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There are many Irish surnames being used today in forms that are quite different than their original, ancient forms. Houlihan originally appeared in Gaelic as O hUallachain, which is derived from the word "uallach," which means "proud."

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The surname Houlihan was first found in Thomond (Irish: Tuadh Mumhan), literally North Thomond, the pre-Norman Kingdom of Thomond, since divided between counties Limerick, Tipperary and Clare, where they held a family seat from ancient times.

A name was often recorded during the Middle Ages under several different spelling variations during the life of its bearer because literacy was rare there was no real push to clearly define any of the languages found in the British Isles at that time. Variations found of the name Houlihan include Holohan, O'Holohan, Mulholland, Highland, Hoolohan, Houlihan, Hooligan, Whelton, Oulihan, Oulahen, Whoolahan and many more.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Houlihan research. Another 409 words (29 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Houlihan History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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More information is included under the topic Early Houlihan Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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In the 19th century, thousands of Irish left their English-occupied homeland for North America. Like most new world settlers, the Irish initially settled on the eastern shores of the continent but began to move westward with the promise of owning land. The height of this Irish migration came during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. With apparently nothing to lose, Irish people left on ships bound for North America and Australia. Unfortunately a great many of these passengers lost their lives - the only thing many had left - to disease, starvation, and accidents during the long and dangerous journey. Those who did safely arrive in "the land of opportunities" were often used for the hard labor of building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. The Irish were critical to the quick development of the infrastructure of the United States and Canada. Passenger and immigration lists indicate that members of the Houlihan family came to North America quite early:

Houlihan Settlers in United States in the 19th Century


  • Tade Houlihan, who landed in New York in 1850

Houlihan Settlers in United States in the 20th Century


  • Bagh Houlihan, aged 24, who emigrated to the United States from Limerick, in 1900
  • Bridget Houlihan, aged 21, who emigrated to America from Ballyconry, in 1906
  • Ann Houlihan, aged 18, who emigrated to the United States from Knock, Ireland, in 1908
  • Debbie Houlihan, aged 24, who landed in America from Cahenaveen, Ireland, in 1909
  • Annie Houlihan, aged 17, who settled in America from Kilrush, Ireland, in 1910


Houlihan Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century


  • John Houlihan, aged 23, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1837 aboard the barque "Robert Watt" from Cork
  • Mary Houlihan, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1838

Houlihan Settlers in Canada in the 20th Century


  • Bride Houlihan, aged 23, who emigrated to Argentia, Newfoundland, in 1924
  • Edward Houlihan, aged 13, who emigrated to Argentia, Newfoundland, in 1924

Houlihan Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • Mary Houlihan, aged 23, a domestic servant, arrived in South Australia in 1854 aboard the ship "Hyderabad"
  • Bridget Houlihan, aged 18, a domestic servant, arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "William Stevenson"
  • Martin Houlihan, aged 27, a labourer, arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Nashwauk"

Houlihan Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • Ellen Houlihan, aged 22, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Bebington" in 1876
  • Patrick Houlihan, aged 21, a farm labourer, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Hudson" in 1879
  • Ellen Houlihan arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "British King" in 1883

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  • John C. Houlihan (1910-1986), American politician, 40th Mayor of Oakland, California
  • Carolyn Houlihan, American actress
  • Christopher Houlihan (b. 1987), American concert organist
  • Joan Houlihan, American poet
  • Michael B. Houlihan, American Democrat politician, Member of Massachusetts State House of Representatives Sixth Hampden District, 1905
  • Michael J. Houlihan (1859-1925), American Democrat politician, Member of Connecticut State House of Representatives, 1885; Member of Connecticut State Senate 15th District, 1891-94
  • Patricia Houlihan, American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Rhode Island, 1996
  • Thomas E. Houlihan, American politician, First Selectman of Ansonia, Connecticut, 1919-22
  • William Houlihan, American Democrat politician, Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Illinois, 1996
  • Maureen Houlihan, American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Illinois, 1972

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  2. Read, Charles Anderson. The Cabinet of Irish Literature Selections from the Works of the Chief Poets, Orators and Prose Writers of Ireland 4 Volumes. London: Blackie and Son, 1884. Print.
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