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SMITH Family History

Mac Gabhann - anglicised as Smith, Smyth, Smythe; according to Woulfe in 'Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall' 1923, the name is a variant of the very numerous Irish surname Mac an Gabhann, which means 'son of the smith'. The root word is 'gobha' (pron. gowa) which means 'smith'. MacGowan and Magowan are common enough in the north, but in the south the name is generally found in its English form.

MacLysaght deals with Smith in some length in 'Irish Families' 1980, where he says MacGowan is generally found in its Smith form, especially in Co Cavan, where the sept originated. It was one of the principal septs of Breffny.

Ó Gobhan - anglicised as Smith and Smythe, originally of east Ulster, although Woulfe says that they too were originally of Co Cavan, and mentions Meath and Westmeath also in connection with this name. Ballygowan in County Down would refer to an early settlement of this sept.

The Mac Gabhann sept were influential in their day, being hereditary historians to the O' Kennedys of Ormond.

The Ó Gobhan sept were once numerous and widespread across the north and east of Ireland.

In the '1659 Census' undertaken by Sir William Petty for the Cromwellian authorities, Smith etc occurs as a Principal Irish Name in the following counties: in Monaghan both McGowan and O' Gowan with 10 and 15 families respectively; in Fermanagh, Enniskeane Barony, O' Gowan is listed with 7 families; in Down, Kinarlertye and Duffrayne Barony, Smith appears as Principal Irish Name with 14 families; likewise in Castlereagh Barony nearby, Smith appears as a P.I.N. with 11 families; in Farrard Barony, Co Louth, Smyth occurs with 8 families; and with 11 families, Smyth again, occurs in Atherdee in the same county.

From the above one can see how the forms Smith, Smyth et al fit in with the original homelands of the MacGowans and O' Gowans. Crucially Co Cavan does not feature in Petty's incomplete 'Census'.

By the mid 19th century survey of property in Griffith's 'Primary Valuation' of 1848-1860, Smith appears with 5982 entries and Smyth with 1586 entries. The highest counties for the former were: Cavan (1074) Down (635) Meath (578); and the latter: Cavan (240) Derry (107) and Antrim (103).

All this fits in nicely with the history of the Mac Gowans and O' Gowans. If you are a Smith or Smyth(e) from any of the above counties you could work out to which sept you belonged. Clearly some Smiths in Northern Ireland could be of immigrant Scottish or English origin, it being the most numerous surname in both countries in recent surveys.

Two famous Irish Smiths:
Charles Smith (1715-1756) born in Waterford was Ireland's early topographer and county historian. His excellent county histories are a great source of information on 18th century Ireland.
Jeremiah Smith born in Ireland in 1705, founded the first paper factory in the U.S. in Massachusetts.

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#6 Brian Smith

According to the Book "History of Alabama and Her People" by Albert Burton Moore, my 4th Great Grandfather, James M. Smith had origins in Ireland. Unfortunately, the book never clearly states where from. He was born c. 1778, but isn't clear on the place. His first born, Daniel Ulysses Smith was born in Georgia,USA while all other children were born in Alabama, USA. Is anyone familiar with this family?

#5 Anthony Barrett

(Part 1 of 3) The Smith name has a long history in the British Isles, but now DNA and some recorded history says one of its origins is from the north-west region of the Emerald Island. The Smith’s of Cavan story [dominated by DNA tribal marker R1b-L513, Subgroup D2] can trace their beginnings to the Finn Valley in Donegal, Ireland from 50 BCE. Perhaps the journey begins with the Clanna Dedad; Deda, son of Sen or Deda Mac Sin. This Smith surname origin is from the Cenél Conaill [R1b-L513, Subgroup D] who found the Dál Fiatach.

#4 Anthony Barrett

(Part 2 of 3) A group will also found the Kingdom of Ercing in Wales as trade with Romans will become essential around 300 CE. But how could this be? Recent discoveries from DNA testing are unlocking the migration patterns of Celtic tribes as late as 800 CE to 1200 CE. The Smith story begins in pre-history Ireland but this line and many of his kin will move to Wales, then travel to Brittany, France during the Dark Ages.

#3 Anthony Barrett

(Part 3 of 3) Discover their newly found untold story and how forgotten texts bring their story back to life. From the ebook, “The Tribe Within” learn how DNA unfolds this amazing tale and if you look in the right places, how history narrates this evidence. There is another written account of their story, but it is camouflaged in smoke and myth – it will become the tales of King Arthur. Come follow in the footsteps of Deda Mac Sin and visit

#2 hummingbird102jan

My Smith came from the Londonderry area. Dr. Samuel Smith, William Smith and two sisters came to America in 1754. They sailed from Londonderry to Pennsylvania. Dr. John Smith and a Lawyer, Robert Smith stayed in Londonderry. I am looking for there family left in Ireland. Thanks

#1 Oakln6

how does this work, i recently got passed down my coat of arms, and wanted to do a little research, I am a Smith living in America, i am Irish, any help would be appreciated..

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