Select Doyle Surname Genealogy

The name Doyle is the anglicized form of the Gaelic DubhGhaill, pronounced "Du-Gall," which contains the elements dubh, meaning "black" or "dark," and gall, meaning "stranger."  In Scotland, the same Gaelic name produced the surname McDowell which came to Ireland and the Scots names Dougall and MacDougall which are in fact closer in pronunciation.
As DubhGhaill, the name appears in the Annals of the Four Masters at various times between 978 and 1013. It does not appear in works concerned with Irish genealogy as the Doyles were thought to be descended from Norsemen.  But if the original nameholders were dark and strange as their description suggests, then these invaders were either Celts or more likely Danes (who were darker than the Norsemen).

The Irish Parliament of today is spelt Dail, but is pronounced "Doyle."

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Ireland.  The Doyles are to be found along the coast of Ireland - tending to support the view that they were originally Viking arrivals by sea.  The main cluster of Doyles was and is in SW Leinster (the counties of Wicklow, Wexford, and Carlow).  It was said that when the Normans took possession of Wexford in the 12th century, they settled most of the Danes in places now known as Kosslare and Ballymore where they followed their old pursuit of fishing. 

These Doyles, notably William Doyle at Girtin in Kilninor parish, were later substantial landowners in north Wexford, that is until the Cromwellian confiscations.  Afterwards, the failure of the Jacobite rebellion in 1690 saw many Doyles flee into exile. 

During the 1798 Irish Rebellion, much of the heaviest fighting took place in Wexford.  The Doyles here were involved on both sides.  Many Doyles enlisted as United Irishmen and took part in the Rebellion.  Others such as Sir John Doyle upheld the British Government side.  Early 19th century records for Wexford did show a sizeable number of Protestant Doyles who had a stake in the status quo.  But the most famous Doyle from Wexford at this time was JKL Doyle.  At the age of 33 he became the Catholic Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin and led the campaign for Catholic emancipation in Ireland (which was finally passed in 1829). 

However, there had begun the steady flow of emigration which reached a flood in the mid-19th century at the time of the potato famine.  The population of SW Leinster (Doyle country) dropped by more than 20 percent at that time, due to death or emigration. 

In the 1880's, Michael Doyle of Tagoat in Wexford was an active Land Leaguer.  This Michael was also the father of Canon Patrick Doyle, a parish priest of Ferns and later President of the renowned St Peter's College in Wexford.  Later the Doyles of the area were split again in their loyalties - during the convulsions of the Easter Rebellion and the Anglo-Irish and subsequent Treaty conflicts.

England and Scotland.   The whimsically named village of Bramblestown in Kilkenny nurtured a unique family. Between 1756 and 1856 came a dynasty of military men, most of whom ended up settling in England.  In 1911, a descendant, Colonel Arthur Doyle, did his utmost to sort them out in his book, One Hiundred Years of Conflict: Being Some Records of the Services of Six Generals of the Doyle Family.  

John Doyle was the Irish forefather of a generation of Doyles who were to contribute greatly to the artistic and literary world in London.  Foremost among these Doyles was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes.

But most Doyle immigrants were poor and came with little of their advantages.  They headed for the industrial towns of Lancashire or to Glasgow.  The lives of few were recorded.  Dan Doyle, son of an Irish immigrant, did become Scotland's first footballing superstar in the 1890's.

.  Perhaps the first Doyles to reach America had been indentured servants from Ireland, John Doyle into Maryland in 1677 and Edmund Doyle into Pennsylvania in 1683. 

Doyles of more substance came later:
  • Edward Doyle bought land in Bucks county, Pennsylvania in 1730 in what is now called Doylestown.
  • and around the same time Dennis Doyle arrived from Ireland.  He settled in Albemarle county, Virginia and, before his death, had amassed an extensive estate along the Moorman river where he grew tobacco.  His son John fought in the Revolutionary War and later moved to Kaskaskie in Illinois where he had been granted 400 acres of frontier land.
Later Arrivals.  The main influx of Doyles came in the mid-19th century after the potato famine.  The statistics show that most Doyles settled in New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania on the Eastern Seaboard.   Their best known legacy is probably their bars.  Doyle's Cafe is an institution in Boston.  John Doyle, father and son, have run bars in Philadelphia since the 1930's.  Mike Doyle once famously ran twenty bars in that town, including Slainte which is the first sign visitors see greeting them on leaving the train station.

A number of Doyles ventured further afield.  John Doyle from Wexford settled in Iowa.  As did Bobbie Doyle who had entered the country via Canada.  Dennis Doyle, born in Kilkenny, reached Minnesota in 1856 and gave the name of Kilkenny to the village in which he settled.

"He represented Le Suear county in the state legislature and for forty one years dispensed justice in the village and town of Kilkenny.  He lived to see his little claim grow and become a thriving little city and the country which, when he arrived was the heart of a virgin forest, develop into the finest farming country in the world."

Robert Doyle, also from Kilkenny, settled in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in the 1870's.  From these roots came the Doyles who rejuvenated the Democratic Party in Wisconsin, including Jim Doyle the Governor from 2003 to 2011.

California.  Manville Doyle, who as a little boy had met Abraham Lincoln, set off from Illinois for California in 1850 and became a leading banker in the new state.  Doyle Drive, built in the 1930's to connect with the Golden Gate Bridge, was named after a descendant. 

Thomas and Mary Doyle from Boston reached San Francisco in the early 1850's.  Thomas died soon after in a boating accident.  But Mary remained to raise a family.

Canada.  A number of Doyles came to Canada after the 1798 Rebellion failed, Arthur Doyle to Newfoundland and Laurence Doyle to Nova Scotia.  His son became a lawyer and political figure in Halifax. 

Patrick Doyle, born in Newfoundland, started out as a sea captain plying the waters between St. John and Bristol.  Later he was strongly involved in the work of the Benevolent Irish Society which did much to alleviate the plight of poor Irish Catholic immigrants. 

Australia.  The first Doyle to arrive in Australia was probably Michael Doyle, convicted in London to seven years transportation and onboard the third convict fleet which arrived in 1791.  The numbers swelled after the Irish Rebellion of 1798, with a total of twenty Doyles being arrested, tried, and transported to Australia between 1800 and 1806. 

One of these Doyles, however, soon prospered through land holdings in New South Wales.  Andrew Doyle began accumulating land along the Hawkesbury river in 1804.  His possessions were greatly expanded by his son Cyrus and his family moved among the elite pioneer families of the new colony. 

More Doyles arrived in the 1850's.  John Doyle was the son of Doyle immigrants during the gold rush in Western Australia.  He became a pioneer of the timber industry in Queensland, starting his own sawmill on the upper Mary river in the 1890's.  The present Doyle's Timber and Hardware stores are run by fourth generation descendants.

Select Doyle Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Doyle Names

JKL Doyle, the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin in the early 19th century, was a church organizer, campaigner for Catholic emancipation, and the builder of Carlow cathedral.
John Doyle, better known by his pen-name H.B, was an Irish painter and political cartoonist who came to London in 1822 and made it in fashionable society there.
Patrick Doyle was a leading political and business figure in Newfoundland in the first half of the 19th century.
Dennis Doyle was a big game hunter and explorer in southern Africa in the 1880's and 1890's.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, born in Scotland of Irish roots, was the creator of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes.
Stuart Doyle founded the Australian Broadcasting Company to provide a national wireless service (it was taken over by the Australian Government in 1932).
Jack Doyle, known as "the gorgeous Gael," was a well-known boxer and playboy of the 1930's.
PV Doyle was a larger-than-life hotelier in Dublin in the 1970's and 1980's.
Roddy Doyle is the teacher turned author who has written such books as The Commitments.
Jim Doyle is the present Governor of Wisconsin.

Select Doyles Today
  • 32,000 in the UK (most numerous in Surrey)
  • 45,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 65,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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