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This week Longford historian and author David Leahy shares some key information about the County for anyone doing their family history in the region. 



County in Focus: Longford

The image above features Patrick Mallons's Corner House in the cencentertre of the photo had the agency for the White Star Line, Cunard Line, and all Transatlantic Liners, see an advertisement from Longford Learder dated 01 October 1921 here.

County Longford is the second smallest County in Ireland, occupying almost 423 square miles, and is situated in the Midlands. The population had seen a massive reduction from a peak of 115,491 in 1841 to just 30,138 in 1996 due to the potato famine of 1845-8 and subsequent emigration exceeding the rates for many of the western seaboard counties in the last century. The population has increased since to 46,634 in 2022.

Browse the County Longford community HERE

Surnames of County Longford

According to James P. Farrell’s Historical Notes of County Longford and Edward MacLysaght’s Irish Families, the clans/septs holding territory in County Longford circa 1550 were: McHugh, Masterson, Flood, Gaynor, Sheridan, Feeny, Conway, Slevin, Murtagh, Gilna, Gilchriest, Tuite, Leavy, McCormack, O’Farrell, Quinn, Gaffney, Mulroy, Gilligan and Cronin.

At the time of the 1901 Census of County Longford, some 350 years later, very few families of the surnames Mulroy/Mulry (2), Tuite (2), Gilna (4), Gaynor (7), Slevin (7), Conway (8), Gilligan/Galligan (8), Gilchriest (12), McHugh (15) and Gaffney/Gavan (19) remained in the County. The surname Cronan/Ronan has disappeared altogether.

In 1901 46,672 inhabitants were living, in the county — 42,742 being Catholics, 3,403 Church of Ireland, 256 Presbyterians, 203 Methodists and 68 members of other religions. To see a distribution of surnames by parish click HERE

Table Title: A Comparison of County Longford Surnames  1901, 1854 and 1659

Surname Number of householders in County Longford 1901 Number of householders in County Longford 1854 Number of Irish names in 1659
(O) Reilly 374 417 96
(O) Farrell 344 477 177
(Mc) Kiernan 176 173 42
Brady 149 166 23
Kelly 142 149 15
Kenny 129 153 34
(Mc) Cormack 110 148 47
Quinn 98 112 17
Smith 95 95 5
Mulligan 90 89 21
Murphy 84 94 0
Casey 80 81 12
Duffy 78 86 10
Donohoe 76 87 18

Presbyterian family names from the 1901 Census, some present since the seventeenth century, included:

Allen, Bothwell, Brock, Buchan, Caldwell, Carothers, Clarke, Conway, Corbitt, Cox, Crawford, Cree, Croskery, Denniston, McDonnell, Dowler, Frayne, Gilmour, Gray, Greer, McGregor, Hamilton, Higgins, Holmes, Hyslop, Irwin, Johnston, Kavanagh, Kelly, Kennedy, McKenzie, Leckey, Legge, Little, Lunam, Madill, Marshall, Moore, Murphy, Plant, Poustie, Poynton, Quigg, Rentoul, Robinson, Rosborough, Ryland, Sadlier, Sheppard, Small, Stephenson, Stewart, Strange, Taylor, Thompson, Trimble, White, Wilson, Wilson-Slator and Woudger.

Methodist family names from the 1901 Census, some present since the early eighteenth century, included:
Atcheson, Allen, Boyd, Burns, Caldwell, Campbell, Cody, McConnell, Cooke, Coole, McCord, McCormack, Diamond, Eakins, Elliott, Fee, Goodwin, Green, Hamilton, Harper, Harris, McIlwrath, Jackson, Lloyd, Mason, Maybury, Mitchell, Newton, Parkinson, Plant, Robinson, Scott, Stewart, Stoker, Swift, Thompson, Vince, Webb, and Webster.

Anglicised Surnames

The following names have been used synonymously in various County Longford records:

  • Banks (Brehan),
  • Baxter (Buchannan),
  • Black (Duff),
  • Blessington (Mulvanaghty),
  • Fox (Shanaghy),
  • Grey (Colreavy),
  • Judge (Brehony),
  • Jordan (Sheridan).
  • Prior (Friary),
  • Smith (McGowan),
  • Summers (Hourican) and
  • Victory (McNaboe)  

Settler Surnames

Mostly originating from the seventeenth century, these include

  • Achmuty, Adair, Aungier (later Pakenham), Bickerstaff, Blackhall, Bond, Burrowes, Charters, Coates, Dopping, Dowdall, Gregg, Edgeworth, Fetherstone, Forbes, King-Harman, Kingston (McCloughry), Lane, Little, Montfort, Newcomen, Nugent, Sandys, Shuldham, Slator, Thompson, Tuite, and Wilder.

The population of County Longford

1659 1841 1851 1891 1901 1996 2022
5,392 115,491 82,348 52,647 46,672 30,138 46,634

According to Matheson's Report concerning the year 1890, the following surnames had County Longford mentioned as a county in which they were principally found (amongst other counties):

Belton, Brady, Briody, Clyne, Coyle, Cumiskey, Donlon/Donnellan, Donohoe, Evers, Farrell, Fox, Gill, Hartin, Hurson, Igoe, Kiernan, Leavy, Masterson, Reilly, Thompson, and Whitney.


Geography of Longford

The county is uniquely situated on the border of the three provinces of Connaught, Ulster, and Leinster. It has as its western boundary the longest river in Ireland, at over 150 miles, the Shannon. The county also forms part of Ireland's lake district, the most notable being Lough Ree and Lough Forbes on the River Shannon and Lough Gowna in the north of the county.

Five counties are visible from Corn or Cairn Hill (formerly Sliabh Carbry), the highest point in the county at 912 feet. This location is said to be the burial place of Farbuidhe Fer Benn who killed Queen Maeve by a slingshot as she was at her bathing place on Inchcleraun Island in Lough Ree.

The south-west of the county contains a large area of raised bog/peatland. Peatlands comprise over 80 square miles or one-fifth of the county’s area. In former times these bog areas were traversed by a series of toghers or causeways (wooden trackways). A section of one of these toghers dating from 147 BC is preserved in the Corlea Bog Centre near Keenagh village. Other toghers in the area date as far back as the Stone Age circa 3500 BC indicating that the county has been inhabited for more than 5,500 years.