Flanagan Surname Genealogy

Irish surname Flanagan
derived from the Old Gaelic word flann
meaning “red” or “ruddy.” From this
source came the Old Gaelic septs by the name of O’Flannagain
(or “descendant of the ruddy one”), of which there
were a number in Ireland. Flanagan is
the main anglicization of this name. The
name has also appeared as O’Flanagan and Flanigan

Flanagan Resources on

Flanagan Ancestry

Ireland. The Flanagan sept of
Connacht is
believed to have been descended from one Flanagan who was of the same
stock as
the O’Connors and whose line held the hereditary office of Steward to
the Kings
of Connacht. Their main home was in Roscommon, between Mantua and
Elphin, and they
were known as the chiefs of clan
. Donough O’Flanagan of this
line became the Bishop
of Elphin in 1303.

were also minor septs of the same name in other parts of the country,
at Toorah
in NW Fermanagh (dating from the 14th century) and at Ballybrit in
Offaly. Some descendants are still evident
in these
areas. But today the surname is most often found in Roscommon and
westward in Clare,
Galway and Mayo. Clare in 1762 was the birthplace of Theophilus
O’Flanagan who was a
leading figure in the Gaelic revival movement of his time.

America. There were early Flanagan
arrivals in New Jersey:

  • one
    arrival, according to family lore,
    consisted of three brothers who came in 1732. The
    main line went through James Flanagan and his son
    Whittle of Red Hill in Louisa
    county, Virginia
    . Whittle’s
    grandson James Flanagan moved to
    Texas in 1843 where he was a close friend of Sam Houston. He
    elected Senator
    of Texas in 1870.
  • another
    line began with Robert Flanagan in Hunterdon county in the
    1740’s and continued later in the 1830’s in Tucker county, West
    Virginia where
    Ebenezer Flanagan was an early settler.
  • then
    there was John
    who came to Philadelphia from New Jersey in the

Flanagan line in Kentucky began with
John Flanagan who was born in North Carolina around 1768 and moved to
county, Kentucky in 1810. Another John
Flanagan arrived in Philadelphia from Ireland in 1802.
He later moved his family to Peoria, Illinois
– then on the western frontier – where his son John, a judge, built Flanagan House, an imposing
mansion on
the hill.

Father Edward Flanagan was a Roscommon native who came to America in
1904 and in 1917 established the Boys Town orphanage in Nebraska, an
institution made famous by the 1938 Spencer Tracy film.

. Flanagans came to
England and a good number of them were to be found in the port city

Elizabeth Flanagan married Charles Hamilton in Liverpool in
1775. In 1847, at the time of the Famine
in Ireland, John and Ellen Flanagan came to Liverpool where John found
work as
a dock laborer. Catherine Flanagan was
born in Liverpool in 1829 and her sister Margaret in 1843.
They earned notoriety as the
Black Widows of Liverpool
for poisoning their victims in order
to gain insurance money.

The best-known Flanagan in England, however, was not
Irish but the son of Polish Jewish immigrants in London.
took his name from a sergeant major he served under
during World
War One.

Australia. Roderick Flanagan came out to
Australia as
a boy with his parents from Roscommon in 1840.
He made his mark in Melbourne as a journalist and as an early
of Australia until his early death from TB at the age of 34.

Flanagan stole food to feed his family during the Great Famine in
Ireland in
1847. For this crime he was transported
to Tasmania along with his brother John.
Later he was able to bring out his wife and eight children to
start up a
new life as a tenant farmer. His line
descended to Arch Flanagan,
a man who
survived the Burma Death Railway during World War Two and later wrote
about it. He had two very talented
literary sons,
Martin and Richard.

The brothers Michael and Patrick Flanagan from Drogheda in county
Louth were lured to Australia by gold rush fever in 1857.
They moved onto the New Zealand goldfields in
the mid-1860’s. By 1870 they had
migrated to California. Their letters
home to Louth, covering the period from 1864 to 1909, were published in
and provide an insight into Irish life abroad at that time.

Flanagan Miscellany

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

Flanagan Names


was a leading figure in the Gaelic revival movement of the late 18th
was a three-time Olympic gold medalist in the hammer
throw – in 1900,
1904, and 1908.
Father Edward Flanagan
founded the
orphanage known as Boys Town in Nebraska, made famous in the 1938 film
Spencer Tracy.
born Chaim Weintrop to a Polish Jewish family in
a popular English music
hall and vaudeville entertainer from the 1930’s onwards.
is a novelist from Tasmania, considered by many to be the
Australian writer of his generation.

Select Flanagans Today

  • 12,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 10,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 17,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)




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