05 September 2015

Irish Surnames: Picking out a tartan

Last Sunday I had a great time at the PA Renaissance Faire dancing with the band Tartanic (pictured below for no other reason than the drummers are hot!). After their set, I had a chance to chat with them – one in particular - about tartans. I still had a few questions about them, like which one can I wear if I have several Irish lines.  

The Scottish Register of Tartans states a restriction of one of my ancestral tartans is that it may only be worn by those with that surname. Does this mean that since my maiden name is (clearly not Irish) Ruczhak, that I can not wear my ancestral tartans? 

My grandfather’s mother was a KILPATRICK, born in Ireland. My grandmother was full Irish. Her grandparents – our immigrants – were WALSH, O’FLAHERTY, KEATING, and DURKIN. My DNA results from Ancestry.com show that I am 35% Eastern Europe, 29% Great Britain and 17% Ireland. I also have 14% Scandinavia, 3% Western Europe, 1% Italy/Greece and a trace of European Jewish. The Great Britain DNA is primarily located in Great Britain, Scotland and Wales. The Ireland DNA is primarily found in Ireland, Wales and Scotland. 

The Kilpatrick tartan is a blue and green plaid. Ironically this is my Protestant line (most Kilpatricks in Ireland are actually Protestant) and the plaid reminds me of my early Catholic School days! According to the website ClanKilpatrick.com, the Kilpatrick surname could be religious or geographic in nature. Kil may have evolved from Gil or Gilla which is Gaelic for servant. Incidentally, my Kilpatrick girls came over as domestics and worked off their passage. However the origin is much nobler. Kilpatrick evolved from MacGillapatricks over the centuries. The original MacGillaptricks were servants of St. Patrick, yes THE St. Patrick! The name also could have derived from a person living near a church dedicated to St. Patrick. 

The Walsh tartan is a Kelly Green with black and yellow running through it. The clan name of Walsh dates back to the 12th century when the Normans of Welsh and English origin showed up in Ireland. It is the fourth most common name in Ireland although it is most common in Counties Dublin, Kerry, Kildare, Mayo and Meath. My grandmother told me her grandfather Michael Walsh, a Catholic, came from Dublin. 

The O’Flaherty Clan is associated with Connemara and the County Galway. The name evolved from Ó Flaithbertaigh, specifically Ua Flaithbertaigh the King of Connacht. It means “bright prince.” Numerous sites offered images of the Family Crest but I was not able to confirm a specific tartan. One was green while another I found was predominantly red. 

I also am descended from the Keating, Durkin, and Murphy lines. Again, how do I – a 3rd/4th generation American – determine which tartan is most appropriate (if any) for me to wear? 


Surname Saturday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers. 
© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.