Text by committee member Liam O’Riordan,  whose mother was a Bransfield.

The surname Bransfield is closely associated with east Cork in Ireland. Though sometimes thought of as English, it was in fact brought to Ireland in its present form by the Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century. Bransfield is thought to be a corrupt form of Blanchfield, which itself is derived from the Norman de Blanchville and was originally associated with Kilkenny, the seat of Hiberno-Norman rule in the middle ages in Ireland. Edward McLysaght, the noted authority on Irish surnames, lists Bransfield as a toponymic surname, that is one that is taken from a placename.

In Scotland Bransfield is regarded as the habitational name from a farm in the Strathclyde region of Scotland. Some think it is of Viking origin, passed on by Viking settlers in Normandy, and may have been Brons-Feld, roughly translated as ‘a brown field’. This would also reinforce the suggestion that the name is a toponymic surname.

Many well-known modern Irish surnames, such as Butler, Burke, Fitzgerald, Fitzmaurice and Walsh, are of Norman origin but often seen as distinctly Irish. The Bransfield surname is similar, principally found in Ireland in the eastern part of County Cork and to a much lesser extent in west Waterford. In east Cork the name was more widely known in the mid 1800s than at the present time (2019). Many of those named Bransfield in the UK, USA, Australia and Canada are descendants of the Irish Bransfields. The 1901 Census of Ireland recorded 137 individuals named Bransfield. Of these, 104 were resident in Cork with 21 in Waterford. By the 1911 Census there were 131 records, 115 resident in Cork and 11 in Waterford.

An official Irish Government examination certificate awarded to my late mother Helena Josephine Bransfield in 1941 translates her name into the Irish Language (Gaeilge) as Eiblin de Prionnbiol, thus giving official Irish recognition to the surname Bransfield.

The Bransfield families resident in Cobh and Carrigaline at the present time are all directly related and can trace their linage back to William Bransfield who was born in 1791 in Cove, as it was then known. His direct descendents who carry the name Bransfield are still living in modern day Cobh, Carrigaline and Malmo, Sweden.

In my genealogical research into my Bransfield ancestry I have traced the family as far back as 1791 in a direct line and all resident in Cove (later Queenstown and then Cobh) up to the present generation. I have found no evidence that the Cobh Bransfields are related to any of the other Bransfields in Carrigtwohill, Midleton or Aghada.


William Bransfield (1791 to 1853) Shoemaker. Lived in the Holy Ground Cove. He married twice. First wife’s name is unknown but they may have had three sons aged from ten down to five years of age. His second wife was Julia Canavan who died in January 1839 aged 38 possibly giving birth to her ninth child Thomas.

John Bransfield (1824 to 1898) Shoemaker. Born at 12 Harbour Row Cove. John also married twice. His first wife was Mary Chapman who died childless. John then married a widow Sarah Murphy whose maiden name was Sarah Mellifont, of French Huguenot descent from the Shandon area of Cork City. John died in December 1898 at 12 Cotterell’s Row, The Holy Ground Cove. They had a son called Robert. John had nine siblings including three half brothers from his father’s first marriage. One of his half brothers, Michael, died in a fall from a ship in Cork Harbour on 29 August 1834. He was aged twenty and was a tide-waiter, an early name for a customs officer. William died in April 1848 while serving aboard HMS Ampheon. No details are available.

Robert Bransfield (1866 to 1930) Boatman, born on 18th June at 12 Cotterell’s Row, Holy Ground Cove. Baptised into the Anglican Faith at St. Mary’s Parish church, Union of Clonmel Cove on 01 July 1866, he married a Mary McLaughlin of Sligo in Cove and they had two children, Maryanne Bransfield and Robert Christopher Bransfield. Mary Mc Laughlin died giving birth to Patrick Christopher in 1895. Robert had four brothers, William born in 1862, John born in 1863, Thomas born in 1869 and Michael born in 1872. Interestingly, the names, John, Michael, Patrick and William are repeated in later generations of Bransfields.

Thomas, mentioned above, became a publican at 14 King’s Square in Cove. He was married to a Mary?. They had a son Edmond Bransfield who was an able seaman and was lost when his ship SS Estrella struck a mine in the English Channel on 05 March 1918 aged 34. His body was never recovered and he is commemorated in the Tower Hill Merchantile Marine Memorial London.

Edmond would have been a first cousin of Patrick listed below.

After the death of his first wife Mary, Robert married an Annie Kidney of Cobh and they had one son John who emigrated to London and became a fireman in the London Blitz.

Patrick Christopher Bransfield ( 01 April 1895 to 03 April 1950) Soldier and Gardner, Born at 17 The Mall, Cove. Patrick enlisted in the Royal Engineers as a pioneer 26th October 1915 aged 20. He fought on the Somme and was attached to a railway corps whose job was to bring up supplies of food, water and ammunition to the front lines and ferry the wounded and dying back to the casualty clearing stations. He was blinded in a mustard gas attack and hospitalised. He was discharged on 01 November 1917 under King’s Regulations: “being no longer fit for war service”, as he was blind. He had to convalesce in a London hospital for over a year before returning to Cove. Due to his war service he worked as a civilian telegraph operator attached to the Royal Navy Dockyard in Haulbowline. He married Ellen Kelly of Glanworth in St Erasmus RC Church in Aghada in 1919 and they first lived in the Holy Ground Cove before locating to Haulbowline Island where my mother Helena Josephine Bransfield was born in 1923.

Liam P. O’Riordan January 2019.