The Ward surname, known in Irish as “Mac an Bháird,” is of Gaelic origin. It was initially used as an occupational surname, given to those who worked as bards or poets within Gaelic society.
Etymology and Meaning
The surname Ward comes from the Irish Gaelic “Mac an Bháird,” which means “son of the bard.” A bard was a professional poet and storyteller, who often held an important role in the Gaelic society, chronicling the history of clans and leaders through poetry and song.
Earliest Known Usage
The earliest usage of the Ward surname can be traced back to the 12th century in Gaelic Ireland. The bardic families who carried this surname were regarded highly within their respective communities due to their cultural importance.
Initially, the Ward family was primarily located in the province of Ulster, specifically in Donegal. As time passed, Wards spread throughout the entire country of Ireland and eventually across the globe due to immigration.
Original Geographic Location
The original geographic location of the Ward clan was County Donegal, within the province of Ulster in the north of Ireland. They were especially prominent in the region of Tirconnell.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the surname Ward began to appear in other parts of the world due to the migration of Irish families. This was a consequence of a range of factors such as religious persecution, land dispossession, and the infamous Potato Famine of the 1840s. Countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, and England became new homes for many Wards.
Notable Historical Events
The Wards, like many other Irish families, were significantly affected by the English conquest of Ireland in the late 16th and 17th centuries. This resulted in many Wards losing their lands and social standing within their communities.
Involvement in Key Moments in History
The Wards were involved in many key moments of Irish history. Notably, they were part of the 1798 Rebellion against British rule. John Ward, also known as Sean Mhac an Bháird, was a well-known poet and participant in this Rebellion.
Notable Irish Bearers of the Surname
Famous bearers of the Ward surname include Jim Ward, an influential Irish musician, and Joe Ward, a notable Irish professional boxer.
In the realm of politics, Brendan Ward was an influential Irish politician who served in Seanad Éireann, the upper house of the Oireachtas, the Irish legislature.
Variations of the Surname
There are many variations in the spelling of the surname Ward. Common variations include McWard, MacWard, and MacAward, among others. The usage of these variations often depends on the region and period.
Regional differences in the pronunciation and spelling of the surname Ward are also evident. For instance, in the Gaelic-speaking regions of Ireland, the original form “Mac an Bháird” might still be in use.
Current Statistics and Distribution
Frequency and Global Distribution
The Ward surname is widespread within Ireland and has a strong presence in English-speaking countries worldwide, most notably the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
Changes Over Time
Over time, the Ward surname has become more widespread globally due to Irish immigration patterns, particularly during and following the Great Famine in the mid-19th century.
Family Coat of Arms
The Ward family coat of arms is typically represented by a silver shield with three lions’ heads erased (cut off cleanly at the neck) in blue. A red cross is often placed between the lions’ heads. The family motto is “Comme je trouve,” which translates to “As I find.”