The surnames Regan and O'Regan rank together among the seventy commonest surnames in Ireland. Most of the descendants of the O Riagain septs lost the prefix O' during the period of gaelic suppression but the majority has re-assumed the prefix in the present century. One sept of the name was one of the Four Tribes of Tara. On being displaced from its homeland in County Meath, this sept settled in what is now County Leix. Another O Riagain sept, of the same stock as the O'Briens, was located in the north of County Limerick. In the latter part of the sixteenth century, an influx of settlers arrived under the patronage of Elizabeth I of England, and colonized the country beyond the 'Pale', the area around Dublin that was the only part firmly under English control. At the same time , groups of Presbyterian settlers were encouraged to migrate from Scotland to Ulster, thus establishing the distinctively Scottish surnames of Ulster. During the long centuries of English domination, Irish surnames were crudely Anglicized either phonetically or by translation. In the 19th century, political repression and famine combined to force many Irish people to seek other countries in which to live. Large numbers emigrated to the United States, where strong emotional ties to Ireland are still preserved in many families, while others found themselves transported, willingly or otherwise, to Australia, often after having first tried to make a living in England. Irish surnames are now very widely dispersed, and are common in England as well as in Ireland, the United States and Australia. The American President Ronald Reagan, born in Tampico, Illinois, of Irish Catholic descent; his great-grandfather, Michael Reagan (born 1829) was born in Ballyporeen, County Tipperary. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another.
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