Lennon Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Lennon Surname Meaning

The Lennon surname has come either from the Gaelic Leannan meaning “little cloak” (some say “lover”) or from the personal name Lonan, a diminutive of lon or “blackbird.”

Lennon Surname Resources on The Internet

Lennon Surname Ancestry

  • from Ireland (Fermanagh)
  • to England, America and Argentina

Ireland.  It is thought that the O’Leannain clan came originally from Galway on the west coast of Ireland. They later anglicized their name to Lennan, Lennon and other variants; while the O’Leannains of Mayo tended to become Leonards.

The O’Lennans became best known in early times in Fermanagh. Teag O’Lennan was recorded in 1380 in the Annals of the Four Masters as the erenagh of Eniskillen. This office of erenage was a hereditary one, as the holder of church property and the maintainer of priests. The O’Lennans of Fermanagh held that title and the O’Lennans of Lisgoole near Enniskillen produced a number of distinguished ecclesiastics.

Early anglicized spellings were Lennan, Lannan, and sometimes Lennane and Linane. The first recorded Lennon spelling did not in fact appear until 1733. However, in the next hundred years Lennon began to displace the other spellings. By the 19th century the largest numbers of Lennons were in Armagh and many of the Lennon emigrants came from there. Others, like John Lennon’s ancestors, were from county Down.

The christening of Thomas Lennon, the son of Malachi and Catherine Lennon, was recorded in the parish of Drum in Roscommon in 1797.  Lennons are still there. The Lennons of Drum held a homecoming reunion in 2003 for those who had emigrated during the famine.

England. The Beatle John Lennon was born and grew up in Liverpool. His ancestors came from county Down in Ireland and had moved to Liverpool by 1850.

Rumor had it that grandfather Jack had worked as a professional singer with the Kentucky Minstrels in America, but it has no basis in fact. Jack lived and died in Liverpool. The best-known Lennon name in Liverpool prior to John Lennon was Lennons, a small supermarket chain begun by a Lennon from Northern Ireland.

America. Among the Lennons who came to America in the mid 19th century were:

  • Barney and Mary Lennon who came in the 1840’s and settled in Buffalo, New York. Barney was a watchman at a grain elevator who fell off a wharf and drowned in 1868. His grandson (via one of his daughters) was Wild Bill Donovan, the head of OSS during World War Two.  
  • James and Mary Lennon who arrived in 1849 and made their home in Outagamie county, Wisconsin.  
  • and Ellen Lennon who left Roscommon with her twelve children and grandchildren on a lengthy journey in 1852 which took them via Dublin, Liverpool, New Orleans, Chicago, and eventually to Joliet, Illinois.

Patrick and James Lennon left Armagh with their families for America in 1847, but they did not stay there. These Lennons were on a boat to Peru and ended up in Australia in 1856.

Bert Lennon grew up in an Irish family in St. Louis.  In 1917 he met a German dancer named Betty Heinrich whom he married and they set off for Venice in southern California.  Here they raised eight children and later came fifty six grandchildren. Their talented offspring included:

  • the Lennon Brothers, a popular swing band of the 1940’s
  • the boxing ring announcers Jimmy Lennon and Jimmy Lennon Jr
  • Bill Lennon and the Lennon Sisters
  • while Michael and Kipp Lennon formed the band Venice in 1977.  

Argentina. Edward Lennon arrived with his family in Buenos Aires in 1842 and was one of the country’s first Irish immigrants. He worked hard on his arrival and in time became a substantial rancher in land to the north of Buenos Aires.

Lennon Surname Miscellany

Lennan to Lennon in County Louth.  The Dun Laoghaire Genealogical Society Journal, the winter 1999 edition, studied the records of the townland of Dowdallshill in county Louth.

The first source investigated was Catholic burial records between 1790 and 1802.  Here there were three Lennans and one Lannan.  Freeholders in 1822 showed six Lennans.  The Tithe Applotment records of 1833 showed four Lennons.  The Roden Estate tenant list of 1839 showed one Lennan and six Lennons, while Griffith’s Valuation of 1854 showed eight Lennons and the 1901 Census again eight Lennons.

It should be noted that there were still many illiterate people in Ireland at this time who simply marked an “X” against their given name.

Lennons and Other Name Variants in the 19th Century.  By the mid 19th century, the Lennon spelling had increased at the expense of Lannon and other regional variants.  One source has Lennon at 71 percent, Lennan at 16 percent, and others the remaining 13 percent.

Griffiths Valuation in 1850 had the following breakdown:

Surname Percent
Lennon   61
Lennan   14
Lannan   12
Other variants   13

The following was the Lennon distribution by county there:

County Percent
Armagh   14
Down   12
Louth   10
Roscommon    9
Dublin    7
Longford    6
Westmeath    5
Elsewhere   37

Lennans were mainly found in county Monaghan, Lannans in county Kilkenny.

Denis and Mary Lennon Who Died on the Titanic.  Denis Lennon was born in 1891 in Currycreaghan, Ballymahon in county Longford.  He was the son of William Lennon, a farmer, and Bridget Mullin, Longford natives who had married in 1887.   In the 1911 census Denis was listed as a shop assistant and living with Delia Mullen, a widow, and her family at Clarinbridge in county Galway. Delia’s youngest child was an 18-year-old daughter named Mary.

The Mullen family was quite wealthy as they ran a public house and shop in their village. Another sign of their affluence was the fact that they were able to send their three daughters to a prestigious boarding school, Loretto Convent, in Dublin.

Denis and Mary Mullen, the latter not long out of this convent school, fell in love and, with Mary’s mother disapproving, made plans in 1912 to steal away to America.   Originally booked to travel aboard the ship Cymric, the coal strike changed their plans and they boarded the Titanic at Queenstown as third-class passengers.  They were using the names of Denis and Mary Lennon on its fateful voyage.

Mary’s brother Joe, and also possibly her mother, had reportedly pursued the couple all the way to Queenstown, Joe carrying a loaded firearm in his fury.  But they reached the dock too late.

Both Denis and Mary died in the sinking. Their bodies, if recovered, were never identified.

Denis’s family remained in Currycreaghan.  His father William died in 1929 from senility, his mother two years later in 1931 from influenza.

The Lennon Homecoming in Drum, Roscommon.  The parish of Drum, located on the outskirts of Athlone in county Roscommon, is the present day home to 36 Lennon families and the ancestral home of countess other Lennon families throughout the world.

The Drum Heritage Group consequently decided to organize a Lennon Homecoming over the weekend of June 20, 2003. The program included visits to the Lennon homesteads and local historical sites, plenty of Irish entertainment, a Mass in the grounds of the Drum monastic site, all followed by a baseball game.

The baseball game commemorated the centenary of the victory by the Lennon family team of Joliet, Illinois over the White family team of Hammond, Indiana by a score of 18 runs to one.  The Joliet Herald News proclaimed the Lennon team “the champion baseball team of brothers in the world.”  The father of the team, along with his mother and eight siblings, had left Drum for the US in the aftermath of the famine.

Lennons to Argentina.  Edward Lennon had been born in Westmeath in 1819.  In 1842 at the age of 23 he departed with his family on the Countess of Durham for Buenos Aires in Argentina.  He could still recall in later life vivid details of the voyage and of old Captain Miller and his thirteen fellow passengers.

Edward made money in the tanning and salt industry and this enabled him to become a substantial landholder in the cattle ranching area north of Buenos Aires.  His brother Patrick joined him from Ireland in 1862.  In time Edward became Eduard and his son John Don Juan as the family became more Spanish in its outlook. Eduard died on his property in 1890.

Edward was a pioneer but not the first Lennon from Ireland in Argentina. William Lennon had arrived in Buenos Aires in 1835 and died there twenty years later.

Lennons via America and Peru to Australia.  Two Lennon families from Armagh left Ireland during the famine years for America and eventually made it to Australia. Something is known about these Lennons in Ireland, more about their life in Australia, but what lies in the middle remains very much a mystery.

The families were said to have left Ireland in 1847, had trouble on the voyage, ending up on the Rimac river near Callao in Peru where (according to the family stories) there was a death in the family.  They eventually arrived in Sydney, Australia sometime around 1856.

The line in Ireland started with Bernard and Sarah Lennon in Aughenore, county Armagh in the early 1800’s.  It was their sons Patrick and James who emigrated and James’s wife Ann who supposedly died in Peru.  Patrick and James moved to the Northern Tablelands in NSW, Australia where they raised their families.  Patrick died there in 1882 and James a year later in 1883.

Bill Lennon and the Lennon Sisters.  In 1955 the Lennons were a tight-knit Catholic family living in a small two-bedroom house in Venice, California with their milkman Dad and housewife Mom.  When Larry Welk Jr. caught his classmate Dianne Lennon singing at an Elks Club party, he arranged for her and her sisters to sing for his famous father, Lawrence Welk. Welk loved the girls and hired them for his new TV show on ABC.

They made their debut on Welk’s Christmas Eve show at the Hollywood Palladium, singing the popular tune He about the Heavenly Father.  With their angelic faces and tight harmonies, the Lennon girls sold the lyrics. From that moment, Dianne (aged 16), Peggy (aged 14), Kathy (aged 12) and Janet (aged 9) were TV stars.  They appeared on The Lawrence Welk Show each Saturday night for the next thirteen years.  To TV audiences, bandleader and host Lawrence Welk was the Lennons’ beaming father figure. Their real father Bill Lennon was always watching from the wings and acting as their manager.

The Lennon sisters could not stay young and innocent forever.  By the 1960’s they started marrying and having babies.  And Peggy Lennon began to attract the unwelcome attentions of an infatuated fan, Chet Young.  On August 12, 1969, he accosted her father in the parking lot of the Venice golf course.   Witnesses saw Young pull a rifle from a sack and fire at Lennon’s back, wounding him. Lennon crawled to a corner of the fence and slumped against a telephone pole.  Young then ran up and put the gun to Lennon’s temple and fired.  He ran across the street to another parking lot, threw the gun in the trunk, and jumped into his car and fled.

When Bill Lennon was murdered, his wife of 30 years Isabelle still had seven children living at home under the age of 18.  Kathy Lennon told an interviewer: “We looked at Mom and she was just this rock who said ‘And we go on’.”  They did.  The Lennon Sisters proceeded with their Variety show commitment, but quit after one season.

Lennon Names

  • John Brown Lennon was a US labor leader in the early 1900’s.
  • The Lennon Sisters were a singing group who debuted on American TV in 1955 and had a long-running career. They were born in Los Angeles of Irish/German ancestry.
  • John Lennon from Liverpool was the celebrated Beatle and “Working Class Hero” who was shot dead outside the Dakota building in New York in 1980.
  • Neil Lennon from county Armagh was an international football player for Northern Ireland who became the football manager of Glasgow Celtic.

Lennon Numbers Today

  • 9,000 in the UK (most numerous in Glasgow)
  • 4,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 8,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)





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Written by Colin Shelley

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