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A family name, or surname, is the part of a person's name that indicates to what family he or she belongs. The use of family names is not universal throughout history. In many parts of the world, they did not appear in common use until the 17th to 19th centuries, and in some cultures they are not used today.
The original meaning of the name may no longer be obvious in modern English (e.g. the surname Cooper meant barrel maker). A much smaller sixth category of names relates to religion, though some of this category are also occupations. The names Bishop, Priest, or Abbot, for example, usually indicate that an ancestor worked for a bishop, a priest or an abbot.
Many surnames in Ireland of Gaelic origin derive from ancestor's names; nicknames; or descriptive names. In the first group can be placed surnames such as Mac Murrough, Mac Carthy (derived from father's names) or O'Brien, O'Toole (ancestral names).
For much the same reason, nicknames (the Fada Burkes, i.e. the long/tall Burkes), father's names (John Morrissey Ned) or mother's maiden name (Kennedy becoming Kennedy-Lydon) can become colloquial or legal surnames. The Irish family of de Courcy Ireland became so-named to distinguish them from their cousins who moved to France in the 17th and 18th centuries.
In addition to all this, Irish speaking areas still follow the old tradition of naming themselves after their father, grandfather, great-grandfather and so on. Examples include: Mike Bartly Pat Reilly (i.e, Mike son of Bartholomew son of Pat Reilly), John Michel John Oge Pat Breanach (John son of Michael son of young John son of Pat Breanach), Tom Paddy-Joe Seoige (Tom son of Paddy-Joe Seoige), Mary Bartly Mike Walsh (Mary daughter of Bartly son of Mike Walsh), and so on. Sometimes, the female line of the family is used, depending on how well the parent is known in the area the person resides eg. Paddy Mary John (Paddy son of Mary daughter of John). Even in English-speaking areas, especially in rural districts, something of this tradition continues.
We are proud to honor the long heritage of family surnames by offering a unique surname product that is customizable by a number of large specialty fonts. Our order form below contains previews of all fonts used in making this beautiful surname product.