Select Duffy Surname Genealogy

In Gaelic the Duffy surname is O'Dubhthaigh, from dubh and dubhthach meaning "black" or "dark" (dubh was also the root for the Scottish/Irish surname Duff).  Dubhthach was the name borne by a sixth century saint who was the archbishop of Armagh.

The Duffy surname is widespread in Ireland, featuring most prominently in county Monaghan.  It is also numerous in north Connacht and is to be found in Munster to some extent (although there it has often taken the form of Duhig while in parts of Donegal it has become Doohey or Dowey).

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Select Duffy Ancestry

Ireland.  There have been several distinct septs of Duffy.  One was centered around the parish of Templecrone in Donegal.  They were powerful churchmen there for close to eight hundred years.  The Roscommon Duffys - from their base at Lissonuffyn near Stokestown - also had a long association with the church, producing a succession of distinguished abbots and bishops.  Their names were recorded in the Annals and in the Rental of Cong Abbey compiled by Tadhg O'Duffy in 1501.

But the largest number of Duffys were and are to be found in county Monaghan.  Historically they were rulers of an area around Clontibret.  Patrick O'Duffy was cited as the chieftain there in 1296.  These Duffys also contributed a great deal to the church.  A large number of parish clergy were recorded in their name, particularly at the time of the penal laws in the 18th century. 

Later Duffys from Monaghan have been James Duffy, the founder of a well-known Dublin publishing company, the remarkable Gavan Duffy family:
  • the father Sir Charles (1816-1903), founder of the Young Ireland party and The Nation newspaper and subsequently Prime Minister of Victoria in Australia.  He married three times and had eleven children, four in his 70's;
  • and among his sons John (1844-1917), also a member of the Victorian government; Frank (1852-1936), who became Australian Chief Justice; Charles (1855-1932), also in Australian politics; George (1882-1951), one of the signatories of the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1922 and later President of the High Court of Justice in Ireland; Bryan (1886-1956), a Jesuit educationalist in South Africa; and Thomas (1888-1942), a Catholic missionary in India;
and also from Monaghan Eoin O'Duffy, chief of the Irish police after independence and the subsequent founder of the Blueshirts.

Monaghan had been one of the most densely populated counties in Ireland in the 19th century, but suffered grievously because of the famine.  It is estimated that the population dropped by almost a third between 1841 and 1851 and went on falling afterwards.  Duffys like James Duffy emigrated.
England and Scotland.  Duffys crossed the Irish Sea for jobs in industrial Lancashire and Glasgow during the 19th century.  A relatively early arrival was Edward Duffy with his wife Elizabeth who were to be found on Eldon Street, Liverpool in the early 1820's where they raised their family.  Hubert Duffy came to Liverpool and Comus Street in the early 1880's.  Many were coming to Glasgow and elsewhere in Scotland by that time.  Carol Ann Duffy, who was made England's Poet Laureate in 2009, comes from a Glasgow Gorbals family.

America.  Many Duffys, like others from Ireland in the 19th century, ended up in the large cities on the Eastern Seaboard, Philadelphia, New York, or Boston.  Duffy's Cut, just outside Philadelphia, was the scene of an terrible Irish tragedy in 1832.

Some were more adventurous and headed West.  Their numbers included Michael Duffy who had come to Iowa City by 1840 and farmed near there at what was then called Old Man's Creek; and Daniel Duffy from Donegal who started a grocer's shop with his brother in St. Joseph, Missouri in 1865.

Canada.  Duffy was an early name in Newfoundland.  One story is that a French pirate called Dupre changed his name to Duffy to avoid a charge of murder and fled to Newfoundland.  His descendants settled at Abraham's Cove in Port-au-Port where the Duffy name is still to be found.  Father Duffy was an Irish priest who came to Newfoundland in 1833.  His legacy is Father Duffy's holy well.

Some of the other Duffys who came to Canada from Ireland were:
  • John Duffy who left Sligo in 1833 on the Lord Brougham for Quebec.  He settled in Esmende in the Ottawa valley and raised a family there.  Duffy Lake nearby was named after him.
  • two years later Patrick Duffy came with his wife and four children from county Monaghan to farm in Oxford county, Ontario.
  • the year 1842 saw the arrival of three Duffy brothers and their mother from county Armagh to Durham township, Ontario.  Thomas, the son of the youngest brother, became a notable Quebec politician. 
  • and, by the 1840's, Duffys from Fermanagh were to be found in Cobourg, Ontario.  Father Francis Duffy was born there in 1871.  He became the most celebated chaplain to the US Army during World War One.  A statue in the town commemorates him.
Select Duffy Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Duffy Names

Muireadach O'Dubthaigh, a member of the Roscommon Duffy family, was the Archbishop of Tuam in the early 12th century who commissioned the famous Cross of Cong. 
Father Eugene O'Duffy of Waterford was a famous 16th century preacher who always used the Irish language in his sermons.
Sir Charles Gavan Duffy was an Irish journalist and politician who emigrated to Australia in 1855 and became Premier of Victoria.
Eoin O'Duffy was chief of the Irish police after independence.  He subsequently founded the fascist-style organization known as the Blueshirts.
Brian Duffy was a highly acclaimed English photographer of the 1960's and 70's.
Carol Ann Duffy was appointed Britain's poet laureate in 2009.

Select Duffys Today
  • 18,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 26,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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