County Monaghan (Muineacháin, "Place of thickets")


Along with Armagh and Louth, Monaghan was originally part of the Gaelic kingdom of Oriel which dates from around 330 AD. The McMahons were the dominant family in the Monaghan area and, together with the McKennas, remained so until the mid-seventeenth century. Although a part of Ulster, the county was not included in the great Plantation which began in 1610. It was only after the failure of the rebellion against Cromwell later in the century, and the subsequent confiscations, that some settlement by the English and the Scots took place.

Like Armagh and Louth, Monaghan was one of the most densely populated areas of Ireland in 1841. Accordingly, its people suffered greatly in the Famine. The population dropped by almost a third between 1841 and 1851, and went on falling as emigrants flooded out of the county over the following decades. By 1961, there were only 47,000 inhabitants left, less than a quarter of the total 120 years before.

Surnames associated with the county include McKenna, McMahon, McGowan, Smith, McPhillips, Finnegan, Duffy, Hughes, Markey, McArdle and Mulligan.

More on Monaghan surnames.