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According to Irish surname specialists, the surname “Whelan” is the 79th most common surname in Ireland. Thousands of Irish immigrants named “Whelan” came to America in the last two centuries. A large number of them saw their family name recorded “Whalen” by government immigration and census officials on government forms. Consequently, when searching for your long lost Irish ancestor “Joseph Whelan” or “Josephine Whelan”, be sure to look for “Whalen” also. Surname spelling variations occur with other Irish surnames also. To my bemusement, my global search for the surname “Whalen” for the entire country of Ireland in the Griffiths Valuation Survey (1840 – 1860) database produced zero households, and in the 1901 Irish census only 9 households.
Lesson Learned: If at first you don’t succeed in finding an ancestor with one Irish surname spelling, try a slight variation of that surname spelling to see what you might find.
Let us know what Irish surname spelling variations that you’ve encountered in your research and post them here.
See more Irish family history articles and lessons learned in earlier posts below and in the archives.
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