O'Donovan History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Many of the Irish surnames in use today have long rich histories behind them. The name O'Donovan originally appeared in Gaelic as O Donnabhain, derived from the words "donn," which means "brown," and "dubhan," a derivative of "dubh," which means "black."

Early Origins of the O'Donovan family

The surname O'Donovan was first found in County Limerick (Irish: Luimneach) located in Southwestern Ireland, in the province of Munster, where they held a family seat from very ancient times at Bruree. Their hereditary territory were the lands along the banks of the river Maigues in that county. They were descended from Crom, the Chief of the Donovans, who built Crom Castle, and he in turn was descended anciently from Eoghan Mor (Eugene the Great), King of Munster. Amhailgadh II's son, Crom's great, great grandfather, was a commander with King Brian Boru in the Battle of Clontarf against the Danes, and it was at this time through marriage that they lost the throne of Munster.

Early History of the O'Donovan family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our O'Donovan research. Another 55 words (4 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1639, 1584, 1641, 1689, 1684, 1705 and 1689 are included under the topic Early O'Donovan History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

O'Donovan Spelling Variations

The recording of names in Ireland in the Middle Ages was an inconsistent endeavor at best. One must realize that attempting to record a Gaelic name in English is a daunting task at the best of times. Even today the translation is a difficult one. Accordingly, research into the name O'Donovan revealed spelling variations, including Donovan, Donavon, Donavan, Donevan, Donnovan, Donnavon, Donnavan, Donnovin and many more.

Early Notables of the O'Donovan family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the family name at this time was Donal II O'Donovan (Irish: Domhnall Ó Donnabháin), The O'Donovan of Clann Cathail, Lord of Clancahill (died 1639); Donal III O'Donovan (Irish: Domhnall Ó Donnabháin), The O'Donovan of Clancahill, (born before 1584), he joined the so-called Irish Rebellion of 1641 under Donagh MacCarthy and was accordingly stripped of his estates by...
Another 58 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early O'Donovan Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States O'Donovan migration to the United States +

Irish families fled the English-colonized Ireland in record numbers during the 19th century for North America. Many of those destitute families died from disease during, and even shortly after, the long journey. Although those that immigrated before the Great Potato Famine of the 1840s often were granted a tract of land, those that arrived later were generally accommodated in urban centers or in work camps. Those in the urban centers would labor in the manufacturing sector, whereas those in work camps would to build critical infrastructures such as bridges, canals, roads, and railways. Regardless of when these Irish immigrants came to North America, they were critical for the rapid development of the young nations of the United States and Canada. Early immigration and passenger lists have recorded many early immigrants bearing the name of O'Donovan:

O'Donovan Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Timothy O'Donovan, aged 37, who landed in America, in 1893
  • William O'Donovan, aged 41, who landed in America from Doneraile, in 1898
O'Donovan Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • James O'Donovan, aged 22, who settled in America from Dunmanway, in 1902
  • Alice O'Donovan, aged 1, who landed in America from Limerick, in 1905
  • Kittie O'Donovan, aged 27, who immigrated to the United States from Lymerick, Ireland, in 1908
  • William J. O'Donovan, aged 27, who immigrated to the United States, in 1908
  • Gerald O'Donovan, aged 38, who landed in America from Dublin, Ireland, in 1909
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand O'Donovan migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

O'Donovan Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Honoria O'Donovan, aged 23, a domestic servant, who arrived in Bluff, New Zealand aboard the ship "Christian McAusland" in 1875

Contemporary Notables of the name O'Donovan (post 1700) +

  • William Rudolf O'Donovan (1844-1920), American sculptor
  • Vita C. O'Donovan, American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from New York, 1996 [1]
  • Jerome X. O'Donovan, American Democrat politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from New York 14th District, 1988 [1]
  • Daniel A. O'Donovan (1874-1943), American politician, Mayor of Covington, Kentucky, 1924-27; Member of Kentucky State Legislature [1]
  • Timothy Joseph O'Donovan (1881-1951), Farmers' Party and Fine Gael politician from County Cork, Ireland
  • Fred O'Donovan (1930-2010), Irish theatre producer and businessman
  • Paddy O'Donovan (1916-1990), Irish sportsperson
  • Oliver O'Donovan (b. 1945), Irish scholar in the field of Christian ethics
  • Denis O'Donovan (b. 1955), Irish Fianna Fáil politician
  • John O'Donovan, Irish guitarist with The Adolescents punk band
  • ... (Another 3 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)


  1. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 3) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html


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