Maloney Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Maloney Surname Meaning

Ua Maul Dhomhnaigh, meaning “descendant of a servant of the church” is an old Irish surname.  Maul in fact translates as “bald.”  Early monks and priests had close cropped hair with their trademark shaven patch. Many legends and stories relate to the association of the name with the Moloney clan.

Ua Maul Dhomhnaigh has contributed a number of anglicized surnames, the main ones being Maloney, Malony, Moloney, Molony, Mullowney and Malowney (but not Malone or Mahony).  The surnames are to be found in Ireland in Clare, Limerick and Tipperary.

Maloney Surname Resources on The Internet

Maloney and Moloney Surname Ancestry

  • from Ireland (Clare)
  • to America, Canada and Australia

Ireland.  The Moloneys, one of the oldest Irish septs, were the princes of the Dil gCais in county Clare and held a number of castles around their estate at Kiltannon.  Kiltannon House was and continued to be their ancestral home (until it was burnt down in 1920 during “the troubles”).

They were a strongly ecclesiastical family, contributing many bishops.  Father Donough O’Molony was tortured to death for his beliefs in 1601.  Bishop John O’Molony held the diocese of Killaloe from 1630 to 1670 at a time when anti-Catholic legislation was at its height.

His nephew John continued his work at home and abroad. The story goes that he was presented with an inlaid grey marble table by King Louis XIV of France as restitution for losing his temper over a game of cards.

The O’Molony family vault was built in 1702 in the old St. Mochulla’s church in Tuila.  The Molonys of Cragg in Clare were a related family who managed to survive the subsequent upheavals.

Later History.  There were land confiscations in Clare in the 1690’s after the defeat of James II’s supporters in Ireland.  James Molony narrowly held onto Kiltanon.  But others, such as Daniel Moloney of Sixmilebridge, lost their lands at this time.  And many Moloneys moved away to neighboring counties of Limerick and Tipperary.

The Moloneys suffered in Clare, as did other Irish families, after the potato blight struck.  Many tenant farmers like Michael Molony of Ballina were evicted from their lands.  Clare overall lost a quarter of its population.  Father Thomas Molony saw at first hand the sufferings in Clare in his own parish of Kilmurry Ibrickane:

“On last Sunday and Monday week, the broken-hearted clergyman had to drag his own tottering limbs, with scarce of interval of rest, from one corpse to another.  In the three subsequent days, overcome, feeble and faint, he had still to continue his attendance to the dying, to pass continually from townland to townland, to look on corpse on corpse, to behold renewed over and over all the agonies and horrors.”

Father Molony subsequently did much to publicize the plight of his starving people to British officials.

Canada.  Moloneys left, as did many other Irish families.  An early departure was William Moloney, conscripted into the British army in the 1770’s to fight the Americans.  He ended up in Canada on Bonaventure island off Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula.

Various Maloneys settled in Newfoundland, as place names such as Maloney beach, Maloney hill, and Malloney river attest.

America.  Many of the Maloneys in America also arrived as Moloney or Molony.  This was true of Joseph Moloney who came to Pennsylvania in 1772 and of William Moloney of Cork who came to Chicago in the 1860’s and later settled in Nebraska.

Martin Molony arrived as a boy with his parents in 1854 from Tipperary escaping the potato famine.  He made a fortune in Philadelphia from his gasoline burner invention that was used by early gas lighting companies.  He then devoted huge sums to Catholic church building and repairs around the world and was made a Papal Marquis in 1904.

Australia.  The Maloney exodus from Ireland increased after the famine, with Australia being a favored destination.  The following were some of the Maloneys who set off for Australia in the 1840’s and 1850’s:

  • Jeremiah (Jerry) Maloney on the Neptune from Clare to Melbourne in 1841
  • Johanna Malony from Tipperary to Australia in 1845
  • Daniel and Catherine Maloney from Limerick to Sydney in 1849
  • Robert Maloney on the Kate from Limerick to Sydney in 1851
  • Thomas and Ellen Moloney on the Australia from Limerick to Sydney in 1853.
  • Thomas and Ann Maloney on the Glentanner from Tipperary to Sydney in 1859.
  • and James and Bridget Moloney from Clare to Queensland in 1862.

The Seed, an account of three generations of Maloneys, opened to great acclaim in Australia in 2007. The playwright was Kate Mulvany and the play was based on her family history.

Maloney and Moloney Surname Miscellany

Molony Names.  Molony or Moloney is O’Maoldhomhnaigh in Irish, denoting a descendant of a servant of the Church.  It is seldom if ever found with the original prefix “O” although the name is 100 percent Gaelic.

Molony is a Dalcassian sept belonging to Kiltannon near Tulla in East Clare where they are very numerous today.  It is also found in equal numbers in the adjoining counties of Limerick and Tipperary.  However, some families in northern Tipperary now called Molony are not O’Maoldhomhnaigh but O’Maolfhachtna, which occasionally has been anglicized to Maloughney and MacLoughney.

Kiltannon House.  The Molonys managed to hold onto Kiltannon House in the 1690’s by a fortunate clause in the Treaty of Limerick which exempted serving officers within the city walls.

In 1828 James Molony of Kiltannon was a deputy lieutenant and high sheriff for county Clare.  In 1878 it was estimated that the lands comprising the Kiltannon Estate numbered 10,000 acres with a rateable valuation of £2,500.  It was then owned by Major William Mills Molony. His son Colonel William Malony was the last of seven generations to own this estate.

Kiltannon House was an attractive, pale brick three-storey mansion with stone facing which overlooked rolling parklands of mature trees of both native and imported variety. The house was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1920.

With it went several unique family mementos, including a marble table and an inlaid set of playing cards.  This classic heirloom was said to have been given to Bishop John O’Molony by Louis XIV in atonement for having once lost his temper when playing and tearing up his card.

Father Thomas Molony’s Testimony on the Effects of the Potato Famine.  It was against a background of public concern and Government inaction that Father Molony was called before Poulett Scrope’s Select Committee at Westminster in 1850.

He told the Committee that many of those evicted in the famine years in Clare were previously holders of small farms of 10-20 acres for whom the failure of the potato crop forced their default on rent payments, leading to eviction.

But many were also evicted despite having paid up all the rent due.  Many more were forced to level their own homes in order to be eligible for relief under the poor law.

The stoppage of outdoor famine relief has produced the worst food crisis since the famine began.  He himself had been appealing from the altar for parishioners to “keep their neighbors alive” until such time as relief were restored.

With supplies of cabbages, turnips, and other alternative foods already exhausted, “the people’s sufferings were extreme.”

A Molony Eviction in Clare.  This article appeared in the Clare Journal of June 1899:

“One of the hardest cases of evictions which has taken place in West Clare for some time past was that of Michael Molony and his family on the Annally estate at Ballina near Labasheeda.

Owing to the losses of cattle and other reverses, Mr. Molony, one of the hardest working farmers in the whole countryside, fell into arrears of rent.  After his cattle and other effects were seized from him in satisfaction for the landlord’s high rent claim, the final step of dispossessing him was being resorted to.

Much sympathy is felt for Mr. Molony.  His friends and fellow tenants in the parishes of Killofin, Kildysart, and Kilfiddane have promised to stand by him until a settlement is made.  A number of other tenants on the estate are under notice of eviction.  To show practical sympathy with them steps are being taken to hold a monster meeting at Kildysart.”

Maloneys on Bonaventure Island.  As William Maloney had fought against the Americans in their war of Independence, he was eligible for grants as a United Empire Loyalist.

He applied for land, shipbuilding rights, and a tavern license and was told that he was eligible as long as he signed the Test Oath.  In this oath, one swore to repudiate the papacy, the mass, and something about the Blessed Virgin. William – according to his descendants – told them to stick it and ended up with a land grant only.

This land on Bonaventure island remained in the family until 1971 when the Quebec Government expropriated it as a bird sanctuary and the last descendant, Sidney Maloney, moved to Coin du Banc – leaving the largest gannet colony in the New World to the gannets.

Moloneys To Newfoundland.  The following were the Maloneys recorded as coming to Newfoundland during the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century:

  • Walter Molony (from Waterford), in Little Placentia (now Argentia) in 1732
  • Andrew Molony, in Trinity in 1772
  • Andrew Maloney, in St. John’s in 1782
  • James Molony (from Tipperary), married in St. John’s in 1808
  • Elizabeth Malowny, in Harbor Grace in 1812
  • and Thomas Molony, in Witless Bay in 1847.

Reader Feedback – Johanna Malony from Tipperary to Australia.  My great-great-grandmother Johanna Malony, came to Australia with her sister Catherine we believe in 1845 from Tipperary, and have had huge problems trying to trace where she came from in Tipperary.

There is not a lot of information we can glean from records, and her death certificate only states Tipperary, whilst the wedding records at the time give no information of where she came from.  Are you able to give me some directions that I may be able to follow-up?

Colin Lehmann (

Reader Feedback – Moloneys from Clare to Queensland.  My father’s family names were James Moloney and his wife Bridget Egan.  They came from Clare in the 1850’s to Waterford, Queensland in Australia.

Can you give me more information about them and where their farm would have been in Ireland and their family history. Not sure where they were married in Ireland.

Margaret Gallagher (

Moloneys from Limerick in Australia.  The year 2003 marked the 150th year anniversary of the arrival of the Moloney family from Knocklong in Limerick, Thomas and Ellen Moloney and their five children, to Sydney.  Their descendants duly celebrated.

John Rafferty, one of these descendants, wrote of their early times in Australia.

“The family spent some years searching for a place to settle but eventually decided on the area of Bumble near Moree NSW, a small town on the northwest plains some 400 miles from Sydney.

To get there they had to cross the mountains of the great dividing range, presumably on foot and wagon train with all their personal belongings.  On arrival, however, they found some of the best sheep and cattle grazing lands in the world.  And the town of Moree was being developed.

In 1861, Mr. Moloney paid £40 for the land on which he built The Limerick Hotel and became the postmaster.  The mail-coach route developed considerably after 1871 and the hotel flourished.”

Many Moloneys still remain in the area.

The Seed and Three Generations of Maloneys.  The play opens with Rose Maloney, an Australian journalist travelling to England to meet her Irish grandfather for the first time.  Rose is accompanied on the journey by her father Danny, a ten pound Pom and a subsequent Vietnam conscript.

When they reach the poor Nottingham terrace house of Granda’ Brian, an IRA soldier in his younger days, it is to gradually uncover the most common of family secrets – that memories in fact bear no resemblance whatsoever to the facts.

From the initial intimate reunion, the play opens itself up over and over again until a silent family battle becomes a national story about finding new life amongst the rubble of old wars.

Maloney and Moloney Names

  • Bishop John O’Molony from Clare promoted the oppressed Irish Catholic Church in the late 17th century by re-establishing the Irish College in Paris.
  • Paddy Moloney is a member of the Irish musical group The Chieftains and the main composer and arranger of its music.
  • Father Francis Moloney is an adviser to Pope Benedict and is widely considered to be the leading authority on the Gospel of St. John.

Maloney and Moloney Numbers Today

  • 8,000 in the UK (most numerous in Manchester)
  • 15,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 26,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

Maloney 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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Written by Colin Shelley

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