Ever since the Sugar Fire destroyed a large portion of Doyle, CA, I have been more aware of towns with this name. There aren’t very many of them. Why?
The Irish emigrated to the United States in waves. The 2nd was the larger and due to the potato famine. It is estimated that 4.5 million Irish citizens came to America between 1820 and 1930, including my ancestors. During this time, the Irish accounted for 1/3 of all immigrants to the United States, including my great-grandmother on my mother’s side of the family. My mother’s name was Rita Eileen Brennan, and she, like most of the Irish, was fiercely proud of her heritage. Many of Irish extraction retained pride in being from Ireland and identified with this culture even in a new environment. This was true of my mother and her 7 sisters and brothers.
Most common Irish names have a translatable meaning. Sadly, the name Brennan means sorrow. But the very Irish name McCarthy derives from words meaning “loving person”. The surname Quinn, and I knew some Quinns, means wisdom or chief. I also knew some Doyles. I worked with a woman name Eileen Doyle, and she and her husband travelled to Ireland most summers. She loved horses and died young. The name Doyle means black hair because the name derived from the Old Irish name Dubhghaill. Many historical Irish descended from Vikings, who had light hair. Dubh, however, in Old Irish means black hair, and so the early Doyles did not descend from Vikings.
Oddly, many of my dad’s relatives, none of Irish descent, settled in Illinois. I have early memories of going to Murphysboro to visit relatives, and I assumed they were Irish. But they were not. However, most towns containing the name Murphy and there are 19 of them in the USA, were named for Irish families who settled there, like increasingly expanding Murphy, MO. The Missouri town of Murphy near St. Louis was named after a local family. Probably the largest town with a name near Murphy is Murfreesboro, TN, one of the fastest growing towns in the United States with at least 137,000 people. However, this town was named for a Revolutionary War hero named Hardy Murfree.
Probably the most famous Doyle is Sir Arthur Conan, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. There are 14 towns named Doyle in this country, but all of them are small. I had to ponder why this is true in a country with lots of rather large Dublins in places like California and Ohio. And I think I know why. Irish immigrants were city dwellers. They gravitated to existing cities like Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Towns named Doyle, as a result, are only now beginning to grow. The town in California affected by the Sugar Fire is a good example. It’s the 2nd largest Doyle around by only a couple of people. In fact, only 3 of the 14 towns named Doyle have a measurable population. The 3 Doyles with actual populations are in California, Tennessee, and Texas.
The name Kennedy is definitely Irish. In long-ago Ireland that name meant helmet-headed. The surname Lynch, also Irish, derives from the word for seafarer.