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Ryan Family History

“Malo Mori Quam Foedari”

I would rather die than be disgraced

Ó Maoilriain - 'descendant of the follower of Rian', anglicised in later times as Ryan.

Ó Riain - 'descendant of Rian', anglicised as Ryan.

Ó Ruadháin - 'descendant of Ruadhán, from the epithet 'red', more often anglicised as Ruane, though sometimes as Royan and Ryan.

The first of these surnames although inhabiteding their Munster homelands from early times, were originally a Leinster sept, according to Fr Woulfe in 'Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall' 1923). In the 13th and 14th centuries they moved to the baronies of Owney and Owney Beg in Tipperary and Limerick. The name Ryan is still most numerous in Co Tipperary.

The second surname is that of a sept in Co Carlow, who were lords of Uí Dróna (Idrone), before spreading in later times throughout eastern Ireland.

The third surname comes from two septs in Connacht, in Mayo and Galway. The usual anglicisation is Ruane, but the name is sometimes disguised, according to Fr Woulfe, as Ryan.

The name occurs as a 'Principal Irish Name' in Petty's 1659 'Census' of Ireland, in the above counties, more often as Mulryane etc in Tipperary and Limerick. The same is true of the 1664 'Hearth Money Rolls' (ed. Laffan) for Co Tipperary, where the name in this form is numerous.

By the time of Griffith's 'Primary Valuation' of Irish households between 1848 and 1860, Ryan is most found in counties Tipperary (4090) Limerick (1263) Kilkenny (616) and Cork (416)

Two Famous Ryans:
William Patrick Ryan (1867-1942) born in Tipperary, was an author and journalist; founder of the socialist newspapers 'Peasant' and 'Irish Nation'.
Francis Thomas Ryan (1862-1927) a member of the US Navy, who received the Medal of Honour for bravery during the Boxer Rebellion

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Areas of origin

  • Tipperary, Munster, Ireland

    Learn more about Tipperary on Ireland101

  • Limerick, Munster, Ireland

    Learn more about Limerick on Ireland101

  • Kilkenny, Leinster, Ireland

    Learn more about Kilkenny on Ireland101

  • Carlow, Leinster, Ireland

    Learn more about Carlow on Ireland101