Those of you with Northern Ireland forebears may find this site
interesting, I found it worth a surf through and there is a message
board and information on the name Johnston also.
IRISHGEN.COM - IRISH GENEALOGY ON LINE
Welcome to IrishGen.com. "Cead Mile Failte" or a hundred thousand
welcomes to you. IrishGen is a new Irish-based portal site for Irish
genealogy, ancestry, heritage or roots.
Introduction to Irish Surnames
"Irish surnames are to be found all over the world. Some are more
obviously Irish than others, for example those beginning with 'Mac' or
'O'. However there are many types, groups and classifications of
Ireland was one of the first countries to adopt hereditary surnames.
This was thought to begin around the time of the reign of Brian Boru,
the High King of Ireland. Previously, the ancient Irish, the Celts, used
only one name, and sept or tribe names were used to describe large
groups from different territories. Around the tenth century, when
populations began to expand and people became more mobile, a system of
surnames developed, probably spontaneously, in order to identify
individuals more accurately. Commonly, the prefixes 'Mac' and 'O' were
used with surnames. 'Mac' meant 'son of and preceded the father's first
name to give the surname (e.g. MacDermot). 'O' when used before a name
generally meant 'grandson of' (e.g. O'Reilly means 'grandson of
A great many Gaelic surnames in Ireland were anglicised during the time
of the Penal Laws in the 17th and 18th centuries. This involved dropping
the 'Mac' or 'O' prefix, or adopting the English translation of an Irish
name. For example MacGabhainn was changed to Smith, the English word for
gabhann. The Gaelic Revival of the late 19th century inspired a
re-adoption of the Gaelic form of many names. Often this involved adding
'Mac' or 'O' to surnames. However, those who emigrated from Ireland
prior to the 1890's generally retained the anglicised form of the
surname, e.g. Reilly instead of O'Reilly.
Norman names became common in Ireland after the Norman invasion in the
12th century, and later Scottish names were introduced with the arrival
of Cromwell and the Plantation of Ulster. Both remain common in Ireland
today. Over the years, through inaccurate translation and spelling, and
through variations in pronunciations in different areas, some surnames
have gradually mutated so as to be ultimately quite different to the
original name. Variants therefore exist for most surnames, which have
mostly developed from the same origin.
To search for information about a particular surname, please enter the
surname in to the box labelled "Search for a surname:" on the left hand
side. The results for this search will display the surname, if found,
and any surnames of similar spelling".