Roots: The Lynches of Galway

The Lynch family crest, flanked by Che Guevara (left), whose father was a Lynch, at Shannon Airport, and director David Lynch (right).

By Olivia O’Mahony, Editorial Assistant
June / July 2017

The name Lynch, which is ranked among the 100 most common names in Ireland, originates with several different clans, and is most frequently traced back to the anglicization of the old Irish name Ó Loinsigh, and the less-numerous Norman de Lench family. The de Lench arrived in Ireland from France during the 12th century and became the most prominent of the 14 Norman families that made up the “Tribes of Galway,” who controlled the city’s trade and maintained its status as a rare loyal outpost in the west of Ireland to the British crown. The landmark Lynch Castle, constructed in 1320, remains under the family’s ownership and continues to bear its coat of arms while serving the public as a bank. The Lynch presence in Galway was so strong that there have been 84 Lynch mayors to date, beginning in 1485 with Peirce Lynch, the city’s first. However, he was not the first of his family to occupy a seat of power. His grandfather, Edmond, was Sovereign of Galway in 1434, and the earliest known member of the family, Thomas de Lynch, was provost of Galway in 1274.

Sandra Lynch, the first woman in history to serve as a United States chief circuit judge on the United States Court of Appeals on the First Circuit. (Photo: NYU School of Law / YouTube)

Sandra Lynch, the first woman in history to serve as a United States chief circuit judge on the United States Court of Appeals on the First Circuit. (Photo: NYU School of Law / YouTube)

The most famous of the many mayor Lynches of Galway was James Lynch fitz Stephen, elected in 1493. Shortly afterwards, he made a trip to Spain and returned to Ireland with a new ward, Gomez, the son of his overseas host. Gomez and Lynch’s own son, Walter, became instant friends; however, things spun out of control when Walter killed Gomez while disputing the affections of a woman. In spite of public outcry for Walter’s pardon, Lynch, who was also a magistrate, saw justice served, comforting his son in jail before hanging him from the upstairs window of his own house next door. Haunted by his decision, Lynch lived the rest of his life as a recluse. It has been proposed that this incident was the genesis of the verb “to lynch,” meaning to extrajudicially punish someone by hanging. Another theory of its origin is the unofficial Virginian court of Revolutionary War colonel Charles Lynch (1736 – 1796), who administered justice outside the law due to the war period’s disruptive effects on court operations.

The Lynch’s mayoral era in Galway came to an end in 1654, when Catholics were barred from holding public office by English rule. However, it received a reprise in 1989, when Fine Gael member Angela Lynch-Lupton (d. 2007) was voted into office, and again in 1998, when she was re-elected.

The ruins of the Lynch house in Galway where Walter Lynch was hanged by his father, James Lynch fitz Stephen.

The ruins of the Lynch house in Galway where Walter Lynch was hanged by his father, James Lynch fitz Stephen.

Those born of Ó Loinsigh stock will most typically find their roots in counties Cork, Sligo, and Clare. This name is occupational in origin, meaning “mariner,” and, fittingly, there are no shortage of Lynches who have upheld this name’s reputation on the high seas. Two such figures were brothers Henry Blosse Lynch (1807 – 1873) and Thomas Kerr Lynch (1818 – 1891). Joining the Royal Indian Navy at just 16 years old, Henry skyrocketed to the position of official interpreter for the Gulf Squadron due to his fluency in the Persian and Arabic languages. He contributed to the exploration and survey of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, as well as the Mesopotamia region, and, together with his brother Thomas, created a postal route between Damascus and Baghdad. Thomas himself explored the Near East and was behind the first steamer services between Baghdad and India. He travelled much of Persia, building relationships that eventually allowed him to serve as the consul general for Persia in London.

Making waves on distant waters, Chilean naval hero Patricio Lynch (1825 – 1886) was a principle figure in the later stages of the War of the Pacific. He was nicknamed “The Red Prince” by the Chinese slave laborers he liberated from the Peruvian haciendas for the bright ginger hue of his hair. Fascinatingly, Patricio was the great-grandson of Patrick Lynch, who emigrated in his youth from Co. Galway to Buenos Aires, and from whom would also descend Ernesto Guevara Lynch, the father of Argentine revolutionary Che Guevera (1928 – 1967).

In the United States today, the name Lynch sustains significance in all disciplines. Director David Lynch (b. 1946), the mind behind films such as The Elephant Man and cult serial drama Twin Peaks, has been described by the Guardian as “the Renaissance man of modern American filmmaking,” and screenwriter Brian Lynch (b. 1973) has penned many recent hits, including Puss in Boots (2011), Minions (2015), and The Secret Life of Pets (2016). Celebrated actress and comedian Jane Lynch (b. 1960) brought life to Sue Sylvester, the hyperbolic antagonist of the TV musical Glee. R&B and pop singer Sybil Anita Lynch (b. 1966), better known as simply Sybil, is known worldwide for her cover versions of Dionne Warwick’s “Don’t Make Me Over” and “Walk On By,” released in the late 1980s. Sandra Lynch (b. 1946) made history in 2008 by becoming the first woman in history to serve as a United States chief circuit judge on the United States Court of Appeals on the First Circuit. She was first nominated to the First Circuit in 1995 by fellow Irish American Bill Clinton. Also making history for women is restaurateur Barbara Lynch (b. 1964), profiled in this issue of Irish America. As the second woman to be awarded the James Beard Outstanding Restaurateur award and the sole female Relais & Châteaux grand chef in North America, she is one of many Lynches today raising the standard for those in the years to come. ♦

14 Responses to “Roots: The Lynches of Galway”

  1. Catherine says:

    Hello from the UK. Very nice that you have put together this page, and done some research on various families bearing the name of Lynch. However, it is misleading to insinuate or claim that all those of the surname Lynch are connected to the actual de Lynch, Lynch-Blosse or Blosse-Lynch families of Galway, or that they would have any right to bear the arms of this illustrious line. All too often, persons unconnected with a main family, not related by blood, by title or by proven descent, claim a heritage that can only, in reality, be claimed by a particular set of individuals. Furthermore, Henry Blosse Lynch (1807 – 1873) and Thomas Kerr Lynch (1818 – 1891) were descendants of the Norman Knights de Lynch. As you quite rightly say, these Lynches are distinct from the Lynches with the occupational name you mention. Only the direct descendants of the Lynches of Galway are entitled to use the coat of arms associated with this Anglo Norman family. It is wrong for everyone in the world bearing a particular surname to think they are entitled to bear the arms of that family or claim affiliation by blood. I think this should be made clear by all so called genealogy websites. Please make this clearer in your text.

    • Kellie Lynch says:

      I found your reply very interesting. I am a direct descendent of Lynch. I have my Great Great Great Grandfathers Bibles. So far I have found the information inside to trace back tonRoebuck Lynch Sr. 1728. They settled in Baltimore Maryland. I am going to head to the Baltimore Historic Society to help confirm the continued blood line that Ansestory leaders me to Robert ‘Robuck’ (2Nd Bt) Lynch feb 21 ,1621 Galway Ireland. ( my Grandfather would be so proud of my sister and I for doing this surch) My Father unfortunately ends the William Patrick Lynch blood line. We have no brothers to carry on our name.
      If you have any information to help in my surch it would be greatly appreciated

      • William Martin says:

        I too am defended from Roebuck Lynch of Sandy Plains in Baltimore County. Can you trace the line to Galway?

      • Robert von Lunz says:

        Kellie I am doing research on the Family of Patrick Lynch of Baltimore Co. and his wife Margaret Bowen I would enjoy Linking with Family members and their ties to the Lynches of Galway. Do you have any ties with Todd’s Inheritance at North Point

      • Amanda Lynch says:

        Hi Kellie!
        I know that I am also descended from the Lynch family in Maryland – the farthest record I have is Thomas O’Neil Lynch born in 1870. If you wouldn’t mind sharing any further discoveries you make, I would appreciate it! Thank you!

  2. Rayna Qualia says:

    Hello .I did a Dna test it went though Gedmatch mostly from Rosscommen -Galoway-Sligo- Then cork-Limerick and a few more Places in Ireland. On the Dna i match 48cms which is high i was real excited finding my Family history. Name Lynch-Hannon-Moyles-McDonnell-Kerrigan

  3. Monica Williams says:

    Any know Lynches immigrate to Canada*

  4. jennifer lynch says:

    been working on my lynch family tree and learned that i am a descendant of patrick lynch of Lydican Castle,have two john lynch brother’s that came united state’s from ireland.when i was on-line on facebook genalogy someone sent this back to me Ray O Beara You know you are related to che guevarra then look up patrick lynch lydacan claregalway.Wondering if their’s any living relative’s of patrick lynch today still living in ireland i would love to make a family connection.

  5. carte says:

    can anyone trace lynch to the caribbean, specifically jamaica? know of thomas lynch Jamaica’s 1st governor… but there were also lynch’s that came after the war

  6. Cara says:

    Trying to find some missing names to my family tree.
    Does anyone know if these Lynches traced to Australia??
    Our lynch family have passed down stories for generations about being related to the mayor. And the Lynch law etc.
    and our coat of arms match the mayors coat of arms.

  7. Roberta Lynch Murphy says:

    I’ve traced back 6 generations to Patrick but my dna showed up a Peruvian link…at first I was confused but now see where it may have come from!

  8. Linda Casper says:

    Hi, I am a descendant of Robert Roebuck Lynch of Galway of 1621. It gets a bit fuzzy though, and always looking for help.

  9. Lindy Lynch_Jones says:

    Hi All,
    I happy to say I too am a Lynch descendant by DNA. It would seem Charles Lynch I of Galway, Ireland boarded a ship to America at the age of 15, settled and eventually married Sarah while living in Virginia US. They had 6 children, of which one live in near or around Mississippi and eventually, migrated to Texas, for which my connection began. Happy to share. Take Care.

    • Brandon Lynch says:

      I also trace back to Charles Lynch I (my 5th great grand father) and it stops at his father Thomas Lynch (just the name so far) Send me a email

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