The search for my ancestors is going to be a long journey for me. I do it in part to discover my past and my family’s name. I also do it for my children so that they know of something of themselves.
I now know something about my parents and grandparents. This can be found in the found in the last two issue of my magazine where I had begun this story. I also realize that I need to present a connection to the distant past where the story first began. To do so I have decided to add a little bit of history for my readers. The following is what I have uncovered so far.
Niall of the Nine Hostages, forefather of the Ui Neill (a whole series of septs tracing their ancestry to him), was making raids on Britain and France towards the end of the fourth century when the Romans were returning home. From Conall Gulban, a son of Niall, descend the O’Donnells of Tirconnell (meaning Conall’s territory). They take their name from Domhnaill (meaning world mighty) an ancient and very popular Irish personal name. In time Tirconnell became known as Donegal, the area in Ulster where this powerful family was established for many generations. Their chiefs were inaugurated at Kilmacrenan, north of Letterkenny in County Donegal, first in a religious ceremony and then on the Rock of Doon, in a civil ceremony. It was here, in 1200, that Eignechan was made the first Chief of the O’Donnell clan. Like many of the ruling families at that time, they occupied themselves in tribal conflict, mostly attacking their kinsmen, the O’Neills. The family were also erenaghs of Letter and Lisfannon in the parish of Fahan in Inishowen. There are well over three hundred references to individual O’Donnells in the Annals of the Four Masters. The O’Donnells have always been both numerous and eminent in Irish life. They are of course chiefly associated with Tirconnaill (Donegal) the habitat of the largest and best known O’Donnell sept; but, as the present distribution of persons of the name implies, there were quite distinct O’Donnell septs in other parts of the country, two of which require special mention; that of Corcabaskin in West Clare, and another, a branch of the Ui Maine (Hy Many) in Co. Galway. All of these descend from some ancestor Domhnall (anglice Donal) and are Ó Domhnaill in Irish. The Donal particularized in the case of the great Tirconnaill sept, who died in 901, was himself descended from the famous Niall of the Nine Hostages. Their predominance only dates from the thirteenth century: prior to that they were located in a comparatively restricted area around Kilmacrenan, Co. Donegal. With a total of nearly 13,000 the O’Donnells are among the fifty most common names in Ireland. They have produced many illustrious figures in Irish history, as soldiers, churchmen, authors and politicians. (more…)