O’Hara Surname Genealogy

an Irish sept name. It was an anglicized
form of the Gaelic O’hEaghra, meaning
“descendant of Eaghra.” The O’Haras
claimed descent from Eaghra (pronounced “Ara”) who was lord of Leyney
in Sligo
and died in 976. The meaning of the name
Eaghra is not known.

O’Hara Resources on

O’Hara Ancestry

O’Haras have been strongly associated with county Sligo.
The first record there was that of Dermot
O’hEaghra around the year 1350. At that
, the O’Haras were
beginning to divide themselves into two groupings:

  • the
    O’Hara Buidhe (the brown-faced ones) who
    were based around Collooney
  • and the
    O’Hara Riabhach (the rough-faced or grizzled ones) at Ballyharry, a
    spelling of Ballyhara.

In the 14th
century a branch of the family migrated east to Antrim and settled in
area now known as Ballymena.

Cromwellian times the O’Haras were lords of Leyney from their castles
Castlelough and Memlough, as well as being large landlords in Sligo and
Mayo – at one time holding over 20,000 acres at Coopers Hill and
Annaghmore. The Book of O’Hara is an
18th century document commemorating the O’Hara chiefs.

Those in Sligo who supported the English
cause were ennobled as the barons of Tyrawley in 1706:

  • this
    line included two prominent officers in
    the British army, James O’Hara and his illegitimate son Charles O’Hara. The
    had the distinction of losing to both Washington and Napoleon.
  • also pro-British was Robert O’Hara of Raheen in county
    Galway. He was the father and
    grandfather of two notable British soldiers. Son
    Walter distinguished himself in the Napoleonic Wars
    emigrating to Toronto in Canada in 1826. Daughter
    Anne Louisa married James Burke and their son
    Robert O’Hara
    Burke was the leader of the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition to
    Australia from south to north.

there were also O’Haras on the other
side – such as James O’Hara, a general
on Washington’s side during the Revolutionary War, and Kean O’Hara,
prominent in the 1798 Rebellion.

included O’Haras, left Ireland at the time of the famine or in the
years after. In the 1860’s, one can trace
one O’Hara family from Derry in
another O’Hara family from Cavan in
. Others sought work in
England and Scotland, or migrated to Canada or New Zealand.

apart from Dublin, Sligo and Antrim
remain the two regions where the O’Hara name is most concentrated.

England and Scotland. O’Haras migrated to the
industrial towns of northern England and Lowland Scotland during the

Early arrivals were Patrick
O’Hara and his wife Catherine and two brothers who settled in Bradford,
Yorkshire in 1831. Their descendants,
through eight generations, are now spread over Yorkshire and further
afield. John
had left home in county Derry for Glasgow as a young
boy at the time of the famine and was one of the founders of Glasgow
football club in 1888.

America. James O’Hara came to America
in 1772 and
distinguished himself during the Revolutionary War, being appointed
Quartermaster General by Washington. By the 1790’s he had become
a prominent
early American businessman, starting up a number of industries in
and investing in real estate there. He
owned Schenley Park, which his descendants donated to the city of
Pittsburgh in 1889.

O’Hara, a political exile after the 1798 Rebellion, came to America and
in Kentucky where he became a notable educator.
His son Theodore was a Confederate colonel in the Civil War and
also a
poet. His poem Bivouac of the Dead has
been quoted thousands of times. Lines like:

games eternal camping ground
their lonely tents are

glory guards with solemn
round the bivouac of the dead.”

have been inscribed on
granite and marble at Gettysburg and at hundreds of other other
cemeteries all
over America.

The early O’Hara emigrants to America were affluent or
well-educated, while later emigrants were escaping poverty at home. Boston was a favored destination for new arrivals
in the 1860’s like John O’Hara from Derry and another John O’Hara from
Rush near Dublin.

Felix O’Hara from Antrim had come with the British army to
America and
in 1765 was one of the first English-speaking settlers in Gaspe, Quebec. He prospered there and on his death in 1805
his sons substantial landholdings. Three
of his sons – Oliver, Edward and Hugh – distinguished themselves in the
region. There is still an O’Hara
cemetery in the center of Gaspe.

The O’Hara Mill village in Madoc township,
Ontario began with the arrival of James O’Hara (originally from Derry)
and his
wife Mary in 1823. Once the family
settled there they planted strong roots and never moved again. They started a sawmill there in 1850 and their
buildings and
properties were passed through the years from children to grandchildren
over a
span of four generations. Their
homestead is now part of an 85 acre conservation area.

Latin America. There
is an O’Hara branch in Peru that was started by Bernard O’Hara Coor
Liverpool who went there to farm in the mid-19th century.
He had eleven children, the third of whom, named
Santiago, apparently became a national hero when he died fighting
against Chile
at the Battle of Miraflores in 1881.

O’Hara Miscellany

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

O’Hara Names

Kane O’Hara was an 18th century Irish
playwright and musician from Sligo. His
burletta Midas, first performed in
1764, was a musical alternative to opera at that time.

Theodore O’Hara
known as the poet soldier of the South after the Civil War.

John O’Hara

was an American writer of novels and short
stories in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
is the famous fictional protagonist of the book and film
Gone With the Wind.
Maureen O’Hara
, born Maureen FitzSimons, was a red-headed
Irish actress who starred in Hollywood films in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
Joan O’Hara
from Sligo was the popular
Irish film and TV actress who died in 2007.

Select O’Haras Today

  • 12,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 11,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 14,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)



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