Ireland Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Ireland Meaning

This surname can best be described as English, but of Irish
origins! It was an ethnic name in England and Scotland for an
immigrant from Ireland, the
root of the name being from the Old English word Iras meaning Irishman.

Ireland Resources on

Ireland Ancestry

first with the surname Ireland was possibly Sir John de Ireland,
said to have lived at the time of William the Conqueror. This
family held the manor of Hale in Childwall on Merseyside from 1279. There were later Ireland lines at Lydiate on
Merseyside and Beausey near Warrington. Sir Gilbert Ireland of Hale
brought the
giant John Middleton to court in 1617.
His grandson, also Sir Gilbert Ireland, married Margaret Ireland
Beausey but died in 1675 without issue, the last of the line at Hale.

The Ireland family at Lydiate was recusant
and had lost their estates two years earlier in 1673.
One line of these Irelands established
themselves at Crofton Hall
Wakefield in Yorkshire. William Ireland,
a Jesuit priest born there, was executed for his involvement in the
Popish plot
in 1679. It can be truly said that the
1670’s was a bad time for the Irelands.

The 19th century distribution of the
Ireland name showed a concentration in Lancashire, perhaps
augmented by
Irish Irelands, and a smattering in the southwest.
Devon was one locale. John
Ireland from Ashburton in Devon

became the Dean of Westminster in the early 19th century and crowned
monarchs. There were Irelands as well by that time in Gloucestershire
and SW Herefordshire.

Scotland. The earlier
Irelands in Scotland seem to have come from the east coast, from Fife
and further up the coast in Angus. Thomas and Agnes Ireland were
recorded in Fife in 1677. Their son was a tenant at Tarvit
Mill. Another Fife line began with the marriage of James and
Elspeth Ireland at St. Andrews in 1655. Later Irelands – of probable
Irish origin – were in and around Glasgow.

America. There
were Irelands from England,
Ireland, and Scotland in America.
Examples of
Irish Irelands were:

  • John Ireland, the son of Irish immigrants, who became Governor of
    Texas in 1883
  • and John Ireland from Kilkenny who was appointed Archbishop of
    St. Paul, Minnesota in 1888.

Two early Irelands from England, probably from Lancashire, were:

  • Samuel Ireland, who arrived with his family on the Increase in 1635 and settled in
    Wethersfield, Connecticut (he died there ten years later).
  • and Thomas Ireland, who came to Hempstead, Long Island in 1644
    and was a landlord of an inn there (Joseph Norton Ireland
    described this line in his 1880 book Some
    Account of the Ireland Family: 1644-1880).

Of Scottish roots was David Ireland, a colonel in the Union army during
the Civil War. He had
come to New York with his family in 1840 from Angus in eastern Scotland.

. Joseph and
Mary Ireland moved to Burlington, Ontario from the
village of Bowes in
north Yorkshire in 1819. The Oakridge Farm house that he built
there in 1835 stayed with his descendants until 1987 when it was
purchased by the city of Burlington and turned into a museum.


Ireland Miscellany

Sir Gilbert Ireland and John Middleton.  John Middleton, reputed to have reached 9′ 3″ in
height, was born in Hale in Lancashire in the 1570’s.
Legend has it that he was originally of
normal size and grew in a single night.
In 1617 his patron Sir Gilbert Ireland took him to the Court of
King James
I in London where he put out the thumb of the King’s wrestler in a bout.  This feat was reported to have earned him the
disdain of the courtiers and a gift of £20 from the King.

The Irelands at Crofton Hall.  The Irelands of Lydiate Hall on Merseyside were Catholic and William
Ireland of that family, an eminent lawyer, took that faith with him
when he
crossed the Pennines to make his home in Yorkshire.
His son Sir Francis and wife Elizabeth
suffered for their faith, losing their estates at the time of Cromwell.

Francis and his wife left two sons and
two daughters.  The eldest William
resided at Crofton Hall near Wakefield.
He was a Royalist cavalry captain during the Civil War, but –
like his
brother – was reported to have been slain during the conflict.  One of his daughters was renowned for her
beauty.  It was said when Marmaduke
Rawdon was on a visit to York in 1656:

seldom went abroad but he was accompanied with some ladies, amongst
which there was a young beauty Madam Ireland, the daughter of Sir
Ireland, in whose company he took the most delight of any.”

William Ireland became a Jesuit in
1655.  Twenty three years later he was
implicated in the Popish plot to assassinate the King.
He was arrested and tried and executed at
Tyburn in early 1679.  A
grandson Ralph stayed at Crofton Hall and was registered there as a
non-jurer in 1717.

Ireland Surname Distribution in the 1891 Census

County Numbers (000’s) Percent
Lancashire    1.5    25%
Yorkshire    0.5     8%
Gloucestershire    0.4     6%
Devon    0.3     5%
London    0.8    13%
Elsewhere    2.7    35%
Total    6.2 100%

John Ireland from Ashburton in Devon.  John Ireland,
the Dean of Westminster, was born in 1761 at Ashburton in Devon, the
son of a
local butcher.  His education began at the
free grammar school of Ashburton under the Rev. Thomas Smerdon. William
the founder of the Quarterly
magazine, was a fellow-pupil, and their friendship continued unbroken
death.  They are buried together at
Westminster Abbey.

Ireland was Dean
of Westminster for 26 years and crowned three monarchs, King George IV,
William IV, and Queen Victoria.  There is
a Georgian building in Ashburton, Ireland House, which was given to the
governors of Ashburton grammar school as a boarding house by a grateful
Ireland later in his life.

Ireland Arrivals in America by Country of Origin

Country Numbers Percent
England    242    54%
Ireland    141    31%
Scotland     54    12%
Elsewhere     15     3%
Total    452   100%

Irelands in Burlington, Ontario.  The descendants
of Joseph Ireland from Yorkshire who moved to Burlington, Ontario in
1819 were
invited to attend a family reunion in 2007 at the Oakbridge Farm home
Joseph Ireland had built in 1835 and is now a museum.
Prior to that time four generations of the
Ireland family lived in the house.  Over
that time the Irelands rarely threw anything out.  So
the house still retained many of the
prized possessions of its earlier generations.

Some heirlooms have, however, gone.
Oakbridge had at one time, hanging on an overhead beam, the
saber which
John Ireland, the brother of Joseph, carried with him in the War of
1812.  There were in the early days a
number of
weapons from that war on the beams.
But these weapons are no longer hanging there.

There were 150 Ireland family descendants that attended the
reception that was hosted by Allan Ireland, the last Ireland family
member to
have lived at the Ireland House before it was purchased by the city of
Burlington in 1987.  A service was held
at St. John’s church in Nelson county which Joseph Ireland helped found.  Many Irelands are buried there.



Ireland Names

  • William Ireland was an
    English Jesuit priest caught up in the Popish plot who was executed in
    1679. He was subsequently beatified by the Catholic church.
  • John Ireland was Dean of
    Westminster from 1816 to 1842.
  • John Ireland was a 20th century
    English composer. He came from a family of Scottish descent.

Select Ireland Numbers Today

  • 15,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 5,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Ireland and Like Surnames

These were names originally given to outsiders in the British Isles that became surnames.  Thus Walter the Scot became Walter Scott.  Outsiders could also have been Welsh, Irish, French or Flemish.  These are some of the “outsider” surnames which are covered here.





Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply