Guidelines for Irish O' names

+22 votes

I have looked but cannot find guidance for the correct construction of Irish Last names that start with "O".    For example, I find O'Neill, Oneill and O_Neill, plus other ancient spellings.   While I understand "Use their conventions instead of ours" , I think guidance would help with avoiding the creation of duplicates. 

in Policy and Style by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (887k points)
I have also looked for an answer to this question, Robin, as there are name studies being created with the O' and I thought that generally, apostrophes and other forms of punctuation, were frowned upon when addresses are being created for the page. I'm wondering if it is fouling up my attempt to create redirects for the surname project page.

It's a matter of education for Wikitree overseers - a reminder to be more flexible and aware of National norms. 

O'Neil and such names will never be seen without their apostrophe while those dealing with a variant name such as Oneill and O_Neill and other ancient spellings will be aware that O'Neil or O'Neill has become the norm and keep that in mind.

reminds me of the what to do with "de" before a name; if anyone dared to reduce my "De Wolfe" inlaws to "Wolfe" I'd spit tacks - but I think more rational minds have backed off that issue now. 

Having just delt with a string of Irish profiles each with an English and a very different Irish version of the name, and knowing how some of their descendants feel about those English names, perhaps in the future we may have a re-direct function to cope with variant spellings.

Just a note on the technical aspect: Apostrophes should be used if they are appropriate in last names. We only need to substitute an underscore for the tags here in G2G and elsewhere, e.g. O'Neill corresponds to the tag O_NEILL.
Of course D' is another common prefix with an apostrophe.

You do have to use the basic keyboard "single quote" - other similar characters won't always work.
Hi Robin,


Ua Niall is also a variation, and is how the O'Neill began, the Ua and O denoting "of."  Contrary to popular belief, the O'Neills (at least my branch -Tyrone) are named after Niall Glundubh (Detir_Connial-2) <ignore that, it makes me insane and REALLY needs to be corrected-I've asked to be on the trusted list to no avail))) and not Niall of the Nine Hostages....they didn't start using O'Neill until after Glundubh (black knee). Interesting tidbit there!


re "Detir_Connial-2"

That particular profiler is not very active, and has made no contributions for almost a year; I think you could approach the management team for permission to edit the name in this profile. Better editing can only help to enhance WikiTree's reputation. The reasons for the need for this editing has already been explained within the biography.
Yes, I've noticed! Lots of incorrect naming and some incorrect lineage as well. I've studied and researched these ancestors of mine so much, it drives me bonkers not to be able to correct it. I've already filed an unresponsive profile manager request, and gone through the proper procedures before that, but no action yet. Anyone?!?!

WikiTree is an interesting place, I think one has to be patient. As you did here; leaving exactly what ought to be included in the profile as notes in the comment boxes is helpful. If you cannot make a change, eventually someone else may be able to work that change into the profile.

Have you joined the Ireland Project?  - Getting to know the leaders would be helpful -  Maria Maxwell, Leigh Murrin or Doug Straiton


I'm a member of Irish Roots. I recently messaged Maria and a couple others about making an official place/sub project for this O'Neill line, and volunteered to head it up.
Have you had a response? Dos one need to prove oneself first?

I made a couple of free space pages to deal with Humphrey Willis in Fermanagh, for whom I had no family connections - just went off to look for it but can't find it now. Did see that there is a category, "High Sheriffs of Ireland" so suggest you could start a new category "High Kings of Ireland" and write up their biographies as free space pages which could be used again as profiles if you get the chance. You'd have more scope to work in archaeology and such things then.

You'd need that pre-1500 badge too -
I have that badge. Hard work earned that bad boy. No response yet but it hasn't been very long at all. When I was a newborn I created more than a few incorrect profiles and ticked off a few peeps, so perhaps I'm not yet seen as ready. Who knows? Either I'll get to join or my hard work will get project protected where I can't touch it. We'll see, hopefully the former rather than latter. I put myself through my very own Wikitree boot camp and under the tutelage of my amazing former mentor, I learned a lot. I've even surprised myself! I even apologized to someone I previously got snippy with!! So, time will tell!!
Congrats on getting that badge - I spend all my time at the moment cleaning up after others who raid "The Peerage" to add to Wikitree - found I need the badge to keep going now, we'll see if it turns up. The management team are learning all the time, its interesting to watch responses being made to help WikiTree become more professional. Interesting too finding that balance between being nice and getting pushy to get something done. Lots of lovely, responsive people here working together to get things sorted, quite a pleasure really.
Hi Summer, I will drop you a note!

I agree with Chris Whitten "  the technical aspect: Apostrophes should be used if they are appropriate in last names. We only need to substitute an underscore for the tags here in G2G and elsewhere, e.g. O'Neill corresponds to the tag O_NEILL."  

The Name O'Morchoe would be as a Tag O_Morchoe.  But I do write mine in as the actual Name. As my O'Neill are cousin's and living I don't add them to my tree, but I am sure the Tagging converts this.  It is the same name, it is just as the web page see the the word, it is how it is programmed. 

As per mentioned the O means "Of".  

As for De it is German meaning "The"  having researched the cassel line I have researched the De Wolf, having family of Netherlands decent I have a "Van der Laun" in the family on the mothers, mothers side, up 2 generations.


There are variations of the name's Like Van der Laan is seen this way too.

There are Mor, O'Morchoe, and a few other for the name Murphy.


Actually, if we are talking Gaelic surnames, Ua and it’s later form O mean the same thing - grandson. That is why the apostrophe often used after O is incorrect. The apostrophe indicate an abbreviation. Gaelic surnames also use Mac - son. In the case of English surnames Amy would be correct that O means “of” but I am not aware of any current examples, only archaic ones like Robin O’Loxley, better known as Robin Hood.

4 Answers

+10 votes
Best answer

Hi, the consensus I have received so far has been to retain "O", "Mac" and "Mc" in the Irish names.   

If people are happy with this, then we should undertake a clean-up effort  to change LNAB from, for example, O_Neill to O'Neill.   

When it comes to MAC vs MC there are differences between the two spellings.  It would be better to keep those but note in the biography (if the underlying sources support it for the relevant individuals) that a variation of Mac and Mc can sometimes be seen.

by Living Hoolihan G2G6 Mach 6 (62.9k points)
selected by Leigh Murrin
When cleaning up, please make sure not to introduce an apostrophe for those who used Ó Neill or Ó Néill. Thanks!
Yes good catch - we should not "clean up" unless PMs agree or there are sources in the profile that make clear what the correct spelling is.
When there are more the one potential spellings of a name, that is the time to use the current and other last name fields.   I am sure that in most cases we can find multiple spellings of the last name.
Robin, I don't think I understand your comment. Could you try again with more words? :)
I think what Robin means is that the best place to note a spelling variation is in the other last name field.  She is right.  In addition, I sometimes add an explanation in the biography, or in the comments on the side, explaining why one spelling is selected over another.
+9 votes
I can canvass the members of the Irish Roots project for their views on this.
by Living Hoolihan G2G6 Mach 6 (62.9k points)
Keep the O and the apostrophe! It means son of and sometimes descendant of. The English made the Irish anglicize their names . It was not something they wanted to do, it was a matter of survival for the Catholic population when Catholicism was illegal in Ireland between 1690 and 1829.  Like the "wearing of the Green", Irish people are proud of the O and the Mc and the Mac. They are proud of the Celtic Roots, which are different than their Norman roots and their Anglo-Irish roots. Celtic names  have the O and the Mac!
+7 votes

Hello All,

As an O" Sullivan myself and a searcher of Irish ancestors.It is wise when looking up an ancestor with an O or a Ni or a Mc, Mac, to leave it out, and use  Sullivan instead of O"Sullivan,you will get better results.

The Gaelic for O Sullivan begin, O Suileabhain you may never get in a lookup as it will not register on the Web.

Kind Regards,

Kate,[Cait] Suillivan.

by anonymous G2G1 (2.0k points)
The internet knowledge base is growing at quite a clip; only 18th months later and "Ó Súilleabháin" is fully searchable via Google.
+4 votes

I am afraid I struggle with the 'use the name they used' rule as virtually all Irish were illiterate. Some modern Irish feel very strongly about using gaelic spelling for their family names, but the vast majority use anglicised spelling. 

What I am concerned about it that by using multiple forms of gaelic spelling, it will make it harder to find profiles.

Take one of the most reviled Irish in history, Dermot MacMurrough. He appears as with MacMurchada as current last name. But if you search by MacMurchada on Wikitree, you won't find him. Then again, if you put his most common name "'Dermot MacMurrough" into Google, the wikitree profile does not turn up. But "Diarmut MacMurchada" does.

I worry at times about Wikitree becoming a bit too inward focused and how our results play in Google searches should be a key criteria if not in naming conventions, then at least in profile presentation. 

I ask because I manage several pre-1700 Irish profiles. The benefit of them on WIkitree is the amount of correspondence I receive from people who have found the profiles and the collaborations that then emerge, But if people can't find the profiles in the first place, then the utility of Wikitree is reduced. 

I offer no solutions, because every solution has consequences. But I do incline to using the most modern commonly used form of the name as the 'headline' name while ensuring profiles and search terms also recognise and pick up more ancient variations. 


by John Cherry G2G6 Mach 1 (12.4k points)
The Search system doesn't look at the CLN field unless you tell it to, with the "include current last name" option.  This is for finding married women by their married names.

The CLN field is misused on Dermot's profile - MacMurchada should be an Other Last Name.  Then it would work better.

People haven't figured out that the name fields need to be used in a way that collaborates with the Search system.  (Pet peeve: the EuroAristo naming rules haven't figured this out either, as now interpreted)
As for Google, I think the problem is just that there are so many pages on the net that mention Dermot MacMurrough, so WikiTree is pushed too far down the order.  Of course most of those pages aren't genealogical.

Apparently Google doesn't recognize MacMurrough and MacMurchada as interchangeable equivalents, so if you search for MacMurchada, you get only a fraction of the hits and then WikiTree gets a look-in.

WikiTree is on the first page if you search for "dermot macmurrough genealogy".

Same situation if you google for somebody like Guy Fawkes.  The genealogy is out of sight.  But searching for "guy fawkes genealogy" works.
Thanks, that works. I suspect that there are so many rules on Wikitree that most people would have trouble keeping up.
Most websites, you just sign up and start doing stuff and don't read help pages at all.  They call it "intuitive".
Totally understand your point, but this is true of many of the people in the United States in the 1800s, which makes finding records a challenge.

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