logoFamily Names found on the Isle of Man

This set of pages looks at Family Names found on the Isle of Man.

Man with its unique history and blend of Gael, Norse, Scot and English can be expected to have its own unique set of family names. Several authors have produced derivations of these names - A.W. Moore's Surnames and Placenames of the Isle of Man of 1890/1906 and J.J.Kneen's The Personal Names of the Isle of Man of 1937 are the prime references. W.Walter Gill in his A Third Manx Scrapbook 1963 discusses the derivation of some of the Gaelic names as well as useful sections on Anglo-Manx names. Leslie Quilliam The Surnames of the Manks: A review 1989 has produced an excellent compendium of the earlier work including his own research on the relative frequency, as well as giving a very useful section on the, sometimes tricky, pronunciation of Manx names.

Thomson points out that surnames, in their modern sense, were established on Mann by 1376 as in a grant of that year both father and son are called Macaskill unlike the Welsh names which remained patronymics until the 16th century hence their preponderances of Jones (John's son), Thomas etc. He also points out that many Gaelic-type Irish and Scottish names are recorded only from the 18th and 19th century and that a great number of names with Irish parallels appear for the first time in the later 17th century thus are probably not originally Manx. In dealing with Manx names Thomsom suggests that the O' form (grandson or descendant of) had died out rather early and been replaced by Mac (son of) as in Scotland followed by a personal name. The majority of these personal names are traditional Gaelic personal names e.g. Cannell from Mac Domnhall or Cowin from Mac Eoghan, some are Christian names e.g. Kewin Mac Eoin (John) or Gill' servant or follower of as in Leece Gill' Iosa, some are Anglo-Norman e.g. Kinry from Henry. A few names are occupational such as Teare from wright, Cretney from Breatnach 'Welshman' and Gell probably from Gall 'foreigner'.

Thomson also comments that the Gaelic surnames of Mann would appear to have a strong link with the old province of Ulster (ie pre English settlement).

Another source for early Manx names is from the soldiers, administrators and other incomers associated with the Stanley control from the early 15th century - Dolly notes some 500 non-Gaelic names most of which are placenames doubling as surnames (e.g. see 1420's Garrison roll as well as the 1511/15 Manorial rolls especially those for Castletown and Peel), some 2/3 of the early names were from Lancashire.

I have put together a page giving the sources for some of the earliest Manx names.

Moore's Surnames first appeared in the Manx Note Book and are available online - see index to these names.

Blundell writing of the 1640's states:

They told me there were not above six families of note in all the Island, yet some of these are of great antiquity, especially those yt bear ye surnames of Christian and Canell These 2 and worthy are of the greatest repute amongst them at this day; the other seem to be of a lower class, for out of these 2 families their Deemsters... have long been, and at my being there, were chosen out of these, yet I find one Edward Cockil to be one of the Deemsters, in the time of Edward, Earl of Darby; and Robert Colcoats was receiver of ye Castle of Man

Colloquial names

In every day speech the Manx would use names rather like the 'Jemmy-Jem, Jem-beg-Jem-moar' of Kennish's poem which name he glosses that

" it was common to call the children after the Christian name of the father, and not the surname ; and here my hero was the son of Jemmy, the son of Jem, the son of little-Jem, the son of big-Jem ; beg is the Manx for little, and moar for big, loading him with the names of his ancestors for four generations, as is frequently the case, and to make it still more ridiculous, they frequently add the name of the farm".

1881 census

I have used the 1881 census to produce a ranked ordering of family names from which it can be seen of the almost 9,000 heads of households born on the Island some 3,000 share the same 20 names, the next 3,000 share 80 names with the remaining Manx-born sharing 350 names.

Some 2,150 names are present in the census of 1881 compared with 3,150 in the index to the 1851 census (many of these names in both sets may be purely transcription errors as most names refer to just a single person/family and differ only slightly from more common names [sometimes poor handwriting can lead to significant errors - e.g. a strongly suspected Merritt in the 1881 census was transcribed as both Meredith and Inerritt by two different indexers] ).

Names derived from places in Lancashire occur often on Man and I have put together an introductory page on these names.

Personal names

Personal names are less well documented - a separate page is devoted to these.


A.W.Moore Manx Surnames Manx Note Book 1885 Vol 1 #2 pp44 (this and subsequent chapters formed the basis of Moore's later book)
A.W.Moore The Surnames and Place-names of the Isle of Man London: Elliot Stock 1890 (2nd revised edition 1906)
J.J.Kneen Personal Names of the Isle of Man London: Oxford University Press 1937 (at times too Irish centred)
W.W.Gill Third Manx Scrapbook London: Arrowsmith 1963 (though typeset in early 1930's and pre-dating Kneen!)
L.Quilliam Surnames of the Manks Cashtal Books (ISBN 0-9514539-0-4) 1989
R.L.Thomson Aspects of the Gaelic-Norse Controversy: Manx Personal Names and General Vocabulary Proc IoMNH&AS ix #2 pp145/155 March 1984
M. Dolley Toponymic Surnames and the Pattern of pre-1830 English Immigration into the Isle of Man Nomina 7 pp47/64 1983

Non Manx Names

E.A.E. MacLYSAGHT The Surnames of Ireland, Shannon 1969
E.A.E. MacLYSAGHT, Irish Families, Dublin 1972
E.A.E. MacLYSAGHT, More Irish Families, Dublin 1960
E.A.E. MacLYSAGHT, Supplement to Irish Families, Dublin 1964
R.H. REANEY, A Dictionary of British Surnames, London 1976
E.G. WITHYCOMBE, The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names,Oxford 1950.


 Manx Note Book   [Family History Index]


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefullyreceived The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2000