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As part of our Counties in Focus series, we're taking a look at what Ireland's largest County, Cork has to offer. Scroll down to read some of the best Chronicles we have collected from the Rebel County, as well as links to where you can learn more about your Cork Ancestry.

Cork County

The nickname Rebel County comes from a long history of rebellion beginning with the arrival of Vikings in the 9th century but it was Cork's support of Perkin Warbeck in 1491 (a pretender to the throne) that earned them the title 'Rebel Country' by the English Monarchy. There was plenty more rebellion that followed including the Desmond Rebellions throughout 1500s to the Irish War of Independence in the 20th century, 

Perkin Warbeck

A picture of Perkin Warbeck who was a false pretender to the English throne.  Downloaded from https://snl.no/Perkin_Warbeck

The Irish War of Independence

The burning of Cork during the Irish war of independence also known as the Anglo-Irish war. Downloaded from https://picryl.com/media/the-burning-of-cork-c12f97

Located in the province of Munster, its largest market towns are MallowMacroom, Middleton and Skibbereen and with 252 civil parishes and 101 roman catholic parishes, it is Ireland's largest county. For more information on parishes, and how to find your parish read our handy guide HERE.


County Cork Surnames

Colin Shelley who specializes in the origin and development of surnames from various sources in the English-speaking world takes us through the top 10 for Cork during the 19th century. His website covers more than 1,000 of these surnames.

  • Sullivan (O'Sullivan), The Gaelic root of O'Sullivan is Suileabhan - with suil meaning "eye," dubh possibly "black" or "dark," and the diminutive “-an” acting as a suffix. Some think Suileabhan means one-eyed, others hawk-eyed.  O'Sullivan and Sullivan are the two main spellings today.
  • Murphy, Sea raider in Gaelic is Murchadh, composed of muir meaning "sea" and cath meaning "battle."  The spelling of the name eventually evolved to the more phonetic O'Murchu.  Today Murphy is the most common surname in Ireland.
  • McCarthy, McCarthy is the anglicized form of the Gaelic Mac Carthaigh or son of Carthach, a personal name meaning "loving."  
  • Mahony (O'Mahony), Mahony comes from the Gaelic O'Mathghamhna (or O'Mathúna), meaning 'bear.' Their home was in west Cork and they were referred there as Rithe na Naoi bFonn or “Kings of the Nine Territories.”
  • Donovan (O'Donovan), The Irish Donovans can trace their name back to Donnabhain, a 10th century Munster chief in present-day Limerick. The Donnabhain name was composed of the Gaelic elements donn meaning "brown, dubh meaning "black," plus the diminutive suffix an. The pronunciation of the name in Ireland is closest to Dunaven. 
  • Walsh, Walsh is a semi-translation of the early Gaelic Breatnach, meaning Welsh or Briton, which became Brenach, Waleys, Walensis, and finally anglicized as Walsh.
  • O'Brien, The early history of the O'Brien clan is as a Dalcassian tribe in SW Ireland and then with Brian Boru, the legendary king of Ireland who defeated the Norsemen at Clondorf in 1014.  The Ui Braians ruled over Munster after Brian Boru's death and, as O'Briens, emerged as one of the chief dynastic families of Ireland.

Brian Boru

A picture of Brian Boru, former High King of Ireland who defeated the warlike Vikings. Downloaded from https://picryl.com/media/brian-boru-king-of-munster-fb3070

Battle of Clontarf

A painting showing the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 where the Irish led by Brian Boru were vs the Vikings. Downloaded form https://picryl.com/media/battle-of-clontarf-oil-on-canvas-painting-by-hugh-frazer-1826-f13351

  • Callaghan (O'Callaghan), The surname means descendant of Ceallachán who was the King of Munster in the 10th century. The personal name Cellach means 'bright-headed.' They originally were lords of Cineál Aodha in south Cork.
  • Leary (O'Leary), O'Leary is an anglicized form of the old Gaelic word O'Laoghaire which translates literally as "keeper of the calves." Laoghaire was the name borne by a 5th century king of Ireland who reigned at the time of St. Patrick.
  • Crowley, The surname Crowley derives from the Gaelic O'Cruadhlaoich meaning 'descendant of the hardy warrior.'  It was anglicized to Crowley.

The Cork County Community on IrelandXO

Did you know that our County Cork diaspora community has over 5,000 members and 1,185 ancestors have already been added by our members to date? Click HERE to explore them and see if you recognize any names or dates. 

This week we highlight the stories of five Cork ancestors you may not have heard of before today. First we have a short biography of John Joseph Foley written by his great-granddaughter Margaret Ann, followed by Ambrose Francis Geoghegan an American Civil War hero from Clonakilty. Next, there is Margaret McCarthy a child's maid shipped to Australia aboard the 'Red Rover' in 1832 and finally, Mary Collins, who according to family lore was studying medicine in the mid-1800s. To read a short biography on each ancestor click the images below. In addition to ancestors, our community pages also offer an insight into the buildings and events that shaped the County. Click here to see what our members have added to Cork County. 

John Joseph Foley: Short Biography Ambrose Francis Geoghegan: Short Biography Margaret Gertrude McCarthy: Short Biography Mary Collins


Find out more about your Cork Roots

Whatever stage you are at with researching your Cork ancestry, we have the resources to help you find out more. Once you have tracked down your Cork  Ancestors, be sure to add them to the IrelandXO Chronicles so that others can read their story. Who knows? You may even find a connection you never knew you had.

We highly suggest checking out our Cork Message Board where our wonderful team of volunteers is waiting to answer your queries and help you to solve your family history mysteries. CLICK HERE to get started.

In the meantime here are some pages that we have put together to help you on your genealogy journey. 

  • If you're not sure where exactly in Cork your Ancestors lived then CLICK HERE for information on how to Find Your Cork Parish.

  • If you want to know how the Famine affected Cork city and County CLICK HERE to read our handy guide

  • In 1837 the Lewis' Topographical Survey was published. This provides detailed snapshots of life in each Civil Parish just before the Famine. CLICK HERE for more information on the Cork County.

  • As always, your local library is an incredibly valuable resource. Contact the relevant Cork County Library to see what resources they have.

  • Free Government Site, www.irishgenealogy.ie provides transcripts linked to scanned images for most of the Diocese of Cork & Ross. 


10 Facts About County Cork

1. Cork Harbour is the second largest in the world, behind Sydney harbor in Australia. The County is often called ' 'Irelands Maritime Haven' given it has over 1,000km of coastline

Cork Harbour

2. The first factory for the Ford Motor Company outside the USA was in Cork, home to Henry Ford's ancestors. Pictured below are workers outside the factory in 1926

Workers outside the Ford Factory - Cork City 1926

3. One of the most divisive political figures in the Irish Revolution, Micahel Collins was born and raised in Cork

Michael Collins

4. A small village called Glanworth in the North of Cork holds two European titles, one for having the narrowest and oldest bridge still in use and the other  for being home to Europe's largest wedge tomb - The Labbacallee Tomb often associated with the Celtic Hag Goddess 'Caillech Bhearra'

5. Ellis Islands' first documented immigrant Annie Moore was born in Cork

6. Cork had the biggest butter market in the world during the 18th century

7. Residents in the West Cork town of Skibbereen set up Europe's first Temperance Society in 1833, a group that abstained from alcohol.

Temperance Pledge

8.. Anne Bonny, an Irish American female pirate was born in Kinsale circa 1697. Her father William McCormac was a lawyer and her mother was a servant woman whom he escaped to London with by dressing her as a male. 

Anne Bonny

9.  Sir Walter Raleigh is said to have planted the first potato crop in Ireland in Youghal circa 1588. 

10. The first-ever recorded female Freemason was from Doneraile, a town in North Cork, Elizabeth St. Leger Aldworth


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