O’Shea Surname Genealogy
The O’Shea name derived from the Gaelic O’Seaghda sept. Seaghda in Gaelic means “fine” or
“stately.” Segda was a chieftain of the Corcu Duibne, a western
Kerry grouping on the Dingle and Iveragh peninsulas. O’Shea became
on its travels outside Ireland.
Shea/O’Shea Resources on
- O’Shea Surname O’Shea
- The Shee Family Shees in
- The O’Sheas of Tipperary and Kilkenny
O’Sheas in Tipperary and Kilkenny.
- Shea Family Sheas from
Ireland to America.
- Shea History Site
Sheas in Ireland and America.
The O’Sheas were a Kerry sept, the lords of Iveragh, often in dispute
O’Falvey sept neighbors in Dingle. However, they ran into the
more powerful McCarthy sept in the 12th century and their powers in
Kerry declined. Some of these O’Sheas may have migrated east to
Tipperary and Kilkenny (although this is disputed).
Shees did establish
themselves in the city of Kilkenny in the 15th century, becoming the
most influential of the Ten Tribes of Kilkenny. They were
sovereigns and mayors of Kilkenny in many of the years between 1493 and
1653. Sir Richard Shee who lived in the late 1500’s was
probably the most powerful of these Shees.
were to be found at Sheestown. One
branch migrated to Limerick. Katharine O’Shea, who married into
this family, was the downfall of the Irish politician Charles Parnell
in the late 19th century. One O’Shea family has
been farming on the banks of the Suir river in Piltown, Kilkenny since
However, by the time of the 1659 census, O’Shea not Shee
was the predominant
spelling in all counties in Ireland with the exception of
Kilkenny. In the Griffith Valuation of 1852,
the largest number were in
Kerry and 40% of that number were on the Iveragh
peninsula. Today most live in Kerry and Cork, about half of all
O’Sheas. The best known O’Shea is probably Jack O’Shea, a Gaelic
footballer from Cahersiveen in Kerry and now a media pundit.
line of O’Shees, descended from Richard Shee of Kilkenny, departed
France at the time of Catholic persecution in the early 1700’s. Three O’Shee brothers joined Clare’s Irish
Regiment and fought for France during the Seven Years War.
Colonel Henry O’Shee was one of the leaders
of the French expedition to Ireland in 1796.
Although the expedition failed, he was made a French count by
the early 1800’s William O’Shea, from the Shee line in Limerick, came
in Spain where there were iron mines.
Henry O’Shea, an agent of the Barings, was a leading Madrid
the mid-19th century and subsequent O’Sheas married into prominent
Sebastian de Erice O’Shea was Spain’s ambassador to the UN in 1955. The pianist Paloma O’Shea was awarded the
title of Marchioness of O’Shea by the Spanish king in 2008.
main early cluster of Sheas in Canada was in Newfoundland.
Sheas were in
from the 1750's. Walter Shea
from Waterford was there in 1792 and later settled in Antigonish, Nova
Scotia. Some of his descendants - through
his son Henry - moved to Prince Edward Island, others migrated to
John Shea, born in Newfoundland
returned to Ireland and became mayor of Cork in the 1850’s. Ambrose Shea, born in 1815, became a
prominent political and business figure in Newfoundland.
His family published The Newfoundlander
newspaper from 1827 to 1884.
Jeremiah and Mary Shea came from Tipperary to Canada
in the 1820’s (they were on the McCabe list) and raised eight children
Calumet Island in Quebec. There is a
Shea Lake there. Many Sheas were buried
at the St. Anne’s Catholic cemetery.
Meanwhile Robert and Mary Shea from Cork were among Peter
settlers of 1823 who came to Lanark county, Ontario.
and Mary Shea fled Kerry for Canada at the height of the potato famine
late 1840’s. They were apparently
Anglican in Ireland and became Methodists in Canada.
From their line came the Wesleyan minister
the Rev. Adam Shea and his son George Beverly Shea, the renowned gospel singer in the Billy Graham’s Crusades.
was born in 1909 and died
in 2013, a lifespan of 104 years.
Sheas in America may have come via Newfoundland. That
was probably the case with David Shea
who was living in Marblehead, Massachusetts in 1776 and whose
to Vermont. Shea in America at that time
could sometimes become Shay.
Many later migrants came from Kerry. The
small town of Cahersiveen
in fact contributed a
number of young Shea migrants to America, including John Shea who
his parents in the 1870’s and Michael Shea who came alone in 1880. Other Sheas arrived from nearby Dereenaclaurig
and Sneem on the Iveragh peninsula.
Christopher O’Shea came
with his family via Canada to Chicago in the 1850’s.
He joined the Chicago police force in 1882
but was shot dead a year later while trying to quell a disturbance.
Cornelius O’Shea arrived
with his family in the 1870’s and settled in San Francisco. His son Jeremiah became a prominent
businessman in the city in the early 1900’s.
O’Shea started out in San
Francisco as a saloon keeper, and then branched out into draying. Later he became involved in city politics. The mayor appointed him head contractor for
all haulage business when the new City Hall had to be built after the
earthquake. He died on New Year’s Day,
New Zealand. Edmond
and Johanna Shea had come to New Zealand from Kerry in the 1860’s and,
brief sojourn in San Francisco, returned to New Zealand to farm. Their son Thomas O’Shea became a priest and
was appointed the coadjutor Archbishop of Wellington in 1913.
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
Richard Shee was a prominent Kilkenny figure of the late 16th
James and John O’Shea, two
brothers from Cork, were well-known stonemasons and sculptors in 19th
Cornelius Shea was an American
labor leader, founding member of the Teamsters in the early 1900’s, and
also an organized crime figure.
George Beverley Shea was a
Canadian-born singer considered to be the first international Gospel
singing star. He lived to be 104.
was a legendary Irish actor in New York who died in 2013.
Select Sheas/O’Sheas Today
- 3,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 18,000 in America (most numerous in Massachusetts)
- 24,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)
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