Origin, Meaning and Family History of the Ryan Name
Ryan Surname Name Meaning, Origin, History, & Etymology
This last name derives from the Celtic/Irish name O’Rianin, meaning the grandson or descendant of Rian, an old personal (first) name meaning little king or “kinglet”, deriving from the word ri, meaning king, and the diminutive suffix. It is an Anglicized version of the Gaelic O’Riaghain and the Irish O’Riain. Maolriain was a male personal (first name). It may derives from the word maol, or mal, meaning child (related to the Welsh word mail, meaning hero). Or it may derive from maol, meaning bald or devotee. The second part derives from an ancient Irish word rian, meaning water, hence making the full name mean “worshippers of Rian” or “heroes of Rian”.Ó Maoilriain is the correct form in the homeland of the great sept of Ryan, formerly Mulryan; but it is now usually abbreviated to Ó Riain, which is properly the name of a small Leinster sept. Another author states Ó Maoilriain means “descendant of Maoilriaghain”, or Ó Ruaidhín, meaning “descendant of the little red one). One source asserts the name derives from the ancient Irish word righin, meaning “sluggish” or “dilatory”. Another source mentions that the name may derive from a locale in Normandy, France named Royan. In some cases, it can also be an Americanized spelling of the German surname Rein (I assume the name was changed from Rein to Ryan at Ellis Island?).
The book Genealogy of Irish Families by John Rooney discusses this name and makes the perhaps dubious claim (as it does with several other names) that this family descends from Milesius, a mythical King of Spain, through the line of his son Heremon, his eighth son. According to this source, the progenitor of the family was Fiacha Baiceada, son of Cathrie More, King of Ireland, in 144 AD. The ancient name was Maobreann, meaning “country boy”. The chiefs of the sept were called the Lords of Idrone and Owney, and they owned lands in the modern day counties of Carlow and Tipperary in Ireland. They are to be distinguished from the O’Maelriains or O’Mulryans, now the O’Ryans, or Owny O’Mulryan, in Tipperary. Boeth are of the race of Cathire More, but their pedigrees differe. Dr. O’Donovan descends from Drona (fourth in the descent from King Cathire More) and Ui Maeilrian sprang from Fergus, son of Eogan Goll and great grandson of Enna Kennselach, King of Leinster. The O’Ryans also owned the barony of Owneybeg. The author goes on to state “The territory of the O’Ryans was subjected to the intrusion of the Anglo-Normans almost from the landing of the latter in Ireland; and, according to tradition, it was after a conflict with O’Ryan, Lord of Hy Drone, that Strongbow, in pushing on to the relief of Fitz Stephen, in Wexford, slew his son for having deserted his post during the battle. The conquest of this territory was regarded as the utmost importance by the invaders, as was evidenced by Hugh de Lacy having within a few years built the Castles of Carlow, Leighlin, and Tullow”.
One author named O’Hart, claims the family descends from the Heremon Kings of Ireland through the pedigree of MacMourough, specifically from Cormac, the brother of Eoghan, the ancestor of O’Righin. However, another author, the famous Irish genealogist Edward MayLysaght believes the family descends from O’Maoilriain located in Owney. Both of these men were Chief Heralds whose opinions and research are respected.
Some common spelling variants or names with similar etymologies include O’Ryan, Mulrian, O’Mulrian, and O’Mulryan.
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Ryan ranks 177th in popularity in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks particularly high in the following eleven states: Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Illinois, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Nebraska.
The surname Ryan frequency/commonness ranks as follows in the British Isles: England (144th), Scotland (392nd), Wales (143rd), Ireland (4th) and Northern Ireland (283rd). In England, it ranks highest in Middlesex. In Wales, it ranks highest in county Glamorganshire. In Scotland, the Ryan surname ranks highest in Moray. In Ireland, it ranks highest in counties Tipperary and Limerick. In Northern Ireland, it ranks highest in county Down.
The name is also present throughout the remainder English speaking world: Canada (167th), New Zealand (90th), Australia (18th), and South Africa (767th).
Ryan Family Tree & Ryan Genealogy
Ryan of Inch
The Ryan genealogy begins with the ancient Milesian family of O’Mulryan. A one John Ryan, Esq. of Inch House, son of Daniel Ryan and Frances Raggett, in 1714, married Mary, daughter of Thomas Mathew of Annefiewld, and had a son with her named Daniel. Daniel was an Esquire of Inch House, who in 1737, married Elizabeth, daughter of Justin MacCarthy of Spring House, and he had issue. One of his sons was George Ryan, Esq. of Inch House, who in 1783, married Mary, daughter of Philip John Roche of Limerrick, and fathered six children with her as follows: Daniel (of Inch House), Philip, George, John Denis (married Anna Elizabeth Lenigan and had eight issue with her named George, John Vivian, Valentine, Penelope, Nina, Emma, Marian, and Elizabeth), Margaret (married Stephen Grehan of Rutland Square), and Elizabeth (married Valentine Bennett of Thomastown House). He died in 1805 and was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, George. This George Ryan was an Esquire of Inch House born in 1791. He was a Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant, and High Sheriff in 1851. In 1839, he married Catherine Margaret, daughter of Captain Edward Whyte of Loughbrickland, and had the following issue: George Edward, Edward (married Florence, daughter of Finlay Chester), John, Charles, Mary Frances (married Edmond J. Power-Lalor of Long Orchard), and Caroline Letitia (married John Joseph Whyte of Loughbrickland). He died in 1875 and was as succeeded by his son George Edward. George Edward Ryan was an Esquire of Inch, county Tipperary, Ireland who was a Deputy Lieutenant born in 1844. In 1874, he married Elizabeth, daughter of Serjeant of Stillorgan Castle, and had two issue with her: Mary Elizabeth (1875) and Lilian Mary (1876). The Ryan Coat of Arms (sometimes erroneously called the Ryan Family Crest): Gules, three griffins’ heads erased or. Crest: A griffin sergeant azure, holding in the dexter claw a sword erect proper.
Ryan of Ballymackeogh
This branch of the Ryan family tree begins with William Ryan, Esquire of Ballymackeogh, who was succeeded in that estate by his son Daniel, and the estate was confirmed to him by King Charles II of England in 1667 AD. Daniel married Honor, daughter of Colonel John Ewer, and had had three sons and three daughters with her: William (his heir), Anthony, George, Elizabeth (married Edward Lee of Barna), Anne (married Edmund Griffin), and Mary. He died in 1731 and was succeeded by his eldest son William. This William Ryan was an Esquire of Ballymackeogh, who in 1725, married Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Newstead of Ballyloughane, and had the following issue with her: Ewer, Richard, William (married a member of the Bradshaw family), George (married a member of the Lysaght family), Anthony, Anne (married John Ewer), and Elizabeth (married Solomon Cambie of Castletown). The eldest son and heir was Ewer Ryan, Esquire of Ballymackeogh, who in 1754, married Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Macgrath of Lisduff, and had the following issue with her: William (his heir), George, John, Anthony, Richard (Captain in the Army), Rickard (Major in the 93rd Regiment), Eleanor (married Bever Smith), Bridget, and Elizabeth. He died in 1802. He was succeeded by his son William. In 1814, this William married Anne, daughter of Reverend John Pennefather, and had issue with her: William, John (married Louisa Ricarda Pennefather), George Henry, Robert Percval, Edward, Elizabeth, Clare, Mary Anne, and Laura. He died in 1835. His son William Ryan was an Esquire of Ballymackeogh in county Tipperary, Ireland who was a Justice of the Peace born in December of 1815. In 1842, he married Jane, daughter of John Grogan, and fathered six children with her as follows: William Edward (member of the Royal Navy, born 1851), Charles Arthur (1853), Anne Alicia Susanna, Elizabeth, Antoinette Jane, and Jeanette. The Ryan Coat of Arms (sometimes mistakenly called the Ryan Family Shield) has the following heraldic blazon: Gules, three griffins’ heads erased or. Crest: A griffin sergeant azure, holding in the dexter claw a sword erect proper.
The lineage of this family begins with Sir Gerald Hemington Ryan, 1st Baronet, of Hintlesham, who was a Justice of the Peace and High Sheriff born in 1861, the son of Michael Desmond Ryan. He was knighted in 1911 and made a Baronet in 1919. In 1885, he married Ellen Amelia, daughter of Augustus Thomas Ellis of Parkside, and he had issue with her as follows: Sir Gerald Ellis (2nd Baronet) and Vivian Desmond (married Kathleen Frances). He died in 1937 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir Gerald Ellis Ryan, 2nd Baronet, who was born in 1888. Sir Gerald Ellis, in 1914, married Hylda Winifryde, daughter of Major Spencer John Herapath, and had issue with her, including a son named Derek. Sir Derek Gerald Ryan, 3rd Baronet, of Hintlesham, county Suffolk, England was born in 1922 and was a Lieutenant of the Gren. Guards who served in World War II. He succeeded his father in 1947, and in the same year he married Penelope Anne, daughter of Rex Hawkings. The Ryan Arms are blazoned as follows: Gules, in chief griffins sejant respectant and combatant or, and in a base a garb of rye proper. Crest: Upon a mount vert, a griffin sejant sable, holding in the dexter claw a sword erect proper and resting the sinister on a sickle or. They resided at Chattisham Hall, Ipswich, England.
Early American and New World Settlers
Early settlers in colonial America bearing this surname include Edmond Ryan (New York 1679) and Anthony Ryan (New England 1743). Early colonial documents do not show many Ryans, but the name is very popular in the United States today, which suggest many members of this family came a little later in the nineteenth century, perhaps during the Great Irish Potato Famine.
In Canada, one of the first bearers of this surname was John Ryan, a United Empire Loyalist (someone from America who remained loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution) who came to St. John, New Brunswick around 1784. In Australia, one of the earliest settlers with this name was Patrick Ryan, a convict from Devon, England who came in 1809 aboard the Ann, settling in New South Wales (then a penal colony). In New Zealand, Michael (farmer aged 24) and Mary Ann Ryan (33 years old) came to the city of Wellington aboard the London in 1840.
Early Americans Bearing the Ryan Family Crest
Charles Bolton’s American Armory (1927) and Matthew’s American Armoury and Bluebook (1907) do not contain an entry for this last name.
Crozier’s General Armory (1904) contains one entry for this name: William Ryan of Boston, 1848, who descended from James Ryan of Kilkeyll, Tipperary, Ireland. Gules, on a bend argent, six holly leaves in pairs, erect proper. Crest: A griffin’s head erased or.
The Ryan family motto is Malo mori quam foedari, which means “I would rather die than be disgraced”.
We have seven coats of arms for the Ryan surname depicted here. These two blazons are from Bernard Burke’s book The General Armory of England, Ireland, and Scotland, which was published in 1848. The bottom of this page contains the blazons, and in many instances contains some historical, geographical, and genealogical about where coat of arms was found and who bore it.
There are hundreds of notable people with the Ryan surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include: 1) Lynn Nolan Ryan Jr. (1947) who was a pitcher in the MLB born in Refugio, Texas who played from 1966 to 1992 for four different MLB teams including the California Angels and House Astros, having been an 8 time All-Star and One time World Series Champion, 2) Reverend Abram Joseph Ryan (1838-1866) who was an American poet and prominent Catholic priest in the Confederate State of America, nicknamed the “Poet-Priest of the South”, born in Hagerstown, Maryland, 3) Susan Blanchard Ryan )1967) who is an American actress from Boston, Massachusetts who is known for her roles in Open Water, The Brooklyn Heist, and It’s Complicated, 4) James David “Buddy” Ryan (1931-2016) who was an American football coach in the NFL and AFL whose career spanned from 1961-1995, having coached on teams like the Chicago Bears and New York Jets, 5) Claude Ryan (1925-2004) who was a journalist and political from Canada, who led the Quebec Liberal Part from 1978-1982 and he was also a Member of the National Assembly of Quebec for Argenteuil from 1979-1994, 6) Edward George Ryan (1810-1880) who was an American jurist born in Meath, Ireland, who was appointed Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, serving from 1874-1880, 7) Frank Ryan (1900-1965) who was an opera tenor born in Fermoy, Cork, Ireland, 8) Frederick J. Ryan Jr. (1955) who is the current CEO of The Washington Post and was the President of Politico, a former aide to President Ronald Reagan, 9) George Homer Ryan Sr. (1934) who was the 39th Governor of Illinois from 1999-2003, and 10) Harold Martin Ryan (1911-2007) who was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan’s 14th district and a previous member of the Michigan Senate from 1948-1962.