I get a large number of queries and consultations on Sullivan/O'Sullivan families both in Kerry and in the Kerry Catholic Diocese of the Beara Peninsula, so I thought they needed a blog of their own. For the very few of you who don't know the importance of the O'Sullivans to this part of Ireland, I would refer you to Library Ireland or if you want to read of the historic march of Dónal Cam O'Sullivan Beara in 1602:
'They had set out from Glengarriff a fortnight before, one thousand in number; and that morning only thirty-five entered O'Rourke's castle: eighteen armed men, sixteen servants, and one woman, the wife of the chief's uncle, Dermot O'Sullivan. A few others afterwards arrived in twos and threes; all the rest had either perished I or dropped behind from fatigue, sickness, or wounds.'
In Griffiths Valuation 1852 there were 4,850 Sullivan families in Kerry. and 1753 families in the Barony of Bear, Cork. In the 1901 Census of Ireland there were 11,081 individual Sullivan people in Kerry and in 1911 there were 9634.
So you can see the problems when trying to research and find your own particular Sullivan. In the 18th and 19th century, the O'Sullivans (as they are now properly titled) themselves found a way to differentiate the many Sullivan families - by adopting 'branch' names. In effect each family in these generations, and in a lot of cases to the present day, adopted what some would call a 'nickname'. It was usually some name that would denote one family from another. Whether it was to do with the colour of their hair, their occupation, or their disposition, this branch name was what the individual family, daughter, son, father, grandfather, great & great grandfather, was known by. As we had more of an 'aural' interpretation of names than a visual one in those times, some emigrants became known by their branch names in their country of adoption. This can cause total confusion and needs to be understood by every O'Sullivan descendant
For instance I have spent hours looking for a Margaret Cooper who was one of the Kerry Girls sent to Australia under the Earl Grey Scheme. Quite by accident, after hitting a brick wall at every turn, I discovered that she was in face Margaret O'Sullivan (Cooper). A few weeks ago again I spent hours looking for a 'Downs' family in Kilgarvan to discover that I should have been looking for an O'Sullivan (Donn). When this family emigrated to the U.S. and were asked on marriage for their mother's name they said 'Donn' (dark) and this was interpreted in the marriage register as 'Downs'
I was very lucky recently to acquire a copy of the Annals of Beara (Vol 1) by Riobard O'Dwyer, N.T. and by going through this I was able to extract a large number of the 'branch' names of these various O'Sullivans, with just a few here:
O’Sullivan (Gow) - Blacksmith
O’Sullivan (Suonish)- Peaceful
O’Sullivan (Hurrig) - Marshland
O’Sullivan (Cumba) - Descendant of Irish Brigade who fought for France in 17th century
O’Sullivan (Seer) - Tradesman
O’Sullivan (Barrule) - Opinionated!
O’Sullivan (Rua) - Red haired
O’Sullivan (Ukirre) - Weaver
O’Sullivan (Vallig) - Bealach or passage way
O’Sullivan (Fune) - Fair haired
O’Sullivan (Shearhig) - Descendant of Shearhig (Jeffrey)
A very good website on the O'Sullivan Clan with many more of these branch names here