The Irish surname of ROGAN was derived from the gaelic O'RUADHAGAIN - meaning 'one with red hair or ruddy complexion'. This was an Oriel sept, formerly of considerable importance. It is well known also in County Leitrim. The Connacht county of Leitrim is all but landlocked, having a coastal outlet to the Atlantic only two miles in length on Donegal Bay between the boundaries of Co. Sligo and Co. Donegal. It was once a country town, has the remains of a castle and some other ancient buildings, but has lost its former importance and dwindled to a village. Anciently the county formed part of the kingdom of Breffny whose overlords, the O'Rourkes, retained some power until the 16th and 17th centuries. The country, in the medieval period, was thickly forested and five great forests endured into the 17th century, but they have now disappeared leaving bleak tracks of country. Most of the descendants of the O Riagain septs lost the prefix O during the period of Gaelic suppression but the majority has reassumed the prefix in the present century. The Irish prefixes of Mac (son of) and O (grandson or descendant of) gave rise at an early date, to a set of fixed hereditary names in which the literal patronymic meaning was lost or obscured. These surnames originally signified membership of a clan, but with the passage of time, the clan system became less distinct, and surnames came to identify membership of what is called a 'sept' of people all living in the same locality, all bearing the same surname, but not necessarily descended from a common ancestor. Adoption of the name by people who did not otherwise have a surname and by their dependents was not uncommon. Later, nicknames were in some cases to supersede the original clan names. 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.
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