Select Flanagan Surname Genealogy

The Irish surname Flanagan derived from the Old Gaelic word flann meaning “red” or “ruddy.”  From this source came the Old Gaelic septs by the name of O’Flannagain (or “descendant of the ruddy one”), of which there were a number in Ireland.  Flanagan is the main anglicization of this name.  The name has also appeared as O’Flanagan and Flanigan.

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Select Flanagan Ancestry

Ireland.  The Flanagan sept of Connacht is believed to have been descended from one Flanagan who was of the same stock as the O’Connors and whose line held the hereditary office of Steward to the Kings of Connacht. Their main home was in Roscommon, between Mantua and Elphin, and they were known as the chiefs of clan Cathal.  Donough O’Flanagan of this line became the Bishop of Elphin in 1303.

There were also minor septs of the same name in other parts of the country, at Toorah in NW Fermanagh (dating from the 14th century) and at Ballybrit in Offaly.  Some descendants are still evident in these areas.  But today the surname is most often found in Roscommon and westward in Clare, Galway and Mayo.  Clare in 1762 was the birthplace of Theophilus O’Flanagan who was a leading figure in the Gaelic revival movement of his time.

.  There were early Flanagan arrivals in New Jersey:
  • one arrival, according to family lore, consisted of three brothers who came in 1732.  The main line went through James Flanagan and his son Whittle of Red Hill in Louisa county, Virginia.  Whittle’s grandson James Flanagan moved to Texas in 1843 where he was a close friend of Sam Houston.  He elected Senator of Texas in 1870.
  • another line began with Robert Flanagan in Hunterdon county in the 1740’s and continued later in the 1830’s in Tucker county, West Virginia where Ebenezer Flanagan was an early settler.
  • then there was John Flanagan who came to Philadelphia from New Jersey in the 1740's.
A Flanagan line in Kentucky began with John Flanagan who was born in North Carolina around 1768 and moved to Russell county, Kentucky in 1810.  Another John Flanagan arrived in Philadelphia from Ireland in 1802.  He later moved his family to Peoria, Illinois – then on the western frontier – where his son John, a judge, built Flanagan House, an imposing mansion on the hill.

Father Edward Flanagan was a Roscommon native who came to America in 1904 and in 1917 established the Boys Town orphanage in Nebraska, an institution made famous by the 1938 Spencer Tracy film.

.  Flanagans came to England and a good number of them were to be found in the port city of Liverpool.

Elizabeth Flanagan married Charles Hamilton in Liverpool in 1775.  In 1847, at the time of the Famine in Ireland, John and Ellen Flanagan came to Liverpool where John found work as a dock laborer.  Catherine Flanagan was born in Liverpool in 1829 and her sister Margaret in 1843.  They earned notoriety as the Black Widows of Liverpool for poisoning their victims in order to gain insurance money.

The best-known Flanagan in England, however, was not Irish but the son of Polish Jewish immigrants in London.  Bud Flanagan took his name from a sergeant major he served under during World War One.

  Roderick Flanagan came out to Australia as a boy with his parents from Roscommon in 1840.  He made his mark in Melbourne as a journalist and as an early historian of Australia until his early death from TB at the age of 34.

Thomas Flanagan stole food to feed his family during the Great Famine in Ireland in 1847.  For this crime he was transported to Tasmania along with his brother John.  Later he was able to bring out his wife and eight children to start up a new life as a tenant farmer.  His line descended to Arch Flanagan, a man who survived the Burma Death Railway during World War Two and later wrote about it.  He had two very talented literary sons, Martin and Richard.

The brothers Michael and Patrick Flanagan from Drogheda in county Louth were lured to Australia by gold rush fever in 1857.  They moved onto the New Zealand goldfields in the mid-1860’s.  By 1870 they had migrated to California.  Their letters home to Louth, covering the period from 1864 to 1909, were published in 1997 and provide an insight into Irish life abroad at that time

Select Flanagan Miscellany

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

Select Flanagan Names

Theophilus O'Flanagan was a leading figure in the Gaelic revival movement of the late 18th century.
John Flanagan
was a three-time Olympic gold medalist in the hammer throw – in 1900, 1904, and 1908.
Father Edward Flanagan
founded the orphanage known as Boys Town in Nebraska, made famous in the 1938 film starring Spencer Tracy.
Bud Flanagan, born Chaim Weintrop to a Polish Jewish family in London,was a popular English music hall and vaudeville entertainer from the 1930’s onwards.
Richard Flanagan
is a novelist from Tasmania, considered by many to be the finest Australian writer of his generation.

Select Flanagans Today
  • 12,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 10,000 in America (most numerous in New York) 
  • 17,000 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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