O’Connell Coat of ArmsO’Connell Coat of Arms


A history of the O’Connell family of New Zealand

Edited by Seán O’Connell

Cíall agus neart
Wisdom and Strength

In a churchyard, in the parish of Knockanure, near Listowel, County Kerry, (See Map) there is a flat Flagstone, covered in lichen and moss, with the inscription:

Erected by the Very Rev. James Hennessy O’Connell PP Melbourne Australia
to the memory of his grandfather Edward O’Connell
and his father James O’Connell, died June 3 1868
who was also father of Chevelier Michael O’Connell, Knight of Pope Pius IX, died July 1864
and Sister Mary Brendan O’Connell died Nov 4 1904. Presentation Convent Listowel

Exactly who is buried in this tomb, the inscription doesn’t make clear. What we do know is that Edward is the earliest recorded name we have found of the New Zealand branch of our O’Connell Clan. This first Edward was probably born about 1760–1770 in Galey parish and, as we know ourselves as, “the O’Connells of Ballyegan” this may very well be where he was born.

Edward O’Connell’s and Fanny Walls Marriage Cert.Edward O’Connell’s and Fanny Walls Marriage Cert. The earliest record we have found of Edward is the Church of Ireland (COI) marriage record of Edward O’Connell of Gale Parish to Frances Wall, solemnised on the 25 May 1795 in Kilnaughtin Parish. Because of the Penal Laws, having a marriage within the COI was the only way a Catholic could ensure the inheritance of his Protestant wife. They would almost certainly have had a second ceremony within the Catholic church but these records no longer exist. The witnesses to this marriage aren’t that clear as the image has been cut off but they look like John Sand… and Richard W… (possibly John Sandes and Richard Wall).
There is a baptismal record for a Richard O’Connell on the 22 Dec 1802 in Listowel Parish. His parents are listed as Edmundus O’Connell and Phanit Wall and he was sponsored by John O’Connell and Margaret Wall. The use of the names Edmundus and Phanit seems to be derived from the Catholic Church’s use of Latin and relates directly to the English names of Edward and Fanny.

Anna Hennessy Anna Hennessy (c1806–1881) married James O’Connell (1836). Family Lore often gives Anna the double–barrelled name of “Pope–Hennessy”. On her death certificate, and the certificates of her Australasian sons, her name is written only as Hennessy. She was part of the wider Hennessy family of Cork, and a relative of Sir John Pope Hennessy who was governor of various British colonies. This branch added “Pope” to their name after what was seen as a daughter’s advantageous marriage into the Pope family of Riversdale and Causeway. The Cork Hennessys called themselves the Hennessys of “Ballyhennessy”. After serving as a mercenary for Louis XV of France, the Corcu Loígde nobleman Richard Hennessy would establish his famous Hennessy Cognac on land given him by the king in compensation. Several of his descendants have gone on to distinguish themselves in French politics, notably politician Jean Hennessy. Family lore mentions John Pope Hennessy as a possible candidate for Governor of New Zealand, and that there would be “jobs aplenty” for any family member willing to make the move, but there is no evidence that this was ever so. The Dee family of Lahardane and Hokitika have similiar family lore.

Anna was married three times in total. Her first (1820) spouce’s name was James Casey, with whom she had a son, James Casey Jnr. (1822), her second (1824) was William Griffin with whom she had a son, Patrick Griffin (1828–1915), and her third being James.

Anna Hennessy Death Anna Hennessy DeathAnna died 28 Febuary 1881 when she was about 75 and living in Market Street, Listowel. Her death certificate names her as Anna O’Connell, female, a farmer’s widow, that she died of acute bronchitis, 8 days, and that James Horgan was present at her death.

The Tithes records for Lahardane were taken in 1826 and there was no mention of James O’Connell. Thirty years later Griffith’s Valuation lists him as a major representative of the owner, John Leslie Gun of Ballybunion. John Leslie Gun was the grandson of George Gun of Carrigafoile Castle and therefore a second cousin to the O’Connells and Raymonds of Ballyegan and Riversdale.


The next records we come across are the baptismal records for the children of James O’Connell and Anna Hennessy. Note the naming pattern. Tradition had it that the first daughter was named for the guest spouse’s mother and the first son for the host spouse’s father. The second son was named for the guest spouse’s father and the second daughter for the host spouse’s mother. The third son and daughter for their parents and any following children for their uncles and aunts. Anna’s parents were Michael Hennessy and Elizabeth Stonehouse. There is a marriage record for Mary O’Connell and Patrick Downey of Lahardane in 1855. They emigrated to the US and their descendants may be an American branch of the family.

James O’Connell Senior, of Lahardane was born about 1799/1800 as his death certificate of 1868 states his age to be 68 years. We don’t know his birth parish but his brother Maurice O’Connell was known as Maurice of Newtown. Meaning Newtownsandes, now known as Moyvane. James and his father are probably buried in Knockanure graveyard, so it’s possible he was born in this general area.

James O’Connell’s Death CertificateJames O’Connell’s Death Certificate

Taken from Kerry Sentinel Nov. 12th 1904.

Sr. Mary Brendan O’Connell (Anna) a native of Ballybunion died at the Presentation Convent Listowel. Her brother Capt. (the Irish had a habit of promoting the rank of those they were commemorating) Chevalier Michael O’Connell had command position in the Papal Army and her other brother Fr. James Hennessy O’Connell a priest in the Melbourne Diocese. Cousins in Ireland:

Anna, Sister Mary Brendan, O’Connell died on the 4th of November, 1904 and was originally buried in a Presentation Convent plot but was reinterred in a communal grave in the Listowel cemetery when the convent was sold.

Maurice O’Connell (James’ brother) of Newtown was a member of the Irish constabulary. He married Ellen McElligott of O’Dorney parish on 5 February, 1853 and emigrated to Victoria in 1864. They are the forebears of our Aussie kin, the Mulcare, Ross and McMahon families.

Maurice and Ellen had the following children:

There was a Malachy O’Connell of Lahardane baptised 30 August 1839. His parents were Morgan O’Connell and Mary Flahive. Other O’Connell names of the time were Janet and John mentioned as sponsors of James’ children. Also a Michael O’Connell baptised in Lahardane on the 25th March 1857. His parents were Michael O’Connell and Honora O’Sullivan.

Family lore says the older generation spoke of Frances O’Connell and mentions that there was a second marriage in Ireland but we’re not sure who this refered to. Edmund O’Connell of Ballyegan (the names Edmund and Edward seem to be interchangable) married Bridget Costelloe about 1830 and had the following children:

If this is the same Edward who had been previously married to Fanny Wall, then he would be in his late fifties to early sixties which isn’t out of the reach of possibility. I intend to follow this line up further to see if a connection can be proven.

Brick WallBrick Wall

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© 2013 Seán O’Connell