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History of the surname VAUGH

To start with let's set the record straight with surnames NOT associated with the surname VAUGH. It's not linked to VAUGHAN, VAUGHN, VAUGHT or VAUX. How can I be so precise? Well it's a matter of no supporting documents being found to confirm a link to our surname, that is to state, none that I've found throughout many years of careful searching. We are definitely linked to the name WAUGH and quite possibly also to BAUGH though the latter is a pretty tenuous link. McVAUGH and MacVAUGH also feature as linked surnames but as these are common forms of 'the son of' they can be forgiven and accepted.

Now we know what we're looking for, let us have a look at what printed surname lists include our surname, well not many. In fact only one of note, this is the work by Edward MacLysaght titled, unsurprisingly, The Surnames of Ireland. In this work he sets out a pretty comprehensive list of surnames. VAUGH is included and I quote:

'A Leitrim name used as a variant of WAUGH; but as it is sometimes appears as MacVAUGH there it may also be for MacVEAGH'

Straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. MacLysaght was well placed to form his opinion; he had held the post of Chairman of the Irish Manuscripts Commission, Chief Herald, Genealogical Officer of the Irish Office of Arms and Keeper of Manuscripts at the National Library. So, in the correct place to access documents etc, relating to various surnames.

I can chart my own branch of the family back to 1777 and the death of Walter VAUGH of Ballinaboy County Leitrim. Prior to this it becomes a little difficult. Walter had a grandson George who resided in county Roscommon, thus linking the family name to that county. Through a marriage to the FINNAMORE family, with lands inherited through this marriage, a branch of the family was created in the then named King's County, now of course known as county Offaly. A further marriage between second cousins, William VAUGH of King's County and Sophia VAUGH, my great grandfathers sister, of county Roscommon reunited the families, albeit a little briefly, the unhappy union ended after fifteen months with Sophia's suicide, her marriage took place at Carrick on Shannon in February 1884.

Wilton VAUGH (1847-1925) was sub sheriff for county Leitrim and his younger brother was postmaster for the county in the mid to late 1800's and there were two other VAUGH's listed as post carriers for the same period in counties Leitrim and Roscommon. Wilton had property in county Sligo with John and Launcelot VAUGH, being listed as sub constables of police in county Sligo, thus establishing a link to that county. Furthermore earlier VAUGH's, namely James, William and Ann are cited as holding land in both counties Sligo and Leitrim.

County Cavan gets a mention here, Margaret WILTON of Coreglass county Cavan was married to George VAUGH of Leitrim in 1845, their son, the above named Wilton VAUGH. He maintained his links with Cavan by being a good friend and sometime financial adviser to the Bishop of Kilmore. This link is further enhanced by a William VAUGH of His Majesties 74th Regiment of Foot. He joined the 74th in 1815 and finally disappears from the records in the 1835 as an army pensioner living in Belfast. We have one more name, Francis VAUGH also from Cavan and he was in the 9th Dragoons and saw service from 1794 to 1811. It is possible that these two were related but I've not been able to prove this as yet. Also the name Francis has a tenuous link to the above named Wilton VAUGH, he named one of his son's Francis, I told you it was tenuous....
So the above sets the stage for the VAUGHs that I know about and have a link into my family. But where did the name come from in the first place? It's not an Irish name and certainly hasn't been in Ireland much before the early 1700's or has it? A lack of early documentation is the bug bear of many family historians and for any with Irish roots all the more so.

However there are one or two little snippets, the 'Forty Nine Lots' is a case in point or to give the printed work it's official title; The Irish And Anglo-Irish Landed Gentry, When Cromwell Came to Ireland: In this book there is a list of names referring to the province of Connaught; Connaught Certificates, Transplanters, AD 1653-1654. Dublin, see the records of Ireland marked '1821-1825' pp 576-58. this being the transcribed list. The original manuscripts have long since been destroyed. Now we have mention of one Ensign James VAUGH, however there is a corresponding entry for Ensign James WAUGH, so it's all a bit hit and miss.

Now that piece of information is a little tantalising as it neatly fits into the family tree drawn by George Victor VAUGH, or as he liked to be called LaVaux. He has the head of the family tree named as one Walter VAUGH a Captain in Ironsides. His age as shown as 110 not so remarkable as we at first suspect, there being other documented cases of very old people in this time, we're talking 1777 here. Subtract the 110 and we have 1667, still it's far too late for Cromwell (1599-1658) but there could be a missing generation or two. It's all a bit of a stretch and I choose not to believe the man named Walter VAUGH could not have been a Captain in Ironsides. This is the term given to Cromwell's cavalry, it might have been applied after the reconstitution of the monarchy but I think by the 1680's it would not have been used to refer to the cavalry. Taking the Ensign VAUGH /WAUGH noted above he could well have been the father or uncle of Walter, without proof it's difficult to judge either way.

The link to the VAUX or LeVAUX name is a little fanciful for my mind. I did however spend quite a time trying to find a comparable link into a VAUX family with no success. Nor was I able to find a birth or christening record for George Victor VAUGH (LaVAUX) in Manchester or the surrounding areas. However there were two VAUGH families in the Lancashire area in the 1840's so it's possible this is where George Victor VAUGH was born. There are also two tantalising census entries for VAUGH families in Scotland, both in the 1851 census, whether these are linked to my family line is a question I've not been able to prove.

Returning to the thorny question of where did the name come from, we have to look at the available data and there's very little of that. The standard works showing birth marriage and death records are of little use pushing the time frame much before the late eighteenth century. There are, however considerably less in England than Ireland so Ireland is naturally the starting point. The name, as I've mentioned is not an Irish one so it's an import. With the spread of families seemingly within the midlands of Ireland, it's safe to assume this is where they settled in the 1700's, staying put until the late 1960's. There is no mention of the surname VAUGH in any of the early records for Ulster and just the one entry from the 1600's, noted above from the Forty Nine Lots. However in Scotland we have, as I've noted, two families in the 1850's, presumably as I can find no other linking records they left Ireland as part of the great exodus during the famine years. There is a corresponding family in Lancashire, again around the same dates, 1845 and onwards, the surname dies out with daughters only in the one main family.

There are several isolated mentions of the surname VAUGH in Scotland's old parochial records, these date from March 1670 in West Linton, Peebles, fifteen miles south of Edinburgh to almost one hundred years later for June 1764 in Glasgow, so not far in geographic terms. The usual male names, John and William appear within the thirty or so records, but more importantly we also have Robert, Laurence and David for the first and only time. I've cross checked these for the surname WAUGH and not found any duplicate entries. These records then, form the earliest occurrences of the surname VAUGH in official records, so does that make the name Scottish? I think not as it's not found in any great numbers and for that matter it's only these thirty or so entries in this very narrow time frame. I like to think the name was also in use in Ireland for the same period but a lack of extant records precludes us from any assumptions here.

So there it is a short history of the surname VAUGH based on the facts, it appears in official records from Scotland in the seventeenth century and somehow moved across to Ireland, possibly with the population movement of the time. The match with and inter changeability with the surname WAUGH occurs only in isolated records and these I feel are clerks guessing at the first letter of the name presented and not for any other reason, certainly in the very early records the letters V and W seem to be mutually interchangeable.

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  Doug Vaugh, England 6th Feb 2012