Select Lynch Surname Genealogy

Lynch is an Irish surname, the 17th most common in Ireland, and has two probable and one less likely derivations.
  • the first is Anglo-Norman, from the de Lench family which was said to have arrived with or after Strongbow.  They settled first in county Meath.  A branch then established itself in Galway where they became one of the strongest of the famous "Tribes of Galway."
  • more numerous perhaps in numbers, although less in prominence, were the Lynchs that came from the Gaelic O'Loingsigh, grandson of loingseach meaning "seaman."  The O'Loingsigh name was used by a number of small clans at various locations around Ireland.  The name here is mainly to be found in Cork, Kerry, Cavan, Meath, and Clare.
  • a third less plausible origin exists - the Austrian town of Linz.  It has been suggested that the Lynch family in Kent and possibly the Anglo-Norman Lynchs in Ireland as well may have come originally from this town.
The surname Lynch transposed into the verb "to lynch."  There is an Irish version ...  and an American version as to how this happened.

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Ireland.    The Anglo-Norman Lynch family first made their home in county Meath where Andrew Lynch secured an estate at Knock (and what is now called Summerhill) in the early 1200's.  Gerald Lynch was dispossessed of their castle in Meath by Cromwell in the 1650's.  John Lynch, a descendant of this line, was thought to have been the first Lynch to settle in Galway in the early 1400's.

Galway.  The Lynchs were the most powerful of the fourteen Tribes of Galway who dominated the political, commercial and social life of Galway at a time when the town was in effect its own city state.  From 1484, when Domenick Lynch procured the city's charter, to 1654, when Catholics were debarred from civic offices, no fewer than 84 mayors of Galway came from the family of Lynch (including the infamous James Lynch who executed his own son).  This Lynch family built Lynch's Castle which still stands on Shop Street in the city centre.

Galway's fortunes changed in the 17th century.  After Cromwell captured the town in 1652, many Lynchs were dispossessed of their property and banished. 

Matters then improved during the Restoration.  Isidore Lynch of Drimcong, together with his compatriot John Kirwan, set himself up as a merchant in London and was granted Moycullen land back in Galway; and Thomas Lynch was appointed the Governor of Jamaica.  But the respite was brief.  William of Orange's troops arrived in Galway in 1690.  Property was confiscated and the town was then sacked. 

Many Lynchs fled, some of the "Wild Geese" of that time.  France provided an early refuge, America and Argentina a later destination. 

Others remained and a number did prosper.  The 1840 Galway register listed several Lynch gentry families. They included the Lynch brothers, the merchants at Lynch's Castle who had come into possession of the Moycullen and the West Barna estates.  These estates ended up being heavily mortgaged and were sold off in the 1850's.  Drimcong House in this area now thrives as a highly regarded restaurant. 

Elsewhere.  Lynch is also an anglicization of the Gaelic O'Loingsigh, meaning "seaman," and the surname was to be found along the west coast of Ireland.  One hub was west Cork.  The O'Loingsighs there were in the service of the O'Sullivan Beara and many forfeited their lands in the 17th century. 

From west Cork came Liam Lynch, the IRA general during the Civil War, and Jack Lynch, Taoiseach of Ireland in the 1970's.  Both preserved their Gaelic O'Loingsigh name.  The Lynch name was also to be found in sizeable numbers in Kerry, Limerick, and county Clare. 

The potato famine of the 1840's hit the West Coast particularly hard and many Lynchs emigrated at that time:
  • one family's account is recorded in Mary Lynch Young's 1993 book, Five Lynch Brothers from County Limerick.  They set off for America and ended up in Iowa.  Others headed at that time for Canada or Australia.  
  • another family history tells of Patrick Lynch and his family, he nearing seventy, setting off from county Clare in 1845 for the unknown shores of South Africa.
  • and Eliza Lynch from Cork had an even more surprising journey.  She became a courtesan in Paris and ended up as the mistress of the dictator of Paraguay. 
England and Scotland.  A Lynch family from Staple near Canterbury in Kent dates from the 1450's.  William Lynch made his money as a cloth merchant during Elizabethan times and the family, with their estate at Groves, became local landed gentry.  However, the largest number of Lynchs in England and Scotland are of Irish origin.  This is reflected in their concentration in London, Lancashire, and Glasgow. 

  France was one refuge for fleeing Lynchs.  John Lynch, archbishop of Tuam and a classical scholar, fled there from Galway in 1652.  Later, in 1691, came another John Lynch who established himself in Bordeaux.  This family prospered through royal support in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Thomas Michel Lynch established the vineyards which today produce the Michel Lynch Bordeaux wines.   

Argentina.  In 1741, Patrick Lynch left Galway to seek his fortune in Buenos Aires.  He married there a wealthy heiress and became one of the largest landowners in the Rio de la Plata region.  The descendants of Patrick Lynch included, in the 19th century, the Chilean naval hero Patricio Lynch and, in the 20th, the revolutionary Che Guevara. 

The Lynch name lives on in Argentina, as it does in France, with its wines. Federico Benegas Lynch is today a renowned Argentine winemaker, from a family winery that dates back a hundred years.

Caribbean.   The Lynch name appeared in the Caribbean from an early time:
  • Thomas Lynch arrived as part of Venables' army in the 1660's and became chief justice and eventually Governor of Jamaica. 
  • there were Lynch merchants in both Jamaica and Barbados in the 18th century. 
  • John Lynch from Ireland was a Kingston merchant in the late 1700's.  His family and descendants have been traced through the 19th century.
America.   Lynchs came first into the South and then into the North.

Lynchs in the South.  Jonas Lynch arrived in South Carolina from Galway in the 1670's, soon after Charleston was founded.  His grandson Thomas was a signer of the Declaration of Independence as a representative of South Carolina.  Afterwards he set sail with his wife for the West Indies.  Their ship disappeared at sea and he was never found.  However, his family estate at Hopsewee in South Carolina still stands.   

Charles Lynch came to Virginia as a boy from Ireland in the 1710's as an indentured servant.  He soon worked off his indenture, married and represented Albemarle county in the House of Burgesses.  Charles Lynch of this family was the Lynch of Lynch's Law during the Revolutionary War.  His son Charles was later Governor of Mississippi.  The town of Lynchburg on the James river was named after the James Lynch of the family who ran the local ferry.  After the Civil War, a branch of this family migrated to Texas. 

Meanwhile the descendants of William Lynch of Pittsylvania county ended up in South Carolina.  Another Lynch family, traced back to the 1770's, migrated first to Kentucky and then to Crow Creek Valley in Tennessee.

Lynchs in the North.  The Irish influx to America in the 19th century meant that the Lynch presence then switched to the main Irish immigrating centers of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. 

In his 2005 memoir Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans, Thomas Lynch recounted how his Lynchs of county Clare "survived starvation, eviction and emigration, that three-headed scourge of English racism," and the pain of their diaspora as they emigrated to the US.  He also described his own reunion in 1970 with long-lost relatives back in Ireland and his astonishment at finding out that their way of life had not changed (no cars, no television, and no running water) in the intervening years.  

Australia.  Lynchs came first as convicts and later as settlers. 

James Lynch from Cork, for instance, was transported on the convict ship Asia in 1824.  He secured his freedom seven years later and was a stockman in the Monaro region of NSW.  Meanwhile Thomas Lynch arrived in Victoria on the Himalaya in 1842 and settled down as a farmer at Mount Burchett near Glen Thompson.  Both these Lynchs married, had ten or more children, and have a large number of descendants living today.

Lynchs in the Gold Boom.  The gold discoveries drew Irishmen to Australia, including many Lynchs.  One Lynch family rose to prominence in the Ballarat goldfields in Victoria, another later at Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.  But they emerged with completely different politics.

John Lynch led a goldminers' rebellion at Ballarat, known as the Eureka Stockade, in 1854 and his son Arthur was perhaps even more radical.  He went out to South Africa at the turn of the century and fought for the Boers against the British.  On his return to England, he was tried for high treason and sentenced to death; but through the intervention of influentual friends, he was later released and exiled.

William Lynch was a connecting point between Ballarat and Kalgoorlie.  He was a Ballarat miner and it was his son-in-law Paddy Hannan who made the great Kalgoorlie gold discovery in 1893.  Later Patrick Lynch rose through local labor ranks in Kalgoorlie to play his part in national politics.  By the time of the First World War he had become, surprisingly, a staunch defender of the prevailing social order.  

Select Lynch Miscellany

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

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Domenick Lynch procured the royal charter for Galway from Richard III in 1484.
Charles Lynch, was the instigator of "Lynch's Law" during the Revolutionary War, from which the term lynching is said to have arisen.
Patricio Lynch was a 19th century Chilean naval officer nicknamed "the last viceroy of Peru."
John Lynch led the Eureka Stockade, a rebellion by Australian gold miners, in 1854.
Edmund C. Lynch with Charles E. Merrill founded the investment house of Merrill Lynch in 1915.
Benny Lynch, who grew up Irish in Glasgow, boxed as a flywight in the 1930's and was considered one of the best boxers of his type at that time.
Patricia Lynch from Cork was a prolific and highly esteemed writer of children's fiction.
Jack Lynch from Cork was twice Irish Taoiseach during the 1970's.
David Lynch is the idiosyncratic American film director responsible for the cult TV series Twin Peaks and the movie Lost Highway.

Select Lynches Today
  • 32,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 48,000 in America (most numerous in New York).
  • 57,000 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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