Recorded in a wide variety of spellings which seemingly include: Kernaghan, Kernohan, Carnaghan, Carnalan, Carnaman, Carnan, and Carnilian, this is a surname of Gaelic and Irish origins. It derives from the ancient name O' Cearnachain, itself a nickname meaning 'The descendant of the victorious one', and a name given to the first chief of the clan. Quite who was victorious and why, is not known, but as much of the early history of Ireland revolves around the victories of the famed Brian Boru, High King of Ireland in the 11th century, it is possible that there is some association. The nameholders today are mainly to be found in Ulster, and specifically Counties Antrim and Armagh. Much of Irish recorded history was lost in the Civil War of Ireland in1922, when the IRA in one of its fits of irresponsible vandalism, destroyed the Dublin Public Records office. This building held over one thousand ancient registers and charters of Ireland, from the very begining of written history upto the 19th century, and this loss has made it almost impossible to trace many early surnames to their original source. In this case we have examples of the name recording from the time of the infamous Potato famine of 1846 - 48. These include James Kernaghan, who sailed for New York on the ship 'Siddons of Liverpool' on March 28th 1846, and Joseph Carnahan who sailed on the ship 'Waterloo', on May 22nd 1847.
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