found in a clachan in the area referred to as Mountains, which included several townlands in the Moycullen highlands. Early records show this extended family headed by brothers Michael, Murtagh and Peter Geraghty resident in the townland of Laughil.

Later a newcomer to the parish, Martin Geraghty, took up residence in Clydagh in 1802 but there are no subsequent records of Geraghtys remaining there.

Both the Tullokyne and Laughil Geraghtys would continue to inhabit their ancestral townlands through Griffiths Valuation (1855) and the 1901 and 1911 Censuses. By the 1901 census Geraghtys were also found in Knockarasser, adjacent to Laughil.


This name is associated with descendants of some of the early Anglo-Norman settlers and is often an abbreviation of other names beginning with MacGiolla (i.e. Mac Giolla Mait, Mac Giolla Ronain, Mac Giolla Steafain, etc.)

The surname Gill was not found in Moycullen at the time of Blake’s Census. The first recorded Gill in the parish was Michael Gill who is listed as a landholder in the townland of Kilcloggaun in the 1828 Tithe Applotment Books. Almost thirty years later in Griffith’s Valuation, Michael’s son Bartholomew Gill is found as an occupier of land in Cartoor. During the same period (1850s-1860s) children of Patrick, Martin and Thady Gill were baptized in the parish. 

By the taking of the 1901 census Gills were to be found in Cartoor, Gortaghokera, and Poulnaclough.


According to Woulfe, the name is understood to mean “fierce warrior” or being “griffin-like”. The main sept of Griffin is of Thomond origin (Counties Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary) While some Irish Griffins are of Welsh origin, the Moycullen Griffins hail from County Clare. As chieftains of Cinel Cuallachta, the Griffins had their castle at Ballygriffey, County Clare.

The earliest recording of a Griffin in the Moycullen parish records (spelled as Griffy in the early years) was the death of Gregory Griffy of Clooniff in 1794. Although marriage records for his sons, Patrick and Mark, appear in the parish register no Clooniff Griffys were found in Blake’s Census.

Blake did include the Griffys of Newtown: Hugh, John Jr. and Michael. Marriage records for the period 1805 to 1825 show several other Newtown Griffys marrying in Moycullen but there are no records of their having been born in the parish. This suggests that they may have moved to Moycullen around 1800 to join their relations already living there.

During the 1850s, with the exception of one Martin Griffin of Killarainy, all the Moycullen Griffins listed as occupiers in Griffiths Valuation, (Hugh, John, Mary, Mathias, and Martin) were to be found in Newtown. Shortly thereafter several Newtown Griffin families emigrated to Washington DC where they achieved some prominence. Thomas Griffin (1845-1921) was celebrated for his 50 years of service as the Stationary Clerk at the US Department of State, serving under 23 secretaries of State. His brother Martin Griffin (1834-1909) was the Florist (chief gardener) for the US Department of the Treasury for almost 50 years. At the time of his death, the Washington Post noted that he had kept the “sunken gardens of the Treasury looking like a carpet of velvet and his floral treatments of the garden were a source of delight to Washingtonians and visitors.”

Others of the family remained in Moycullen and at the 1901 Census, the Griffins were still resident in Newtown. Additionally, in neighboring Killannin parish, there were Griffins in three townlands: in Rosscahill, (descendants of Mathias Griffin (1797-1877), Gortnagroagh and Letter.


Moycullen Heritage has created a Moycullen Parish Family Tree that includes the names of almost 10,000 Moycullen residents who lived prior to 1901 and their descendants and includes more information about the families described here. To obtain access to this on-line resource send a request for an invitation to view to

This page was added on 04/02/2023.

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