Recorded in a complex number of spellings including O'Tierney, MacTiernan, MacKiernan, McKernon, Kiernan, Kernon, and many others, this is a famous Irish surname. However spelt it is derived from the pre 10th century Gaelic "Tighearnaigh", translating as "lord or master", a meaning which no doubt contributed to its considerable popularity. Traditionally Gaelic family surnames are taken from the heads of tribes, or from some illustrious warrior, and this is no exception. The surname is especially widespread (as O'Tierney or Tiernan) in Counties Mayo and Galway, and as (Mac)Tiernan, (Mac)Kiernan, (Mac)Kernon in County Cavan. The ancient records of Ireland known as the Annals of the Four Masters recorded that the original name holders in the 10th century were the lords of Teallach, in County Cavan. Early church recordings taken from the registers include the christening of James, son of John and Ann Tierny, on June 4th 1741, at Limerick Cathedral, County Limerick, and Michael Kiernan, christened at Lincolns Inn Fields, London, on November 9th 1762. Mary Kernon, aged 21, a housemaid, sailed from Liverpool on the ship 'Virginian', on January 29th 1846, bound for New York, whilst James Turney, aged 22 yrs, sailed aboard the "Sheridan" for New York on May 15th 1846. The blazon of the coat of arms has an ermine field charged with two red lions passant, and the crest of a red dragon. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Fernan O'Tyernie, which was dated 1273, the charters of the lands of Ormonde, Ireland, during the reign of King Edward 1st of England, 1272 - 1307. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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