Origin of the Surname
The surname Agnew, distinguished in both Irish and Scottish history, is believed to have Norman origins. It was said to have been brought to the British Isles by the Normans during their conquest in the 11th century. Over time, it found its way to both Scotland and Ireland, becoming entrenched in the history and culture of both nations.
Etymology and Meaning
The name Agnew is thought to have derived from the Old French “Agneu” or “Anoeu”, which means “lamb”. Historically, this could denote a person who was mild or gentle in character, or perhaps it was a metonymic occupational name for a shepherd.
Earliest Known Usage
While the name is seen in Scotland from the 12th century onwards, the earliest recognized usage in Ireland dates back to the early 14th century. The Agnews in Ireland were historically associated with County Louth, particularly in and around the Carlingford area.
From its early centers in County Louth, the name spread across different parts of Ireland, including Antrim, Donegal, and Dublin.
Original Geographic Location
The original geographic location of the Agnew surname is believed to be Normandy in Northern France. From there, it traveled with the Normans to England, later making its way to Scotland and subsequently to Ireland.
With Ireland’s turbulent history, marked by famines, civil unrest, and political upheaval, many Agnews, like other Irish families, sought better lives elsewhere. The 19th century saw a substantial diaspora, with many Agnews relocating to the Americas, Australia, and other parts of the British Empire.
Notable Historical Events
The Agnews in Ireland, like many other families, were significantly affected by the Penal Laws and the Plantation schemes, which attempted to introduce Protestant English and Scottish settlers to Catholic Irish lands.
Involvement in Key Moments in History
Throughout history, members of the Agnew clan played various roles, both in Ireland and abroad. In Ireland, they were involved in trade, politics, and social movements.
Notable Irish Bearers of the Surname
- Sir Andrew Agnew – Although primarily of Scottish heritage, Sir Andrew had ties to Ireland and was known for his efforts in advocating for the sanctity of the Sabbath.
- James Agnew – Born in Ireland, James Agnew emigrated to Australia and made significant contributions in the Australian political landscape in the 19th century.
Several Agnews held vital roles in Ireland’s church, politics, and social circles. Their efforts and contributions have helped to mold various aspects of the nation’s history.
Variations of the Surname
Several variations of the Agnew surname exist, including Aggnew, Agnewe, and O’Gnive. Such variations arose due to regional dialects and phonetic spelling.
In parts of Ireland, particularly in regions more deeply influenced by the Gaelic tradition, the Agnew name occasionally took on a more Gaelic form or pronunciation.
Current Statistics and Distribution
Frequency and Global Distribution
While Agnew remains an identifiable Irish surname, its presence is now felt worldwide, particularly in the USA, Canada, and Australia, due to historic migration patterns.
Changes Over Time
The distribution of the Agnew surname within Ireland once centered in specific counties but has since spread throughout the country, reflecting internal migration and intermarriage.
Family Coat of Arms
The Agnew family does possess a coat of arms, traditionally depicted as a shield with two red eagles displayed on a silver background. The motto often associated with it is “Consilio, non impetu,” which translates to “By wisdom, not by rashness.”