This interesting surname is of Irish origin, and is an Anglicization of the Gaelic "O' Fionnagain", meaning the descendant(s) of Fionnagan, an Old Irish personal name derived from the word "fionn", white, fairheaded. There are two distinct septs of this name; one was located on the border of Counties Galway and Roscommon, and the other was located in Oriel, which covered Counties Armagh, Monaghan and parts of South Down, Louth and Fermanagh, and was known originally as "Orghiall". However, Finnigan or Finnegan has the same source as the surname Finn, which means that Finnigan could be a diminutive of Finn; the first recording (see below) is from this source. Traditionally, Irish family names are taken from the heads of tribes, or from some illustrious warrior, and are usually prefixed by "O", meaning "grandson or male descendant of", or "Mac", denoting "son of". Today the name is seldom found with the prefix "O", and it is mainly found in County Cavan and adjacent counties, with a fair proportion in south Connacht; the surname is also well recorded in South Munster. The name is familiar because of the novel "Finnegans Wake", written by James Joyce in 1939. Among the recordings from Irish Church Registers is the baptism of Barnard, son of Patrick Finnigan and Rose Blynn, in 1827, in County Sligo. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Reverend John O' Finn, which was dated 1369, recorded at Granard, County Longford, Ireland, during the reign of William de Windsor, Governor of Ireland, 1369. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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