O'Connor


Select O'Connor Surname Genealogy

O'Connor comes from the Gaelic O'Conchobhair (descendant of Conchobhair), meaning "hound of desire."  In Irish legend Conchobhar was a king of Ulster who lived at the time of Christ.  O'Connor clan members claim descent from later Conchobhars of the 11th century.

O'Connor comes out in a number of different forms today, the principal ones being, in addition to O'Connor, Connor, Conner, and Connors.  It was English pressure or prejudice which caused the "O" in O'Connor to disappear in many cases.

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Select O'Connor Ancestry

Ireland.  The O'Connor or O'Conor name has been borne by six distinct septs in different parts of Ireland, of which four have survived in considerable numbers:
  • the O'Connors of Connacht
  • the O'Connors of Kerry
  • the O'Connors of Corcomroe (in north Clare)
  • and the O'Connors of Offaly.
The O'Connors of Connacht were the most important of these septs.  Their chief Turlough Mor O'Conor, who ruled in the early 12th century, was also the King of Connacht and the High King of Ireland.  The three main branches of these O'Conors - the O'Conor Don, the O'Conor Sligo, and the O'Conor Roe - all descended from Turlough.

Clonalis in Roscommon was the ancestral home of the O'Conor Don (it is still in their hands today) and Ballintober castle their stronghold from the 14th to the 17th century.  Owen O'Conor, who took up arms against Cromwell, was the last master of Ballintober.  His family were impoverished and left a residue of their lands at Ballinagare (the same fate befell the O'Conor Sligo).  They remained steadfastly Catholic during the period of harsh Penal laws. 

Later Ballinagare O'Conors were men of letters and Charles Owen O'Conor in the late 19th century was President of the Royal Irish Academy and author of The O'Conors of Connacht.   

The O'Connors of Kerry derived their name from a different Conchobhar.  Their chiefs were called Hycain air Cairuidhe, a contraction of O'Connor Kerry of Carrigafoyle castle (their fortress).  They are the most numerous of the O'Connors in Ireland today, from their base in Kerry and the adjoining counties of Cork and Limerick.  The Conner/O'Connor family of Cork may have been a branch.  The O'Connor side of this family was strongly implicated in the 1798 Rebellion and later supported the Irish cause from England and Australia. Other O'Connors made names for themselves in America. 

The O'Connors of Corcomroe (the clan Corc) on the north Clare coastline fared no better than the other O'Connor septs in the 17th century.  As one early account put it:

"They were forced to become tillers of the fields for alien hosts in miserable huts constructed in the shelter of the cloud-supporting hills of Burren."

The O'Connors of Offaly, the fourth of the surviving septs, had lost most of their estates by the mid 16th century.  The name has continued in the county as O'Connor-Morris. 

Today Cork, Kerry, and Dublin account for the main numbers of O'Connors in Ireland today.  Only 10% call themselves Connor or Connors as opposed to O'Connor.

America.  An early O'Connor in America was in the service of Spain.  Hugo O'Conor had left Ireland as a young man in 1750 to join the Spanish army.  At the time he was just following in the path of his grandfather Daniel who had been an army officer there in an earlier era.  They sent him to Mexico and he was made acting governor of Texas in 1767 (the locals called him El Capitan Colorado because, it was said, of his flowing red hair).  He later founded Tucson in Arizona and there is a statue of him there today.

James O'Connor, another victim of English prejudice, left his native Sligo for Norfolk, Virginia in 1794.  A newspaper publisher back in Ireland, he was the owner and editor of the Norfolk Herald until his death on 1819.  Thomas O'Conor, said to be one of the rebels of 1798, departed Roscommon for New York City in 1801, also to pursue an interest in journalism (he started The Shamrock, the first Irish-American newspaper).  His son Charles O'Conor was arguably the greatest lawyer of his time and the first Catholic ever to have been nominated to be President of the United States. 
 
Little is known of the circumstances which caused Richard O'Conner to leave his native Westmeath for Maryland around 1715.  Son Richard Conner headed out to the western frontier and joined up with Moravian missionaries in Michigan.   One son Henry, an Indian trader, remained there.

"Henry, called Wah-be-sken-dip by the Indians, was renowned for his great strength.  He was a superior interpeter and trader.  He fought with Harrison in the battle of the Thames and was present at the death of Tecumseh."

Another son William, also an Indian trader, was an early pioneer in Indiana.  His original brick home in Fisher, Indiana still stands.
 
Later came O'Connors fleeing the potato famine in Ireland, among them being:
  • Maurice O'Connor from Kerry, who arrived in 1847, at first to find his lost wife who had come over earlier.  Maurice settled in Vermont and worked on laying track for the new railroads being built in New England.
  • Patrick Connors who left Ireland at 12 with his family on the Patrick Henry in 1850.   He settled in Westchester county, NY.  Son Michael worked in road construction and travelled around a lot.
  • Michael and Felix O'Connor, brothers from Sligo, who came to Boston in 1858.  They changed their name to Connor to avoid an Irish stigma.
Canada.  O'Connors from Ireland came to Newfoundland soon after the British had taken control from the French in the 1760's.  Michael and Peter Connors were fish merchants from Cork who decided to stay in Lawn after the summer fishing.  There were soon a number of other Connors families - many of them from Kerry - to be found in Placentia Bay, Harbor Grace, and the Trinity Bay area.  Timothy O'Connor came to Clattice Harbor in the early 1800's. 

Newfoundland with its fishing had appealed to the displaced Irish who sought not only political and religious freedom but a means of economic survival.  Some Connors did move away to New York in the early 1900's. Chuck Connors the actor came from one such family.

Other Connors came to Nova Scotia, PEI, the Niagara peninsula, and the Ottawa valley.  Daniel O'Connor was an early settler in Bytown near Ottawa, arriving there in 1821 from Cork.  He became a local magistrate.  O'Connor Street was named after him.  Cassie O'Connor was the fictional heroine of Hazel McIntyre's Lament in the Wind.  She fled the famine in Ireland for a new life in New Brunswick.

Caribbean.  There is an O'Connor line in Trinidad.  It is said that they are descendants of Daniel O'Connor of Sligo, an officer in the Irish brigade, and more directly from James Lynch O'Connor, a medical officer in the British army, who was posted there in 1817.

Australia.
  Joseph Connors had been transported to Australia in 1832 for the political crime of "whiteboyism."  After he received his ticket of leave in 1840, he was a stockman on many of the cattle runs in the Monaro district of NSW.  He married in 1847 and they had a large family.  There are many descendants.
  
Daniel Connor arrived in Western Australia in 1850 also as a convict.  He died in Perth in 1898 as one of the richest men of the colony.  His son Michael, who became a local politician, adopted the name of O'Connor in order to distance himself from his convict father.  Another rags-to-riches story was that of Daniel O'Connor who had come to Sydney from Tipperary with his parents in 1854.  His up-and-down life ended with his death in an asylum in Sydney in 1914.

Select O'Connor Miscellany

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


Select O'Connor Names


Turlough Mor O'Conor, chief of the Connacht O'Conors in the 12th century, also ruled as the High King of Ireland.
Charles O'Conor of Ballinagare was a leading Irish campaigner against the penal laws of the 18th century.
Feargus O'Connor was a popular and formidable Chartist orator in the 1830's and 1840's.
Flannery O'Connor was an influential author of the American South.
Sandra Day O'Connor in 1981 was the first woman to be appointed to the US Supreme Court.
Jimmy Connors was a leading American tennis player of the 1970's and 1980's.
Sinead O'Connor is an internationally acclaimed singer from Dublin.

Select O'Connors Today
  • 53,000 in the UK (most numerous in Cheshire)
  • 65,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 97,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland).



PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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