Walsh Surname Genealogy

Walsh is a semi-translation of the early Gaelic Breatnach, meaning Welsh or Briton, which became Brenach, Waleys, Walensis, and finally anglicized as Walsh.

Walsh Resources on

England. While the Walsh name is generally considered to
be Irish, there were some English antecedents. The family name le
(meaning from Wales and an early form of Walsh) was to be found in west
and other records by the 13th century. Henry le Waleys was Lord
Mayor of
London in 1273. The Walshes of Cathanger in Somerset
and the Walshes of Little
Sodbury in Gloucestershire were prominent local gentry in their areas
in the
16th century.

Later Walshes in England may have been of Irish or English origin. John Walsh, the London-based music publisher
of the 1690’s, was Irish. The origin of
Enoch Walsh who went out to India around 1688 is uncertain. His career there with the East India Company
was inglorious:

“Enoch Walsh was removed from the company’s service in 1700
debt and inattention to the company’s affairs.
He fought a duel with Ralph Hartley in 1702.
He subsequently died aboard the Tavistock.”

But his grandson John Walsh
was secretary to Lord Clive and returned to England a rich man. He acquired the Warfield Park estate in

Ireland. The name Walsh was used to describe the
Welsh who had arrived in Ireland in the wake of Strongbow’s
invasion of 1170. The name appeared in early records as Breatnach, as
and then as Waleys. The Annals
of the Four Masters
recorded in
1208: “David Breatnach, Bishop of Waterford, was slain by O’Faelan of

These Walshes for many years were regarded as English by the Irish and
Irish by the English.

Walshes in Mayo
were particularly numerous. It was the most common surname in the
county in 1890. In 1588 Lawrence Walsh had
compiled a pedigree of
the Mayo Walshes, showing them to have been descended from Haylen
Brenach or
Walensis, the son of Philip the Welshman, who had arrived in Ireland in

Kilkenny there were the Walshes of the Mountains and the Walshes of

  • the
    forebear of the Walshes of the Mountains was likewise said to have been
    descended from Walensis in 1170. Their stronghold was
    Castlehale and the Walsh mountains in Kilkenny was named after them.
  • the Walshes
    of Balynacooly were a subsidiary branch which began in the late 1500’s.

these Walshes lost out heavily during the Cromwellian
James Walsh of Balynacooly commanded the ship which brought James II to
after the defeat at the Battle of the Boyne.

Another early Walsh pedigree, this
time in Rathronan in Tipperary, began with William Walensis in the 13th
century. And the Walshes were also established in the 14th
century at
in county Waterford.

Generally the Walsh name arose independently
in many different places, one reason for its profusion as a surname
today. Outside of Dublin, the name is particularly prevalent in
Kilkenny, Waterford, and Wexford.

. Some Irish Walshes emigrated
to France during
the penal times in Ireland. Antoine
Walsh, the son of a Waterford shipbuilder, went to St Malo. He was in charge of the Doutelle,
the ship that landed Bonnie Prince Charlie in Scotland in
1745. His eldest son, Count Walsh de
Serrant, founded a family that still prevails in France.

Robert Walsh from Cork
fought on the American side in their War of Independence and later
settled in
Paris, opening the first of the American literary salons there.

America. Master Andrew Walsh came to
North Carolina
from Ireland around the year 1800. He
was a teacher and one of the few people at the time there who could
read and
write. He moved his family around Wilkes
county, among the many townships, living in homes of people who had
hired him
to educate their children. He has left
many descendants in North Carolina.

In the 19th century, many Walshes headed for the big cities such as New
York and Boston.

The Walshes were one of the Irish
gangs of New York in the 1850’s. Michael Walsh from Cork, who had
come to New York with his parents, worked as a newspaper reporter and
campaigned against the squalor and poverty that he saw on the
streets. Meanwhile Blanche Walsh, the daughter of an Irish saloon
keeper, was one of the most popular New York actresses of the late 19th

Three Boston sons of immigrant parents made good:

  • David
    was once Governor and four times US Senator for
  • Father
    Edmund Walsh
    was a Jesuit priest who made his mark in
    international relations
  • while, more recently, Marty
    Walsh became the
    Boston mayor
    in 2014.

Canada. There
was a Walsh family from Wexford who came to
Newfoundland in 1786 and settled with other Irish arrivals at Cape
. John and Ellen Walsh
were recorded
there in
the 1800 census. Walshes are still to be
found in the area.

In 1873 James
Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants, joined the Canadian Royal Mounted
Police. He was deemed to have failed in
his dealings
with Sitting Bull and the Sioux Indians on behalf of the Canadian
government. However, he later turned up
at the Yukon at the time of the gold rush there. Fort
Walsh and Mount Walsh in Yukon were
named after him.

Walsh Miscellany

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

Select Walsh Names

FitzAnthony Walsh
from Kilkenny was Governor of Leinster in the
13th century.
Rev. Thomas Walsh was the much
persecuted 17th century Archbishop of Cashel.
was the first Irish Catholic Governor of Massachusetts in
Bill Walsh was the highly
successful football coach of the San Francisco 49ers.  Courtney
was one of the great fast bowlers in the West Indies
cricket team of the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Select Walshes Today

  • 73,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 43,000 in America (most numerous in Massachusetts)
  • 103,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

Walsh is the #4 ranked surname in Ireland.


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