Tracey Ulrich asked for more on the “Donovan” family name (you can see Tracey’s story at the end of this post).
Donovan (or O’Donovan) comes from the Irish Ó Donnabháin. They were originally part of the Uí Fidghente sept of County Limerick – but moved into West Cork in the twelfth century where they became a leading sept in their own name.
The O’Donovan clan got their name from “Donnabhain” – a son of Callaghan – a Munster King from the 900s. Until the 1100s the stronghold of the O’Donovans (and the Uí Fidghente) was around the River Maigue and the modern County Limerick town of Bruree. They then left Limerick for West Cork to join their fellow Uí Fidghente family – the Collins clan – who had left Limerick some decades earlier.
About 75% of O’Donovans use the O prefix in Ireland today – the rest remain “Donovans“. Many O’Donovans left Ireland around the time of the famine in the mid 1800s. At that time, the O was often missing from the surname in Ireland to counter anti-Gaelic sentiment in Ireland. It was later revived in many cases in Ireland – but Donovans who had already left for the US and Canada typically remained “Donovan“.
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Today, you will find most O’Donovans in West Cork and a much smaller number in Limerick – although a smaller sept also settled in County Kilkenny.
The O’Donovan sept would have about seven castles in Ireland associated with their name – between County Limerick and County Cork. One that is currently being conserved – and worth a visit – is Castle Donovan in a beautiful dramatic setting near the town of Drimoleague in West Cork.
My ancestor from Ireland was my gr-grandmother Bridget Donovan whose parents were Patrick Donovan and Mary Sullivan. Her birthdate is either June 29th, 1866, 1867, or 1868 OR Oct. of 1866 (census records vary!). Having a bit of trouble with her county of origin as some family members say Waterford and others say Cork. This is one of my stumbling blocks! Bridget came to America in 1890 and by 1897 married a William Killinger; previously, in 1894 she had a son named Edward Cummings, Jr. but I do not know much about that. She settled in Reading, PA and had several children to William and died on Christmas Day of 1935.
Bridget was known to be quite feisty and enjoyed smoking a corn cob pipe and having a drink! She always claimed to be “42 yrs old”, which could explain the devil of a time I’m having with her birthday. She was known to have went and bought a rope for her husband William after a particularly spirited row where he threatened to do away with himself! She had red hair and blue eyes and was of the Catholic faith.
Tracey Ulrich, a proud gr-granddaughter and happy to have some Irish blood.
If you would like to add what you know about the O’Donovan surname, tell the story of your Donovan family OR ask a question – please do so below in the comments section.
Remember – at Your Irish Heritage we consider an “Irish Surname” to be one that belongs in your family. It may belong to an ancestor who lived in Ireland at one stage. We consider old Gaelic, Viking, Norman and planter names to be all Irish – if they fit this criteria.
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