O’Connor Surname Genealogy

comes from the Gaelic O’Conchobhair
(descendant of Conchobhair),
meaning “hound of desire.” In Irish legend Conchobhar was a king
of Ulster who lived at the time of Christ. O’Connor clan members
claim descent from later Conchobhars of the 11th century.
O’Connor comes
out in a
number of different forms
today, the principal
ones being, in addition to O’Connor, Connor, Conner, and Connors.
It was English pressure or prejudice which caused the “O” in O’Connor
to disappear in many cases.

Resources on

O’Connor Ancestry

The O’Connor or O’Conor name has been borne by six distinct septs in
different parts of Ireland, of which four have survived in considerable

  • the O’Connors of Connacht
  • the O’Connors of Kerry
  • the O’Connors of Corcomroe (in north Clare)
  • and the O’Connors of Offaly.

The O’Connors of Connacht
were the most important of these septs. Their chief Turlough Mor
O’Conor, who ruled in the early 12th century, was also the King of
Connacht and the High King of Ireland
. The three main
branches of these O’Conors – the O’Conor Don, the O’Conor Sligo, and
the O’Conor Roe – all descended from Turlough.

Clonalis in Roscommon was the ancestral home of the O’Conor Don (it is
still in their hands today) and Ballintober castle their stronghold
from the 14th to the 17th century. Owen O’Conor, who took up arms
against Cromwell, was the last master of Ballintober. His family were
impoverished and left a residue of their lands at Ballinagare

(the same fate befell the O’Conor Sligo). They remained
steadfastly Catholic during the period of harsh Penal laws.

O’Conors were men of letters and Charles Owen O’Conor in the late 19th
century was President of the Royal Irish Academy and author of The O’Conors of Connacht.

The O’Connors of Kerry
derived their name from a different Conchobhar. Their chiefs were
called Hycain air Cairuidhe, a contraction of O’Connor Kerry of
Carrigafoyle castle (their fortress). They are the most numerous
of the O’Connors in Ireland today, from their base in Kerry and the
adjoining counties of Cork and Limerick. The Conner/O’Connor family of Cork
may have been a branch. The O’Connor side of this family was
strongly implicated in the 1798 Rebellion and later supported the
Irish cause from England and Australia. Other O’Connors made names
for themselves in America.

The O’Connors of Corcomroe
(the clan Corc) on the north Clare coastline fared no better than the
other O’Connor septs in the 17th century. As one early account
put it:

“They were forced to become tillers of
the fields for alien hosts in miserable huts constructed in the shelter
of the cloud-supporting hills of Burren.”

The O’Connors of Offaly,
the fourth of the surviving septs, had lost most of their estates by
the mid 16th century. The name
has continued in the county as O’Connor-Morris.

Today Cork, Kerry, and Dublin account for the main numbers of O’Connors
in Ireland today. Only 10% call themselves Connor or Connors as
opposed to O’Connor.

America. An early
O’Connor in America was in the service of Spain.
Hugo O’Conor had left Ireland as a young man in 1750 to join the
army. At the time he was just following in the path of his
grandfather Daniel who had been an army officer there in an earlier
era. They sent him to Mexico and he was made acting governor of
Texas in 1767 (the locals called him El Capitan Colorado because, it
was said, of his flowing red hair). He later founded Tucson in
Arizona and there is a statue of him there today.

James O’Connor, another victim of English prejudice, left his native
Sligo for Norfolk, Virginia in 1794. A newspaper publisher back
in Ireland, he was the owner and editor of the Norfolk Herald until his death on
1819. Thomas O’Conor, said to be one of the rebels of 1798,
departed Roscommon for New York City in 1801, also to pursue an
interest in journalism (he started The
, the first Irish-American newspaper). His son Charles O’Conor
was arguably the
greatest lawyer of his time and the first Catholic ever to have been
nominated to
be President of the United States.

Little is known of the circumstances which caused Richard O’Conner to
leave his native Westmeath for Maryland around 1715. Son Richard
Conner headed out to the western frontier and joined up with Moravian
missionaries in Michigan. One son Henry, an Indian trader,
remained there.

“Henry, called Wah-be-sken-dip by the
Indians, was renowned for his great strength. He was a superior
interpeter and trader. He fought with Harrison in the battle of
the Thames and was present at the death of Tecumseh.”

Another son William, also an Indian trader, was an early pioneer in
Indiana. His original brick home in Fisher, Indiana still stands.

Later came O’Connors fleeing the potato famine in Ireland, among them

  • Maurice O’Connor from Kerry, who arrived in 1847, at first to
    find his lost wife who had come over earlier. Maurice settled in
    Vermont and worked on laying track for the new railroads being built in
    New England.
  • Patrick Connors who left Ireland at 12 with his family on the Patrick Henry in 1850.
    He settled in Westchester county, NY. Son Michael worked in road
    construction and travelled around a lot.
  • Michael and Felix O’Connor, brothers from Sligo, who came to
    Boston in 1858. They changed their name to Connor to avoid an
    Irish stigma.

Canada. O’Connors from
Ireland came to Newfoundland soon after the British had taken control
from the French in the 1760’s. Michael and Peter Connors were
fish merchants from Cork who decided to stay in Lawn after the summer
fishing. There were soon a number of other Connors families –
many of them from Kerry – to be found in Placentia Bay, Harbor Grace,
and the Trinity Bay area. Timothy O’Connor came to
Clattice Harbor in the early 1800’s.

Newfoundland with its fishing had appealed to the displaced Irish who
sought not only political and religious freedom but a means of economic
survival. Some Connors did move away to New York in the early
1900’s. Chuck Connors the actor came from one
such family.

Other Connors came to Nova Scotia, PEI, the Niagara
peninsula, and the
Ottawa valley. Daniel O’Connor was an early settler in Bytown
near Ottawa, arriving there in 1821 from Cork. He became a local
magistrate. O’Connor Street was named after him. Cassie
O’Connor was the fictional heroine of Hazel McIntyre’s Lament in the Wind. She fled
the famine in Ireland for a new life in New Brunswick.

Caribbean. There is an
O’Connor line in Trinidad. It is said that they are descendants
of Daniel O’Connor of Sligo, an officer in the Irish brigade, and more
directly from James Lynch O’Connor, a medical officer in the British
army, who was posted there in 1817.

Joseph Connors
had been transported to Australia in 1832 for the political crime of
“whiteboyism.” After he received his ticket of leave in 1840, he
was a stockman on many of the cattle runs in the Monaro district of
NSW. He married in 1847 and they had a large family. There
are many descendants.

Daniel Connor arrived in Western
Australia in 1850 also as a convict. He died in Perth in 1898 as
one of the
richest men of the colony. His son Michael, who became a local
politician, adopted the name of O’Connor in order to distance himself
from his convict father. Another rags-to-riches story was that of
Daniel O’Connor
who had come to Sydney from Tipperary with his parents in 1854.
His up-and-down life ended with his death in an asylum in Sydney in

O’Connor Miscellany

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

Select O’Connor Names

Turlough Mor O’Conor, chief of the
O’Conors in the 12th century, also ruled as the High King of Ireland.
Charles O’Conor of Ballinagare
was a leading Irish campaigner against the penal laws of the 18th
Feargus O’Connor was a popular
and formidable Chartist orator in the 1830’s and 1840’s.
Flannery O’Connor was an
influential author of the American South.
Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981 was
the first woman to be appointed to the US Supreme Court.
Jimmy Connors was a leading
American tennis player of the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Sinead O’Connor is
an internationally acclaimed singer from Dublin.

Select O’Connors

  • 53,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Cheshire)
  • 65,000 in America (most numerous
    in New York)
  • 97,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland).




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