Select Sheehan Surname Genealogy

Sheehan is the anglicization of the Gaelic O'Siodhachain, from siodhach meaning "peaceful."   The Sheehan sept traditionally used a dove of peace in its coat of arms.

Sheehan name variants are Sheahan and Sheen.  The latter spellings have mainly appeared outside Ireland. 

Select Sheehan Resources on The Internet
Select Sheehan Ancestry

IrelandThe Sheehan sept is believed to have originated in county Clare, but moved southward to Kilcredan parish in county Cork by the 14th century.  Spellings in the 17th century show O'Sheaghan and Shyghan, as well as Sheehan.  Sheehans are still mainly in county Cork.  Almost 40% of Sheehans in Ireland today live there.  Sheehan Brothers, for instance, have been traditional butchers in Cork since 1870. Sheehans are also in neighboring Kerry and Limerick.  Angela Sheehan of Angela's Ashes came from Limerick. 

Cork was particularly hard hit by the famine in the 1840's.  Many Sheehans left at that time, to America and elsewhere.  Sheehans also left later due to land evictions.  The Sheehan numbers are now larger outside Ireland than within.

America.  Some Sheehans arrived in America during the 18th century.  Most came in the 19th century.  New York and Massachusetts were the main points of arrival.  Among those coming were: 
  • Michael Sheehan who arrived around 1848 and started a wholesale liquor store in Troy, New York  
  • another Michael Sheehan with his wife Ellen who came to Utica, New York in 1855  
  • Patrick Sheehan from Dingle in Kerry who arrived in Boston in the 1860’s and moved to Fall River 
  • and three Sheehan siblings from Cork – brothers Callahan and John and sister Mary – who came in the 1870’s and settled in the Boston area.  
O.N. Carlson's 1990 book The Sheehans in America was a portrait of an early Sheehan family in America.

Many did well in the new land. George Sheehan, father and son, became prominent New York cardiologists, the latter making a name for himself as a guru for recreational running.  A Sheehan family ran a dairy farm in Holyoke in western Massachusetts in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Their son Neil became a New York Times reporter and won the Pulitzer Prize for his Secret History of the Vietnam War.

Canada.  Thomas and Honorah Sheehan came to New Brunswick sometime in the 1830’s.  Their first child was born in St. John in 1839 and their descendants are still to be found there. 

Sheehans were also in Peterborough county, Ontario.  The 1851 census lists a number of Sheehan families. The oldest were four brothers – Daniel, John, Michael and William – all born in Ireland between 1790 and 1800.  Joseph and Margaret Sheehan from Clear Island off Cork came with Peter Robinson’s settlers in 1825 and made their home in Ennismore township.

Australia and New Zealand.  Early Sheehan arrivals (although not too many of them) were convicts.  John Sheehan was transported to Australia for life in 1823 for his part in a raid on the English barracks near his home at Doneraile in Cork.  He married a fellow convict Ann Toomey and, after they had obtained their ticket of leave, they settled in the Burrowa district of NSW and raised eight children.  John died in 1858 but his wife Ann Sheehan lived onto 1906. 

David Sheehan had come with his family to Melbourne from Ireland around 1840, but moved on a year or so later to Auckland, NZ.  They lived in the Warkworth area and David was the landlord of the Governor Browne Hotel in Auckland.  His son John became a lawyer and had a short-lived political career. 

Select Sheehan Miscellany

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

Select Sheehan Names

D.D. Sheehan was an Irish nationalist agitator and politician who became editor of the Dublin Chronicle in the 1920's.
Michael Sheehan, Archbishop of Sydney in Australia in the 1920's and 30's, was a great proponent of the revival of the Irish language.
Winfield Sheehan was Fox Film's producer and general manager during the 1920's and '30's.
Dr. George Sheehan was a New York cardiologist who became the philosopher of the recreational running movement in the 1970's and 1980's.
Barry Sheene, born in London, was a world champion motorcycle racer of the 1970's.
Martin Sheen, the film actor, changed his name from Ramon Estevez because he thought he would gain more recognition with an Irish name than with a Spanish one.

Select Sheehans Today
  • 9,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 12,000 in America (most numerous in Massachusetts) 
  • 20,000 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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