Roscommon Surnames

Roscommon Royal Families
(courtesy of Patrick Lavin)

Titles Families
King: O'Connor
Princes: MacDermott, O'Kelly
Earl: Dillon
Lords: O'Feenaghty, O'Flannagan, O'Flynn, O'Glennon
Chieftans: MacBrennan, MacKeogh, O'Beirne, O'Connelan, O'Hanley, O'Maol Conroy, O'Monaghan, O'Mulrenin, O'Norton, O'Kelly
No title designated: Conroy, French, MacDowell, MacManus, O'Concannon, O'Corr, O'Donnelan, O'Dugan, O'Duigennan, O'Fallon, O'Fihelly, O'Loman, O'Malbride, O'Meany, O'Moran, O'Molloy, O'Mulvihil

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Some of the prominent names in Country Roscommon:

  • Bierne/O'Beirne
  • Boyd
  • Brady
  • Brennan
  • Callery
  • Connor/O'Connor
  • Cox
  • Dockery
  • Duignan
  • Fallon
  • Farrell
  • Flynn
  • Ford
  • Frain
  • Gately
  • Hanley/Hanly
  • Hester
  • Lally
  • Lavin
  • MacBrennan (later O'Brennan)
  • McDermott
  • McDonaugh
  • McGarry
  • Mulloy
  • O'Gara
  • O'Hara
  • O'Kelly
  • O'Monaghan
  • Regan
  • Stapleton
  • Towey

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    The following is from Irish Family Names: Arms, Origins and Location, by Brian de Breffney:

  The inland Connacht county of Roscommon is bounded on the north and east by Co. Leitrim, on the east also by the counties of Longford, Westmeath and Offaly, on the south and southwest by Co. Galway, and on the north-west by the counties of Mayo and Sligo, so that like Co. Offaly it has borders with no less than seven other counties. 

The O'Conors were the most important sept of the region before the Anglo-Norman incursions, the centre of the present county being their principal seat of power; to the north the McDermots held sway, to the south the O'Kellys. 

All three surnames still figure today among the half-dozen commonest in Co. Roscommon, O'Kelly and Kelly holding the first place by a wide gap, McDermot in second place, and O'Connor and Connor in sixth place. 

While the O’Conor Don whose seat is at Clonnalis in the county (and who traces his descent from the O'Conor kings of Connacht and high-Kings of Ireland) retains the spelling of his surname as O'Conor with a single ‘n’, this name is commonly and more frequently found now as O'Connor or Connor. 

The other most populous families in Co. Roscommon in modern times are O'Beirne and Beirne trailing McDermot in third place and followed closely by O'Regan or Regan and Flanagan. In seventh place, after O'Connor and Connor, comes McDonagh followed by Quinn, Murray, Brennan, Higgins and O'Higgins, Towey, Kenny, and Flynn.

In the reign of King Henry III most of the county of Roscommon was granted to the de Burgo or Burke family but later, through the marriage of the heiress of that family with a prince of the English royal house, their estates reverted to the Crown. 

In any case the alien control of the territory appears to have been nominal; the branches of the O'Conors, with their principal strongholds at Ballinafad Castle and Ballintober Castle, and the other Irish chiefs, remained in effective control of most of the area. 

In the English subdivision of Connacht in 1565, the present county was erected and its limits defined, the McDermot territory became one of its baronies (Boyle), the O'Conor Don's territory became another barony (Ballintober), the O'Conor Roe's territory became the barony of Roscommon and the territory of the O'Kellys became the barony of Athlone and the half-barony of Moycarnon at the southern tip of the county. 

The native Irish chiefs were compelled to submit and swear allegiance in return for which the Crown re-granted them their ancestral lands but subject to inheritance according to English law. During the upheavals of the 17th century, however, after a period in which the old families regained supremacy, they were eventually dispossessed. 

The family of the O'Conor Don contrived to retain 10,000 acres or so without renouncing their religion. Some of the others were less fortunate although in the last century a McDermott Roe held 2500 acres in the county, an O'KeIly 1200 or so, and others named O'Conor several estates of between 2000 and 7000 acres. 

Only a Mr. Wills of Castlerea, Mr. Tenison of Kilronan Castle, Mr. Pakenham-Mahon of Strokestown, the King-Harman family of Rockingham and the family of French (represented principally by Lord de Freyne at Frenchpark) owned more land in the county than the O'Conor Don, a situation of retention of their property by the ancient Irish proprietors which is very rare in that this family did not conform to the Established Church in order to retain their estates, in the penal times, one other example being the O'Connells of Derrynane, Co. Kerry.

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This page was last updated on 02/20/06.