"Geoghegan" - Variations on a theme
Many Irish surnames have been badly mutilated, firstly by
anglicisation at home, secondly by officialdom abroad and thirdly by
family members themselves. I had thought that Geoghegan had escaped
relatively unscathed, but recently I have begun to change that view.
Therefore, here is what information I have on some known and
suggested variants on the name. The variants that I have come across
so far include ...
Geoghegan, Geoghan, Geoghagan, Geogeghan, Geohegan, Geohagan, Geogan, Gegan, Gagin, Gagon, Geaghan, Geagan, Geygan, Gahagan, Gahaghan,Gehegan, Gohagan, Gohegan, Cohagan, Cohegan, Gavagan, Gavigan, Gaffigan, Gargan, Gavaghan, Gheen and probably a few more I have neglected to list. There are also many instances where the above names are found with a Mac, Mag, Mc, Ma, or M' prefix. The name is never found with the prefix "O". Ó hEochagáin is a distinct surname, similarly derived and found in Galway and Mayo. It was anglicised as O'Houghegan and sometimes as O'Haughian and even Hawkins (which name may also have alternative origins). Houghegan is rarely found in modern times having been largely absorbed by the more common Hogan and in some cases Geoghegan. A number of the variants I have listed, it must be said, are also known to be variants of other surnames as I will explore below.
MacGeoghegan, McGeoghegan, M'Geoghegan and Mageoghegan appear to be the earliest anglicised versions of the name. The original Irish name is pronounced approximately MOCK-UCK-AGG-AWN or MOGG-UH-AGG-AWN in the native tongue, so it is reasonable to assume that the early anglicised versions were pronounced so as to sound somewhat similar to this - say MACK-GEH-HEGG-ANN (in some places the modern pronunciation of the name is close to this). Geoghegan came about as part of the general trend of dropping Irish name prefixes during the 18th century. I think it is fair to say that this is perhaps the most legitimate variant, with or without the Mac. This is the spelling that was used by all of the prominent family members that occupied the ancestral territory in Westmeath. Geoghan, Geoghagan, Geogan and Geohegan (with or without the Mac) all appear to have arisen as a result of simple misspelling, or in some cases, perhaps, a desire to shorten the name. From my own experience, Geoghan is certainly the most common misspelling that people make these days. Gahegan, Gahagan, Gahigan, Gehegan, Gaghegen, Gohagan, etc. appear to arise from attempts to spell the name in such a away that people reading it would have some chance of pronouncing it correctly. These variants probably arose outside Ireland. One proud set of parents named Gehagan had a son, who through a mispelling at the hospital was recorded as Leonard L. Gahaghan (note the extra "h"). His parents never changed it and Leonard liked it so much that he maintained the "error" all his life and passed it on to his children. Thus was yet another variant spelling born. (Information supplied by Dennis Gahaghan).
The variant Cohagan arose in the U.S.A. I am grateful to Becky Dixon Rhodes for the following trace from Ambrose Geoghegan which shows where the form arose
Ambrose Geoghagan b. abt 1725
Michael Geoghagan b. 1747
Thomas Cohagen b. about 1766
William H. Cohagan b. about 1787
Aquilla Cohagan b Feb 24 1824
Uri Lester Cohagan b Jan 7 1875
Thelma Cohagan who was Becky's mother
Gagan, Gegan, Gagon, Geygan, Geaghan, Geagan, etc. also represent phonetic approximations, but in this case, of the alternative (and nowadays more common) pronunciation ... GAY-GAN.
Gaffikin, Gaffiken, Gaffigan, Gaffican, Gavagan, Gavigan, Gavaghan, Gavican, Gaughan, etc. are all now the subject of a separate page.
Keogan is a Cavan name which in Irish is Ó Ceogáin. However, an old reference states that this is a corrupted form of Mac Eochagáin, which is of course Geoghegan. Therefore some Keogans may indeed be Geoghegans, however the name is also a variant of Keoghan (see below).
Now for some names that have been suggested
as Geoghegan variants but which in all probability are not.
Gargan in Ireland is always a variant of (Mac) Garrigan (In Irish Mac Geargáin). However, I do know that an ancestor of Jack Gargan (the Geoghegan clan chief) deliberately changed from Geoghegan to Gargan for ease of spelling and pronunciation in the USA. Unless such clear evidence is available, it is unlikely that bearers of the Gargan surname are really Geoghegans.
Gahan is rarely a Geoghegan variant. This name is used as the anglicized form of three distinct Irish surnames, which are quite different in the original Gaelic.
1. Ó Gaibhtheacháin, (see Gavigan)
2. The sept called Ó Gaoithin anglicized Geehan, Guihen and sometimes Gahan, also belongs to north Connacht. This was originally located in Co. Roscommon. A sept of the same name, now called Gahan, is associated with the country of the Wicklow-Wexford border: Ballygahan, near Arklow, perpetuates this association.
3. Ó Gaoithin must be distinguished from Mac Gaoithin which is anglicized as MacGeehan, Mageean etc., and is found principally in Co. Donegal. In that area MacGahan is synonymous with MacGeehan; but MacGahan is usually found in Co. Louth and the adjacent Ulster counties where the Irish form is said to be Mac Eacháin.
Goggin(s), Goggan(s) and Gogan are names that have been suggested as being derived from Geoghegan. However, these are usually variants of the name Cogan. The outstanding figure in the history of the Cogan family is the first of them to come to Ireland, Milo de Cogan (d. c. 1183), who was Strongbow's right-hand man in the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1171. He was granted a huge area in Co. Cork by Henry II. Milo left no surviving son and the great territorial family thus founded was practically extinct as such by the end of the seventeenth century. Minor branches of it, however, survive up to the present day, usually under the name of Goggin and sometimes Gogan. In the sixteenth century the name was in the transition stage: the earlier Fiants gave as a rule Cogan, Cogane and Coggain, the later ones Gogan and Goggan. Among the Co. Cork place-names in the same source we find Goganrath and Gogganshill, the latter being also given as Knockgogan and a few years earlier as Knockcowgan.
Keoghan, Keohan and Kohan all come from the Irish Mac Eocháin. Because of the similarity to Mac Eochagáin, there has been inevitable confusion, however this is a name peculiar to west Cork and is not connected with Geoghegan.
Egan (and it's variants Keegan and Hegan) which is Mac Aodhagáin in Irish, is an unrelated name despite its similar appearance.
I must also mention the Geoghegans who are not Geoghegans at all but rather McGuigans. Fr. Woulfe, an eminent family name historian believed MacGuigan to be a variant of MacGeoghegan wherein he was probably misled by the fact that Geoghegan was reported from the Newry area to have been used, incorrectly, in registering births for one or more families known as MacGuigan: this, however, was almost certainly one of the many instances of absorption. This "mis-information" has been perpetuated in modern times by Ida Grehan in her book "Dictionary of Irish Surnames" in which she mentions Geoghegan only in the context of McGuiggan and completely ignores the main sept of Westmeath. There are no less than 15 modern synonyms of MacGuigan, viz. Guigan, Maguigan, MacGoogan, MacGookin, MacGuckian, MacGuiggan, MacQuiggan, MacWiggan, MacWiggin, Meguiggan, Gavigan, Geoghegan, Wigan and also Fidgeon and Pidgeon. The pronunciation of the name in its homeland, Co. Tyrone (especially around Omagh), is MacGwiggen, which suggests Mag Uigin as the Irish form. MacQuiggin, another Ulster name, in Gaelic Mac Guaigín, also anglicised as MacGuiggan. It is interesting that the name MacGuigan (also as MacGoughan, MacGuckan and MacGugan) is found in Scotland, particularly in Argyllshire and Kintyre. There it is from Mac Guagáin, which may be Irish in origin and a corrupt form of Mac Eochagáin (Geoghegan).
Finally, none of the above should be taken as absolute, especially in the case of emigrant families. All sorts of strange and wonderful things happened to surnames when they left their homeland for faraway shores. Many emigrants from Ireland could not read or write and were reliant on others to register their names on official forms. Geoghegan was never the most common of names and so it has been moulded into the most improbable forms over the centuries.
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