I have developed a minor fascination with Barry Griffin’s surname maps website, which allows you to track the geographical distribution of surnames across Ireland in the censuses of 1901 and 1911.
Obviously I start with my own relatives. There are not a lot of Whytes with a Y in Ireland on that date, and there’s no strong concentration. I know that my own Whyte great-grandparents were in Dublin rather than County Down on census day in 1911, but they blend into the bigger picture there. (My Whyte grandfather was not in Ireland.)
My Whyte great-grandmother’s maiden name was Ryan, and that is a surname with a very distinct distribution; she came from Inch, Co Tipperary, which is pretty much at the core of the Ryan map.
My father’s mother was American, and neither her maiden name nor her mother’s maiden name scores significantly on the Irish map.
My mother’s father was born in 1909, but he and his parents do not seem to have been in Ireland on census day in 1911; I have found his parents in Bandon, Co Cork, in the 1901 census. His name was Murray, which is more of a Midlands name but has a Munster concentration as well; his mother’s maiden name was Dineen, which is much more clearly concentrated in northwest Cork (where my great-grandparents were living with her parents in 1901).
Finally, my maternal grandmother, though born in Dublin, was of northern Protestant stock; although her father was born in Cootehill, Co Cavan, his family were from Antrim; her mother’s family were from the other side of the Lower Bann, the valley meadowlands just south of Coleraine.
I am very tempted to go through the maps and find which surname has the strongest association with each county. We’ve seen the Ryan link with Tipperary above; here are a few more, going south to north and starting with the McCarthy clan in Cork:
Then the Sullivans in Kerry (spilling over to Cork a bit):
Reilly in Cavan and Meath, spilling into neighbouring counties:
And out west, Gallagher in Donegal and Mayo, spreading along the coast in between:
Anyway, I’ve found it a fascinating site for casual browsing of Ireland’s genealogical history and geography in broad sweeps. Do have a look.