Select O'Shaughnessy Surname Genealogy

The Irish surnames O’Shaughnessy and Shaughnessy are both derived from the Gaelic clan name O’Seachnasaigh. The root here is the personal name Seachnasaigh of uncertain origin and meaning. 

Globally the O’Shaughnessy/Shaughnessy name breakdown is approximately 60/40 today.  Within Ireland O’Shaughnessy has been more common in Limerick, Shaughnessy more common in Galway.
  In Galway the name has been pronounced “Shock-nessy,” rather than “Shaun-essy” as it is elsewhere.

The O'Shaughnessys were believed to have been the direct descendants of the last pagan king of all Ireland, King Daithi, in the 10th century.  The clan was the most prominent sect in that part of the country known in ancient times as Ui Fiachra Aidhne and is now county Galway.  It was said that they defeated their kinsmen the O'Cahills and the O'Clerys to be the chiefs of that region

Select O'Shaughnessy Resources on The Internet

Select O'Shaughnessy

Ireland.  The forebear of the O’Shaughnessy clan was said to have been Seachnasach mac Donnchadh who flourished in the 11th century.  The surname O'Shaughnessy really started to come into use two centuries later as the O'Shaughnessys were becoming the dominant family in the Úi Fiachra Aidhne area (the southern part of county Galway).  Their family members were hereditary custodians of the  St. Colman’s girdle and crozier medieval relics.  

The clan base was the town of Gort.  Gort castle was demolished by Cromwell.  But Ardamullivan castle nearby still stands.

In Tudor times the O’Shaughnessys had adopted a policy of “surrender and regrant” towards the English aggressors. Diarmaid (Dermot) and his son Rusaidhri (Richard) were both knighted by the English monarch, Rusaidhri being described as “a very obedient and civil man and most desirous to hold his lands directly of his Majesty.”

But they rebelled against English power at the time of Cromwell and had much of their land sequestrated.  Their lands were regained after the Restoration only to be lost again in 1690 after Captain Roger O’Shaughnessy had supported the failed Jacobite cause against William of Orange and lost his life following the Battle of the Boyne.  His son William O’Shaughnessy, the last of The O’Shaughnessy, departed for France.

A legal battle then raged between the O’Shaughnessys and the Prendergasts, the family who had been granted their lands, with the O’Shaughnessys eventually losing the case.  It is thought that the main O’Shaughnessy line died out around 1780.

An exodus from the Gort area had begun by the late 1600’s.  Many went to Limerick, which is where the greatest concentration of the name exists today: 
  • early among them was Thomas O’Shaughnessy from a branch of the main O’Shaughnessy line.  He settled at Glin along the river Shannon in 1692.
  • Patrick O’Shaughnessy established a grocery store in Glin in the 1850’s.  These premises are now the O’Shaughnessy public house.
  • while Robert O’Shaughnessy was a notable clockmaker in Limerick town in the early 1800’s.
Other O’Shaughnessys departed for Clare.

England.  Francis and Dr. Richard O’Shaughnessy were descendants of the O’Shaughnessy Gort family who made their home in London.From another line came Arthur O’Shaughnessy, the Victorian poet and author of that well-known ode We are the Music Makers.

.  O’Shaughnessys were late-comers to America.  The 1840 US census showed very few of that name.

Thomas O’Shaughnessy from Kildare had arrived in the 1830’s in Cincinnati where he ran a hardware store along Main Street.  He later operated a cotton mill along the Ohio river in northern Kentucky until it was destroyed by fire in 1854.   Thomas
and Bridget Shaughnessy also came around that time.  They showed up in the 1840 census in Rochester, New York.  The family then moved to Chicago and later to Kansas City.  Life was hard for them and Thomas died at an early age, possibly from cholera.

It was the Great Famine in Ireland in the 1840’s which had a devastating effect on life in the Galway area and drove many more O’Shaughnessys to emigrate.  The English author Thackeray visited Ireland at that time and remarked: “Between Gort and Oranmore we passed through little but the most woeful country.”

The emigrant story in America was for some a rags-to-riches story.

James Shaughnessy came to work in 1850 in the boot and shoe factories around Milford, Massachusetts.  He did not stay long.  By 1861 he had moved to northern Missouri where he opened a shoe store.  His four sons were to make their marks in very different areas:
  • James initially as a journalist and then as a well-known advertising executive
  • John and Francis as Chicago lawyers
  • and Thomas as an artist.
Their family history was recounted in Colum Kenny’s 2014 book An Irish-American Odyssey – the O’Shaughnessy Brothers.

Related to James was John O’Shaughnessy, also a boot-maker in Milford.  His son John moved to Stillwater, Minnesota in 1860 where he and his wife Mary Anne raised thirteen children.  When their 13th child was born in 1885, they had a problem.  The son later recounted:

“By the time I arrived, mother had run out of all the regular names like John, James and Joseph.  Being a good Catholic she went to the Calendar of Saints.  So I became Ignatius.”

Ignatius Aloysius O’Shaughnessy - nicknamed Nashe – entered the oil business and rode oil refineries in Oklahoma. Kansas, and Illinois to great wealth, much of which he donated as a prodigious philanthropist to Catholic causes

Tom Shaughnessy had arrived from Limerick a little earlier, around 1840, and became a detective in the Milwaukee police department in Wisconsin.  His son Thomas migrated to Canada, joining the Canadian Pacific Railway and then rising through the ranks to become its President from 1899 to 1918.  His grandson Alfred grew up in London and he and his two sons made their name in British TV work.

Edward and Patrick O’Shaughnessy had apparently come to the Little Meadows township in Susquehanna county, Pennsylvania as early as 1831.  Their descendants have remained a presence in that community.  A later Edward moved west to St. Cloud, Minnesota where his son Clark Shaughnessy was born in 1892.  He became a famous college football coach and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1968

Thomas Shaughnessy was transported from Dublin to Sydney on the Telicherry in 1806.  He married there and, on his release, found work as a cabinet maker and later as an undertaker.  And a much respected undertaker if the eulogies on his death in 1837 are to be believed

In 1822 another Thomas O’Shaughnessy was tried and convicted in Limerick for being “idle and disorderly” and was also transported to Australia.  After his release he farmed in western NSW and South Australia.  His son Thomas wandered through various places in Australia before becoming one of the earliest setters of Cowra, NSW.  He kept a diary which has recently been published. 

Select O'Shaughnessy Miscellany

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

Select O'Shaughnessy Names

William O'Shaughnessy was the last O'Shaughnessy chief.  He left Ireland in 1690, fought in the French army, and became a Marshal in France.
W.B. O’Shaughnessy was the Limerick-born doctor who pioneered the modern treatment of cholera, introduced cannabis to Western medicine, and, during his stay in India in the 1850’s, laid the first telegraph system in Asia.
Thomas Shaughnessy, the son of Irish famine immigrants, rose to become President of the Canada Pacific Railway from 1899 to 1918.
I.A. O’Shaughnessy,
the son of Irish immigrants inMinnesota, established the Globe Oil & Refining Company of Oklahoma in 1917.  By the 1930’s he was the head of the largest individually-owned oil company in the world.

Select O'Shaughnessys Today
  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 4,000 in America (most numerous in New York) 
  • 5,000 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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