The tradition of surnames in Ireland developed spontaneously, as the population increased and the former practice, first of single names and then of ephemeral patronymics or agnomina of the nickname type proved insufficiently definitive. At first the surname was formed by prefixing 'Mac' to the father's Christian name or 'O 'to that of a grandfather or earlier ancestor. RYAN is among the ten commonest surnames in all Ireland, and is the commonest surname in the two counties of Limerick and Tipperary. Most families named O'RYAN descend from the O'Maoilriain sept which was established since the fourteenth century in Owneybeg barony, County Limerick, and the adjacent barony of Owney and Arra in County Tipperary. There was, however, also a small Leinster sept O'Riain, and there is evidence that some Ruannes have become Ryan also. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames. They came into being fairly generally in the 11th century, and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000. A notable member of the name was William Patrick Ryan (1867-1942) the Irish journalist and historian, born in Templemore, County Tipperary. He worked in London as a journalist, but returned to Ireland to edit the 'Irish Peasant' and other journals. He later became assistant editor of the Daily Herald in London, and published his own creative writings.
The bulk of European surnames in countries such as England and France were formed in the 13th and 14th centuries. The process started earlier and continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the 11th century people did not have surnames, whereas by the 15th century they did.
The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. Registered at Inch House, County Tipperary.
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