O'Sullivan History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The old Gaelic name used by the O'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.

Early Origins of the O'Sullivan family

The surname O'Sullivan was 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. [1]

Early History of the O'Sullivan family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our O'Sullivan research. Another 167 words (12 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1560, 1618, 1590, 1660, 1700, 1745, 1700, 1784, 1700, 1710, 1800 and 1710 are included under the topic Early O'Sullivan History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

O'Sullivan Spelling Variations

Official documents, crafted by early scribes and church officials, primarily contained names that were spelled according to their pronunciation. This lead to the problem of one name being recorded under several different variations, creating an illusion that a single person was many people. Among the many spelling variations of the surname O'Sullivan that are preserved in the archival documents of the time are O'Sullivan, Sullivan and others.

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

Notable amongst the family name at this time was Donall O'Sullivan Beare (1560-1618), Chief of the sept of his name in the district of Beare, co. Cork, who "engaged actively in the hostile movements in Ireland against the government of England in the last years of Queen Elizabeth." [2] Phillip O'Sullivan Beare (1590-1660), was a soldier in the Spanish army who is best remembered as a historian; and Colonel John O'Sullivan (b. 1700) was a companion to the "Young Pretender" who led the Irish Brigade at Culloden in 1745. Owen Roe O'Sulliavan (1700?-1784) was Gaelic poet, called in Irish Eoghan Ruadh, or Red-haired...
Another 103 words (7 lines of text) are included under the topic Early O'Sullivan Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States O'Sullivan migration to the United States +

In the 18th and 19th centuries hundreds of thousands of Irish people immigrated to North American shores. The early settlers were enticed by the promise of their own land, but they were moderately well off in Ireland when they decided to emigrate. Therefore, they were merely carrying out a long and carefully thought out decision. The 1840s saw the emergence of a very different trend: thousands of extremely desperate people crammed into passenger boats hoping to find any type of opportunity. The Irish of this decade had seen their homeland severely stricken by crop failures which resulted in widespread disease and starvation. At whatever time the Irish immigrants came to North America, they were instrumental in the rapid development of the emerging nations of the United States and what would become known as Canada. An exhaustive search of passenger and immigration lists has revealed many persons bearing the name O'Sullivan, or one of its variants:

O'Sullivan Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Andrew, Arthur, Daniel, Denis, John, Michael, Patrick, Simon, Timothy, and William O'Sullivan, who all, who arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1860

Canada O'Sullivan migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

O'Sullivan Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Michael O'Sullivan, aged 26, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833 aboard the brig "William" from Cork, Ireland
  • Thomas O'Sullivan, aged 26, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833 aboard the brig "William" from Cork, Ireland
  • Margaret O'Sullivan, aged 25, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833 aboard the brig "William" from Cork, Ireland
  • Catherine O'Sullivan, aged 24, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833 aboard the brig "William" from Cork, Ireland
  • Mary O'Sullivan, aged 25, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833 aboard the ship "Providence" from Cork, Ireland
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia O'Sullivan migration to Australia +

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

O'Sullivan Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Patrick O'sullivan, (b. 1818), aged 20, Irish solider born in Kerry, Ireland who was convicted in Kent, England for 15 years for assault, transported aboard the "Bengal Merchant" on 24th March 1838, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [3]
  • James John O'Sullivan, aged 34, a teacher, who arrived in South Australia in 1849 aboard the ship "Elgin" [4]
  • James O'Sullivan, aged 34, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Elgin" in 1849 [4]
  • Ellen O'Sullivan, aged 30, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Elgin" in 1849 [4]
  • David O'Sullivan, aged 2, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Elgin" in 1849 [4]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand O'Sullivan 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'Sullivan Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Ellen O'Sullivan, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Alfred" in 1864 [5]
  • Mr. John O'Sullivan, (b. 1840), aged 33, Irish labourer from County Kerry travelling from Gravesend aboard the ship "Surat" going to Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand in 1873, the ship sunk at the Catlins River all the passengers were transported to Dunedin via various rescure vessels [6]
  • Mr. Jeremiah O'Sullivan, (b. 1840), aged 34, Irish mason from County Cork travelling from London aboard the ship "Tweed" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 4th September 1874 [6]
  • Margaret O'Sullivan, aged 19, a servant, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Cartvale" in 1874
  • Morto O'Sullivan, aged 38, a mason, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Ocean Mail" in 1875
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

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

  • Anthony O'Sullivan (b. 1920), American silent film actor and director who appeared in 163 films
  • Sean Daniel O'Sullivan (b. 1987), American Major League Baseball pitcher
  • Patrick O'Sullivan (b. 1985), American professional NHL ice hockey forward
  • John Francis O'Sullivan (1850-1907), Irish-American awarded the Medal of Honor during the Indian Wars
  • Dan O'Sullivan (b. 1968), professional NBA player
  • Shane O'Sullivan (b. 1985), Irish hurler
  • Denise O'Sullivan (b. 1994), Irish international footballer
  • Gilbert O'Sullivan (b. 1946), Irish singer-songwriter, best known for his hits "Alone Again (Naturally)", "Clair" and "Get Down"
  • Eddie O'Sullivan (b. 1958), head coach of the Ireland rugby union team
  • Denis O'Sullivan (b. 1948), Irish golfer
  • ... (Another 11 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Repulse
  • Mr. Michael J O'Sullivan, British Leading Stoker, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and survived the sinking [7]
RMS Titanic
  • Miss Bridget Mary O'Sullivan (d. 1912), aged 21, Irish Third Class passenger from Glenduff, Kerry who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and died in the sinking [8]


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


  1. ^ MacLysaght, Edward, Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7)
  2. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  3. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 13th October 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/bengal-merchant
  4. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) ELGIN 1849. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1849Elgin.htm
  5. ^ Archives New Zealand Micro 5019. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Alfred. Retrieved from http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ourstuff/Alfred1864.htm
  6. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  7. ^ HMS Repulse Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listrepulsecrew.html
  8. ^ Titanic Passenger List - Titanic Facts. (Retrieved 2016, July 13) . Retrieved from http://www.titanicfacts.net/titanic-passenger-list.html


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