Hennessy Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Hennessy Meaning
is an Irish surname, being the anglicized form of the Gaelic O’hAonghusa, meaning descendant of Aonghus
or Angus (the chosen one). Two septs in
different parts of Ireland bore
this name.
The anglicized O’Hennessy spelling was in place in the 17th century,
although it has largely been displaced by Hennessy (while some have
even revived the
ancient O’hAonghusa name).
Hennessy and
Hennessey are the main spellings today.
Hennessey is a spelling variant found outside of Ireland – in
parts of
the UK, in parts of the US (in particular in Massachusetts), and in

Hennessy Resources on

Hennessy Ancestry

Hennessy septs were to be found in Offaly in
the Irish midlands and in county Cork in SW Ireland.

Offaly. The sept in
county Offaly
pre-dated the Anglo-Norman invasion in 1170. From their base at Kilbeggan near the hill at
Croghan, the O’Hennessys controlled with the
O’Holohans the territory in northern Offaly close to the border with

“Another chief who is known to us is O’Hennesy who rules
over clan Colgan. His lands are fair beyond those of the Fenians
of Fal. He closely adjoins the borders of Croghan.”

These O’Hennessys subsequently spread into
Tipperary and Clare.

Cork. Another sept of the same name
was to be found
initially near Rosscarberry in west Cork.
It was from this sept that the Hennessy families, numerous in
Cork, traced their descent.

Hennessy stronghold was Dunmahon castle in northern Cork.
Built in the early 1500’s, it was situated
on a rocky outcrop above the Blackwater river near the Nagle mountains. Cromwell destroyed the castle in the 1640’s
and the Hennessy lands became forfeit.
Three of the name were attainted.

Later Hennessys in this area suffered under English penal laws of the
early 1700’s. Charles Hennessy departed the Blackwater valley for
Ostend in 1730 to
trade with other exiled Irish merchants there.
And, more famously, Richard Hennessy left his home at
Ballymacnoy House
near Mallow in 1740 to join
Dillon’s Irish Regiment in the French army (although he never did
fight in battle). Despite his departure
have continued to live at Ballymacnoy House to this day.

Hennessy, an eighth-generation
descendant of Richard Hennessy, has restored the house to its former
glory in
recent years. In 2015 he welcomed,
together with his brother Maurice, fifty five wine producers and
from the Cognac region to their family home.”

There have been
Ballyhennessy townships in Cork, Kerry, and Clare.
Sir John Pope Hennessy, a Victorian colonial
administrator who served as the Governor of Hong Kong, came from
in Kerry, although he grew up in Cork.
His elder brother Henry was a physics professor.

France. Richard Hennessy, on retiring
from service in
the French army, made his home at Cognac in the Charente department of
France. In 1765 he set up a distillery
there to produce brandy. The distillery
continues to this day, as does the Hennessy line in the company. Richard’s son James Hennessy, although never formally naturalized
as a French
citizen, became a peer of France and married into the Martell family
that was
already famous for its cognac.

the 1970’s Kilian Hennessy, a fifth generation descendant of Richard,
was the
CEO of Hennessy and spearheaded the Moet Hennessy merger (it is now
part of the
LVMT luxury brand conglomerate). Kilian
remained on the company’s advisory board until his death in 2010 at the
age of

America. Early Hennessy arrivals from
Ireland were in
Virginia and North Carolina.

A Hennessee family
was first recorded in the late 1700’s in Tazewell county, Virginia. They were closely associated with a Harrison
family and the two families moved together to Tennessee in the 1800’s
and to
Oklahoma and Texas in the 1900’s

. David Hennesy married
his wife Margaret in
New Hanover county in 1745. One son
James departed for Canada after the Revolutionary War.
Another line led to the Rev. David Hennessy
of the Beard’s Creek Baptist church in North Carolina and later to
Louisiana. Sometimes the spelling in
Louisiana became

Patrick Hennessee came to
Virginia in the 1750’s and then settled in Burke county, North Carolina. Family lore has him as part of the Offaly
Hennessys. One of his sons James
migrated to Tennessee. Another son John
stayed in Burke county and operated a ferry across the Catawba river. Many of the Hennessees moved away from the
area in 1918 after a family tragedy.

1913 Gus Hennessee was involved in a dispute with a man which resulted
in his
injury and the death of the other man.
Gus was acquitted as it was decided that it was self-defense. But five years later 1918 Gus was shot dead
by an assassin as he was stepping off a train.
The family was devastated and most of them
moved away.”

. Death by shooting also
characterized David
Hennessy and his son David, Irish immigrants in New Orleans in the second half of the 19th century. Both were shot dead as policemen, the second
David in contentious circumstances in 1890.

Canada. Hennesseys in
Newfoundland date from the 1760’s when Michael Henessee arrived at St.
from Tipperary. He was a farmer. The Hennessey numbers there expanded in the
19th century. Thomas Hennessy and his
family came from Fermoy in county Cork to Peterborough, Ontario in 1825
the Peter Robinson settlement program.
Thomas died soon afterwards in Emily township.
But his sons thrived and married there.

Africa. A Hennessy family from
London arrived in South Africa
the 1890’s and endured the siege of Kimberley during the Boer War. Alfred Hennessy was later knighted
for his services as the founder of South Africa’s Royal Automobile Club.

Australia. Early Hennessys in Australia were convicts:

  • Richard Hennessy was given a
    sentence for stealing a horse in Tipperary and transported in 1822. He did receive a ticket of leave in 1834, but
    died five years later in Mudgee, NSW.
  • while
    Micheal Hennessy was convicted (probably unjustly) of stealing
    money from a guest at his mother’s boarding house in Tullow, Cork. He was transported in 1828 and got his
    certificate of freedom seven years later. He
    later married and settled in the bushland region of
    Kurrajong in
    western Sydney

Hennessy from Offaly
was an assisted immigrant who came to
Melbourne in 1840.

James and Margaret Hennessy arrived as free
settlers in the 1850’s from Waterford, also to Melbourne.
Their son David, born in 1858, initially
joined his father’s bakery business in Fitzroy, but later grew wealthy
from a
number of speculative investments in Australian mining ventures. By 1890 he was able to retire from business,
tour the world, enter politics, and indulge in philanthropy.


Hennessy Miscellany

Hennessy and Hennessey Today

Numbers (000’s) Hennessy Hennessey
Ireland    7
UK    4    2
America    4    4
Canada    2    4
Australia/NZ    3    1
Total 20   11

O’Hennessys in County Offaly.  The ancient homeland of the O’Hennessys was the
Kingdom of Ui Failghe in the Irish midlands.
They shared with the O’Holohans the lordship of Clann Cholgan in
northern Offaly near the border with Westmeath.
Their territory comprised what is now the barony of Lower
Philipstown, a
district adjoining the hill of Croghan near Kilbeggan and lying
adjacent to the
O’Connors in northeast Offaly.

An O’Hennessy branch was located nearer to
Dublin, their chief being located at Gailenga Beg on the northern side
of the
river Liffey on the borders of Meath and Dublin.  However,
this branch, as well as many of the
Offaly O’Hennessys, was dispersed by the Anglo-Norman invasion in 1170.

families are still to be found in the area around Kilbeggan.  They also spread into
Tipperary and Clare, in the later county adopting the name of Hensey
and subsequently

Charles Hennessy Departed Cork for the Continent.  Charles Hennessy
was born in 1699 to a well-connected family in the Blackwater valley in
Cork.  The family was connected to the
Nagles and other old English families whose fortunes had changed with
the new
political situation at the end of the 17th century.

emigrated to Ostend
in 1730 and was helped there by a close network of Irish merchant
involved in butter, hide and general trading.   These emigre Cork
were generally of an old English background, but had been displaced
from the
prominence they had once enjoyed as Cork merchants by the ‘new English.’  They were consequently seeking new

was initially involved in provisioning ships with butter and
later became involved in the tea trade purchasing teas from the
East India
Company and managing to export it to England without the inconvenience
paying duty.  In this he again was relying on his extensive Irish
network.  Over the years his business
interests became quite extensive into shipping, grain speculation.  He rode various mishaps deftly and died on a
visit to Cork in 1758.  His family continued the business into the

James Hennessy and Marthe Martell.  Richard Hennessy’s son James (sometime known as
Jacques), born in Ostend in 1765, married Marthe Martell, the daughter
Frederic Gabriel Martell of Veuve Martell, an existing brandy producer
in the
Cognac region in 1795.

During the
turbulent period of the French Revolution, the Martell and Hennessy
combined as a duopoly to dominate the brandy market.When James died in
1843 he
left a fortune that was as large as any of the long-established wine
in Bordeaux.

Although the Hennessy and Martell families were united by
marriage and
friendship, their business relationship was never formalized.  Still, in the 1920’s, they divided up the
global market between them – the English market being allocated to
Martell and
America to Hennessy.  This
anti-competitive arrangement lasted until 1947.

Richard Hennessy, Convict to Australia.  Richard Hennessy of Clonmel in Tipperary was convicted of stealing a horse and given a life
sentence to Australia. He was
transported on the Mangles, arriving
in Sydney in late 1822.

He left behind a young family in Ireland.  His
wife Mary either died before his
transportation or soon after.  It meant
that his children were left to fend
themselves.  His daughter Mary Ann was
only twelve at the time and the youngest child Catherine just four
years of
age.  And times were tough in Ireland
then.  Mary Ann, Maurice, William, and
Catherine did eventually join their father in Australia.

Richard was listed as a
shepherd for
William Bowman of Bathurst in the 1828 census.
He received his Ticket of Leave in 1834, but died in 1839.

Reader Feedback – Hennessys from Ireland to Australia.  My ancestor
James Edward Hennessy migrated from Offaly about 1840 on the Westminster with his brother John.
He was about 28 years of age.  The landowners who were raising
required laborers, and the Australian Government instituted a bounty
where sponsors were paid twenty pounds for each laborer or worker they
to the country.

James was to work for a
Mr. Colstick at Merri Creek station, just northwest of Melbourne, but
many of
these arrangements did not happen.  He married in 1842 at St
Catholic Church
in Melbourne to Anne Lovell from Devon.

Regards  Marie Hannaford (gramar92@bigpond.com)

David Hennessy in New Orleans.  David Hennessy
came to New Orleans with his family in the 1840’s from Ireland during
potato famine.  During the Civil War he
enlisted in the Union army, serving under the command of Algernon
Badger.  This man was to become influential
in the
lives of both David and his son David Jr.

When Badger became the commander of
the Republican Metropolitan Police in New Orleans after the war, he
brought in
the elder Hennessy to the force.
However, David sr. was gunned down in a barroom in 1869.

Though only a
boy of eleven, the younger Hennessy began working as a messenger for
Metropolitans after his father’s death and went on to pursue a career
in police
work.  As a young detective, David jr.
made headlines in 1881 when he captured a notorious Italian criminal
Esposito. In 1888 he was promoted to superintendent and chief of

However, David Hennessy had made enemies with the growing Italian
in New Orleans and he was shot down on the street on the night of
October 15,
1890.  His assassination led to a
sensational trial.

A series of
acquittals and mistrials angered locals and an enormous mob formed
outside the
prison the next day. The prison doors were forced open and eleven of
nineteen Italian men who had been indicted for Hennessy’s murder were
lynched.  The March 14 1891 lynching was
the largest known mass lynching in US history.

The Hennessys in South Africa.  Tilly and Nellie Hennessy were the eldest of six children of
John and Mary Hennessy.  They grew up in
London.   Tilly had an amazing flare
music and at the age of 16 was appointed organist of the Brompton

1891 at the age of 18 years Tilly and her sister Nellie two years
younger were
sent from London to Kimberley to stay with an aunt who kept a
pub.  In the
diamond-boom town of Kimberley in those days there was a pub on every
corner.  On discovering that they were
expected to work in the pub as barmaids, the two girls ran away and
refuge at the Dominican convent.  Tilly
taught music and Nellie taught dancing.  They put on many concerts
operettas to raise money for the Catholic cathedral building fund.

In 1896 their
mother and the rest of the family migrated from England and joined them
Kimberley.   The family were all in
Kimberley when the Boer War broke out three years later.
They were confined within its perimeters
during “the siege of Kimberley” which commenced in October 1899 until
relief column broke through the lines in February 1900.
They were
subject to all privations of water rationing and were reduced to eating
and donkey meat.

Their cousin Alfred Hennessy, who was later knighted for his
services as founder of the Royal Automobile Club, had accompanied the
family to
South Africa but remained in Cape Town.
He took out the first driving licence in Cape Town and his car
the number plate CA 1.  He drove his CA 1 car until a few days
before his death
in 1963 at the age of 88.  The CA 1
number plate was then handed over by his family for the use of the
mayors of
Cape Town.



Hennessy Names

  • Richard Hennessy began
    the Hennessy brand of brandy when he started a distillery in Cognac in 1765. 
  • Sir John Pope Hennessy was a
    Victorian colonial administrator who served as the Governor of Hong Kong. 
  • Patrick Hennessy was a 20th century Irish realist painter.

Select Hennessy Numbers Today

  • 6,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 8,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 17,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)


Select Hennessy 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.

Munster in SW Ireland covers the counties of Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, and Waterford.  Here are some of the Munster surnames that you can check out.





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