Origins of the Reddigan Surname

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Red(d)igan, Readigan, Reedigan, Reardigan, etc.

In his book "Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland", the late Dr. E. R. Seary, a professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, notes that the surnames Reddigan and Reardigan are "? a variant, apparently not recorded elsewhere, of the surnames of Ireland (O) Redahan, (O) Redican, O Roideachain (MacLysaght)". While his statement on the origin of the name may be accurate, his statement that they are not recorded elsewhere is totally incorrect. If today's Internet had been available to Dr. Seary, he would soon have discovered, as I did, that these surnames, and dozens of other variant spellings, exist throughout the world. In Dr. Seary's quoted reference source, "The Surnames of Ireland" by Edward MacLysaght, a number of variants are listed that are phonetically similar enough to be possibilities of the surnames' origin. These are as follows:

  • (O) Ratigan O Reachtagain (reacht, decree) This appears as an O name since the fifth century, though in twelfth-century charters it is given the prefix Mac. The family were co-arbs of St. Finnen in Co. Roscommon. Variants are Ractigan, Rattican, Rhatigan, etc.
  • (O) Ractigan, Radigan - variants of Ratigan in north Connacht.
  • O) Redahan, O Roideachain in Mayo. Rodahan or Rodaughan and Rudican are variants found in Co. Longford and Redican in Co. Clare. MacLysaght also noted that in Co. Leitrim (O) Roddy and (O) Rodehan may be used as variants of Redahan.
  • Reddington An English name much used as a synonym of Mulderrig and occasionally of Redehan.
  • (O) Ranaghan A variant spelling of Renehan both in Munster and Oriel.

My research of Irish records indicates that the Reddigan surname (and its variants) are found today in the west of Ireland, mainly in Co. Roscommon. However, based on Mary Readigan's marriage record, Co. Kilkenny appears to have been the point of origin of the Southern Shore Reddigan's before they left Ireland. The various records of Co. Kilkenny and Co. Waterford show that there are some, but few, instances where the surname appeared in surviving records there. The name REDIGAN and REEDIGAN are listed in the baronies of Knocktopher and Iverk, respectively, in the Tithe Applottment Books (circa 1830). A couple of decades later the name Martin RATTIGAN appears in Griffith's Valuation in the townland of Garrandarragh. In these timeframes, it appears that families of Redigan and Rattigan fell within the Roman Catholic parish of Mullinavat, and Reedigan was in the area which was covered by the Roman Catholic parish of Mooincoin and/or Templeorum. The surviving records for Mullinavat parish show records with several different spellings (Ratigan, Rattigan Redigan, Ridigan, and Rhedigan) of what appears to be the same surname.

At one point in time in the 1820s, there were at least two Richard Redigans etc. having children baptised along the banks of the River Suir in the border parishes of Co. Kilkenny and Co. Waterford. This was in the same timeframe that Richard Reddigan, the Irish immigrant, was starting his family at Caplin Bay, Newfoundland. Although there were a number of Reddigan children born in Ireland, it appears the surname grew rarer in the southeastern counties of Ireland as time went by. In 1868, there is an entry in the Roman Catholic parish records of Kilmacow which shows an Edmond Redigan as the godfather of Ellen Henessey. Edmond's father name is given as Richard Redigan of the townland of Ballykillaboy, Kilmacow, Co. Killkenny, Ireland.

I did find mention of the surname Redigan in the 1901 Census in Co. Kilkenny in the Townland of Owning - Parish of Owning - Iverk (Barony) Piltown - Carrick on Suir. They were: Michael Redigan - Head - Roman Catholic - cannot read - 56 - M - labourer - married - Born Co. Kilkenny - Irish and English. Johanna Redigan - wife - Roman Catholic - can read - 46 - F - Born Co. Kilkenny From further research I discovered that Michael had been married twice, but there had been no children in either marriage. After the death of Michael and Johanna, there was not further mention of the surname in the Kilkenny or Waterford area.

It appears that the anglicization of Gaelic surnames also caused a lot of confusion with the spelling of Irish surnames. In 1989, on a visit to Ireland, I took this road to Mullinavat where I was directed to talk to an elderly lady named Nora Hendricks. She remembered a family named Reedigan (her pronunciation), who had lived just across the road from her family. The family had all died out many years ago. She told me they were buried in Mullinavat cemetery and that there was a headstone erected to them. After much searching for REEDIGAN, I finally realized that their headstone showed their family name as REARDEN. It became obvious to me, looking at the names on this headstone, that members of this family were likely the same individuals (under the various surname spellings mentioned above) who were recorded as godparents in the Mullinavat RC baptism records.

According to Ms. Hendricks this family was always known locally as Reedigan. She insisted that they were never known as Rearden. She said that she remembered them well because she used to run errands for them (likely Alice and Bridget) when she was a "wee girl". The 1901 Irish Census shows that there were four members in this family - none of them married - still living at that time. They were Irish speakers, but also spoke English. Why the headstone carver spelled their surname as Rearden is unknown. Both Alice and Bridget claimed in the 1901 Census that they could read, and Alice said she could write. It may have been just an error or maybe the carver, unfamiliar with the surname Reedigan, persuaded them that Rearden was an anglicised version of their surname. Who knows??

The following is the transcription of a headstone in the Roman Catholic cemetery at Mullinavat, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland made during a visit in August 1989. The transcriptions read as follows:

"Erected by - Bridget & Alice Rearden - Deerpark In Loving Memory of Their Parents | Patrick Rearden - Died 16th April 1860 - 50 Yrs | Mary Rearden (Farrell) - Died 12th Jan, 1881 - Aged 90 | Their sister Mary - Died 15 Apr 1865 - 30 Yrs | Margaret - Died 22 Mar 1904 - 59 Yrs | Edward - 4th Jan 1907 - 70 yrs | Thomas - & July 1907 - 57 Yrs. | Their aunt and uncles - Johanna, Peter, Michael"

"Bridget Rearden - 10 April 1925 - Aged 86 | Alice Rearden - 20 Nov 1921 - Aged 72"

 

The Reddigan/Reardigan Families of Newfoundland

In Newfoundland there are two family groups who use these surnames. In both family groups, the surname has been spelled as REDIGAN, REDDIGAN, READIGAN, RADDIGAN and REARDIGAN in various parish records and other documents. The name now exists in two forms, the REDDIGAN family of Calvert (formerly Caplin Bay) and the REARDIGAN family of St. John's.

Calvert (formerly Caplin Bay)
The surname there has been spelled REDDIGAN consistently since the early 1950s. Before that time it was often spelled with a single D, although this differed from document to document. However, either spelling has the same pronunciation. Some earlier documents, written when the family probably still spoke Irish, have recorded the name as READIGAN and in one instance REARDIGAN. A marriage record for a Mary READIGAN at Aquaforte identifies the Irish origin of this family group as County Kilkenny . The Calvert REDDIGANs are actually made up of two related branches of the family (noted as cousins in my great-great-grandfather's will in 1872), who become even more closely related in 1875 when members of the two families inter-married. To date I have been unable to determine the structure of the cousin relationship prior to that marriage, but obviously they were not closely related, otherwise the Roman Catholic church would not have allowed them to marry. There is no mention of any consanguinity dispensation in the parish records.

St. John's
Members of the REARDIGAN family have consistently used this spelling of the surname since the early part of the 20th century. Earlier instances of their ancestors at St. John's, Carbonear, and Harbour Grace have been recorded as REDIGAN and RADDIGAN, and REDDIGAN. This family can be traced to a single source ancestor, James, who lived in St. John's as early as 1806. He is listed in that year as a member of the Benevolent Irish Society (BIS). He may have been the same James Redigan who was listed as a boat-master at Ferryland in 1800. It appears that the family moved to Carbonear a generation later (1830s), but they returned to St. John's again in the latter part of the 19th century. The Irish county of origin of this family is not known.

There is no evidence to indicate that these two family groups were related. The predominant male forenames of the REDDIGAN families are Martin, Richard, and Michael, while the REARDIGAN family used James and John throughout all of the generations. The REDDIGANs and REARDIGANs are the only families in Canada who use these spellings. Although there are other variants in Canada, none of them appear to have had their origins in Newfoundland.

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Page Last Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2016 - 03:05:50 PM EST