Farrell Surname Genealogy

The roots of the Old Gaelic name Fearghail are fear, meaning “man,” and gal “valor,” hence man of
valor. The original Fearghail from whom the O’Fearghails have
claimed descent was slain by the Danes at the battle of Clondarf in
1014. His great grandfather Anghaile gave his name to the
that they possessed, Annaly in county Longford.It was not until later that O’Fearghail was anglicized to
O’Farrell and later Farrell. The first record of an O’Farrell was
Father Richard O’Farrell of Annaly in the early 1600’s.Farrell is the many spelling today. The main variants are Ferrell
and Farrall.

Resources on

Farrell Ancestry

The Farrell clan committee has sponsored three booklets which cover
Ferrell clan history:

  • Farrell
    Clan: A Brief History
    , by Hugh Farrell
  • The
    O’Farrells of Morrnin Castle
    , by Jimmy Lennon
  • and The Ferrell Clan in Europe, by
    Stephen Collins.

The base for the clan was county Longford in the Irish midlands.
The O’Ferghaills appeared often in The
Annals of the Four Masters
, in part because of their conflicts with
the English in Meath
. The clan chief, known as the Lord
of Annaly, was resident at Longphuirt Ui Fhearghaill (meaning
O’Farrell’s fortress), the place which gave its name to the town and
county of Longford
. There were in fact two
branches of the sept, one chief being named O’Farrell Boy (from buidhe
meaning “yellow”) and the other O’Farrell Ban (from bane “white” or “fair”).

Things came tumbling down in the 17th century. It began
with the land confiscations of 1614:

“In the county of Longford, twenty five
of one sept alone (the O’Farrells) were deprived of their estates
without any compensation whatever, or any means of subsistence assigned

There was a period of resistance in the 1640’s under Colonel Richard
O’Farrell which was finally stamped out by Cromwell. By 1659,
after he had finished, there were but 17 O’Farrell families in Longford
town and 23 in nearby Moydow. The final vanquishing came with
William’s victory over James in the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Many O’Farrells
then to fight in the service of foreign armies, part
of the
so-called “Wild Geese.”

Penal restrictions in Ireland followed, interrupted by occasional
violence. William Farrell has left a dramatic eyewitness account
of the 1798
Rebellion in Carlow
which he lived through. Matters
stabilized in the 19th century and many Farrells returned to
Longford. The Griffiths Valuations in the
1850’s showed a Farrell concentration in Longford, spilling over into
neighboring counties. There was, in addition, a sizeable Farrell
contingent in Dublin. James Farrell was a leading Dublin
brewer. And an O’More Ferrall line had begun in Dublin after
Ferrall married Letitia O’More.

In the 19th century, after English pressure, Farrell had displaced
O’Farrell as the family surname. After independence, there was a
revival in the use of the O’Farrell name. Today about 15%
are O’Farrells. The main numbers of Farrells and O’Farrells are
in Dublin and Longford.

England. Many Farrells
crossed the Irish Sea to industrial Lancashire in the 19th
century. J.G. Farrell, born in Liverpool, won the Booker Prize in
1973 for his novel The Siege
of Krishnapur
and had a promising literary future.
Unfortunately he died young, washed into the sea by a freak wave while
fishing in county Cork.

Caribbean. The name made
it to the
Caribbean as Farrill
. The first of the line was
Richard Farrill from Longford who appeared in Montserrat as an
indentured servant in the 1670’s. These Farrills were later to be
found in the Leeward Islands.

Both Ferralls and Farrells exist in America, although Farrells
outnumber Ferrells by approximately two to one.

Ferrell However,
Ferrell may be the older line. There appear to have been
Ferrells in Maryland befiore 1700. There were later clusters in
Virginia, West Virginia, and across into Kentucky and Tennessee and
moving south.

Farrell That
does not mean that Farrells or even O’Farrells were not seen
here. Charles O’Farrell from Virginia, for instance, was a
Confederate cavalry colonel and later a Virginia legislator.
Edward O’Farrell appeared in the census records of Alabama as early as
1830. And one Farrell family history traces itself back to
Michael Farrell from Longford who arrived in the 1830’s and settled in
West Virginia. However, the Farrells and O’Farrells in America
were mostly to be found around the main 19th century immigration points
– New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.

Heading West
Some did make it west. Jasper O’Farrell came to California in
1843 while it was still Mexican territory. He became the first
surveyor of San Francisco and designed the grand promenade that is now
Market Street.

Another arrival at that time, after a life spent at sea,
was John O’Farrell. He sought gold in California and Colorado and
then settled in Boise, Idaho. He cleared land there in 1863 and
built a single-room cabin for himself and his young wife. This
cabin, thought to be the first family house in Boise, has recently been
restored to its original condition.

20th Century Two
resplendent Farrells of the 20th century have been the writer James
Farrell and the singer Eileen Farrell:

  • James Farrell’s grandparents had
    immigrated from Ireland and the family had finally settled in
    Chicago. He became a best-selling writer in the 1930’s with his
    Studs Lonigan trilogy on the Irish working community in
  • Eileen
    who came from an Irish vaudeville background, blossomed through the
    medium of radio as a much-loved popular and classical singer.

of the Irish who emigrated to Argentina in the early to mid 1800’s came
from the Longford/Westmeath counties in Ireland. They included a
number of Farrells. Santiago O’Farrell was a well-known lawyer,
politician, and Irish community leader in Buenos Aires in the early
1900’s. Edelmiro Julian Farrell, who briefly became President of
Argentina in the 1940’s, was the grandson of immigrant Matthew Farrell
from Longford.

First came convicts. The earliest
seem to have come from England, Philip Farrell from London on the First
Fleet and Lydia
from the Midlands (who later married Sergeant Robert
Higgins) in 1792.

Among the Irish convicts, George Farrell helped led
an unsuccessful rebellion in 1833 against the inhuman conditions on
Norfolk island. James Farrell (from Dublin) and Dominick Farrell
(from Leitrim) arrived later and served out their
sentences. James became a gold prospector, Dominick a
wealthy squatter.

Amomg Irish settlers in Australia were:

  • Andrew and Mary Farrell who had emigrated during the Famine in
    to Buenos Aires. Later they sailed for Australia where the family
    farmed and went into brewing. Their son John became a journalist
    with The Sydney Daily Telegraph.
  • another Irish immigrant, DS Farrell, started a haulage business
    Sydney in the 1860’s. His grandson Greg teamed up with maverick
    businessman Gordon Barton to expand into trucking, hotels, casinos and
    tourism. The Farrell family now owns one of the largest family-run
    companies in Australia and Greg junior one of its premier horse-stud
  • and also from an Irish immigrant family in the 1860’s, this
    time into Victoria, is the new premier of New South Wales, Barry

Farrell Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Farrell Names

Fearghail from whom the Farrell clan
claim descent died in the early 1000’s.
Thomas Farrell
was a noted
sculptor in Dublin in the late 1800’s.
James Farrell rose to become
President of US Steel in 1911.
James T. Farrell, born of an
Irish-American family in Chicago, was a best-selling writer of the
1930’s with his Studs Lonigan trilogy.
Edelmiro Julian Farrell was
the Argentine President who brought General Peron into political
power in the 1940’s.
Eileen Farrell is a much-loved
American popular and classical singer of the mid-20th century.
Suzanne Farrell is a leading
20th century American ballerina. She was born Roberta Sue
Ficker in Cincinnati.
Colin Farrell is a budding
Irish and Hollywood actor.

Select Farrells

  • 22,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 36,000 in America (most numerous
    in New York).
  • 41,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland).



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