Surname Saturday – Little Clan – Belfast

“The majority of Littles, Lytles and Lyttles in Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand have their family roots deep in the old West March of the Scottish Border.” ~ Clan Little Society North America

Motto: Concedo Nulli (No surrender, no retreat, yield no ground).

Our connection to the surname Little, comes from our great-great-grandmother, Ellen Little, born circa 1840 in Belfast, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. She married John Doran in Ireland. Ellen Little Doran died on 19 March 1907 in Belfast from bronchitis. Her age, as supplied by her daughter-in-law, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Doran, was sixty-three. From our research we know that Ellen Little and John Doran had at least ten children, and possibly twelve.

Ellen Little and John Doran’s first known child was Bernard Doran. He was our great-grandfather, and he was baptized at St. Matthew’s Roman Catholic Church, Belfast, County Down, Northern Ireland, on 2 October 1858. His sponsors, or godparents, were Samuel Crawford and Anne Doran. Bernard married Mary Hall at St. Peter’s RC Church in Belfast on 15 November 1884 [Source: Ulster Historical Foundation].

St. Matthew’s Roman Catholic Church, Ballymacarrett, Northern Ireland. Down and Connor – a Short History, by Ambrose Macaulay, Publisher: Editions Du Signe (2000), page 12.

St. Matthew’s RC Church was where the next two children were also baptized. When my sister and I were researching the children of Ellen Little and John Doran we noticed a significant gap between Bernard and the next child (Anna) on the available online databases at Ulster Historical Foundation ($)( and the Irish Family History Foundation($) ( Many Irish Catholic Parish Registers are now also available to search for free on online at the National Library of Ireland ( You need to know the parish, and the approximate date of the baptism or marriage to search, since there isn’t a search engine. I found a record of a son named John Doran, baptized on 20 July 1860, with parents listed as Ellen Little and John Doran. His sponsors look to be James and Ellen Doolin – the writing is hard to decipher.

The third child, Anna Doran, was baptized on 16 February 1862, at St. Matthew’s, and her sponsors were Thomas Murphy and Mary Ferran. This Anna must have died, because the next child was named Ann Dorran, born 24 November 1863, at the District of Johnstone, County of Renfrew, Scotland [Source:].

Traditionally the Ulster Naming Pattern has the first daughter named after the maternal grandmother, so it is possible that Ellen Little’s mother was named Ann. Searching on for an Ann Little in Belfast during this time, I did find one in Shankill, Belfast in 1862. There was an Arthur Doran listed on the same page.


Ellen Little and John Doran’s daughter, Mary Ann Doran, married Thomas Perry on 21 May 1892 at St. Peter’s RC Church in Belfast. It is unclear if this was the Anna born in Scotland, or another child. Her parents were listed as Ellen Little and John Doran [Source:].

Why the family was in Scotland when Anna Doran or Dorran was born is unknown. For all of the records found for john and Ellen Little Doran, the occupation for John was hackler or flax dresser. Possibly a linen mill in Scotland needed an experienced hackler. This Ann was baptized at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, in Belfast, on 16 December 1863, and only one sponsor was noted – Mary Doran – again parents were noted as Ellen Little and John Doran.

St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, Belfast, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Down and Connor – a Short History, by Ambrose Macaulay, Publisher: Editions Du Signe (2000), page 8.

Another son, John, was baptized on 5 January 1864, St. Patrick’s RC Church, Belfast, The sponsor was noted as Mary Doran. This John Doran also died in childhood.

A son, Joseph, was baptized on 9 April 1866 at St. Patrick’s RC Church. On this record the parents were Ellen Lyttle and John Doran. The address was 5 Jude Street, Belfast. This child died on 25 February 1870 while the family was living at 49 Irwin Street,

When the next daughter, Ellen, was baptized on 19 July 1868, it was at St. Peter’s RC Church in West Belfast. This church was dedicated in 1866. The family was still living on Irwin Street, put down as 49 Irvine Street. Ellen married Arthur Lewis at St. Peter’s on 25 February 1884.

St. Peter’s Street, Belfast, County Antrim ~ photo taken 2008 by Maryann Barnes

Another daughter, Catherine, was baptized on 16 May 1873, at St. Peter’s, with the sponsor noted as Mary Doran.

The next daughter was named Hannah. She was baptized at St. Peter’s on 30 August 1876. The family’s address was 9 Whitehall Court. She married Daniel Murray at St. Peter’s on 17 June 1899.

Another son, John, was baptized on 26 September 1878 at St. Peter’s. The sponsor was Bridgette McCan. This John Doran did live to maturity. He married Elizabeth Campbell at St. Peter’s RC Church on 17 April 1900. Sadly, he died during World War One while serving in France on 27 September 1917. He served as a Private with the Princess Victoria’s Royal Irish Fusiliers. His spouse was listed as Elizabeth Doran, with two children living – Mary and James [British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920, database online at].

Knowing that these children were baptized at St. Matthew’s and St. Patrick’s in Belfast, my sister and I searched the online marriage records for the marriage of Ellen Little and John Doran. To date we haven’t found the correct record. The date of marriage 6 June 1857 was on the birth record of Ann Dorran in Scotland. Since the first child we have found a record for, Bernard, was baptized a little over a year later, it does seem probable that this date is correct.

We have found two Ellen Little baptism records from Belfast, but we can’t be sure if either were for our own Ellen, since both seem a little early. At St. Patrick’s RC Church in Belfast, Ellen Little was baptized on 17 January 1836. Her parents were listed as William Little and Ellen Lonard. Also at St. Patrick’s, Ellen Little was baptized on 24 March 1833, with parents listed as Catherine Hand and William Little. Further away in County Down, an Ellen Little was baptized on 27 May 1841 in the parish of Magheralin, with the parents listed as Catherine Keenan and Charles Little [Source: Ulster Historical Foundation].

We really don’t even know if Ellen Little was a cradle Roman Catholic, or became one when she married John Doran. There are Protestant Little families in Belfast, too.

For other Little researchers we found these two marriage records. At St. Patrick’s RC Church, Belfast, on 7 September 1857 another Ellen Little married James Murray. The parents were not listed. At St. Matthew’s RC Church, Ballymacarrett, yet another Ellen Little married Henry McLeroy on 11 February 1850. The parents were not listed.

The earliest Belfast area Roman Catholic Church was St. Mary’s on Chapel Lane, and that opened in 1784. The first year marriage records are available are 1867. The second church is St. Patrick’s RC Church on Donegall Street, Belfast. My sister and I both searched the records online for 1857, and multiple years, for a marriage record, and we haven’t found the correct one there. The marriage records there are from 1798 to 1867, online, with some years missing or hard to decipher. The third church was St. Malachy’s RC Church, and it opened in 1844, but the available marriage records there start in 1858.

It is very possible that Ellen Little and John Doran married at one of the two Belfast churches with records not filmed or available. Ellen Little Doran had put down her place of birth as Belfast during the 1901 Irish Census, and possibly she married in her own church, as was the custom. Searching all of the available Irish marriage records, for a marriage between Ellen Little and John Doran, both Roman Catholic, and Protestant, comes up empty. Some ancestry research is just meant to be left for another generation of family researchers!

Little is a surname in the English language. The name is derived from the Middle English littel,[1] and the Old English lȳtel, which mean “little”.[2] In some cases the name was originally a nickname for a little man. In other cases, the name was used to distinguish the younger of two bearers of the same personal name.[1] Early records of the name include: Litle, in 972; Litle, in about 1095; and le Lytle, in 1296.[2] The surname has absorbed several non English-language surnames. For example, Little is sometimes a translation of the Irish Ó Beagáin, meaning “descendant of Beagán”. Little can also be a translation of the French Petit and Lepetit, as well as other surnames in various languages with the same meaning (“little”),[1] especially the German name Klein during World War II [Source:].

There is also a Little Clan from the Borders area between Scotland and England –

If your surname is Little, or a variation, at Family Tree DNA there is a Y-DNA Little Surname Project with over 400 members tested, that was initiated in 2001.

Surname Saturday is a blogging prompt suggested by GeneaBloggers.

Copyright 2018 by Maryann Barnes and Genealogy Sisters.

6 thoughts on “Surname Saturday – Little Clan – Belfast

  1. Great post, Maryann! Some of my Scots were in Renfrew and few were in Johnstone. In my Scottish research experience, the marriage date and place on a birth record in Scotland during Civil Registration, are generally right or very close. Good luck with your further research. 🙂


    1. Thanks, Amberly! I do hope I can find that marriage record one day, or at least a newspaper item listing it. The civil marriage records in Scotland started in 1855. The civil records in Ireland didn’t start until 1864 for Roman Catholics. I’m finding my Northern Ireland ancestors went back and forth to Scotland more than I thought, with Renfrew and Glasgow some of their destinations. Good luck researching your family this year!

      Liked by 1 person

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