Select Rooney Surname Genealogy

Rooney is an Irish Ulster name from more than one Gaelic root.

The main root O'Ruanaidh, meaning "the descendant of the champion", is to be found in county Down, as is the alternate O'Runaidhin.  This Rooney name later spread into north Leitrim and Donegal.  Then there were the Rooneys of county Fermanagh, from the Gaelic O'Maolruanaigh which was anglicized to Mulrooney and Macarooney and later to Rooney.  The village of Roslea in Fermanagh was named by the English from slat-mul-rony or territory of the Rooneys.

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Ireland.  The O'Rooneys were a county Down sept based in the modern parish of Ballyroney. Their name appeared frequently in the ecclesiastical annals of Dromore.  However, these Rooneys are chiefly remembered as poets - starting with Ceallach O'Rooney, recorded as the chief poet of Ireland in 1079, and going through Eoin O'Rooney in the 14th century to William Rooney in the late 19th century. 

There are still many Rooneys today in county Down, including the young Rooney Family which performs traditional Irish music around the country. 

There was another pocket of Rooneys at Roslea in Fermanagh near the Monaghan border, in Clones parish.  Hugh Rooney was apprenticed as a cooper there at the time of the 1798 uprising.  His descendant Hugh, born in 1880 and known as Master Hugh, wrote his memoirs of the area in 1970. 

By that time, because of emigration, the Rooney numbers there were much fewer than they had been in the past. At the time of the famine, one Rooney family had departed Roslea for Prince Edward Island in Canada in 1847.  Many more crossed the Atlantic in the late 1800ís and early 1900ís

England.  The 19th century saw a major Irish migration across the Irish Sea to England where there was work in the new industrial cities.  Lancashire took the greatest share of Rooneys.  Patrick and Julia Rooney, for instance, came to Liverpool with their children in 1835.  These Rooneys generally encountered harsh working conditions and anti-Catholic sentiment, but built their families. 

Wayne Rooney the footballer, whose grandfather was born in Bootle, is the most well-known Rooney in England today.      

.   There were early sightings of Rooneys in America in Virginia.  A Rooney was said to have been among those massacred by Indians at Fort Seybert in 1758.  Another Rooney, Alexander, died in an Indian raid in 1781 near his home at Leading Creek in Randolph county. 

The Rooney distribution in America today reflects the later Irish immigration into New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.  Although their numbers are less than those in England, their success rate has perhaps been higher. Art and Dan Rooney who have run the Steeler football franchise are Pittsburgh's best-known citizens; while Frank Rooney who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania made a lot of money through the various businesses that he developed.

Patrick Rooney had initially intended to come to New York from Ireland in 1835.  However, after a treacherous voyage, he ended up in Quebec.  He and his brother Michael initially made their home in the Gatineau valley.  Many of the Rooney families there then migrated south to Minnesota in the 1860ís.
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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

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Ceallach O' Rooney was recorded as the chief poet of Ireland in 1079.
William Rooney was a noted Irish poet involved in the revival of the Gaelic language in the late 19th century.
Art Rooney,
the son of Irish immigrants, founded the Pittsburgh Steelers football franchise in the 1930's.  In his 41st season as owner, the club won the Super Bowl. 
Mickey Rooney, born Joseph Yule in Brooklyn in 1920, has been an American movie actor and entertainer since the 1940's.
Andy Rooney
is a writer and humorist on American TV.
Wayne Rooney from Liverpool plays football for Manchester United and the England national team. 

Select Rooneys Today
  • 12,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 6,000 in America (most numerous in New York).
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland) 

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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