Corcoran Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Corcoran Meaning
Corcoran is
an Irish surname, the Gaelic version being O’Corcrain
meaning “descendant of Corcrain.”
The name corcair
originally meant “reddish” or “ruddy,” but is now used to denote the

Corcoran Resources on

Corcoran Ancestry

IrelandThe Corcorans have an
ancient history in Ireland.  They were
known in Gaelic times
as ecclesiastics, writers,
chroniclers, and bards. In early
Corcoran history
they were based around Lough Erne in county
Fermanagh in
Ulster.  However, after the Norman
invasion in 1170, several branches of the sept left the area.

In the Annals of the Four Masters, there was
mention of thirty chiefs of the Corcoran sept in Fermanagh between 1250
1480.  Three of the learned and respected
erenachs, lay ecclesiastics, were recorded as Daire O’Corcrain, Padraig
O’Corcrain and Conn O’Corcrain.

In 1373 John O’Corcrain was the Bishop of
Clogher in nearby Tyrone.  Brian O’Corcrain was the vicar of
Cleenish and bard to
the Maguires a century later.  He wrote
the Celtic romance Eachtra Mhacaoimh-an-Iolair,
which translates as “The Story of the Eagle Boy.”

1590 the English took control of Fermanagh and an Anglo-Norman family
Devenish took possession of the Corcoran lands.
Three prominent Corcorans were executed at Newtonbutler during
Cromwell’s time.  These developments
prompted a larger out-migration.  Today
there are very few Corcorans in Fermanagh or elsewhere in Ulster.

The distribution of the
Corcoran name in
is now very different.  The
name had spread south and west – primarily to Tipperary, Mayo and Cork.  Some of these Corcorans originated from the
Corcrains of clan Ruiane in Offaly and north Tipperary that migrated
south.  There developed a Corcoran enclave
at Carbery
in county Cork.

Many Corcorans emigrated in the 19th century.

England.  A number headed for England
and particularly
for Lancashire where there was work.  The
1851 census in Liverpool listed seven Corcoran families with men in the
following trades – provision dealer, shoemaker, joiner, laborer,
porter, and two dock porters.  John
Corcoran arrived from Tipperary around 1860 and worked on the docks.  His son Dennis signed on for the Titanic
in 1912, but sadly went down
with the ship after it hit the iceberg.

Tony Corcoran, an Irish folk singer in
England today, recalled his family background:

“I was born into an
Irish family in Maudsley near Preston.
My grandfather emigrated back in the late 1800’s from the
village of
Glen Hast in county Mayo.  Lots of Irish
people came over then to work in the Lancashire woollen mills,
after the famine of 1879 which affected the west coast of Ireland

.  Corcorans in America made
their mark in the nation’s capital, Washington DC.

Washington.  The first Corcorans of
Washington DC owed
their position to Thomas Corcoran Sr because, around 1750, he had
married into
the influential Anglo-Irish Wilson family of Limerick.
His brother-in-law William Wilson arrived in
Maryland in 1769 and soon became one of the
importers into Maryland. Thomas Corcoran
Jr followed his uncle to Baltimore in 1783.

This Thomas then happened to be in
the right place at the right time.

“In 1788 he went to
Georgetown, now Washington DC, and was mayor when President Washington
with L’Enfant to lay out Washington City.
He headed the welcoming delegate ation and gave the address.  He served as Adjutant of the 18th Maryland
Regiment in 1794 and was named Magistrate by President Jefferson and
by President Madison.”

His son William Wilson became a wealthy banker. 
As a partner in Washington’s Corcoran & Riggs Bank
during the Mexican War of the 1840’s, he was responsible for the sale
government war bonds to England, thereby establishing the American
credit abroad.

The Corcoran mansion
off Lafayette Park enabled him to display his fine art collection.  It was also “the center of the most
fashionable and distinguished society of the capital with his
entertainments being of the most elegant
and costly character.”

Another Corcoran, much
later, who made his mark in the capital was “Tommy the Cork” Corcoran.  Born in Rhode Island in 1900 and the grandson
of an Irish immigrant, he trained as a lawyer and came to Washington in
1930’s.  He
rose to power as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s personal trouble-shooter and
fixer at
the time of the New Deal.

New YorkMichael Corcoran
from Sligo emigrated to New York in 1849 shortly before his
twenty-second birthday.  In the fourteen years that remained to
him he became a highly popular leader of Irish troops in the Civil
Corcoran who came to New York from Laois in 1863 also fought in the
Civil War,
although not under Michael Corcoran.  He
later settled at Trumansburg in upstate New York.

James Corcoran from Dublin was in
New York as
well during the Civil War.  He became
well-known after the war as a champion of working-class Irish
immigrants in the
city.  He started a squatter colony,
known as Corcoran’s Roost, on Dutch Hill at the juncture of 40th and
First Avenue.

Canada.  A Corcoran family from
Crossmolina in Mayo provided many emigrants to Canada.
Three Corcoran brothers – John, Patrick, and
Thomas – were the first to arrive in 1811.
They went to work for the Hudson Bay Company at its trading post
the James Bay.  They later settled in
Quebec, first in Rawdon and then in Montreal.
Over time siblings and their offspring arrived and the Corcoran
mushroomed across Canada and the States.

Thomas Corcoran from Kilkenny emigrated
to Prince Edward Island in 1840 with his father.  His
father returned to Ireland.  But he
remained in PEI and raised a family in
Kings county.

Australia.  Early arrivals were
convicts.  There were no fewer than
twenty-two Corcorans
from Ireland who were transported to Australia between 1815 and 1830.  Among them were:

  • Roger Corcoran
    who was transported in 1815 for political
    offences.  After getting his ticket of
    leave in 1823 he ended up a successful farmer in the
    Burrowa district of NSW.
  • and Edward Corcoran from
    Kildare who arrived in 1819, married ten years later, and settled down

Winifred Corcoran, described as a solitary girl, was an
passenger who arrived in Sydney from Tipperary on the Constitution
in July 1855.  Aged
just twenty-one, she married an older man William Scanes three months
later. He died in 1874.  But
she lived on in Sydney another forty-two


Select Corcoran Miscellany

Early Corcoran History.  John O’Hart in his 1892 work Irish Pedigrees had the following to say about Corcoran:

family derives its origin from Amruadh and were in Irish called O’Corcrain.  They were
formerly chiefs of Munster
Corcrain, a district in the county of Tipperary, co-extensive of the
parish of
Killenaule in the barony of Slieveardagh, and also in the territory
Cleenish in the barony of Clan-Awry.
Several members of the house of Cleenish gave superiors to the
abbey of Devenish on Lough Erne.

Some early records of these Corcorans

1001.  Cahalan O’Corcoran, abbot of Devenish, died.
1040. O’Corcoran, abbot of Iniscaltra, died at Lismore.
1045. Cathasagh O’Corcoran, coarb of Glen-Uissin in Carlow, died.
1055. Fiacha O’Corcoran died.
1095.  The bishop O’Corcoran of Clonfert died.
1163. Maolisa O’Corcoran died.

O’Corcorans sank into obscurity at the period of the Anglo-Norman
invasion and
several branches of the sept removed into Cork, Kilkenny, and Waterford.  In Kilkeeny they obtained a settlement from
the FitzWalters (or Butlers) who were in possession of their ancient

Following the Norman invasion, some
Corcorans intermarried with prominent Norman families.
One such marriage was recorded in 1490 when
Isabella Corcoran married Hubert Butler, the son of the 10th Earl of

Corcorans in Ireland by County

Numbers 1850’s 1911
Griffith’s Census
Cork  179  13%  736  16%
Mayo  128  10%  602  13%
Kilkenny  128  10%  231   5%
Tipperary  124   9%  318   7%
Offaly  102   8%  343   7%
Roscommon   82   6%  290   6%
Elsewhere  593  44% 2,216  46%
Total 1,336 100% 4,736 100%

The Corcoran Mansion in Washington DC.  William Wilson Corcoran – banker, philanthropist, and
patron of the arts – resided in picturesque splendor on the northwest
corner of
Lafayette Park, at the intersection of H Street and Connecticut Avenue,
from 1848 to 1888.

Originally built in 1828, Corcoran
commissioned architect James Renwick Jr to transform Webster’s
townhouse into an Italianate palazzo.  Renwick
added wings to the east and west of the original central block of the
creating an imposing facade that stretched half a block down H Street
Lafayette Park.   His bay-windowed
library overlooked Lafayette Park. The room was praised for its
collection of
rare art works.  It was here that
Corcoran orchestrated his philanthropy and art collecting.

Much of Corcoran’s
day was dedicated to his voluminous correspondences.
Corcoran was inundated with invitations,
thank-you letters, pleas for financial assistance, and endless letters
introduction for a constant stream of visitors to Washington.

His gregarious nature, and not least
his vast wealth, enabled him to make and maintain friendships.  According to a neighbor, his home was the
“center of the most fashionable and distinguished society of the
capital and
his entertainments were of the most elegant and costly character.”

It was Corcoran’s weekly stag parties, the “chief rendezvous for
distinguished men,” that achieved his true fame for hospitality. These
were the
most sought-after invitations to Corcoran’s house, with “the most grand
with a
file of Senators on each side of the table, or intermixed with the
foreign or
cabinet ministers,”

A close friend of President Buchanan and able to count many
of the leaders in government as companionable dinner company, Corcoran
riding high during the last few years of the Buchanan
administration.  He
presided over one of the last great social events of antebellum
Washington DC –
the marriage of his only child, Louise Corcoran, to George Eustis Jr in

W.W. Corcoran resided at his palazzo on Lafayette Park until his death
the age of ninety in 1888.  The Corcoran
house remained with the Corcoran family until 1922 when it was sold and
demolished to make way for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce building.

Michael Corcoran, An Irish-American Hero.  Michael Corcoran, born in Sligo, emigrated to the United States in 1849 shortly before his 22nd birthday. In the fourteen years that remained to him he became one of Irish-America’s most popular and influential leaders.

He enlisted as a private in the Sixty-Ninth Regiment of the State Militia, a
command composed of Catholics of Irish  birth or descent, and rose
from rank to
rank until he was elected colonel in 1859.
The next year the Prince of Wales from England visited New
York.  In the
military parade given in his honor, Colonel Corcoran refused to order
the 69th to
join as a protest against the
British role in the
Irish Famine. 

With the advent of the Civil War he led the 69th at
Bull Run and was captured there, becoming a hero of the Union for his
involvement in the Enchantress Affair.
Upon his release in 1862 he organized and led his own brigade,
Corcoran’s Irish Legion, which he commanded until his death in December
1863.  When
in camp in Fairfax, Virginia he was thrown from his horse and died the
same day
from the effects of the accident.

Roger Corcoran in Australia – from Unlikely Beginnings.  In 1815, for his part in a raid on a British army
barracks in Ireland, Roger Corcoran – aged twenty-three from Tipperary – was
sentenced to fourteen years in the penal colony of New South Wales.

He arrived
at Botany Bay on Boxing Day 1816 aboard the Surrey
and was assigned as a servant to settler Samuel Hassall at
Parramatta.  He
received his ticket of leave in 1823 and left Sydney to settle on the
river where he took up a holding at Bundowa near the present-day town
Boorowa.   He and fellow ex-convict
Ryan were among the first settlers there.
By 1848 Roger’s holding had grown to 31,000 acres.

Roger’s choice of
Boorowa turned out to be an astute one.
Boorowa became one of the leading wool, wheat and cattle grazing
in NSW.  He and his descendants had more
than 160 years of productive occupancy of their land.

He initially ran cattle
and horses on the property, building a capital base so he could later
move into
sheep production.  He died in 1859 at the
age of sixty-seven, after having fathered eleven children from two
(five from the first and six from the second).
He was buried at Galong cemetery.

His story and that of his descendants
was told in Frances Corcoran’s 1992 book From
Unlikely Beginnings.



Corcoran Names

  • Brian O’Corcrain
    was a clergyman and bard in Fermanagh and author of the Celtic romance The Story of the Eagle Boy in the
    mid-15th century. 
  • William Wilson Corcoran
    was a wealthy banker in Washington DC in themid-19th century.  His home was the center of Washington social
    life in the years preceding the Civil War. 
  • Fred Corcoran who died in 1977 was an American golf
    tournament director, publicist, and agent, known around the world as “Mr. Golf.

Select Corcoran Numbers Today

  • 6,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 8,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 14,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)


Select Corcoran and Like Surnames 

The Irish clan or sept names come through the mists of time until they were found in Irish records such as The Annals of the Four Masters.  The names were Gaelic and this Gaelic order was preserved until it was battered down by the English in the 1600’s.

Some made peace with the English.  “Wild geese” fled to fight abroad.  But most stayed and suffered, losing land and even the use of their language.  Irish names became anglicized, although sometimes in a mishmash of spellings.  Mass emigration happened after the potato famine of the 1840’s.

Some surnames – such as Kelly, Murphy and O’Connor – span all parts of Ireland.  But most will have a territorial focus in one of the four Irish provinces – Leinster, Munster, Ulster, and Connacht.

Ulster in NE Ireland covers the counties of Derry, Antrim, Down, Tyrone, Armagh, Fermanagh, Cavan, Monaghan, and Donegal.  Here are some of the Ulster surnames (excluding the Scots Irish surnames) that you can check out.




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