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
Addendum: More Sullivan branch names from the Killorglin area
Ahane,Aharkugh/Aherkugh/Ahurkugh/Aharkagh/Arhakra,Aye/Aii,Balardus, Baltinny/Battinny,Bane/Bawn, Brack, Buss, Buye/Bweey, Coarthu, Cassure, Coasclagh, Cuck/cock, Darragh/Darrig. Dillagh, Dirreen, Dirtagh, Donihy/Dorohy/Dorogha, Duff/duve, Fiely, Gaunka/Gaunkagh/Gauncough, Girria/Giria, Gou,Gow, Liah/Liagh/Leagh, Mahig. Marr, Nagragh/Na Quoe,Namoe, Phil, Pew/Pue, Pormds, Quart, Roe, Rua, Rue, Tut, Vahig, Weaver.
Owen O’Sullivan alerted me firstly to this letter in the Kerry People of 26 March 1901, where the noted Kerry historian Jeremiah King had written to that newspaper asking for any information
He details another way of describing them in the 10 areas as follows: Dunkerron, MacGillicuddy, Cumurhagh or Mac Muirrihirtigg, Glenbeigh, Caneah and Glanarcane, Culemagort, Cappanacuss, Capiganine, Fermoyle and Ballycarna, Ballyvicgillaneulan.
A number of readers of the Kerry People replied and gave Jeremiah further information. These letters are available on www.IrishNewsAchive.com. Owen lists them as follows:
- Kerry People Saturday 27.05.1911 page 12 O’Sullivan’s History
- Kerry People Saturday 03.06.1911 page 3 O’Sullivan’s History continued
- Kerry People Saturday 10.06.1911 page 1 List of forfeiting landholders 1656
- Kerry People Saturday 17.06.1911 page 1 Land clearances
- Kerry People Saturday 15.07.1911 page 3 O’Sullivan Mor
- Kerry People Saturday 29.07.1911 page 12 O’Sullivan’s History continued
- Kerry People 12.08.1911 page 6 O’Sullivan’s History continued
- Kerry People 26.08.1911, page 7 Irish Civil Corrrespondence, Cappanacush O’Sullivans
- Kerry People 02.09.1911 page 3 O’Sullivan’s Cappanacush, Glenbeigh,
- MacGillicuddy O’Sullivan’s
- Kerry People 09.09.1911 page 10 O’Sullivan’s History continued
- Kerry People 16.09.1911 page 8 Depositions 1713
- Kerry People 23.09.1911 page 12 MacGillicuddy’s
- Kerry People 14.10.1911 page 12 O’Sullivan’s Fermoyle and Ballycarna, Ballyvicgillaneulan, O’Sullivan Bere
- Kerry People 28.10.1911, page 12 The O’Sullivan Family
- Kerry People 11.11.1911, page 2 O’Sullivan’s of Ardea
- Kerry People 02.12.1911, page 3 The Clan Na Deaghaidh
Thank you so very much for the detailed and interesting breakdown of the O’Sullivan name and people! I am very grateful for you sharing your knowledge and expertise! My Sullivan ancestors all had red and auburn hair…perhaps the Rua clan of Sullivans! (but also they were opinionated, so then there is the Barrule clan) This is all so interesting. I am looking forward to reading the info on the links you included as well. Just got back to the States from County Kerry…. so incredibly beautiful there!! Part of my heart was connecting and feeling “at home” in Kerry.
Very interesting information regarding the O Sullivan clan sub names, but I should love to be able to find out more about pinpointing WHICH bit of the O Sullivan family we have! G Grandmother Julia O Sullivan, born in 1813 in Minish southeast of Killarney, daughter of Thomas O Sullivan and Gobinet Counihan of Minish, but Thomas was from Cloghereen at his marriage. Her Godparents were Daniel and Mary O Sullivan, grandparents??. She married Edmund Spillane in 1834 in Killarney and lived in Lower Lissivigeen and Lissivigeen before moving away southeast to Droumdiralough – now called Lough Guitane. Thomas O Sullivan was born and christened before parish registers were entered so have no way of finding out earlier generations. SO, unless you already know, or have been told, how is it possible to discover a branch name???
Would love to know more …. Julia has been confirmed as of our family not only from family info and parish registers but also from Donagh Spillane from Glenflesk.
Mary, thanks for your comment on the O’Sullivan branch names. I suppose the quick answer to your query is that it will be impossible to find out which ‘branch’ you might be, unless there are living descendants who might recall family folklore. In your case, your O’Sullivans may not have had a ‘branch’ name at all as there were not as many O’Sullivans in the Killarney area as there were in Kenmare/Kilgarvan/Beara Peninsula where it was necessary and families are stil known to certain extent to this day.
My maternal grandmother, Honora (Nora) O”Sullivan (Bawn) Fitzmartin was born in Kilgarven at a farm that I’ve always heard called Cahir East. She was married to my grandfather, Patrick Fitzmartin, and had one child, my mother, Mary Fitzmartin Fitzgeraldin 1915. My grandmother was in her 80’s whe she died during the 1950’s. She died in the family farm which belong to her brother’s daughter at the time. It is now owned by my cousin Paddy Callaghan.
Hello Evelyn Fitzgerald
My name is Catherine Lynch O’Connor I am Paddy Callaghan’s niece I remember your sister Geraldine and your Mom Mai
Fitzgerald visiting Kenmare and Kilgarvan your Mom was here in 1984, If you’d like contact me by email.
Hi Eve, my name is Edward and I live in Killarney. I am doing a little research into the Fitzmartin lineage and I wonder do you know where your Grandfather Patrick originated from ? It was made known to me by a cousin in the US that a May Fitzmartin was born in Killarney and it peaked my curiosity. Is there a connection by any chance and I hope you don’t mind my intrusion on your post after such a long time.
My Sullivan / O’Sullivan Line came from Lissivigeen 1800 -1900
My Sullivans (Beara) are also from Lissivigeen / Killarney, the earliest one found circa 1775.
My line married into Ferris and Connor families. Do you have similar ones in your tree?
It’s possible Nathalie that those name could match. My O’Sullivan Line has a lot of missing information My Mom’s father was from Lissivigeen he had 8 siblings and maybe one other. some of them came to america one of them stayed in Ireland one of them supposedly went to Africa and 4 of them are missing without trace.
My O’Sullivan is Mary from Cahvirseen(?) She was born in 1830 or 1847
My Sullivan’s were from Cahirweesheen a town land near CastleIsland Co. Kerry. They were known as “the Carroll Sullivan’s”
Denis, Cahirweesheen is a townland on the outskirts of Tralee. Cahereen East and Cahereen West are townlands in Castleisland Civil Parish.
My family are the Sullivan s from Rath and the Fentons from Reen.
We are now living in South Wales.
Very interesting about the branch names. Both of my great great grandmothers were Sullivans and one was a Sullivan Suonish. They were both from Tuosist as far as I’ve been able to see from records, however I don’t have townlands for them. They’re as far back as I was able to trace them as the records back further than the 1820’s don’t exist anymore, I believe.
Marianne, if you give me names and dates, I can do a quick ‘look-up’ on possible townlands for O’Sullivan Suonish in my copy of Annals of Beara Vol. 1, Kay
Is determining the clan as easy as knowing the town our ancestors were from?
My Grandparents were from Killurly East, Cahersiveen (Michael Sullivan) and Dooneen, Cahersiveen (Kathleen Riordan) and my Sullivan Great Grandparents (Timothy “Tadgh” O’Sullivan and Bridget Mary (Golden) Sullivan). were also from Killurly East, Cahersiveen.
Len, no there aren’t different ‘clans’ of the O’Sullivans in different towns or locations. You would have to get this knowledge from a relative or sometimes they ‘branch’ name might be listed on their tenancy in Griffith’s Valuation, just to differentiate one family of O’Sullivans from another. Kay
Are/were certain branch names more common in the rural area northwest of Bantry? For example, our Sullivan ancestors seemed to move around as the family grew (presumably due to need for more room–or cheaper rent! ) in the late 1860s. But, they always stayed in the vicinity of the coast and Barnagearagh. Would that make them more likely to be Barnach?
Hello all my (our) relatives from where I migrated to — Pomo Territory of Northern California, USA. While awaiting a DNA test result, I am researching the Beara family relations of my maternal great grandmother, Helen M. Barrett, who was the daughter of Hanora O’Sullivan (Bawn) b. 1834 and Daniel O’Sullivan (McCann) b. 1826. Hanora’s mother was a Mary Harrington and I’m hoping to continue down her historical line… Ahehe (thank you in my husband’s language).
Excellent – and best of luck in your search. It is very early for some of these Parishes to get records Adrigole starts 1830, Tuosist starts 1844 (baptisms only), Eyeries baptisms start 1843, baptisms 1824, Allihies starts 1823, Castletownbere starts 1819. I found The Annals of Beara (3 Vols) by Riobard O;Dwyer N.T., invaluable in sorting out the various O’Sullivans. See my blog here.
My grandmother Mary Anne Sullivan was born in Kilgarvan in about 1874 and she referred to her family as Sullivan Glaney. Later they moved to Kenmare. I meet a dead end with the « Glaney » I have asked people from Kerry and they never heard of Glaney. I don’t see it on any maps. Any ideas.? Thank you.
Ann Marie, no I haven’t come across ‘Glaney’ in any ‘branch’ name of the Sullivans and there is no townland in Kilgarvan that even sounds like ‘Glaney’. I can only advise that you ask the Facebook group Sullivan/O’Sullivan Genealogy of Co. Kerry/Co. Cork. Someone there just might have heard of it.
Hello! Kay, When my mother was a young girl, her father Jeremiah John O’Sullivan of Cappagh, Kenmare, County Kerry, told her to never forget she is of the O’Sullivan Don or Dan’s. My grandfather immigrated to the United States in 1908. My mother and I often wondered what the name meant and why my grandfather told her to never forget the name. I understand about the nicknames now but I was very surprised to read that you were looking for the Downs in Kilgarvan and the name turned out to be Donn meaning dark.
My grandfather comes from a long line of O’Sullivan’s, Downings/Downey’s and Shea’s of Droumtouck, Cappagh, Kenmare, Kerry. I recently met through a site on Facebook a man from the O’Sullivan family who were next door neighbors to my O’Sullivan family in Cappagh. They told me that the families usually took the name of the father of the house for a nickname. Which would have meant my grandfather would have been Jeremiah O’Sullivan Patt or Pat because my great grandfather’s name was Patrick O’Sullivan. However, my grandfather always said he was of the O’Sullivan Don or Dan’s or Donn or Dann’s. I wonder if we are of the same O’Sullivan Donn’s that you were searching for? Where can I get information on the O’Sullivan Donn’s? Thank you very much for your information and would appreciate your help very much, Maureen
Maureen, I think there might be a slight mis-understanding here. If you are one of the ‘O’Sullivan Donn’s (means dark as gaelige), then that is the name that the entire family would be called and even though a son or uncle or girl might move or marry – when another person would be trying to explain who they were, they would say ‘Oh they are one of the Sullivan Donns’ (pronounced ‘down’). If they started calling them just the father’s name as you mention – Jeremiah or Pat – there would be a terrible mix up. No one would know who was related to whom.
Kay, Thank you for getting back to me. My grandfather told my mother to never forget she is of the O’Sullivan Don or Dan’s. I am not sure if that would be O’Sullivan Don or Donn (pronounced “down”) or Dan or Dann. I had a feeling using the first name of the father wasn’t correct. Thank you for helping me with that. Now I am back to wondering if he was from the O’Sullivan Dan or Don “down” branch. Have you ever heard of O’Sullivan Dan? Thank you, Maureen
No Maureen, I haven’t come across that one but there are so many variations that it is possibly correct.
Thank you Kay for your time and help with this. Best Wishes, Maureen
There is at least one O’Sullivan Dan family in Kenmare try posting in some local Facebook groups such as Kenmare Chronicle, or other such groups for local input.
Thank you Morgan for your help with my O’Sullivan Dan family in Kenmare. I will do my best to find them.
What is known of the O’Sullivans who ended up in the Dingle peninsula? My understanding was o Sullivan bear were from Beara and o Sullivan mórs from more northern Kerry area. Does the annals of Beara deal with an o Sullivan’s from the dingle peninsula? Must look up the newspaper archives you mentioned. Thanks!
aAoibheann, I never heard that tale about the O’Sullivan Mór branch being from the Dingle Peninsula. Yes the original O’Sullivans were the O’Sullivan Bere clan and the different branch names spring from their descendants.
Anybody remember the Sullivan s from Rath,and the Fenton from reen?
My father was born there in 1926.
His name MichaelJoseph Sullivan.
Michael Sullivan from South Wales
There are still O’Sullivans in Rath, Bonane, Co Kerry. Try writing directly or you could post in some of the local Facebook sites Kenmare Chronicle etc.
Hi Michael, I am an O’Sullivan Rath living in Bonane.. you’re welcome to contact me via email! Mary
My mother was born in Rath in 1917 to Michael O’Sullivan and Mary Galvin and their house was next door to the Fentons on one side and the Sheas on the other. There was also another family of Fentons in Rath.
OSullivan Aurach (Airy) from Rockchapel Co Cork. Anybody any idea
.I am a decendant and my dna goes back to the Beara peninsula
Deborah Willmes is co-ordinating a lot of Sulllivan DNA and it might be an idea to contact her by email.
Hi I am present working on my family tree and would like a little help, my O’Sullivan branch name is Leigh and we come from Baureragh, Bonone in Kenmare. My grandparents lived here but moved to Carrignahilla in the 1970s,I hope someone can help me in my search.
Hi Denis, in reply to your request on 25th Dec 2018; i am your cousin, Sheila O’Sullivan. My grandmother was Mary O’Sullivan Leigh Baureraugh, sister of Jermiah O’Sullivan Leigh. Write to me at email@example.com and i would be delighted to give you some information.
Thank you for this. I had the book Mr O’Dwyer wrote about the families around Eyeries and Beara, and donated it to the Auckland Library, Auckland, New Zealand, in case any folk from around Beara and Castletown were looking for info.
My husband was Sullivan (Giles) though he used O’Sullivan. I believe a gt gt gran-mother came from Kerry to the Beara area long ago.
I have his genealogy as far as I could get, the records were lost at the time of the famine and then the disaster in Dublin, much later.
He was Christopher, his brother was Patrick, both came to New Zealand and now their children are scattered, in NZ and Australia mostly.
Good luck with you endeavour.
This is wonderful information. My great-great-grandfather was a Sullivan and was known to tell the “boys” in Waupaca and Shawano about his royal heritage. I don’t have any details because my grandmother thought it was all a bunch of hooey. So she never shared it.
This great-great grandfather emigrated from Rathea to Ontario through the Robinson Expedition, which was a way to remove poor Irish people from the famine time to Canada.
His name was Edward Mike Sullivan. We have the name Edward but he was called Mike. He moved from the somewhat botched Experiment to a town called Royalton, very near Waupaca, where the farmland was good. I suppose being Royal he liked the name of the town also.
Any information on the Sullivans from Rathea?
Ellen I am very interested in this as I have been chasing up north Kerry descendants from the Peter Robinson scheme for a number of years now. I will email you separately to get more details of your Rathea Sullivan ancestors.
Hello Kay, my husband’s grandfather was Denis Sullivan (Donacha Rua) from Kenmare. At last, I have found his parents Denis Sullivan from Ballybog, Sneem, and Johanna Breen from Droumcomagh. I can’t find any Droumcomagh on a map. Is it near Sneem or Blackwater? I hope that you can help me. Thanks, Martine
I left Sneem 36 years ago on the 3rd of March. I have heard of a place called Droumcmoagh- although that is the wrong spelling of it, but I have never heard of Ballybog in the Sneem parish. Droumcmoagh is west of Sneem on the Warterville road. A well Known Breen family lives on that road at a place called Kelly’s Cross- which is about two or three miles from Sneem. Unless it is another pronunciation or spelling Droumcmoagh is nowhere near Blackwater, which is approx 5 miles east of Sneem on the Kenmare road. I went to what Americans call high school in Kenmare, and I know it well. Hope that helps.. Brian O’
Looking for Sullivan family of Sneem. Patrick J Sullivan married Mary Murphy. Had daughters Anna and Julia and son Eugene . Patrick J was from Sneem. Eugene, my grandfather was born in 1885 in Providence Rhode Island USA. He died in Philadelphia in 1960.
My maternal great grandmother was a Sullivan Her father was Dennis Sullivan and her mother was Mary Bresnahan. My great grandmother was Nora Sullivan and she married John Flaherty. I think she was born in County Kerry.
Jane, I will send you a Query Form separately and if you fill and return to me, I can come back to you with some suggestions on the best way for you to find your great grandmother. This form has targeted questions to enable me to identify the correct family. In your case ‘Sullivan’ or ‘O’Sullivan’ is so popular it can be difficult to get the correct family.
My Sullivan ancestors were from Muingydowda township, though I have been told that they would probably use the postal address Emlaghlea or Emlaghmore, and occasionally said they were born in either Ballinskelligs or Caherciveen. But the census records of 1901 and 1911 do show them in Muingydowda. I have also been told that they were of the “Leath” tribe. My great grandfather was Patrick Sullivan, who first married a Kate Sullivan, who died around 1858 or 1859. He remarried, this time to Nora Sugrue. My grandmother Josephine Sullivan was one of their daughters, who immigrated to Connecticut around 1894.
I would be interested if there is any information on the “leath” Sullivans and if there are still any Sullivans left in Muingydowda. Can provide more information about my grandmother’s many siblings as well if desired.
Julie, it is difficult to find current day residents as we are restricted by Data Protection Laws from but we can certainly get more information on you branch of the Sullivan family. I will send you separately an ancestor Query Form which has targeted questions to enable us to identify the correct family.
There is an “Iveragh Peninsula Genealogy” FB group that might be of interest to you.
My paternal grandmother was Catherine or Kathleen O’Sullivan, her siblings were Phillip, Johnny and Shelia/Julia. They lived in Cappanacush East. Their home still remains in the family and can be found on the Internet by searching for O’Sullivans Cottage.
My grandmother settled in Cheshire, England. Phillip settled in Liverpool, Sheila and Johnny never married and stayed in the family home all their lives. My brother now owns the house.
I am looking for Sullivan branch called the Brack. My James Fogarty married to Mary Sullivan (Brack).
My great grandmother was the daughter of Cornelius o Sullivan, of The Old Court Lixnaw . They came from Killarney and before that Bear Island Cork. Anyone out there related.