This notable Irish surname is an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic "O'Ruadhain", which translates as "the descendant of the red one". It is not proven whether "Ruadhan" (red) refers to complexion or hair, or to some notable event relating to the prowess of a warrior, but either way it is a descriptive nickname from the pre-medieval period. The clan originated in the two ancient areas known as Ui Maine and Ui Fiachrach, in Counties Mayo and Galway respectively, and even today, with some exceptions, these remain the principle places associated with Ruane. The 16th Century Elizabethan land Registers and the 1659 Petty's "census" of Ireland give the then spelling as mainly "O'Rowane" and "O'Rowghan", although there are many forms including O'Rowan, Rown, Roan and Rowan. An early example was Morietagh O'Rowane of Ballinvalle, County Wexford, who received a royal pardon on June 10th 1584; he was described as a "Gentleman". The O'Rowans of County Mayo were also described as "persons of property" in 1659, although this description would probably not have been given to Timothy Ruane, aged 22 yrs., of County Galway, who was one of the famine emigrants leaving on the ship "Barlow" of Liverpool, bound for New York in April 1847. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Felix O'Ruadhain, Archbishop of Tuam, County Galway, which was dated 1215, in the "Register of the Irish Prelates in the Vatican", Rome, during the reign of King John of England, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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