Sheehan Surname Genealogy

Sheehan is the anglicization of the Gaelic O’Siodhachain, from siodhach meaning “peaceful.” The Sheehan sept traditionally used a dove of peace in its coat of arms.  Sheehan name variants are Sheahan and Sheen. The latter spellings have mainly appeared outside Ireland.
Select Sheehan Resources on The Internet

Sheehan Ancestry

Sheehan sept is believed to have originated in county Clare, but moved
southward to Kilcredan parish in county Cork by the 14th century.
Spellings in the 17th century show O’Sheaghan and Shyghan, as well as
Sheehan. Sheehans are still
in county Cork
. Almost 40% of
Sheehans in Ireland today live there. Sheehan Brothers,
for instance, have been traditional butchers in Cork since 1870. Sheehans are also in neighboring Kerry and
Limerick. Angela Sheehan of Angela’s Ashes
came from Limerick.

was particularly hard hit by the famine in the 1840’s. Many
Sheehans left at that time, to America and elsewhere. Sheehans
also left
later due to land evictions. The Sheehan numbers are now larger outside
Ireland than within.

Some Sheehans arrived in
America during the 18th century.
came in the 19th
century. New York and Massachusetts were
the main points of arrival. Among those
coming were:

  • Michael
    Sheehan who arrived
    around 1848 and started a wholesale liquor store in Troy, New York
  • another
    Michael Sheehan with his wife Ellen who
    came to Utica, New York in 1855
  • Patrick
    Sheehan from Dingle in Kerry who arrived in Boston in the 1860’s and
    moved to
    Fall River
  • and three Sheehan siblings
    from Cork – brothers Callahan and John and sister Mary – who came in
    the 1870’s
    and settled in the Boston area.

Carlson’s 1990 book The Sheehans in
was a portrait of an early Sheehan family in America.

Many did well
in the new land. George Sheehan,
and son
, became prominent New York cardiologists, the latter
making a name
for himself as a guru for recreational running. A
Sheehan family ran a dairy farm in Holyoke
in western Massachusetts in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
Their son Neil became a New York Times reporter
and won the Pulitzer Prize for his Secret History of the
Vietnam War.

Canada. Thomas
and Honorah Sheehan came to New Brunswick sometime in the 1830’s. Their first child was born in St. John in
1839 and their descendants are still to be found there.

Sheehans were also in Peterborough county,
Ontario. The 1851 census lists a number of
families. The oldest were four brothers
– Daniel, John, Michael and William – all born in Ireland between 1790
1800. Joseph and Margaret Sheehan from
Clear Island off Cork came with Peter Robinson’s settlers in 1825 and
made their home
in Ennismore township.

New Zealand
. Early
Sheehan arrivals (although not too many of them) were convicts. John Sheehan was transported to Australia for
life in 1823 for his part in a raid on the English barracks near his
home at
Doneraile in Cork. He married a fellow
convict Ann Toomey and, after they had obtained their ticket of leave,
settled in the Burrowa district of NSW and raised eight children. John died in 1858 but his wife Ann Sheehan
lived onto 1906

David Sheehan had
come with his family to Melbourne from Ireland around 1840, but moved
on a year
or so later to Auckland, NZ. They lived
in the Warkworth area and David was the landlord of the Governor Browne
in Auckland. His son John became a
lawyer and had a short-lived political career.

Sheehan Miscellany

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

Sheehan Names

D.D. Sheehan was an
Irish nationalist agitator and politician who became editor of the Dublin Chronicle in the 1920’s.
Michael Sheehan, Archbishop of
Sydney in Australia in the 1920’s and 30’s, was a great proponent of
the revival of the Irish language.
Winfield Sheehan was Fox
Film’s producer and general manager during the 1920’s and ’30’s.

was a New York cardiologist who became the
philosopher of the recreational running movement in the 1970’s and

Barry Sheene, born in London,
was a world champion motorcycle racer of the 1970’s.
Martin Sheen, the film actor,
changed his name from Ramon Estevez because he thought he would gain
more recognition with an Irish name than with a Spanish one.

Select Sheehans Today

  • 9,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 12,000 in America (most numerous in Massachusetts)
  • 20,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)


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