A Letter from Ireland:

Castledonovan of the O’Donovans


castledonovanHere we have the imposing ruins of Castledonovan in West Cork – once home of the mighty O’Donovans!

Anyone have the surnames Donovan, Collins, O’Connell, McEniry, Kenneally, Flannery, Tracey, Clerkin or Ring?

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Well – lets dig into this a bit. Most people I know have a good idea on their immediate genealogy – back to great-grandparents – and then they look a little more at the extended family … BUT …..

I’ve found that taking the “bigger picture” is often a very useful way to get a lot more context, clues and information around your family history and heritage.

Lets take an example – have a look at this picture – its “Castledonovan” near Drimoleague in West Cork. It’s the main seat of the O’Donovan clan up to the 1600s. Lets take this example a little further:

The O’Donovan family came into West Cork around the late 1100s. They were part of the Uí Fidgente clan of Limerick up to that point. The Uí Fidgente took their name from their ancestor Fiachu Fidhgeinte, the second son of Dáire Cerbba who was alive in the late 300′s.

Dún Eochair was the great capital of the Uí Fidgenti and the remains can be found next to the present day town of Bruree in south Limerick. To the south of Bruree you’ll also find “Cnoc Samhna” which is believed to be the Uí Fidgente inauguration site for their new Kings.

The Uí Fidgente disintegrated in 1178 when a local rival family and the Normans drove then into Counties Kerry and Cork. The O’Connells went to Kerry, while the O’Donovans would depart for County Cork. The O’Collins’s followed the O’Donovans some decades later. The MacEnirys remained in County Limerick. Other Uí Fidgente families like the Kenneallys, Flannerys, Traceys, Clerkins, and Rings were scattered all over Munster.

Castle Donovan – shown – was built as the main seat of the O’Donovans in Carbery in the late 1500’s but was severely damaged by Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers in the late 1640s and has been uninhabited since then. Since 2007 – restoration and safety works have been in progress.

So there you have it! If you have the surname of an ancient Gaelic name – you may be able to find: the area of the original tribe, their actual seat, the inaugration site, the surnames associated with that tribe when the surname system was introduced and the castles built by the family chieftains in the 1400 – late 1500s.

And today – if you look around the town of Drimoleague near this castle – you’ll find many surnames such as O’Donovan, Collins, O’Connell, Hurley, Kingston, O’Mahony, McCarthy, O’Driscoll, Regan and O’Sullivan ….. and perhaps a cousin or two!

  • Sheena says:

    Funny story. I was on my honeymoon, when my husband and I decided to travel in search of my “family” castle. We left Killarney following our GPS. It sent us high into Killarney National Park onto miles (km) worth of back roads. We got stuck behind a herd of cows and almost fell of the side of a cliff. After what seemed like hours, we finally made it…only to find the castle covered in scaffolding. I wanted to cry, but all I could do was laugh at the hilarity of the situation.

    Murphy’s Law

  • Teresa English says:

    I am one of the great great great granddaughters of Jeremiah O’Donovan-Rossa from his son Timothy Francis. Love learning about him and my heritage!

  • patrick o'donovan says:

    I am the present owner of Castle Donovan.

    • Cherie Donovan says:

      Im related to people in this castle.

    • Shawn Donovan says:

      I stopped by the CastleDonovan
      April 12th this year. It was locked. But what a sight. I am proud to be a Donovan. I’ve heard of this Castle as a boy. To see it is to believe. What days of the year is it open for a visit?
      My had a farm in Olean NY off of Donovan Road. My father grew up there. His father and Grandfather.
      All the way back to the 1850’s.
      It was also my first trip to Ireland and I may take more trips.
      I went out of my way from Cork and took a cab ride to see it.
      To think the O’Donovans built it.
      See you there some day.

    • andrew J mooney says:

      i will be in west Cork late this September. Can you send me an address or GPS for the Castle Donovan. My Mom was a Donovan

    • Todd Derk says:

      Hello Patrick. I am the only child of Carol Donovan from Buffalo, NY. My grandfather was Frank L Donovan the 2nd. I would love to know more about my family history

    • Candice O'Donovan says:

      My husband is actually Nathaniel Patrick O’Donovan and he would also love to learn more about his family. His father is Liam O’Donovan and my husband’s grandfather was Cornelius O’Donovan who was a medic in ww2, graduated from Dartmouth college and became a Doctor, and his great grandfather Patrick O’Donovan immigrated from Limerick to become a shoe salesman in Bridgeport ct..my husband was told about this castle since he was a child. Hopefully we can one day travel to Ireland and meet some distant family members and hear more history about his ancestors.

      • Kathleen O'Donovan Keating says:

        Candice, I believe your husband’s father is my cousin, if he is from Elkhart, IN. If so my father , Richard P. O’Donovan, was his grandfather’s brother. My father died in 1968, but his father was Patrick O’Donovan and his mother Margaret Farrelly O’Donovan. I am in infrequent contact with another cousin of Liam’s, Ann Margaret Carpenter. Her mother was Cornelius and Richard’s sister, Teresa, the youngest of the 3 children of Cornelius and Margaret. I would love to piece together more of the family history.

      • Tom O'Donovan says:

        Great grandfather Patrick O’Donovan worked, if memory serves, for Johnston & Murphy, a shoe manufacturer still extant. Grandfather Neil, once again if memory serves, was a research physician for Miles Laboratories. Neil’s brother Dick O’Donovan served at Iwo Jima and married Mary Rita Malcolm after the war. Neil’s sister Terry (Theresa) was a nurse and worked at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Bridgeport. She married William Carpenter, an Army veteran and later a Bridgeport firefighter.

        • Andrea O’Donovan says:

          Neil as you are calling him was known to go by C.J. ,and yes he did work at Miles Laboratories. C.J. is my husbands Grandfather.

    • carina says:

      That’s great and please do send on any information about the castle you would like to share with us here.

    • That is amazing! Are you related to Blanke or O’Leary too?

    • Steve Donovan says:

      Patrick I am Steve O’ (Donovan) from the US Wisconsin

  • […] O’Donovan clan.   For any of you with Irish ancestors, you can read more about this castle here, who knows, it might be part of your […]

  • Phillip.donovan says:

    Being drawn to visit and cant wait

  • Theresa Curtis says:

    My Mom’s family roots are from here ( my Mom was Maureen Donovan) and had the privilege to visit it a couple of years ago. I can’t wait to come back!

  • I am an O’Donovan, my family is said to be from Cork also. My great grandpa was David O’Donovan who married Anna O’Leary.

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