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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2014

Origins Available: Irish-Alt, Irish

Where did the Irish Sullivan family come from? What is the Irish Sullivan family crest and coat of arms? When did the Sullivan family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Sullivan family history?

The old Gaelic name used by the Sullivan family in Ireland was O Suileabhain, which is partially derived from the word "suil," which means "eye." The surname probably means either one-eyed or hawk-eyed.


One name was often recorded under several different spellings during the life of its bearer because one must realize that attempting to record a Gaelic name in English is a daunting task at the best of times. Spelling variations revealed in the search for the origin of the Sullivan family name include O'Sullivan, Sullivan and others.

First found in the territory of Cahir in County Tipperary (Irish: Thiobraid Árann), established in the 13th century in South-central Ireland, in the province of Munster. The Sullivan spelling is by far the most common name in Munster, and is predominantly found in the counties of Cork and Kerry, with a smaller but still significant population in County Limerick.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Sullivan research. Another 301 words(22 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1590, 1660, 1700, 1745, 1748, 1784, and 1837 are included under the topic Early Sullivan History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 57 words(4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Sullivan Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


The 18th and 19th centuries saw many Irish families immigrate to North America in search of land and opportunities. The largest influx of Irish immigrants to the United States and British North America came during the 1840s when the Great Potato Famine laid waste to their homeland. Hundreds of thousands left the island in an attempt to escape the starvation and disease it brought. Although the arrival of such a large number of destitute Irish was not welcomed by the established population in the United States and what would become known as Canada at the time, these Irish were an essential element to the rapid development of these growing industrial nations. They filled the demand for the cheap labor needed for the work in factories and in the construction of bridges, roads, canals, and railways. An examination of passenger and immigration lists has revealed many immigrants bearing the name of Sullivan or one of its variants:

Sullivan Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century

  • Jael Sullivan, who landed in Massachusetts in 1654
  • Onoris Sullivan, who landed in Virginia in 1656
  • Teage Sullivan, who arrived in Maryland in 1658
  • Florence Sullivan, who arrived in South Carolina in 1669
  • Jeremy Sullivan, who landed in Maryland in 1670

Sullivan Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century

  • Alice Sullivan, who landed in Virginia in 1715
  • Joan Sullivan, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1745
  • Austis Sullivan, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1746
  • Honour Sullivan, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1746
  • David Sullivan, who landed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1765

Sullivan Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • Corn Sullivan, aged 17, landed in New York, NY in 1803
  • Dennis H Sullivan, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1811
  • Sylvester Sullivan, aged 21, landed in New York in 1812
  • Silvester Sullivan, aged 22, arrived in New York in 1812
  • Michael J Sullivan, aged 15, arrived in America in 1822

Sullivan Settlers in the United States in the 20th Century

  • Frank Sullivan, who landed in Mississippi in 1902


  • John Lawrence Sullivan (1858-1918), America's first heavyweight champion of bare-knuckle boxing
  • Louis Henri Sullivan (1856-1924), American architect
  • Barry Sullivan (1912-1994), American stage, television, and film actor
  • Susan Sullivan (b. 1944), American actress
  • John Florence Sullivan (1894-1956), original name of Fred Allen, American comedian
  • Edward Vincent "Ed" Sullivan (1901-1974), American entertainment writer and television host, best known for the TV variety show The Ed Sullivan Show which ran for 23 years
  • Jeremiah Cutler Sullivan (1830-1890), Indiana lawyer, Brigadier General in the Union Army during the American Civil War
  • Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan PH.D. (b. 1951), American geologist and a former NASA astronaut, first American woman to walk in space
  • Daniel John "Danny" Sullivan (b. 1950), American former racing driver, winner of the 1985 Indianapolis 500
  • Leon Howard Sullivan (1922-2001), American Baptist minister, civil rights leader and social activist, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom



  • Wild Bill Sullivan, King of the Hollow by Ann Hammons.
  • Adam's Ancestors by Thomas Nathan Clark.

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Lamh foistenach abú
Motto Translation: The steady hand to victory.


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  1. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  2. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  3. Woulfe, Rev. Patrick. Irish Names and Surnames Collected and Edited with Explanatory and Historical Notes. Kansas City: Genealogical Foundation, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-940134-403).
  4. MacLysaght, Edward. The Surnames of Ireland 3rd Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1978. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2278-0).
  5. Donovan, George Francis. The Pre-Revolutionary Irish in Massachusetts 1620-1775. Menasha, WI: Geroge Banta Publsihing Co., 1932. Print.
  6. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X).
  7. Woodham-Smith, Cecil. The Great Hunger Ireland 1845-1849. New York: Old Town Books, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0-88029-385-3).
  8. Kennedy, Patrick. Kennedy's Book of Arms. Canterbury: Achievements, 1967. Print.
  9. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  10. Grehan, Ida. Dictionary of Irish Family Names. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, 1997. Print. (ISBN 1-57098-137-X).
  11. ...

The Sullivan Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Sullivan Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 29 September 2014 at 22:12.

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