Show ContentsO'Dwyer History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Hundreds of years ago, the Gaelic name used by the O'Dwyer family in Ireland was O Duibhir and Mac Duibhir. These are both derived from the words dubh, which means black, and odhar or uidhir, which means uncolored. Another source has a slightly different explanation: "Descendant of the dark, tawny man; grandson of Dubhodhar (black Odhar)." [1] And yet another notes: "Said to be the Gaelic do-ire, a woody uncultivated place." [2]

Early Origins of the O'Dwyer family

The surname O'Dwyer was first found in County Tipperary where they were the traditional Lords of Kilnamanagh. They claim descent from Cairbre Cluitheachar, the youngest son of Cucorb, King of Leinster through the O'Connors (Faley.) [3]

Although the O'Dwyers originally held a family seat in the barony of Kilnamanagh, they later branched to Clonyhorpa and Drumdromy in the same county. The eponymous ancestor of the O'Dwyers was Duibhir (sometimes spelled Duibhidir and Dubhiir), [3] the 11th century chief of the sept. Without the prefix Mac, Dyer is mainly found in Cos. Sligo and Roscommon. [4]

Early History of the O'Dwyer family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our O'Dwyer research. Another 171 words (12 lines of text) covering the years 1473, 1798, 1916, 1842 and 1917 are included under the topic Early O'Dwyer History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

O'Dwyer Spelling Variations

Many spelling variations of the surname O'Dwyer can be found in the archives. One reason for these variations is that ancient scribes and church officials recorded names as they were pronounced, often resulting in a single person being recorded under several different spellings. The different spellings that were found include Dwyer, O'Dwyer, Dwire, Dwier, Dyer and others.

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

More information is included under the topic Early O'Dwyer Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States O'Dwyer migration to the United States +

A great mass of Ireland's native population left the island in the 19th century, seeking relief from various forms of social, religious, and economic discrimination. This Irish exodus was primarily to North America. If the migrants survived the long ocean journey, many unfortunately would find more discrimination in the colonies of British North America and the fledgling United States of America. These newly arrived Irish were, however, wanted as a cheap source of labor for the many large agricultural and industrial projects that were essential to the development of what would become two of the wealthiest nations in the western world. Early immigration and passenger lists indicate many people bearing the O'Dwyer name:

O'Dwyer Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Michael O'Dwyer, who settled in Savannah Georgia in 1821
O'Dwyer Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Annie O'Dwyer, aged 27, who landed in America from Glasgow, Scotland, in 1907
  • Bessie O'Dwyer, aged 30, who settled in America from Castlerea, Ireland, in 1907
  • Bridget O'Dwyer, aged 19, who immigrated to the United States from Quilty, Ireland, in 1907
  • Denis P. O'Dwyer, aged 19, who landed in America from County Tipperary, Ireland, in 1907
  • Annie O'Dwyer, aged 17, who landed in America from Tulla, Ireland, in 1909
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia O'Dwyer migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

O'Dwyer Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Patrick O'Dwyer, aged 30, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1859 aboard the ship "James Jardine"

New Zealand O'Dwyer 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'Dwyer Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • John O'Dwyer, aged 24, a farm labourer, who arrived in Bluff, New Zealand aboard the ship "Adamant" in 1875 [5]

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

  • Edward F. O'Dwyer (1860-1922), American Chief Justice of the New York City court
  • Joseph O'Dwyer (1841-1898), Catholic American physician
  • Brian O'Dwyer (b. 1945), currently an American lobbyist and lawyer
  • Billy O'Dwyer (b. 1960), retired American professional ice hockey forward
  • Matt O'Dwyer (b. 1972), former American football player
  • Paul O'Dwyer (1907-1998), American politician and lawyer
  • Brigadier-General William O'Dwyer (1890-1964), American general, politician and diplomat, 100th Mayor of New York City (1946- 1950), Ambassador to Mexico (1950-1952)
  • Phil O'Dwyer, American politician, Candidate for Mayor of Berkley, Michigan [6]
  • Peter Paul O'Dwyer (1907-1998), American Democratic Party politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from New York 21st District, 1948; Delegate to Democratic National Convention from New York, 1964 [6]
  • Kevin O'Dwyer, American Democratic Party politician, Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Ohio, 1928 [6]
  • ... (Another 16 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

RMS Titanic
  • Miss Ellen "Nellie" O'Dwyer, aged 25, Irish Third Class passenger from Limerick, Limerick who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and survived the sinking [7]

The O'Dwyer Motto +

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: Vertus sola nobilitas
Motto Translation: Virtue alone enobles

  1. Smith, Eldson Coles, New Dictionary of American Family Names New York: Harper & Row, 1956. Print
  2. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  3. O'Hart, John, Irish Pedigrees 5th Edition in 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0737-4)
  4. MacLysaght, Edward, Supplement to Irish Families. Baltimore: Genealogical Book Company, 1964. Print.
  5. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  6. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 3) . Retrieved from
  7. Titanic Passenger List - Titanic Facts. (Retrieved 2016, July 13) . Retrieved from on Facebook