O'neill History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Irish names tend to vary widely in their spelling and overall form. The original Gaelic form of the name O'neill is Ó Néill, which means descendant of Niall, a personal name of Irish origin, thought to mean "champion." [1]

"Of the very great antiquity of this distinguished name and family there can be no doubt." [2]

Early Origins of the O'neill family

The surname O'neill was first found in County Tyrone (Irish: Tír Eoghain), the ancient territory of the O'Neills, now in the Province of Ulster, central Northern Ireland, and County Clare where O'Neill was chief of Clan Dalvy and of Tradree, a district in the barony of Inchiquinn. In the 10th century, a branch of this family went to Limerick to assist in the expulsion of the Danes.

After one victorious occasion they wore green boughs in their helmets and on their horses' heads signifying their victory.

Early History of the O'neill family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our O'neill research. Another 108 words (8 lines of text) covering the years 1480, 1559, 1530, 1567, 1550, 1616, 1612, 1664, 1694, 1689 and 1689 are included under the topic Early O'neill History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

O'neill Spelling Variations

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 O'neill include O'Neill, Neal, Neale, Neales, Neil, Nihill, Niell, O'Nail, O'Neil, O'Niel and many more.

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

Notable amongst the family name at this time was Sir Niall O'Neill who distinguished himself at the Battle of the Boyne; Conn O'Neill, 1st Earl of Tyrone (c.1480-1559) King of Tir Eogain; Shane O'Neill (c.1530-1567), Irish king of the O'Neill dynasty of Ulster; Hugh O'Neill (c. 1550-1616), Earl of Tyrone, also known as the Great Earl...
Another 56 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early O'neill Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

O'neill World Ranking

In the United States, the name O'neill is the 768th most popular surname with an estimated 39,792 people with that name. [3] However, in Canada, the name O'neill is ranked the 512nd most popular surname with an estimated 9,527 people with that name. [4] And in Australia, the name O'neill is the 190th popular surname with an estimated 16,726 people with that name. [5] New Zealand ranks O'neill as 187th with 2,962 people. [6] The United Kingdom ranks O'neill as 208th with 27,198 people. [7]


United States O'neill migration to the United States +

Death and immigration greatly reduced Ireland's population in the 19th century. For the native Irish people poverty, hunger, and racial prejudice was common. Therefore, thousands left their homeland to seek opportunity in North America. Those who survived the journey and the quarantine camps to which they arrived, were instrumental towards building the strong developing nations of the United States and the future Canada. By far, the largest influx of Irish settlers occurred with Great Potato Famine during the late 1840s. These were employed as construction or factory workers. An examination of passenger and immigration lists has shown early immigrants bearing the name O'neill:

O'neill Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Arthur, Bernard, Charles, Denis, Edward, Felix, James, John, Mark, Michael, Patrick, Terence, Thomas, and William O'Neill all, who arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1860

Canada O'neill migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

O'neill Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Patrick O'Neill, aged 30, a farmer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Billow" in 1833
  • Elizabeth O'Neill, aged 30, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Billow" in 1833
  • Susan O'Neill, aged 6, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Billow" in 1833
  • John O'Neill, aged 4, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Billow" in 1833
  • Francis O'Neill, aged 2, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Billow" in 1833
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia O'neill migration to Australia +

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

O'neill Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Felix O'Neill, Irish convict who was convicted in Monaghan, Ireland for life, transported aboard the "Atlas" on 29th November 1801, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [8]
  • Mr. James O'neill, (O'neal, O'neil), (b. 1796), aged 18, Irish convict who was convicted in Meath, Ireland for life, transported aboard the "Canada" on 5th December 1814, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [9]
  • Mr. James O'Neill, British convict who was convicted in Lancaster, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Henry Tanner" on 27th June 1834, settling in New South Wales, Australia [10]
  • Mr. William O'Neill, English convict who was convicted in Chester, Cheshire, England for 12 years, transported aboard the "Duncan" on 10th December 1840, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [11]
  • Mr. John O'neill, (b. 1805), aged 39, Irish clerk who was convicted in Limerick, Ireland for 7 years for faculige, transported aboard the "Cadet" on 9th April 1844, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [12]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand O'neill 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'neill Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Arthur O'Neill, aged 23, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Shamrock" in 1856
  • Mr. Henry O'Neill, (b. 1862), aged Infant, Irish settler from County Tyrone travelling from London aboard the ship "Zealandia" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 23rd May 1862 [13]
  • Mr. Hugh H. O'Neill, (b. 1839), aged 23, Irish farm labourer from County Tyrone travelling from London aboard the ship "Zealandia" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 23rd May 1862 [13]
  • Mrs. Alice O'Neill, (b. 1841), aged 21, Irish settler from County Tyrone travelling from London aboard the ship "Zealandia" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 23rd May 1862 [13]
  • Mr. John Charles O'Neill, (b. 1861), aged 1, Irish settler from County Tyrone travelling from London aboard the ship "Zealandia" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 23rd May 1862 [13]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

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

  • Thomas Phillip "Tip" O'Neill Jr. (1912-1994), former US Congressman and Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1977 to 1987 and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Paul Henry O'Neill (1935-2020), American politician from St. Louis, Missouri, 72nd United States Secretary of the Treasury (2001-2002)
  • Thomas P. O'Neill III (b. 1944), American Democratic Party politician, Member of Massachusetts State House of Representatives, 1973-74; Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, 1975-83 [14]
  • Thomas Newman O'Neill Jr. (1928-2018), American jurist, Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (1996-2018)
  • Jack O'Neill (1923-2017), American businessman, often credited with the invention of the wetsuit, founder of the O'Neill brand
  • Paul O'Neill (1956-2017), American music composer, lyricist, producer, and songwriter
  • Arthur Joseph O'Neill (1917-2013), American Roman Catholic prelate, Bishop of Rockford (1968–1994)
  • Rose Cecil O'Neill (1874-1944), American illustrator who created the character "Kewpie" best known as the "Kewpie Doll"
  • William Atchison O'Neill (1930-2007), American Governor of Connecticut from 1980 to 1991
  • Sergeant Richard William O'Neill (1898-1982), American soldier who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during World War I
  • ... (Another 125 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Hillsborough disaster
  • Stephen Francis O'Neill (1971-1989), English student who was attending the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough Stadium, in Sheffield, Yorkshire when the stand allocated area became overcrowded and 96 people were crushed in what became known as the Hillsborough disaster and he died from his injuries [15]
RMS Lusitania
  • Mr. F. H. O'Neill, English Able-Bodied Seaman from Liverpool, England, who worked aboard the RMS Lusitania and survived the sinking [16]
USS Arizona
  • Mr. William Thomas O'Neill Jr., American Ensign from Connecticut, USA working aboard the ship "USS Arizona" when she sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941, he died in the sinking [17]


  1. ^ MacLysaght, Edward, Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7)
  2. ^ Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  3. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  4. ^ https://forebears.io/surnames/
  5. ^ https://forebears.io/australia/surnames
  6. ^ https://forebears.io/new-zealand/surnames
  7. ^ https://www.surnamemap.eu/unitedkingdom/surnames_ranking.php?p=10
  8. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 14th July 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/atlas
  9. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 9th December 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/canada
  10. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 7th January 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/henry-tanner
  11. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 11th August 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/duncan
  12. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 17th November 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/cadet/
  13. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  14. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 28) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  15. ^ Hillsborough Victims (retreived 21st March 2021). Retreived from https://metro.co.uk/2019/04/15/remembering-96-victims-hillsborough-disaster-30-years-9206566/
  16. ^ Lusitania Passenger List - The Lusitania Resource. (Retrieved 2014, March 7) . Retrieved from http://www.rmslusitania.info/lusitania-passenger-list/
  17. ^ Pearl Harbour: USS Arizona Casualties List Pearl Harbour December 7, 1941. (Retrieved 2018, July 31st). Retrieved from http://pearl-harbor.com/arizona/casualtylist.html


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