The Paddens of Mayo

We are looking for men with variants of the Fadden/Padden surname who have documented, assumed, or rumored connections to County Mayo in order to attempt to determine the genetic signature(s) of this branch of Mac Páidíns. Click here for details.

While most of the surnames derived from Mac Pháidín or Mac Páidín seem to have originated in Ulster or Scotland, it has long been noted that a cluster of Paddens and Faddens existed in County Mayo. A tally of all 1890 births in Ireland found that the surnames McPaden, Padden, Patten, and Peyton were all primarily found in Mayo, while Griffith’s Valuation listed Mayo as the home of 37 of 40 Fadden and Fadian households. So are the Paddens of Mayo in any way related to the McFaddens/Macfadyens or are they truly a separate Mac Páidín clan of their own? The answer is actually a bit surprising – instead of McFadden, the Paddens of Mayo seem to be primarily associated with the name of Barrett.

In 1576, the Lord Deputy of Ireland wrote a letter to the Lords of the Council detailing his journey through Connacht as he worked to solidify British rule in the region. In this letter, he mentioned “Mac Phaten, of the English surname Barrett” as one of the chiefs he was dealing with. A decade later, the official document laying out the terms between the Queen and these men included “Richard Barrett of Ross, otherwise called MacPadine, chief of his name” and mentioned the lands of “Clanpadyne” or “MacPaddyne” in the Barony of Moyne (now known as Tirawley).

The Barretts of Tirawley were “Old English” – descended from Anglo-Norman invaders who came to Ireland in the 12th century. Many of these families eventually assimilated with the native Irish, adopting their religion, language, and customs. Some of the Norman families took on Gaelic names as part of this assimilation and it appears that some of the Barretts of Tirawley adopted the surname of Mac Páidín.

Or did they?

From the late 16th century on, the Barretts of Tirawley are consistently referred to as some variation of McPadden, but earlier records are less clear. In 1574, for example, a document laying out the territories of Mayo listed “Mac Vadin called Baron Barret” as a chief of Moyne. And by the time you get back to the 15th century, there is no mention of Mac Páidín at all. Instead, the pre-1500 Tirawley Barretts went by the name Mac Baitín.

"Mac Wattin, i.e. Thomas, son of Henry Barrett, Lord of Tirawley, died on the 15th of July [1440]; and the son of Maigiu Barrett was then nominated the Mac Wattin" - Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland

“Mac Wattin, i.e. Thomas, son of Henry Barrett, Lord of Tirawley, died on the 15th of July [1440]; and the son of Maigiu Barrett was then nominated the Mac Wattin” – Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland

Just as Mac Páidín and Mac Pháidín are commonly translated as “son of little Patrick,” Mac Baitín and Mac Bhaitín translate to “son of little Walter.” This surname was anglicized as Mac Wattin/McWattin. An ancient pedigree of the Barretts points to a Baitín Barrett as the clan’s ancestor and namesake. It seems the Barretts of Tirawley did not adopt Mac Baitín as a hereditary surname, but instead referred to their chief as the Mac Bhaitín/Mac Baitín while retaining the name of Barrett. They were known as the Mac Wattin Barretts rather than the Mac Wattins. And over the course of 100 years or so, from the mid-1400s to the late 1500s, Mac Wattin somehow morphed into Mac Padden. Perhaps the most compelling evidence of this is that no surname resembling MacWattin ever seems to have taken hold in Mayo.

Of course, if the Barrett surname was originally retained, at what point did families actually set it aside and begin to assume the hereditary surname of Padden? Are the modern Mayo Paddens actually descended from the Barretts, or do they come from families associated with the McPadden Barrett clan that adopted the name? There may be some 17th and 18th century sources out there that can shed some light on this, but it’s really a subject that begs for Y-DNA testing. In any case, there is evidence of multiple McPadden/Padden families owning land in Tirawley by the 1630s.

So there you have it. The Paddens of Mayo come from the Barretts of Tirawley, and apparently the name itself isn’t even derived from from Mac Páidín at all!

It should be noted that some Staunton/Stanton families in Mayo supposedly took on the name of Padden as well, but finding good sources for this has proven difficult.

Rob McFadden

Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters from the Earliest Period to the Year 1616 (Ed. & Trans. O’Donovan, 1856).
Sir Henry Sidney to the Lords of Council. April 28, 1576. Letters and Memorials of State (Ed. Collins, 1746).
Knox, Hubert. 1908. The History of the County of Mayo to the Close of the Sixteenth Century.
Langan, Thomas. “The Survey of Mayo, Inquisition 1635-37″.
Matheson, Robert. 1894. Special Report On Surnames in Ireland.
O’Donovan, John. 1844. The Genealogies, Tribes, and Customs of Hy-Fiachrach.
O’Flaherty, Roderic, and Hardiman, James. 1846. A Chorographical Description of West or H-Iar Connaught, written A.D. 1684.

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