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How's the Craic? From Arranmore Ireland to Chicago IL!

The History of the O'Donnell Family

History Variations of the Name: (English) O'Donnell, O'Donell, O'Donel, (Gaelic) Ó Dómhnaill, Ó Dónaill

Meaning of the Name: Dómhan is the Gaelic for 'world' and Dómhnall means 'world ruler'. Ó Dómhnaill = descendent of Dómhnall.

History of the Name: Around the year 1000 A.D. Brian Boru, then High King, ordered that families take surnames. The practice before that was for a person to add the name of his father or grandfather to that of his own, a practice which still exists in some parts of Ireland today. The change was gradual and it was not until a century later that the surname Ó Dómhnaill appeared when Cathbharr adopted the name of his ancestor - Dómhnall Mór - as his surname. Another clan in the Clare/Tipperary area adopted the same surname but from a different ancestor of course. This was long before Cineal Chonaill did and sometimes causes misunderstandings and confusion. It is difficult to know whether an O'Donnell in the south of Ireland is descendant from the Clare/Tippereary clan or from a 'northern' O'Donnell who 'lost his way' on his journey to or from Kinsale. It is important to note that for some time before Dómhnail Mór's name was accepted as the official surname, many clan members were unofficially using that of Dálach, a former chieftain slain in 868 A.D. The latter is still used in Gaelic in the following cases - O'Donnell Clan = Clann Dálaigh; The O'Donnell = An Dálach; The O'Donnells = Na Dálaigh.

About the Clan: Niall of the Nine Hostages (Nial Naoi nGiallach) who reigned from 379- 405 AD and who is reputed to have brought St. Patrick to Ireland as a slave boy, had many sons. One of those. Conall, asserted his dominance over that territory which later became known as Tir Chonaill (approx. Co. Donegal minus Inishowen). Banquet Room at Donegal Castle in Arranmore Ireland.The O'Donnells, descendant from Conall, at first lived along the river Lennon but later established themselves in south Donegal. At the beginning of the 15th cent. they built a castle at Ballyshannon and about 50 years later moved to Donegal Town where they built Donegal Castle. The castle stood in ruin for about 300 years until recently restored. The photo at left is the main banquet room in Donegal Castle, which is now open to visitors in Donegal Town.

The prominent role played by this royal family in their country's history is well recorded but after their overthrow and the collapse of the old Gaelic system in 1602 (Battle of Kinsale) less is known about them. The main family immigrated to the continent in 1607 where all died within a short time -the last dying in 1642. Other branches of the family were moved to Connaught during the Cromwellian Plantations.

General Leoopoldo O'Donnell of  Spain at How's the Craic?. From Arranmore Ireland to Chicago IL USA!About the middle of the 18th century some immigrated to Spain and Austria, in which countries they played an important role. General Leoopoldo O'Donnell of Spain, at left, brought Morocco under Spanish control. For this he and his descendants received the title, Duke de Tetuan. The most senior O'Donnell family today, according to the Chief Herald, is that of John O'Donnell (deceased), Blackrock, Co. Dublin, namely, Fr. Hugh O.F.M., Nuala and Siobhan. Next in seniority is Leopoldo O'Donnell, Duke of Tetuan, Madrid. The next in line who is living is Gabriel, Count O'Donell von Tyrconnell, in Austria.

The O'Donnell family crest at How's the Craic? From Arranmore Ireland to Chicago IL USA!Meaning of the Coat of Arms: 'The ancient armorial bearings of the O'Donnells are: Or issuing from sinister side of shield an arm dexter, sleeved azure, and cuffed argent, with hand proper grasping a passion cross gules. Tradition has it that St. Patrick upon meeting Conall Cremhthainn, an elder son of King Niall (of the Nine Hostages), impressed a cross upon his shield, with his staff (Bachall Isa) promising and predicting that such of his race as would carry that sign on their standard should never be overcome in battle, The family motto is of course 'IN HOC SIGNO VINCES' meaning 'under this sign you will conquer'.

Many Thanks to The O'Donnell Clan Association for the above information. Also thanks to Nora (O'Donnell) McConville, the genealogy expert in my family, for our own family tree that has been traced back to the late 1700's.

My Family History

Charles O'Donnell "Charlie Father" from Kincasslagh married (29 September 1896) Hannah Boyle (Neil Nancy) from Arranmore. After settling on Arranmore they raised a family. One of their children was Patrick James O'Donnell (my grandfather) who grew up and married Nappie (Annabella) Gallagher (13 March 1919) also from Arranmore. They started a family and eventually immigrated to America (Chicago). Their third child was my father John Joseph O'Donnell (Sonny) who grew up and married my mother in Chicago on 04 April 1959. I was later born and while visiting Arranmore a mischievous leprechaun cast a spell upon me transforming my soul and Arranmore together as one. That is how my love affair started with Arranmore. If you do not believe me go to Arranmore and see for yourself. The people are grand, the craic great, the scenery breathtaking and the ghosts plentiful. Superstition abounds.

I applied to Ireland for citizenship and was granted Irish Citizenship on 18 December 1998. Thus enabling me to have dual citizenship.

Your host, John O'Donnell

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