This article looks at how common Lynch is as a last name in Ireland and the United States from the 19th century to the present day.
You’ll learn the meaning and origins of the Lynch surname while exploring some notable and famous people that held it.
I use census records, emigration lists, and military archives to uncover fascinating patterns. If you’re studying your genealogy, check out my sources at the end of the post so you can do your own research.
How Common Is Lynch As A Surname In Ireland?
Ireland does not disclose current statistics on surnames in much detail. The most that we get is the top ten last names in birth registrations for the previous year. Lynch
However, an Irish genealogist studied the top one hundred surname numbers in Ireland between 1992 and 1997. Seán Murphy based his research on telephone books. This isn’t as accurate as a census but gives a good approximation.
Lynch was ranked 18 in the top one hundred names in this decade with a total of 22,700 entries.
This graphic shows how it ranks compared to the 1st, 33rd, 66th, and 100th entries in the survey:
Lynch In The Early 1900s
The only complete Irish censuses that are available to the general public are those from the years 1901 and 1911. They offer two detailed snapshots of the population.
So, let’s concentrate on the early decades of the twentieth century.
I used online archives to calculate the total numbers by surname. I consider these estimates due to some percentage of transcription errors. So, I’ve rounded the numbers to the nearest fifty.
There were 17,650 residents named Lynch on the island in 1911.
Ten years earlier, Lynch had about 18,100 residents in the 1901 census.
Population Estimates In The 1890s
A study of Irish surnames was conducted in 1890 by the head of the Civil Registrations Office. It was published as a “Special Report on Surnames In Ireland.”
The survey estimated that there were about 19,800 people named Lynch in the country.
Emigration To America After The Irish Famine
The Irish diaspora is large and widespread with a significant number of people emigrating to other parts of the globe. The destinations traditionally have been England, the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Emigrants were driven by various factors like political unrest, poverty, and food scarcity.
The Great Irish Famine, which happened from 1845 to 1852, caused the largest wave of emigration. The potato blight was a disaster for Ireland because it destroyed the main food source for a large proportion of the people.
I reviewed the Lynch name in the shipping passenger lists arriving in New York during this period. The departures were from both Ireland and England.
This picture shows how the numbers rose and fell in the years after the famine:
How Common Is Lynch As A Last Name In The U.S.?
Based on the 2010 U.S. census, the name Lynch ranks about 259 among Irish names in America with 117,708 bearers.
Although the 2010 census has exact numbers and rankings, the rank I assign here is my estimate. If you’re curious about how I got there, here’s a brief explanation…
Estimating Rank In The United States
Historically, some Irish families with Gaelic surnames took English-sounding names as translations under the influence of colonization.
As these names also have English origins, they will have been brought to the United States by both British and Irish immigrants. Because the census doesn’t ask about specific European origin (e.g. England vs Ireland), it’s impossible to identify the proportion with Irish heritage.
I reviewed the census to identify which names are predominantly Irish in origin. In order to estimate the relative rankings of “Irish” names, I’ve mostly excluded surnames that have varying origins.
Lynch In Historic Times
In a country as young as the United States, tracking the popularity of a surname over time can be fascinating. This reflects other demographic shifts across the country in addition to immigration. Higher child mortality rates and longer life expectancy are just two factors.
The historic census records have been transcribed and digitized. I used online archives to run counts of surname populations.
But the totals can’t be exactly accurate due to transcription errors. So, I’ve rounded the numbers to the nearest 50 in the graph below.
This picture shows the numbers every twenty years from 1860 to 1940:
These are the numbers in the graph:
- 1860: 19,550
- 1880: 36,600
- 1900: 50,250
- 1920: 60,300
- 1940: 70,900
Lynch In World War II
Approximately 8.3 million men and women joined the United States Army during World War II. Many had Irish ancestry. Some had been born in Ireland before leaving the country.
There were registration records for 4,324 soldiers named Lynch who enlisted between 1938 and 1946.
There were 62 who were born in Ireland.
Lynch Surname: Meaning And Origin
Lynch comes from the Gaelic surname Ó Loingsigh, which means “descendant of Loingseach”.
The personal name Loingseach derives from the Irish word for boats. The early bearers of the name were likey seafarers.
Several different families adopted the name across Ireland. The Lynches of Thomond were influential in the province of Munster.
The Lynches of Breifne were a strong clan in Cavan in the province of Ulster. There were also branches in Galway, Meath, and West Cork.
Famous Or Historic People Named Lynch
Here are some notable people with the family name:
- Geoffrey Lynch (15th Century): member of a family that were part of the Tribes of Galway, a set of prominent merchant families that dominated trade from the 13th to the 19th century. Geoffrey was the Mayor of Galway in the 1480s.
- Jack Lynch (1917 – 1999): an Irish sports star in his younger days, the became a prominent Irish politician. He served as Taoiseach (Prime Minister) from 1966 to 1973 and from 1977 to 1979.
- Che Guevara / Ernesto Guevara Lynch (1928 – 1967): the Argentinan revolutionary Che Guevara was a descendant of the Galway-born Patrick Lynch who emigrated from Ireland in the 18th century to what is now known as Argentina.
The Ireland 1990s estimates are from Seán J. Murphy’s research paper.
The population estimates of 1890 are based on the “Special Report on Surnames in Ireland“, published in 1909.
The population figures for the 2010 U.S. Census come from a file provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Some of the population numbers are based on my own research and calculations using online archives. I’ve rounded those numbers to the nearest 50 to account for transcription errors and other technical issues with online databases of this type.
The Irish census estimates for 1901 and 1911 are my calculations based on the Irish National Archives.
I plotted the emigration figures from 1845 to 1854 based on calculations from the archives of the New York Passenger Lists (1820-1957).