Regan/Reagan Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Regan/Reagan Meaning
O’Regan and Regan are the anglicized forms of the Gaelic O’Riagain, descendant of Riagan, a personal name of uncertain origin. O’Regan became Regan and often Reagan in America.
Select Regan/Reagan Resources on The Internet

Regan/Reagan Ancestry

There were three main O’Regan septs in Ireland, with three different

  • The first sept belonged at one time to counties Meath and Dublin
    and were one of the
    four tribes of Tara.
    After the Norman
    invasion they were dispossessed and driven westward to county Laois.
  • the second descended from Riagon, nephew of Brian Boru, and ruled
    in the ancient territory of Tuathmhumhan, present-day Clare, Limerick
    and Tipperary
  • and the third sept resided in Carbery in west Cork and were
    kinsmen of the MacCarthys.

Teige MacShane O’Regan was the last chief of the west Cork
O’Regans. He was an officer in the Jacobite army in 1690.
After the Battle of the Boyne he left for the Continent with the rest
of the defeated army. But the west Cork lands at Ballinaclogh remained
in the O’Regan family until the early 20th century.

Most Regans
and O’Regans in Ireland are still to be found in county Cork
today. There have
a number in the Doneraile area of NE Cork. Many
Regans from Cork
emigrated in
the 19th century, such as those who departed for Canada in 1823.

Under English rule Regan had displaced O’Regan as the surname
used. But O’Regan has made a comeback in the past fifty years.

England. Some
emigrated to England. Thomas O’Regan, for instance, attended
College in Dublin and took up a church position as vicar in Shropshire
in the 1840’s. His brother John was Archdeacon in Kildare.

Regan was recorded as marrying Catherine Baldwin in Liverpool in 1849
and raising a family there. Lancashire was where most Regans from
Ireland came to in England in the 19th century.

America. Regans and
Reagans started to appear in Pennsylvania records from the
1730’s. James and Michael Reagan were recorded as serving in the
Revolutionary War. After the war they were traced to Tennessee
and Georgia.

There were in fact many Reagans in Sevier county, Tennessee
by the early 1800’s.

John Henninger Reagan, born there in 1818,
migrated south to
Texas as a young man. He rose in politics there and served the
Confederacy during the Civil War. After the Confederate defeat,
he suffered imprisonment but was able to return to public office as a
Congressman. He later became chairman of the Railroad Commission
of Texas. Reagan county in Texas was named after him.

Michael O’Regan,
a tenant farmer from Tipperary, had come with his wife
Catherine to America in 1857 and settled as Reagans in
Carroll county, Illinois. Three generations later came Ronald
Reagan. He was an actor, then a politician, and finally President
the United States.

James and Ann Regan arrived in Nova Scotia from county Cork in the
1830’s. Later Regans settled in
Windsor. Walter Regan was the ice hockey
coach of the Windsor Swastikas in the early 1900’s.
His son Gerald was Premier of Nova Scotia in
the 1970’s.

Australia. Thomas O’Regan came out to
Tasmania as a
young man from Limerick in 1838. He was
to spend five years of his life in Tasmania and the remaining forty
five years
in Victoria, mainly in Melbourne. He
died a rich man, living off the rent of the Australia Hotel on Bourke
Street. Where he got his money is a
mystery. Some said he owned a silver mine
in Tasmania, others that he struck lucky during the Victorian gold rush.


Regan/Reagan Miscellany

O’Riagain and the Four Tribes of Tara.  The Four
Tribes of Tara were four princely families of the Southern Ui Neill who settled
in the area of Tara in what is now county Meath.  They represented
lineal descendants of the Slaine kings of South Brega.  The chief
representatives of the original Four Tribes in later times were the
families of
O’Hart (O hAirt) and O’Regan (O’Riagain).

The O’Riagains were, prior to the Anglo-Norman invasion, kings of South
Brega and had taken a leading part in the wars against the
Vikings.  They fought
on the side of Brian Boru at the Battle of Clondorf in 1014.  In 1029 the Annals recorded the victory of
Mathghamhain O’Riagain, king of Brega, over Sitric, the Viking king of

The O’Riagains were dispossessed of their
lands soon after the Anglo-Norman invasion and dispersed into what is
now county Laois.

Regan and Reagan.  The table
below shows the approximate numbers of Regans and Reagans today.

Numbers (000’s)  Regan  Reagan
Ireland    6    –
America    9    6
Elsewhere   12    1

Regans in the Doneraile Area of NE Cork.  There
were a number of Regan families in the Doneraile area of NE Cork.

The Regan Stonemasons

A Regan
family of stonemasons originated there.
Most of them can trace their family roots back to a small stone
in Carkerbeg townland in Doneraile parish built by a stonemason Regan
family in
the 1700’s. Stonemason Regans were also
in two adjacent townlands, Park North and Park South. These Regans were
Catholics and attended the chapel at Shanballymore, about two and a
half miles
from their homes.

Regans were still to
be found as tenants in Carkerbeg in the 1930’s.

Michael Regan’s Travails

born around 1815, was a tenant farmer at Rossagh in Doneraile. He married Catherine
Quinn in 1840 and they had three children.

worked three parcels of land rented from
the local
landlord, Lord Doneraile.  However, Michael
got into difficulty
with his rent payments and he was evicted in 1881, thrown out on the
road with
his family.  The neighbors were said to
have built a temporary mud hut for him on the side of the road.  The family later moved onto Dromdeer, but were
evicted again.

they were taken
in by the Dunne family of Ballyhea in county Cork.
Son David Regan had earlier married Mary
Dunne of this family.

Private Patrick O’Regan in World War One.  Private Patrick
O’Regan from Commons in Cork was a member of the Royal Munster
Fusiliers (also
known as ‘the dirty shirts’) for the duration of the First World
His job
in the army was to dig the trenches in France.

Sadly Patrick O’Regan did not
come home to a hero’s welcome.  Rather,
he was rejected and shown the door by his wife and family and wandered
streets of Cork “down and out.”  He would
meet his young grandson on the street and always stopped for a chat
which he promised young Patrick his war medals.
He was true to his word.

Timothy Ragan and the Reagans of Sevier County, Tennessee.  The first
Timothy Ragan arrived in Maryland from Ireland around 1700.  A later Timothy Ragan fought in the
Revolutionary War and migrated to Sevier county, Tennessee in 1795.  Their story is covered in Donald B. Reagan’s
1993 The Book of Ragan/Reagan.

John Henninger Reagan wrote of his great
grandfather, Timothy Reagan, as being a soldier in the American
Revolution and
being severely wounded at the Battle of Brandywine.
He received an honorable scar, a ball and
three buckshots in his body from the battle which he carried for the
rest of
his life.

John Henninger Reagan also
recalled two of the sons of Timothy Reagan as moving to what was then
the fever and ague country, north of the Ohio river.
One of these sons may have been Reason Ragan
(he and his family were massacred by Indians in Wood River, Illinois)
and the
other perhaps Robert Nelson Ragan (also killed by Indians).

However, most Ragan/Reagans ended up in
Tennessee.  Within twenty or thirty
years, there was a huge Reagan clan in Sevier county, Tennessee.  Perhaps the best known was the aforementioned
John Henninger Reagan, born there in 1818, who made his name in Texas.

General James Hayes
Reagan of Sweetwater Valley, Tennessee, born in 1800, was said to be
cousin.  He was taken hostage during the
Civil War and died a prisoner in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Daniel Regan – from Cork to Canada.  Regans
from Mallow in county Cork came to Canada in 1823 with
Peter Robinson’s settlers on the Stakesby. This
emigration came about as a result of a grant by the British Government
voted the previous year to finance the resettlement of poor Irish
families in Canada.

The Regan family settled in Ramsay township, Lanark
county in OntarioTheir
numbers included Daniel Regan aged 48, a widower at the time, and his
sons (John, James, and Daniel) and two daughters (Mary and Katherine).  Daniel married again, Julia Greer, and
had two more children.

John, his eldest
son, is believed to have crossed the border later to settle in Canton,

James may have married Sarah Skeffington as
their first child, James, was recorded as being born in Lanark county
in 1845.  However, this James may have come
from a
different Regan family in Dalhousie township in Lanark county.

From Michael O’Regan to Ronald Reagan.  Michael
O’Regan, the son of Thomas and Margaret O’Regan, was baptized in the Catholic parish of
Ballyporeen in county Tipperary in 1829.
Michael’s father had died by 1850 and Michael moved to England. He was recorded as a soap maker in
Camberwell, South London in the 1851 English census.
A year later Michael Regan married Catherine
Mulcahy and they were to have two children, Thomas and John, in England.  Reagan family tradition holds that Catherine
Mulcahy also hailed from Tipperary.

1857 the Regan family crossed the Atlantic to America.
They settled in Carroll county,
Illinois.  It is thought that Michael’s
brothers John and Nicholas followed them there.

Second son John Regan became John Reagan sometime in the 1870’s.  He and his wife both died of TB when their
children were young and the children then lived with an elderly aunt
provided him with a strict Catholic upbringing.
Jack, the youngest of the four, became a travelling shoe
salesman.  He married Nelle Wilson in 1904.  Ronald Reagan, born in 1911, was their second



Regan/Reagan Names

  • Maurice O’Regan, a secretary to the king of Leinster, wrote an account of the arrival of the Normans under Strongbow in the 12th century.
  • John Henninger Reagan was a leading politician in Texas during and after the Civil War.
  • Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood actor, Governor of California, and the 40th President of the United States.
  • Don Regan was Secretary of the Treasury and Chief of Staff during the Reagan administration.

Select Regan/Reagan Numbers Today

  • 8,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 15,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 11,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)


Select Reagan and Like Surnames

The surnames found here cover most of the US Presidential surnames since the first President, George Washington.  Click on the surname below if you wish to know more of that particular President and his name.

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