Quinn Surname Genealogy

Quinn is the anglicized form of the Gaelic O’Cuinn, the name for a number of distinct septs or clans to be found around Ireland. O’Cuinn itself comes from the Irish word conn, meaning “counsel” and generally describing a wise man or a man of high intelligence. Niall O’Cuinn, who died at the battle of Clondarf in 1014, was the first in the Quinn clans to use the surname.

It has been said in Ireland that Catholics generally spelt their name “Quinn,” while Protestants spelt it “Quin.”

Resources on

Quinn Ancestry

Quinn septs in Ireland could be found in Tyrone, Antrim, and Limerick.

Tyrone The
O’Quinns of Loughinsholin were based primarily in Tyrone.
They were close to the O’Niells, acting at times as their hereditary
physicians and foster parents to their sons. They held good land
and prospered. However, the English encroachments into Tyrone
were beginning in Elizabethan
times. An English commander boasted in 1600:

“The last service was upon Patrick
O’Quinn, one of the chief men of Tyrone, dwelling within four miles of
Dungannon and fearing nothing, but we lighted upon him and killed him,
his wife, sons, daughters, servants and followers being many and burnt
all to the ground.”

It was Cromwell who dealt the fatal blow forty years later, routing an
army led by Owen and Neil O’Quinn and confiscating land for Protestant
planters. The O’Quinns remained within the barony of Dungannon.

Antrim Another
O’Quinn clan, of Clanndeboy, claimed descent from Congalagh
O’Cuinn who had been killed by the English in 1219. They were
based further east in the Glens
of Antrim. The English and Scottish planters were also arriving
there. Neil Oge O’Quinn, a tenant of an English lord at Lissan,
led a revolt in 1614, but this too was put down.

Limerick The
Quins that were descended from the Hy Ifearnan clan had originally
been in county Clare, but were driven out from there into Limerick by
the O’Briens.

Valentine Quin built the first Quin Manor at Adare
on the river Maigue in 1730. His family converted from
Catholicism to Protestantism in 1739 and it was no coincidence that
they subsequently became one of the few families of Gaelic origin to
ascend, as the Earls of Dunraven, into the Irish peerage. Perhaps
the most flamboyant of these Quins was Wyndham Quin, the fourth Earl.
Adare Manor was sold by the family in 1984 and now operates as one of
Ireland’s prestige hotels.

Armagh There has
been a more modern Quinn dynasty from county Armagh:

“The first supermarket in Newry was
Quinn’s the Milestone on Hill Street, founded by John Quinn from
Lisnacree. His family included Ruairi Quinn, former leader of the
Irish Labour Party and Irish Finance Minister, as well as Fearghal
Quinn, head of the Superquinn chain, and the late Dr Padraig Quinn who
fought in the Irish War of Independence.”

Today Quinns are found throughout Ireland, but the greater numbers are
around Lough Neagh in county Tyrone (where it is the most common name
today) and in Antrim.

Sean Quinn grew up on the border between Fermanagh and Cavan and built
up a large insurance business that made him for a while the richest man
in Ireland. He was known then as the Mighty Quinn. But a
series of rash financial deals saw him careering into backruptcy in

An early arrival in London was the Dublin-born poet Walter Quin who
became the tutor and lifelong friend of the monarch Charles I.
His son James was expelled from Oxford for his royalist views, but then
was reinstated after he had apparently charmed the uncharming Oliver
Cromwell with his “fine singing voice.” However, his grandson Mark Quin had a
less happy outcome
. A century later another
James Quin of this family graced the London stage with his performances
of Falstaff, if “graced” is the appropriate word:

“James Quin twice killed fellow
actors. Once during a performance he accidentally killed a fellow
actor in a duel on stage and the other came about after a dispute over
the pronunciation of a particular word.”

Michael J. Quin came to London in the 1820’s as a writer and
journalist. In 1836 he started the Dublin Review which became the
leading Catholic periodical of the time.

The 19th century saw Irish and Quinn immigration shift towards the jobs
that were available in industrial
Lancashire. A century later Niall Quinn crossed the Irish
Sea to play football for Manchester City. He became the
chairman of the English football club Sunderland.

Early Quinn arrivals in America were:

  • Loftin Quinn who came to North Carolina in the 1730’s. Quinn marriages
    of the late 18th century show his family mainly in Carteret and
    Duplin counties. The Quinn homestead at Comfort apparently still
    remains. A subsequent Loftin Quinn was a veteran of the War of
    1812. He was buried in the old Quinn burying ground in Shelby
    county, Alabama.
  • John Quin from county Down who came to New Jersey in 1748 and
    later settled in Maryland. His descendants adopted the Quinn
    spelling. There were two main branches, one in Georgia and the
    other in Ohio.
  • Hugh Quinn from county Tyrone who arrived in South Carolina
    during the 1760’s. He and his wife Margaret received land grants
    in what is now York county. Hugh was a member of the local
    Baptist church and was licensed to keep a tavern on his premises.
    He died in 1798. His son John migrated to Alabama in the early
  • and Patrick O’Quinn who came to Philadelphia as an indentured
    servant in 1772. He fought in the Revolutionary War and was
    subsequently awarded a land grant in Sampson county, North
    Carolina. His son Wiley, sometimes called Gwinn, moved to
    Buchanan county, Virginia.

Larger numbers came in the 19th century, many of them – like James Quinn of
– fleeing the famine in Ireland. They headed
for the big cities like New York, Boston, and Chicago.

Two who headed elsewhere were James Quinn from Donegal who went
originally to Boston but then moved west to Minnesota in 1857; and
John Quinn from Antrim who ended up in Ohio. He married there,
worked for the B & O Railroad, fought in the Civil War, and lived
on into his nineties until his death in 1921.

Australia. Among the
early Quinn settlers in Australia were:

  • Michael Quinn from Limerick who came to Perth in 1835 and ran a
    carting business there. His son Michael was one of the
    farmers in the Williams river area of Western Australia. He
    married Mary Hale from another pioneering family in 1857 and they
    raised thirteen children there.
  • Captain
    Hugh Quin
    from Armagh who became the harbour master at Adelaide in
    Australia in 1858. He had arrived in the
    colony as early as 1836.
    He was reported to have attended the banquet at
    Adelaide Town Hall on December 28, 1871 for all colonists who had
    arrived before 1841.
  • James Quinn from Antrim who arrived with his family in 1841 and
    farmed in various places in NSW over the next thirty years. His
    daughter Ellen married into the notorious Kelly gang.
  • Patrick Quinn from Tipperary who came to Sydney with his wife and
    three children in 1858.

Arriving in 1861 was James
Quinn as the Bishop
of Brisbane
. He did much to encourage the
emigration of Irishmen to Queensland over the next twenty years.

Quinn Miscellany

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

Select Quinn Names

Niall O’Cuinn was the first in the
Quinn clans to use the surname. He was killed at the battle of
Clondarf in 1014.
Frederick Hervey Foster Quin was
an orthodox physician who converted to homeopathy and helped found the
British Homeopathic Society. He was thought to have been the
illegitimate offspring of Valentine Richard Quin, Earl of Dunraven, and
Lady Elizabeth Foster, a well-known courtesan.
John Quinn, born of Irish
immigrants in Ohio, was a successful New
York lawyer and an important art patron and collector of manuscripts
there in
the early 20th century.
Anthony Quinn was a well-known
and highly successful film actor of the 1950’s and 1960’s. His
father was of Irish-Mexican ancestry and he was born in Mexico.
Fergal Quinn is an Irish
politician and successful local businessman. He founded the chain
of supermarkets around Dublin called Superquinn.
Pat Quinn
the head coach of the Canadian hockey team who took them to gold in the 2002 Winter Olympics and
gold in the 2004 World Cup.

Select Quinns

  • 26,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Tyne and Wear)
  • 34,000 in America (most numerous
    in New York)
  • 36,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland).



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