The Early O'Connell (O’Conaill) Family History


The O’Conaill name, literally translated as "friendship," is one of the twenty-five (25) most common in Ireland. O’Connell is the Anglicized version of the name. The family arms is a stag trippant between three trefoils countercharged. The crest is a stag’s head erased, charged with a trefoil. The motto in Gaelic is Cial agus neart, which means "Wisdom and Strength". This genealogy is based on the pedigree submitted by Count Daniel O’Connell to the Heralds of King Louis XVI of France and can not now be authenticated beyond the 17th century.

Main Genealogy from Ancient times

In early mediaeval times, there were several unrelated septs of O'Connell; those of Ulster and Connact are seldom heard of even as late as the fourteenth century. O'Dugan (d. 1372) in the "Topographical Poems" mentions O’Conaill as a family of Oirghiall and another, again, as of Ui Maine. The name does not appear in the Four Masters after 1117 when the death of Cathasach O'Conaill, "noble Bishop of Connacht," is recorded. Another of the name, Bishop of Thomond (Killaloe) is mentioned in the "Annals of Innisfallen" under date 927 A.D.; but if this be a true surname it is one of the earlier examples. The "Annals of Connacht" have no reference to the name.

Conaill Gabhra "Conaill of the Swift Horses", was the king of Munster in 355 A.D. Conaill was in the line of Daire Caerb. Daire Caerb was brother to Lughaidh – No. 88 in the line of Heber, the son of King Milisieus - and son of Oilioll Flann-beag. Daire Caerb had five sons including Fiacha and Fiachra - the ancestors to the O’Donovan family. Fiacha had two sons Brian and Caibre – ancestors to the Ua Cairbre or O’Carberry. Brian had a son Daire, and Daire had a son Fionnliath. Fionnliath had a son Conaill and Conall son Ua Conaill or Connell. The descendants of Conaill inhabited Upper and Lower Conello in Co. Tiperrary.

In 1178, the O'Connells as well as the Harrington, Collins, and O'Donovan clans were expelled from Conello, Co. Limerick by Donald Mor O'Brien of Thomond. These families migrated south to Co. Kerry and Cork. The O'Connells possessed the lordship of Magh o goinin, or the Barony of Magunihy, in East Kerry. The chief of the clan resided in Aghadoe. According to legend, "The O’Connell’s of slender swords, dwelt in the bushy forts betwixt the Laune and the Maine."

The earliest known chief of the O’Connell clan was Aodh (Hugh) O’Connell living in 1337. He had two children Aodh (Hugh) and Shela who were living in 1341. Aodh, the son of the first chief, married Margaret O’Brien daughter of Mahon Moenmoy O’Brien, prince of Thomond. Shela married John O’Mahony Mergagh, of Desmond. Hugh and Margaret had a son Geoffrey, living in 1393, who married Catherine O’Connor-Kerry. They had a son Donal (Daniel) Fitzgeofferey O’Connell, living in 1421, who married Honoria O’Sullivan-Beare.

During the Norman invasion, the Fitzgerald family pressured by the powerful O’Donoghue family towards the Atlantic coast thereby displacing the O’Connells farther west. Their retreat led them to the peninsula of Iveragh, where the O’Connells became hereditary castellans of Ballycarbery under the MacCarthy Mor chiefs.

The lineage continued with Sir Aodh (Hugh), living in 1436, son of Donal and Honoria O’Connell. He married Mary Mc Carthy-Mor daughter of Donal Mc Carthy-Mor. Hugh was knighted Sir Richard Nugent, Lord Deputy of Ireland. They had a son Maurice who married Juliana O’Sullivan-Mor daughter of Rory O’Sullivan-Mor. They had a son Morgan who married Elisabeth O’Donovan daughter of the chief of clan Cathail in Carberry. They had a son Hugh who married Mora daughter of Sir Tadg O’Brien of Baille-na-Carriga, County, Clare. They had a son Morgan of Ballycarbery who was named the High Sheriff of Kerry. Morgan married Helena daughter of Donal Mc Carthy. They had a son Richard who married Johanna daughter of Ceallaghan Mc Carthy. Richard surrendered the castle in Ballycarbery to the English. Richard and Johanna had a son Maurice. Maurice, who also was named High Sheriff of Kerry, married Margaret O’Callaghan daughter of Conchobhar (Conor) O’Callaghan. They had two sons Richard who became the Bishop of Ardfert, and Geoffrey, who carried the title High Sheriff of Kerry. Geoffrey, who died on 25 April 1639, married Honoria daughter of "The Mc Crohan" Lettercastle. Geoffrey and Honora had five sons Maurice of Caherbarnagh near Waterville, Daniel Mac Geoffrey of Ahavore, Peter of Claghanmacquin, John of Ashtown, and Charles of Ballymacleragh.

O’Connells of Brentree, Co. Clare and Ashtown, Co. Dublin

The disasters of the seventeenth century forced the chief family to County Clare. According to the book of Forfeitures and Distributions of 1656, Maurice O’Connell of Caherbearnagh is given as late proprietor of eighteen estates. All estates were given up, except Inishlishmulty and Drumlahort. Maurice’s younger brother, John of Ashtown, Dublin, was a friend and agent of the Duke of Ormonde. Through the Duke’s influence, the O’Connells managed to submit to Henry Cromwell that the heads of the family were to old, too young, or too sick, to have taken part in the Stuart War of 1656. A decree was given that Maurice of Caherbearnagh and his grandson Maurice were to be granted fifteen ploughshares, as long as he move to Brentree, County Clare and renounce all their property in County Kerry. Maurice is reported to have died while in route to Co. Clare.

Maurice had one son Geoffrey of Brentree, Co. Clare who had two sons Maurice and John, and a daughter Catherine. Maurice became a Brigadier General in the Army of King James II. Maurice married Catherine, daughter of Sir William Langton, and possesses land in Keenagh, BallyMcZorin, Skylarig, Bralrig, Drumikeare, Kanburn, Ballynaglerig, Ballynehaw, and Caherlearig all in the Barony of Iveragh. Maurice and Catherine had a son Richard also known as "Lame Rick". Richard eventually became impoverished in London. John, the son of Daniel Mac

Geoffrey, became Lieutenant of the Foot Guards in the Army of King James II, and died at the Siege of Derry in 1689.

After the chief and his main decedents moved to Co. Clare, another grandson of Maurice, Geoffrey was allowed to stay in Ballinahow in the Parish of Killemlagh. Maurice, the eldest son of Geoffrey, was able to reclaim his family’s former land in Dunmaniheen in Parish Killorglin. Unfortunately, the O’Connells of Brentree and Ashtown eventually died without heirs.

O’Connells of Ahavore

Daniel McGeoffrey, son of Geoffrey and Honora, married Alice, daughter of Chistopher Seagrave, Mayor of Dublin. Daniel and Alice had two sons John of Loher and Derrynane, and Maurice of Dunmaniheen.

O’Connells of Dunmaniheen

Maurice, son of Daniel McGeoffrey, married Ellen, daughter of Colonel Callaghan O’Callaghan of Banteer, Co. Cork. Maurice was succeeded by his son, Geoffrey, who was called "Shera na mbo mor" or in English "of the vast herds." He settled in Emlaghnore in Iveragh and died in 1722, at the age of 38 years. Geoffrey had three sons Maurice of Emlaghmore near Waterville, Rev. Morgan DD parish priest of Dingle and then of Killarney, and Charles of Maghre, Co. Clare.

O’Connells of Tralee

Maurice, the son of Geoffrey "Shera na mbo mor", married Jane Hurley, the daughter of Thomas Blennerhassett. Maurice and Jane had three sons Richard of Mount Rivers, Killorgin, Burgess of Tralee, Thomas M.D. of Rathkeale, Co. Limerick and Tralee, and Edward of Tralee.

Thomas M.D. married UNKNOWN Jefcot and had three children, and then married Ellen, daughter of Edward Tuohy. Thomas would have three sons Edward, Richard and Maurice, and five daughters Mary, Catherine, Anne Helena, Elizabeth, and UNKNOWN. Edward was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Richard was a Lieutenant in the 89th Regiment and a Captain in the 84th Regiment, and married Elizabeth, daughter of David Tuohy. Richard had three sons, Thomas, clerk of the Tralee Union, Richard and Daniel, and two daughters Maryanne and UNKNOWN. Maurice would marry UNKNOWN Playne, and then Mary, the daughter of James Mountain Mohoney. Maurice would have two sons Thomas "The Banker", and James who died at a young age. Maurice had two daughters Ellen and Elizabeth. Mary, the Daughter of Thomas M.D., would marry Daniel "The Liberator" O’Connell of Derrynane.

Edward would marry the Daughter of William Murphy and had three sons Daniel "Splinter" of Tralee, John who was a Lieutenant 43rd Regiment, and Richard M.D.

O’Connells of Derrynane Abbey

While the senior branches of the O’Connell clan led a modest life in Tralee, another branch led a prosperous life in Derrynane. Mountains on the East and the ocean on the West isolate the Iveragh peninsula, where Derrynane is located. These areas, as well as other western seaboard areas like Dingle, were often called "Hidden Ireland." Many of the old Gaelic traditions were still practiced there although the rest of Ireland was forbidden to practice these traditions. This also was a prime area for smuggling of which the O’Connells were engaged. Wine, brandy, velvets, and other commodities were imported from the continent without passing by the gauger (i.e. Customs official). Many of the O’Connell’s who left the island for the continental schools or armies served to help the family business.

John, the son of Daniel and Alice, were the first of the Derrynane branch settling there shortly after 1700. His mother, Alice Seagrave, was the daughter of a wealthy family Cabra in Dublin. John was brought up in a cultured home amidst the depths of Kerry. John married Elizabeth Conway, daughter of Christopher Conway of Cloghane near Tralee. Christopher was related to Lord Conway, the first of the name in Ireland. John was a Captain in the Army of King James II. There was tight knit web of cousins within the sophisticated society of South Kerry. John and Elizabeth would have two sons Donal Mor, Daniel, Maurice of Tarmons, Waterville, and Geoffrey Octave, a Roman Catholic priest, and five daughters Anne, Clare, Elizabeth, Alice and UNKNOWN.

Maurice of Tarmons, Waterville, married Mary O'Sullivan-Beare of Berehaven, Co. Cork. They had three sons Daniel of Tarmons, known as Teig ns Stiall (or "Of the Stallions"), Geoffrey of BallybrackLodge, Waterville, and Murcheartach, known as Morty, and three daughters Marry Anne, Honoria. Murcheartach was named Baron Moritz O'Connell a Kerry exile who, as well as being chamberlain to three emperors, served with military distinction on the continent.

Donal Mor, Daniel, became the heir of Derrynane and married Maire Ni Dhubibh - Mary O’Donoghue - the daughter of the prince of Glenfisk. Daniel and Mary would have 22 children including John, Maurice, Morgan of Carhen, Cahirciveen, Connell who was lost at sea, Count Daniel Charles, Elizabeth, Alice, Honora, Joan, Mary, Eileen, Abigail, and Anne Nancy.

John married Mary, daughter of John Falvey of Faha, Killarney. They had one daughter Abigail who married James Gould of Clonakilty.

Maurice, also known as "Hunting Cap", was the heir of Derrynane. Maurice married Mary Cantillion but had no children. Derrynane was left to Maurice nephew Daniel "the Liberator" O’Connell M.P. son of Morgan.

Count Daniel Charles, the fifth son of Donal Mor and Mary, entered the French Service commonly known as the "Wild Geese". He would eventually be called "the last colonel of the Irish Brigade," by his biographer, Mrs. M. J. O'Connell. He entered the French Service in the regiment the Royal Regiment of Swedes where he attained the rank of Major. He was then appointed to Clare's Regiment of the Irish Brigade. He was later re-appointed as Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Regiment of Swedes where he distinguished himself at the siege and capture of Port Mahon in 1779. He received thanks and recommendation for promotion from the Minster of War who elevated him to the rank of Colonel. Soon after, his regiment was sent with the rest of the French troops to capture Gibraltar on the 13 September 1782 where he was severely wounded. In France, he inducted in the Order of St. Louis, a title of nobility, but he had to flee France due to the Revolution. Upon returning to England, he was appointed as Colonel of the 4th Regiment of the Irish Brigade.

Morgan of Caher, Cahirciveen, ran a general store, farmer and landlord. He married Catherine, the daughter of John O'Mullane, Whitechurch, Mallow, Co. Cork. Morgan and Catherine had four sons Daniel "the Liberator", Maurice Morgan, John of Grenagh, and Sir James of Lakeview, and six daughters Mary, Honora, Ellen, Bridgett, Alicia, and Catherine.

Maurice Morgan served in the Irish Brigade under his Uncle Count Daniel Charles O'Connell. John of Grenagh married Elizabeth Coppinger the daughter of William Coppinger, of Ballyvolane and Ballyscourt, Co. Cork. Daniel "the Liberator" married Mary O'Connell of the Tralee branch mentioned above. He inherited Derrynane Abbey from his Uncle Maurice "Hunting Cap" O'Connell. He had six sons Maurice, Morgan, Edward, John, Daniel Stephen, Daniel, and five daughters Ellen, Catherine "Saucy Kate", Elizabeth Mary "Betsy", Mary and Richarda.

Daniel "the Liberator" O'Connell

DANIEL O'CONNELL 1775-1847 POLITICIAN O'Connell was born near Cahirciveen, Co Kerry, on 6 August 1775. Adopted by a childless uncle, Maurice 'Hunting Cap' O'Connell of Derrynane House, overlooking Kenmare Bay, he attended English colleges in France before they were closed by revolutionaries. The O'Connells were prosperous Roman Catholics; it had been illegal to educate the boy abroad, but a 1792 Relief Act changed this and also allowed him to become a successful barrister on the Munster Circuit.

A constitutionalist in politics, O'Connell opposed the violence of the 1798 and 1803 risings, and in 1815 was distressed when he killed an opponent who had forced him into a duel. In 1823, he formed the Catholic Association; membership eventually cost a 'Catholic rent' of a penny a month. His objective was Catholic emancipation, opening up state and judicial posts and the right to sit in parliament. A powerful nationwide organisation quickly emerged, with the help of clergy, and in 1824 the government unsuccessfully prosecuted O'Connell for inciting rebellion.

In 1828, he won a by-election in Co Clare, but unwillingness to take the anti-Catholic oath of supremacy kept him out of Westminster. The following year, the government conceded Catholic emancipation; 'The Liberator', as he was now known, entered parliament after a by-election. In 1840, O'Connell again marshalled mass support in the National Repeal Association, his oratory drawing enormous crowds. However, in 1843, he accepted a government ban on a rally planned for Clontarf, on the outskirts of Dublin. and lost ground to the more militant 'Young Irelanders' under Thomas Davis. In 1844, he was found guilty of creating discontent and disaffection, and was in prison for three months before the House of Lords reversed the judgement.

In 1845 the famine struck Ireland and the "Young Ireland" members of O'Connell's party began to advocate revolutionary doctrines that he had always opposed. Their arguments in favour of violent opposition to British rule led to an open split in Irish ranks in 1846. O'Connell was distressed by this disaffection among the Irish. Although suffering from ill health, he set off for Rome in January 1847 but died in Genoa on 15 May 1847.

Other notable O'Connells

The earliest is the Capuchin Father Robert O'Connell (c. 1621-1678). The first O'Connell to become a figure of national importance was One O'Connell from Co. Clare merits a place in the national roll of honor, Peter O'Connell (1775-1826) - described by Prof. T. F. O'Rahilly as "the best Irish scholar in the Ireland of a century ago." Many O'Connell scholars and clerics have been somewhat eclipsed by the soldiers and politicians. Father Daniel O'Connell, a kinsman of the "Liberator" and a Jesuit, is recognized internationally as an astronomer and seismologist.

O’Connells of Co. Cork

In addition to the genealogy of O’Connell family from Kerry, there is an alternate genealogy for the O’Connell families from Cork. Although, most O’Connells from Co. Cork can trace their heritage to the genealogy above, there was another Conaill in the line of Corc son of Luighad son of Oilill Flann Beag. This genealogy, however, has not been published.

O’Connells of Tuath na Dromun

Tuath na Dromun (also spelled toughnadromun and tognadromun) literally translates as the people (or district) of the ridge referring to the ridge above the Lee river where this area is located. Tuath na Dromun was an ancient Celtic area and Druid stronghold. It currently covers the parishes of Ballyvourney, Killnamartyr, and Clondrohid. This area lies 10 kilometers west of Killarney in county Cork and few kilometers east of Macroom along the Cork – Killarney road. During 836, the Danes plundered Tuath na Dromun.

Tuath na Dromun centers on the Church of St. Lachtain, which dates back to the 6th century. After St. Lachtain’s death his hand was preserved since it supposedly had healing powers. For centuries afterwards, people came from long distances to be healed by St. Lachtain’s hand. Eventually, the church was destroyed in order to discourage pilgrimages and a new church was built called Cill na Martyr or church of the relic. This is where the current parish of Kilnamartyra receives its name.