• Connell surname history

    Connell surname history

    O'Connell, along with Connell, generally comes from the Irish O Conaill, "descendant of Conall", a very popular personal name probably derived from con, "hound" and gal "valour". Because of the widespread popularity of the personal name at its root, O'Connell arose separately as a surname in Connacht, Ulster and Munster. The native O?Connells of Ulster and Connacht have dwindled in numbers and prominence over the years, however. By far the most famous and numerous family were the O'Connells of Munster, where the family are recorded as chiefs in the barony of Magunihy in east Kerry. Driven from this area by the O'Donoghues in the eleventh century, they moved south and the centre of their power shifted to Ballycarbery, also in Co. Kerry. Their castle was destroyed in the Cromwellian wars of the mid seventeenth century. Today a large majority of the O'Connells in Ireland are still to be found in Co. Kerry, as well as in adjoining Co. Cork.

    Possibly because of the fame of Daniel O?Connell, the resumption of the "O" prefix among the family has been widespread; whereas almost 60% of the births of the name in 1890 are "Connell", by 1996 only 12% of households are recorded thus.

    In Ulster, especially in counties Antrim, Tyrone and Down, many Connells and MacConnells are of Scottish stock, their names derived from a phonetic transliteration of Mac Dhomhnail, since the "Dh- is not pronounced. This family were a branch of the great Clan Donald.

    The Munster family produced the most famous bearer of the name, Daniel O'Connell (1775-1845), known as "The Liberator" because he won Catholics the right to vote; for almost thirty years he was the undisputed leader of Catholic Ireland. Other members of the family were also well-known: Muircheratach O?Connell (1738-1830) fought with the Austrians in the Seven Year War, having changed his first name to the more acceptable "Moritz", and became Imperial Chamberlain for more than sixty years, serving three Austrian emperors. A kinsman, Sir Maurice O?Connell (1766-1848) served in both the French and the British armies and married a daughter of Captain Bligh of the Bounty. Many of his descendants still live in Australia.

    Mick O?Connell (b. 1937) of Valentia, Co. Kerry is regarded as one of the finest Gaelic footballers of his generation. He won 4 All-Ireland medals and six National Football league medals.