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

Distribution of Sullivans Griffiths Valuation

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

November 2017

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.


December 2017

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