Isle of Man Personal Names

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Understanding customs used in surnames and given names can help you identify your ancestors in records. Learn to recognize name variations and see clues in names.

Indigenous Manx names tend to be predominately Gaelic in origin, with some Norse, Norman and English input as well. Because of the low population of the country (currently round about 70,000), and a large influx of people during the 19th and 20th centuries, surnames from elsewhere are particularly common.

Online Tools[edit | edit source]

Surnames[edit | edit source]

Indigenous Manx names tend to be predominately Gaelic in origin, with some Norse, Norman and English input as well. Because of the low population of the country (currently round about 70,000), and a large influx of people during the 19th and 20th centuries, surnames from elsewhere are particularly common.[1]

Manx surnames are often cognate with Irish and Scottish ones, when from Manx Gaelic.

The nobility and wealthy land owners first began using surnames. Merchants and townspeople adopted the custom, as eventually did the rural population. This process took several centuries. In the case

Surnames developed from several sources and include the following types:

  • Occupational: based on a person’s trade, such as -
    • Gawne (a smith, cognate with McGowan), Gill (a servant), Teare (a joiner or carpenter, cognate with McIntyre)
  • Geographic: based on a person’s residence (not always a Manx location)-
    • Hampton, Maddrell (a location in Lancashire, England), Moffatt (Dumfriesshire, Scotland) Radcliffe, Stanley
  • Patronymic, based on a person’s father’s name -
    • Callister (son of Alastair, cognate with MacAllister), Cannon (son of Cannanan, contracted from MacCannanainy), Crennel (son of Ranald), Faragher (son of Fearchar or Farquhar), Quayle (son of Paul - cognate with MacPhail), Qualtrough (son of Walter)
    • Bridson, Garret (Gerard or Gerald), Nelson, Stowell, Watterson (son of Walter)
  • Descriptive or nickname, often referring to hair colour or complexion -
    • Beg (little), Doan (brown haired)
    • Black, Brown, White
  • Ethnic origins
    • Cretney (MacVretnee, son of the Welshman or Brython)
  • Ecclesiastical, many beginning with Myl- (MacGhille-/Maol-) or Gil-
    • Clague, Gelling (Gille Iain, servant of John), Joughin (MacJaghin, son of the deacon), Mylchreest (servant of Christ), Mylvreeshey (servant of St Bride), Taggart (priest)
    • Bell, Christian

Patronymics and the loss of the prefix Mac[edit | edit source]

Patronymic names were formed by the use of the Gaelic prefix Mac to the father's name. The "Irish" O (Ó) never took root among Manx names.

By the early 16th century, the Mac prefix was almost universally used on the island; but, by the 17th century, it had almost completely disappeared. The pronunciation of the prefix Mac was unstressed, so that the final consonant became first consonant in the second element of the name (the father's personal name). When the Mac prefix fell out of use, the final consonant became the first sound of the surname. Because of this, many Manx names characteristically begin with the letters C, K, or Q.[2]

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Manx surnames", in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manx_surnames, accessed 21 February 2021.
  2. "Manx surnames", in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manx_surnames, accessed 21 February 2021.