Shannon Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Shannon Meaning
recorded the name of the longest river in Ireland in the 2nd century AD
as Senos. This name is
thought to have been from a root word with the sense of age, seniority
and wisdom. St. Senan was a 6th century
Irish abbot who established a monastery
on Scattery island in the Shannon estuary.
Shannon is the anglicized surname in Ireland, from Senan and O’Seanain, a descendant of Senan. Three separate Gaelic
families derived from this root. They appear to have evolved
independently, not
from the river nor from each other. Shannon has also been a Scottish surname. Here the Gaelic root
was Seanchaidh, meaning

Shannon Resources on

Shannon Ancestry

were initially three separate Shannon families in Ireland:

  • the
    first, from
    O’Seanain, was an O’Shanahan family found
    in Carlow and Wexford
  • the
    second, from Mac Golla t-Seanain
    or Giltenan, were followers
    of St. Senan and became Shannon in county Clare. These Shannons
    also spread into Tyrone and Fermanagh.
  • the
    third, as O’Seanahain or O’Shanahan, was found mainly around
    Belfast in Ulster. They too became Shannons with the English.

remains of the Shannon presence in Carlow and Wexford. The
Shannon chiefs in Clare held the territory between Bodyke and Feakle
prior to the 14th century. But they were then dispossessed by the
MacNamaras and these Shannons were scattered around the rest of
Munster. Meanwhile
Shannons in Fermanagh seemed to have spread into Cavan and Connacht.

who probably lived in Ulster in the 11th century, was the first of his
family to append the O’Seanahain
Shannon name has continued to have a strong presence in the Belfast
area. However, many of these Shannons may have come originally from

Scotland. The Shannon name in Scotland
emerged at Kintyre in Argyllshire. The earliest known ancestor
was a chieftain from the Hebrides known as Gilquhongill Aschennan who
held large estates in the 14th century. But the Shannon numbers
in Scotland are not large today. They are mainly to be found in
SW Scotland.

The early Shannons in America tended to be Scots-Irish from

Scots Irish The
first of them was probably Nathaniel Shannon, the son of Scottish
Presbyterian settlers in Derry, who came to Boston in 1687 (he thus
missed the siege of Londonderry two years later where his elder brother
Robert played a prominent role). The
name Nathaniel continued as the first-born for seven generations in
Later Nathaniels settled in New Hampshire. George Hodgdon’s 1905
book Shannon Genealogy
recounted this family’s history.

Robert Shannon departed Belfast with his brothers on the Friends Goodwill in
1717 and made
his home in Norrington township, Pennsylvania:

  • one line from
    Robert, via William
    , moved after the Revolutionary War to
    Anderson county in east Tennessee.
  • a line from another brother Thomas went to Tennessee,
    Arkansas and Texas. Alexander May Shannon led a Confederate
    cavalry unit during the Civil War known as Shannon’s scouts. He
    later settled in Galveston.

Thomas Shannon, probably from Ulster, settled along the Savannah river
in Georgia in the 1770’s. His son Owen, a member of “the Old
Three Hundred,” came to Texas as early as 1822. The area there
was lawless in those times and his son Jesse was said to have been part
of the Murrell gang that marauded between Louisiana and Spanish Texas.

Irish Other
Shannons came to America from elsewhere in Ireland and were generally

George Shannon was brought to America from Munster around
1760 when about he was about one year old. He knew nothing about
his parentage except that his father was an Irish merchant and that his
mother had died on the crossing with him. He grew up,
fought in the Revolutionary War, married, and later moved to
Ohio. He had three notable sons:

  • the eldest son George, nicknamed “Peg-Leg,” was the youngest
    member of
    the Lewis and Clark expedition that crossed America from East to West
    in 1806. George
    later settled in Missouri and Shannon county there
    was named after him.
  • Thomas was a Ohio state politician who served in the Ohio
    House of Representatives.
  • as did his younger brother Wilson. He became
    Governor of the state in 1838 and subsequently Governor of Kansas

Most Shannons generally came later. The peak decade
for immigration was 1850-1860. Patrick and Mary Shannon, for
instance, came to New York around this time. New York recorded
the largest number of Shannons in the 1920 census.

Another Patrick Shannon came to Worcester, Massachusetts in the early
1900’s. His son William became a prominent journalist and
commentator on the political scene who was appointed US Ambassador to
Ireland in 1977.

Canada. Michael
Shannon was Catholic from county Antrim who came to Canada in 1832 and
in Prince Edward county, Ontario. It was
said that Michael was a footman to Lord Parker and eloped with his
Margaret. Michael and Margaret raised
fourteen children in Canada and their descendants are numerous.

and Catherine Shannon came from Sligo to Ontario
in 1847. Their son William left his home
there and,
after a meandering journey which took in Chile, Mexico and California,
ended up
in 1863 in British Columbia, then still a separate British
colony. He was a Vancouver area
pioneer and one of
its most prominent citizens. Shannon place-names are to be found
everywhere. When he
in 1928, his obituary ran as follows:

Shannon was a Cariboo
pioneer and one of the hard-working and hard-playing men from the rough
civilization of the 1860’s. He was a
trader, miner, freighter, and cattle rancher who came to British
Columbia in
the days when men changed their occupation to suit their love for fresh

Australia and New Zealand. Martin
Shannon was a Dublin grocer who was convicted of pig stealing and
transported on
the Hercules to Australia in 1830. He
married his wife Catherine in Hinton, NSW. One
son Thomas stayed in this area, owning property
in Umarra, another son John moved to Queensland

Derry arrived as free settlers to South Australia in the late 1830’s. First came Abraham and David Shannon in
1839 and 1840, followed by their father William and his second wife. Abraham moved to Moculta in the 1860’s and his
family mausoleum can still be seen there on the outskirts of the town. David operated
a large farm at Yatara
in the Konnunga district.

The Shannons had by their own account been at
Ballycragy in county Antrim for eight generations and more than two
years before they made the decision to emigrate to New Zealand in the
1860’s. The eldest offspring George was
the first to arrive in 1865, followed by three of his brothers. They made their home in the Wanganui area. Their story
was told in a family book published in 2000,
Shannon Family – from
Antrim to New Zealand.


Shannon Miscellany

Saint Senan of Ireland.  Senan mac Geircinn was born in 488 in a place once known as Moylougha in county Clare.   The
translation of Senan from old Gaelic means
“little old wise man.”  He studied
under a monk and began his Christian missionary career by founding a
near Enniscorthy in Wexford.

Around the
year 534 he founded a monastery of five churches and a round tower on
island in the bay on the estuary of the river Shannon some three
kilometers out
from Kilrush.  Scattery Island became not
only a famous abbey but the seat of a bishopric with Senan as its first
bishop.  Legend has it that Senan slew a
huge sea creature that inhabited the island and terrorized the locals.

Today Saint Senan is listed among the Twelve
Apostles of Ireland.

Shannon in Scotland.  The name
of Shannon or Seanchaidh, pronounced “shan-a-chie,” was to be found in
early census roll of the Kings of Scotland.  Its
literal translation meant “the
tradition-bearer” or “story teller.”

Common spelling variations of the name were Aschennan, Shennan, and Shennane.
These variations sometimes changed even between father and son, causing
confusion in research.  Also contributing
to the confusion was the fact that the name Shannon here has been
linked with the Irish surnames of Shanahan
in Clare and Sheenan in Tyrone.

the Shannons of SW Scotland and those
who migrated to Ulster are believed to have been descended from the
race in the Hebrides Islands.  Shannon
emerged as a surname in Kintyre in Argyllshire.  The
earliest known ancestor in that area was a
chieftain named Gilquhongill Aschennane who was resident in Duo Knokis
in 1376.

William Shannon and George Washington.  William Shannon grew up in the Norrington township family home in Pennsylvania of his
grandfather, immigrant Robert Shannon.

reported for active duty in the Pennsylvania Militia at the onset of
Revolutionary War.  It was the day after
having the honor of a very special visitor who came and spent the night
in the
Shannon family home.  That visitor was
General George Washington.  The SAR
Record reads:

spent the night of June 19, 1778 at the home of American patriot Robert
(William’s grandfather) in East Norrington township, Pennsylvania.”

According to an old Shannon family biography,
this event profoundly inspired William into service.

George Shannon in Missouri.  George
Shannon, the youngest member of the Lewis and Clark
expedition and nicknamed “Peg-Leg,” later settled in Kentucky where he
became a
prominent judge.  But then he abruptly
to Missouri in 1828. Why did he move?

were some reports that he was an alcoholic.
In 1823
a handbill accused him of being seen
“in his cups.”  Could it be
that the hilarious stories of George’s drinking escapades described by
Bay in his Reminiscences of the Bench and Bar of Missouri were
true?   Bay
wrote that someone once proposed to George as follows:

“If either would do a particular act, and
the other should fail to follow suit, the delinquent should treat the
crowd.  Thereupon Shannon took off his
wooden leg and
threw it into the fire; and as the other was not disposed to thus
jeopardize a
sound limb, he was forced to foot the bill.”

died suddenly on August 30, 1836 in
Palmyra, Missouri at the age of 49.

Abraham and David Shannon in South Australia.  Abrham Shannon
and his brother David from Derry in Ireland were early settlers in
Australia, arriving there in 1839 and 1840.
Both became farmers and successful ones as well.
Abraham and his wife Eliza were to lead long
and fruitful lives.

was not so
lucky.  In 1860 his wife Sarah died at
Yatara, aged only 28.  Barely two months
later, his one-year old son Abraham also died.
The next year David married Martha Davison at Stockwell.  It was in Stockwell in 1866, five years
later, that his father died after trying to break up a fight.  That was also the year that his second wife
Martha died.  David quickly married a
third time at the end of the year, to Deborah Kelly in Kapunda.

the family traumas, David had by the
1870’s become the largest landowner in the district.



Shannon Names

  • George Shannon was the youngest member of
    the Lewis and Clark expedition that crossed America from East to West in 1806.   
  • Claude Shannon is famous for having founded information theory with the landmark paper that he published in America in 1948.

Select Shannon Numbers Today

  • 8,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 14,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 13,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)




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