Saturday Night Genealogy Fun

I just found the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun feature on the Geneamusing blog so I thought I’d try it.  Here is this evening’s challenge:

  1. Go to the Baby Name Wizard site and see how popular your name was over the 20th century, and how popular a baby name it is today.  Check out your spouse, your children and your grandchildren (if you have some!) also.
  2. What does your name mean (find out on
  3. Tell us about it, and show us your graphs, in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, in a Facbook status or a Google+ Stream post.

1. My first name Beirne isn’t so popular.  It isn’t in the baby name wizard at all:

2. It’s not a surprise that my name wasn’t found.  I’m not the only Beirne, but it is an Irish family name and not very common.  One take on it is that it is a descendant of the Norse name Bjorn.  This theory is also mentioned in the book The Family Beirne by Bryan Patrick Beirne.  It seems to be one of those things that sounds reasonable but lacks actual proof.  In any case, Bjorn means bear, so that’s as close as I can get to a meaning for Beirne.

While the name is rare, I’m not the only Beirne.  The author of the book which became the movie 12 O’Clock High was Beirne Lay, Jr., so there were at least two Beirne’s there.  I’ve also exchanged a few emails with another Beirne.  He also got his name from a family surname.  In America there aren’t a lot of people with the surname Beirne either, though, as it tended to get anglicized to Burns or Byrne, even among my ancestors.  Back in County Roscommon, though, there are lots of Beirnes, which makes the genealogical research tough.

BTW, I don’t know how to properly pronounce Beirne in Irish.  Years ago when I was in Ireland I asked around and got three different pronunciations, including Bernie, the pronunciation I avoid.  I’ve was once told in an email that Beirne rhymes with “learn” rather than “burn”, but in my flat American accent I say both the same, so I’m still stumped.

I’ll add an extra, a picture of my farthest back known Beirne ancestor, Bernard Beirne (1833-1916).

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One Response to Saturday Night Genealogy Fun

  1. Michele says:

    What fun! I never thought of my name, Michele, as being outdated before this. :-)

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