This article looks at how common Maguire 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 Maguire 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 Maguire 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. Maguire
So, I had to look elsewhere for population estimates. Thankfully, an Irish genealogist researched the prevalence of Irish surnames through national phone directories published in the 1990s. Seán Murphy’s estimates aren’t as robust as a census but give a good broad estimate.
Maguire was ranked 45 in the top one hundred names in this decade with a total of 15,400 entries.
This graphic shows how it ranks compared to the 1st, 33rd, 66th, and 100th entries in the survey:
Maguire 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 9,500 residents named Maguire on the island in 1911.
Ten years earlier, Maguire had about 9,550 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 14,400 people named Maguire in the country.
Emigration To America After The Irish Famine
The Irish have historically emigrated to Britain, the United States, Canada, and Australia. They were motivated by multiple factors, including social unrest, economic desperation, and hunger.
The peak of this migration was driven by what’s known as the Great Irish Famine, a devastating event spanning from 1845 to 1852. Potato blight had a catastrophic effect on Ireland, wiping out the primary food source for a significant portion of the population.
I reviewed the Maguire 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 Maguire As A Last Name In The U.S.?
Based on the 2010 U.S. census, the name Maguire ranks about 1,607 among Irish names in America with 16,713 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.
Maguire In Historic Times
It is fascinating to examine how the prevalence of a surname shifts over the course of time in a country as young as the United States. As well as immigration, this reflects other demographic shifts across the nation. Factors include higher child mortality rates and longer life expectancy.
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: 2,900
- 1880: 6,000
- 1900: 8,400
- 1920: 8,950
- 1940: 10,250
Maguire In World War II
About 8.3 million men and women enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Second World War. Many were of Irish heritage, and some were born in Ireland.
There were registration records for 645 soldiers named Maguire who enlisted between 1938 and 1946.
There were 11 who were born in Ireland.
Maguire Surname: Meaning And Origin
Maguire comes from the Gaelic name “Mac Uidhir”. The term “Mag” means “son of”. “Uidhir” is a personal name and derives from a word that means pale of color.
The Maguires were one of the great families of County Fermanagh in Ulster. They were chiefs in the region from the end of the thirteenth century until the early 17th century.
They lost their lands to the British Crown under King James I.
Famous Or Historic People Named Maguire
Here are some notable people with the family name:
- Hugh Maguire (Unknown – 1600): a chief of the clan who held the title of Lord of Fermanagh. He fought the British to retain his lands but died in battle.
- Connor Maguire (1616 – 1645): James I knighted his father, and Connor was the second Baron of Enniskillen. He joined the Irish Rebellion of 1641 and was executed in England.
- George Magure (1796 – 1882): born in Omagh in Ulster, he emigrated to Missouri and became Mayor of St Louis, the first Democratic member to hold the position.
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).