Lynch Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Lynch Meaning

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
    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
    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.

surname Lynch transposed into the verb “to lynch.” There is an Irish
version … and an American version
as to how this happened.

Resources on

Lynch Ancestry

The Anglo-Norman Lynch family
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
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
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

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.

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
    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

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.
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
support in the 18th and 19th
centuries. Thomas Michel Lynch established the vineyards which
today produce the Michel Lynch Bordeaux wines.

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.
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
  • there were Lynch merchants in both Jamaica and Barbados in the
    18th century.
  • John Lynch from Ireland was
    a Kingston
    in the late 1700’s. His family and descendants have been traced
    through the 19th century.

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
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

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,
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
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.

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 influential 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.


Lynch Miscellany

Lynch Anglo-Norman or Not?  The common perception of the Lynch’s of Meath and Galway is that they
were Anglo-Norman, descendants of a Strongbow follower who had come
from England.  The first recognizable Lynch – referred to at the
time as de Lench or de la Linche – was Andrew Lynch who lived at Knock
in Meath around the year 1200.  Was he related to Norman forebears?

The case could be made that he was instead of Gaelic origin, operating
in the new Norman Ireland as a Norman lord.  His base at Knock in
fact preceded the Norman invasion and was known as Cnoc na Loinsigh, an important
southern outpost for the Ulster O’Neill clan.  The O’Loinsigh was
a Gaelic clan that
were vassals of the O’Niells.  Their Gaelic name later became
anglicized as Lynch.  Possibly Andrew Lynch was of this clan.

Elizabeth Lynch in her 1925 book The Lynch Record wrote that Brian
Boru had made an ordinance that every family and clan should adopt a
particular surname.  Many like the O’Loinsighs chose an ancient

“The name Lynch is derived from
Longseach, a mariner.  Maion, afterwards called Labradh Longseach,
was the son of Oiloll Aine in a line dating back to Hugony the
Great.  Labradh Longseach, living in the year 541, wore the crown
of Ireland for eighteen years until he fell at the last by the sword of
Cobhthach Caolmbreag.”

The Lynchs of Galway.  The Lynchs were one of the fourteen “Tribes of Galway” who dominated the political, commercial and social life of Galway from the 13th
century onwards.  During that time Galway grew into a major port,
trade expanded, particularly in wine and brandy, and ships from France
and Spain
filled the harbor.  The walled city soon had fourteen arched
gateways opening paths for the sun to light fourteen streets paved by
mercantile success.

The families themselves, loyal to the British Crown, hated
and feared the native Gaelic-speaking Irish.  A by-law in the city
charter went so far to state that “neither ‘O’ nor ‘Mac’ shall strutte
ne swagger thro’ the streets of Galway.”

The Lynch line began with William le Petit who was granted
lands in West Meath in 1185.  In his History of Galway,
Harriman gave the
following description of the Lynchs in Galway:

“This is one of the most ancient
and, until the middle of the 17th century, one of the leading families
of Galway.  John Delenche was the first settler of the name in
Galway.  He was married to the daughter and sole heiress of
William Mareschall.  Thomas, the son of John, was the first
Provost or mayor of the city in 1274; while Thomas Lynch was the last
mayor in 1654.  For the 169 years of the history of Galway, prior
to 1654, no less than 84 Lynchs served as mayor of the city.

In 1654 when Cromwell captured the
city, the ‘ancient inhabitants’ who refused to submit to English rule
were dispossessed of their property and banished.  All 45 Lynchs
then residing in Galway refused to submit to England and were

Galway suffered further in 1690 when William of Orange sent
his forces to seize the town.  Property was confiscated and the
town was sacked.  The decaying mansions of the families were
plastered over with concrete.  And by 1820 the walls of the town
had been pulled down.

Lynch and Lynching – The Irish Version.  What is the relationship between the name “Lynch” and the
verb “to lynch?”  The following is the Irish version.  It relates to
James Lynch was the mayor of Galway City in 1493.

The story goes that the mayor’s son killed another man, a
young Spaniard, in a local bar because he had shown an interest in his
lady love.  The young Lynch was subsequently charged, convicted
for murder, and then sentenced to death by hanging for his crime.
However, as he was the son of the mayor, no one would carry out the
sentence.  was said to have
hanged his own son for murder when no one else could be found to carry
out the sentence.  Finally the mayor himself put the noose around
his son’s neck and hung him there by the neck until he was dead.

There is another version of the story which shows the mayor in slightly
better light.  Here the mayor sent his son on a voyage to Spain to
collect a cargo of wine.  But somehow the money in which he was
entrusted for the purchase went missing.  The Spanish merchant who
supplied him with the wine therefore sent his nephew with Lynch back to
England to receive payment.  During the voyage home, however, the
young Spaniard was seized from his bed and thrown overboard.  The
crime might have been concealed had not one of the seamen on that
voyage, on his deathbed, revealed the details to the mayor. The mayor
was enraged by this act of murder and, acting as magistrate, convicted
his own son and sentenced him to death.

A Lynch memorial structure was built in the mid 19th century in the
large window of the original Lynch house where the hanging was said to
have taken place.  Some have suspected that the story of the
hanging may well have been elaborated upon in order to draw attention
to the monument at a time when the word “lynching” had come into common
usage through events in America.

Lynch and Lynching – The American Version.  What is the relationship between the name “Lynch” and the verb “to
lynch?”  The following is the American version (or versions).

Some have thought that the term “lynch” first came
from an address supposedly given by William Lynch to an audience in
Virginia in 1712 regarding the control of slaves within the
colony.   However, this speech has never in fact been
authenticated and
the claim may turn out to be spurious.  As might be a later claim
relating to another William Lynch, this time in Pittsylvania county,
Virginia in 1780.

A better documented use of the term “Lynch’s Law” comes
from Charles Lynch, the Virginia justice of the peace and militia
officer during the American Revolutionary War.  “Lynch’s
Law” was the term used to describe his actions in suppressing a
suspected Loyalist uprising in 1780.  The suspects were given a
summary trial at an informal court.  The sentences handed down
included whipping, property seizure, coerced pledges of allegiance, and
conscription into the military.   Charles Lynch’s extra-legal
actions were retroactively legitimized by the Virginia General Assembly
as Lynch’s Law in 1782.

It was only later, principally aftrer the Civil War, that
“lynch” came to mean hanging as a result of mob action, principally of
blacks by whites.

From Patrick Lynch to Che Guevara.  Patrick Lynch left Galway in Ireland for Buenos Aires in
1749 to seek his fortune.  He married there a wealthy heiress and
became one of the large landowners of the Rio de la Plata region.

He was the forebear of a large number of Argentine
descendants through the various branches of his family. They included:

  • Patrico Lynch, grandson, who started an Argentine shipping
    company in the early 1800’s.
  • Patricio Lynch, great grandson, who was a rear-admiral in the
    Chilean navy.
  • Benito Lynch, great great great
    grandson, an Argentine novelist and short-story writer.
  • Adolfo Bioy Casares, great great great great grandson, an
    Argentine writer.
  • and Che Guevara, great great great great grandson, the

The line to Che Guevara started with Francisco Lynch and
his daughter Ana.  Her son Ernesto Guevara Lynch was born in 1900,
married Celia de la Serna, and they had five children, including
Ernesto (Che) born in 1927. Che’s father wrote once:

first thing to note is that in my son’s veins flowed the blood of the
Irish rebels, the Spanish conquistadores and the Argentine
patriots.  Evidently Che inherited many of the features of our
restless ancestors.  There was something in his nature which drew
him to distant wanderings, dangerous adventures, and new ideas.”

Che Guevara visited
Ireland once, in 1965.  But there is no evidence that he felt any
kinship with the country.

Buccaneer, The Hector Lynch Novel.  In the second Hector
Lynch novel by Tim Severin, the young seafarer falls into the hands of
the notorious buccaneer Captain John Coxon who mistakes him for his
nephew Sir Thomas Lynch, Governor of Jamaica.  Hector encourages
the error so that his friends Jacques and Dan can go free.

Coxon delivers Hector
to Sir Henry Morgan, a bitter enemy of Governor Lynch.  The
captain expects to curry favor with Morgan, but is publicly humiliated
when the deception is revealed.  From now on Hector has a
dangerous enemy.

Reader Feedback – Lynch in the Caribbean.  Family
research over the last decade or so suggests that Sir Thomas Lynch, eventual
Governor of Jamaica was not the same person who may have been known as
Lynch.  My research suggests that Sir Thomas was an Englishman
whose almost sole
connection with the Caribbean was Jamaica and that he indeed arrived
title and went back and forth between England and Jamaica several
sometimes “with his tail between his legs”.  I believe his
Governorship was by direct appointment from the Crown and he was so
while he was in England and went back to Jamaica again to assume that

was another (successful Irish merchant)
Lynch family in Jamaica – including John Lynch – about the same time as
Thomas was there whose overflow kin arriving from Ireland went onto to
set up
shop in Barbados, also successfully.  By
English standards, the Irish of the day were considered lower than the
dogs in London’s streets and no Irishman could possibly have been
appointed an Under Secretary in England then, far less a Governor of a

was the name/title given by the slaves
– and later negro plantation hands – to the “Big Boss”, whether the
resident owner or the manager representing the non-resident
owner.  Buckra is also a booklet written and
published by Noel Lynch Ripley, a descendant of the Irish Jamaican
Lynch clan,
still available through eBay and other sources.  A
very interesting read, if you want I can
send you a .doc file with the entire text.

I have found the name Lynch chiefly in Jamaica and
Barbados, but it
crops up in lesser numbers in Antigua, Montserrat and St. Kitts and in
numbers in Trinidad and other islands.  Nicholas Lynch a “servant
Codrington” is listed on Hotten’s Lists as being on board a ship from
Barbados bound for Nevis (where Horatio Nelson’s wife was born).  My research is mainly of the name Lynch in
Barbados, but obviously I record as much as I can so as not to
the wheel” later on in my research.

Best wishes, Jim Lynch in Toronto, Canada (

Lynchs in Galway in 1840.  The following were the notable Lynch families recorded in the
Galway area in 1840:
– Anthony H. Lynch, Member of Parliament
– James Lynch, Lynch’s Castle
– Charles French Lynch, Petersburg House
– Captain Peter Lynch, Ballycurrin Castle on Moyne Hill (on the
Mayo-Galway border)
– Nicholas Lynch, Barna
– Patrick M. Lynch, Renmore Lodge
– Richard M. Lynch, Seaview

Anthony Lynch was a lawyer.  He had compiled
statistics on the population of Ireland in the 1820’s and was the MP
for county Galway between 1832 and 1841.

James Lynch was a merchant who operated out of Lynch’s

Petersburg House was named after the Peter Lynch who
had  built “the big house” on Lough Mask in 1715.  Charles
Lynch of Petersburg House was a justice of the peace in 1840.  His
wife Elizabeth was soon to convert to Catholicism.

A Lynch family had held Ballycurrin on the Mayo-Galway
border since the 1670’s
(under a Restoration settlement).  Captain Peter Lynch died there
1840.  He was succeeded by his son Charles, the last of the line,
who later became the
sheriff for county Mayo.

Nicholas Lynch of Barna was appointed deputy lieutenant
of county Galway in October 1840.  He acted as a steward for the
Grand Ball that was held at Kilroy’s hotel on Easter Monday, 1840 for
the nobility and gentry of Galway.

Patrick Lynch of Renmore Lodge came from a Galway family
who had prospered as merchants and bankers in the 18th century.
He married Ellen Wilson and their family later became the Wilson Lynchs.

Richard Lynch of Seaview was among those who subscribed
£20 in 1840 as provisions for the poor.

Drimcong House.  Gerry Galvin and his family run Drimcong House,
situated one mile beyond Moycullen village on the Oughterard
road.  It is reputed to be one of the best restaurants in the west
of Ireland.

The restaurant is located in an old 17th century mansion which once
belonged to the Lynch family, one of the original “tribes” of
Galway.  It has not lost any of its former glory.  Three huge
fireplaces burn turf on chilly nights, contributing to the warm

On the menu are Connemara lamb, confit of duck, Galway venison, and a
selection of vegetarian dishes.

Patrick Lynch – A Colorful Australian Politician.  Patrick Lynch died in 1944.  The following obituary appeared in The North Midland Times that January.

“Vale P.J. Lynch – a colorful personality.

Patrick Joseph Lynch, former President of the Senate,
died in a private hospital at Mount Lawley on Saturday, aged 76.
He had been taken ill suddenly at Albany about two weeks before his

The late Mr. Lynch was one of the most picturesque
personalities in state and federal politics, his height, beard, and
Irish idiom making him an outstanding figure.  Born in 1867 in
county Meath, the son of a farmer, he left for Australia in 1886 to
follow varied occupations on land and sea until politics claimed his
major attention.

Before entering politics, he joined a gold rush in
Queensland where he trekked 900 miles from Charleville to
Croydon.  When his fortunes waned at Croydon he set out for
Cossack, WA but at Darwin learnt that this field was a failure.
He then went to sea as a stoker, graduating from that position to
marine engineer and later becoming an engineer on a South Sea sugar
plantation.  However, gold mining attracted him again and he came
to the Kalgoorlie field in the closing years of the last century.

At Kalgoorlie he was general secretary of the Goldfields
Engine Driver’s Association from 1897 to 1904 when he entered state
politics as the Labor member for Mount Leonara.  Two year later he
was returned to the Federal Parliament where he served continuously
until 1938.  In 1916, severing his connection with the Labor party
over conscription, he joined the Hughes government as Minister for
Works and Railways.

In addition to politics, the late Mr. Lynch was also
interested in farming.  His well-equipped farm at Three Springs
occupied what time he could spare from politics.”



Select Lynch Names

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
Glasgow, boxed as a flyweight 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.
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 Lynch Numbers 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).




Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply