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DONOVAN (O'DONOVAN) Families of West Cork, Ireland

This synopsis reviewed and updated by “The Geneal Geologist”, 13 Feb 2017
Additional information, comments and corrections welcome
“My Irish Genealogy” Research Blog

As with many Irish families, my wife’s lineage has more than one DONOVAN family. Older records tend to be found under DONOVAN, with O’DONOVAN only becoming more prevalent in late C19th and into C20th. There are currently two separate families of that name in West Cork and two additional families under research, possibly also from historical West Cork, which are summarised below. Thanks to Fiona FORDE for her contributions concerning the Derrylahan family. There are 3,415 DONOVAN males in Cork County on the 1911 Census.

1. The DONOVAN Family of Derrylahan townland (Dunmanway), County Cork

This DONOVAN family had their homeplace in the townland of Derrylahan, north of Dunmanway, County Cork (see map below). They were established as tenant farmers by the early C19th and were Roman Catholics (RC). Derrylahan (Doire Leathan - Broad oakwood, or Doire leacan - Wood of the Slope) is a townland of 508 acres.

Their origins prior to this time are unknown but are assumed to be the same general area of West Cork. There are no surviving family stories of how long the family were at Derrylahan or when they first settled there. The family can be found mentioned by townland in church and land records as residing in Derri* depending on church transcription indices, Fanlobbus (the district parish) as well as Dunmanway (the official registration district for BMD as well as the nearest main church). There are no church records in Dunmanway prior to 1819. There are DONOVAN families in the neighbouring townlands that may be part of the same genetic family with more ancient roots prior to the 19th.

In 1826, the Tithe Applotment List for Fanlobbus parish lists the following DONOVANs:

·      Jerry DONOVAN at Acres

·      Timothy DONOVAN at Ardcahan & Ardcahan (Wood lands)

·      Timothy & Daniel DONOVAN at Behagh

·      Timothy DONOVAN & John DONOVAN at Balteenbrack

·      Jerry DONOVAN (Down) at Ballehalwick

·      Cornelius DONOVAN at Behagullane

·      Denis DONOVAN at Cappidaneen

·      Timothy DONOVAN at Derrylahan

·      James DONOVAN at Derrenacaharagh

·      Timothy DONOVAN at Droumerk

·      Thomas DONOVAN & partners at Droumdrastill

·      Michael DONOVAN & brother, Timothy DONOVAN at Derrenasafa (Derrynasafagh)

·      Cornelius DONOVAN at Well Field (now known as Tank Field, part of Convent ground in Dunmanway North)

·      Michael DONOVAN at Incheenadreen

·      Richard DONOVAN at Kealariheen

·      Daniel DONOVAN at the Tanner Farm, Timothy DONOVAN, Daniel DONOVAN & Denis DONOVAN at Kilbarry

·      Charles DONOVAN at East Kilronane

·      John DONOVAN and partners, Jerry DONOVAN (Baird or poet), Daniel DONOVAN, John & Jerry DONOVAN and Jerry DONOVAN (Patrick) at Nidanagh

·      Jerry DONOVAN, Timothy DONOVAN, Denis & Daniel DONOVAN at Shinnagh

·      Michael DONOVAN & partners at Shiplough

Castledonovan or O'Donovan's Castle refers to the remains of an Irish tower house (túrtheach) in a valley near Drimoleague (SW of Dunmanway), which was known as the "seat" of the Clann Cathail sept of the O'DONOVANs for a period during the C16th. The original name of the castle before the C17th, when the O'DONOVANs were living in it, was Sowagh (Sooagh or Suagh). Per tradition the tower was severely damaged by Oliver Cromwell's soldiers in the late 1640’s, blown up with powder in retaliation for Donal III O'DONOVAN joining the Stuart side and for his involvement in the rebellion and massacres of 1641. It has been uninhabited since that time and is a national monument. O’DONOVAN or DONOVAN is common name in West Cork.

Castledonovan (Photo: Mike Searle)

The proven head of this family is my wife’s 3xGGF Timothy DONOVAN, a tenant farmer at Derrylahan, & his wife Ellen COVENY. Note: They were an older couple and not to be confused with an identically named couple who married in 1819 Dunmanway and had children at nearby Derrinasafagh.

Other family research in this period indicates that RC tenant farmers often did not marry until they were well established and could support a family. Some of these marriages were relatively late (men in their forties marrying girls often a decade or more their junior) but they rarely occurred before the age of 25. Based on available records, Timothy’s timeline and anchor dates are:

Ø Probably born abt 1775 in the Dunmanway area of West Cork.

Ø Married Ellen COVENY prior to 1804, presumably in the Dunmanway area of West Cork.

Ø Listed in the Tithe Applotment Book of 1826 at Derrylahan. A Timothy DONOVAN is also listed as having the “wood lands” of nearby Ardcahan.

Ø Witnessed the two marriages of his sons to the MANNING/MANNIN sisters in 1832 & 1838, as well as registered as the sponsor/godfather to granddaughter Catherine DONOVAN in 1834.

Ø Presumably died at Derrylahan prior to the start of Irish death indices in 1854, and before Griffiths Valuation (as his son Denis was the only DONOVAN listed as farming at Derrylahan at that time). It is possible, having handed over to Denis, Timothy was one of several others of name Timothy listed in nearby townlands by Griffiths, but he would have been at least in his late sixties by this time.

The townland of Derrylahan at the time of Griffith’s Valuation in the 1850’s. The DONOVANs farmed area 6 on the map

The land at Derrylahan farmed by the O’DONOVANs (Photo: Fiona Forde)

Known or suspected children of Timothy DONOVAN (limitations due to unlocated baptisms, proof of mother’s name and age records are given (as it is also possible Ellen COVENY is a later wife). There is a large time scale covering the 5 known children):

  • 1. Denis DONOVAN (abt 1804-1890) = Mary MANNING (c1810-13 of the same place) in 1832 Dunmanway are my wife’s proven 2xGGPs. Witnesses: Cornelius MANNING & Timothy DONOVAN, fathers to the couple. The marriage record indicates that both were of Dromdeegy, however that is probably incorrect. Mary was from Dromdeegy family, as her father was recorded there. Denis is most likely from Derrylahan, the family homeplace, unless he was working for his future wife’s father at the time. By the time of Griffiths Valuation in Ireland in the 1850’s, Denis (assumed to be the eldest son) had taken over the farming at Derrylahan from his father, Timothy. In oral history Denis was incorrectly named as “John” (a rare error, although in Ireland children are often known by another name other than the one given at baptism, especially if there are several of the same name in close family nearby, which was also very common. John may have also been his second name). All the couple’s children baptised in Dunmanway are given of Derrylahan (or literal variants) and otherwise match oral history except for the father clearly being Denis:
    • Catherine DONOVAN (Feb 1834) – no history;
    • Mary DONOVAN (Apr 1837) – no history;
    • Ellen DONOVAN (Jun 1839) – no history;
    • Julia DONOVAN (Jul 1841) – no history;
    • Richard “Rick” DONOVAN aka “Rickard” (Jul 1843 - 1930) – Tenant farmer at Derrylahan. Rick first married Mary CONNELL in 1876 Dunmanway (three sons & one daughter). Following her death, he married Mary “Minnie” LUCEY/LUCY in 1882 Skibbereen (4 further sons and 8 daughters). In 1901, Rick was still farming at Derrylahan, but around 1903 had been evicted (see Petty Court Session record, below), ending the DONOVANs long-time residence at Derrylahan, and was then was living as a Labourer in Castle Street, Dunmanway North:

Petty Sessions record for the eviction of Rickard DONOVAN from the farm at Derrylahan c1903

      • Denis DONOVAN (1876) = Julia Ann McCARTHY in 1901 Cork city. They had 4 children by the 1911 Cork city census and reported to have had two further children after this date:
        • Mary Teresa DONOVAN (1902);
        • Richard DONOVAN (1904 Cork – 1984 Warrington, Cheshire);
        • Hannah DONOVAN (1908);
        • Bridget DONOVAN (1911);
        • Two further children (1912+)
      • Timothy DONOVAN (1878-1879 Dunmanway). Timothy is a child assumed to have died young as he is not remembered by the Derrylahan family (missing in 1901 & 1911 census). He is only recognised by his baptism;
      • Michael DONOVAN (1879-1915) – at home in 1901. In 1905 he enlisted with the Royal Munster Fusiliers & in 1911 was garrisoned in Nowshera (Khyber), then in India, now present day Pakistan. During WW1, his regiment moved back to Europe and he was killed on the 2nd day of the Gallipoli landings;

      • Mary “Siss” DONOVAN (1880-1964) = Michael WHITE of Ardcahan in 1906 Dunmanway and settled in Tooreen, the farm of her aunt Anne HURLEY nee DONOVAN;
      • Richard DONOVAN (1883-1929) - at home in 1901, emigrating to Springfield, Hampden County, Massachusetts in 1909. He married Mary Ann HAYES abt 1912 and three daughters are known:
        • Mary Agnes DONOVAN (1913) – possibly died young as missing in the 1920 US census;
        • Ann Marie DONOVAN (1918-2002) = John F MAZZARELLA (1916-2009);
        • Catherine Elizabeth DONOVAN (1921-2002) = Paul Henry RIVEST (1918-1997);
      • Julia DONOVAN (1884)* = Edward John O’CONNELL and emigrated to the USA (3 sons);
      • Daniel DONOVAN (1887-1964) – at home in 1901. He married Mary “May” McCARTHY in Feb 1914. The couple died in Cork city. Their children (in reported birth order):
        • Richard DONOVAN;
        • Daniel DONOVAN;
        • Patrick DONOVAN;
        • Eileen DONOVAN;
        • Sheila DONOVAN;
        • Catherine “Kitty” DONOVAN;

                                                                         Daniel DONOVAN

      • Catherine M “Kate” or “Kitty” DONOVAN (1889)* – at home in 1901, but emigrated to Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts in 1912. She married Oscar Delmont MOON (1890-1957);
      • Ellen (Helena) “Lena” DONOVAN (1890-1979) – at home in 1901 & 1911 = Jeremiah “Jerome” HURLEY (1902-1966);
      • John DONOVAN (1892-1989) – at home in 1901 & 1911 = Margaret AHERN. Children (in alphabetical order):
        • Eileen DONOVAN;
        • Daniel DONOVAN;
        • Maureen DONOVAN;
        • John DONOVAN;
        • Richard DONOVAN;
      • Johanna “Joanie” DONOVAN (1894-1969) – at home in 1901. She emigrated to the US = Thomas CAREY (1891-1983). They had a pub called O'Keefe's & Carey's in Brooklyn, New York:

Two customers outside O’Keefe’s & Carey’s

      • Anne “Nance” DONOVAN (1896-1989) – at home in 1901. She emigrated to the US in 1913 = Christopher Patrick HANRAHAN and lived in Hampden, Massachusetts, USA;
      • Margaret “Maggie” or “Peg” DONOVAN (1898-1987)* – at home in 1901 & 1911. Unmarried, she emigrated after her father’s death in 1930 and settled with her sister Una in White Haven, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania;
      • Eliza Mary “Lizzie” or “Betty” DONOVAN (1899-1979)* – at home in 1901 & 1911. Lizzie was the last DONOVAN child to be born at Derrylahan. She married Richard O’KEEFE (1904-1942) and was also living in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts, USA. Unmarried, she was living with her married sister in 1930. The O’KEEFEs settled in Brooklyn, New York. (* After her husband’s death (at the age of 38 due to pneumonia, while sitting waiting at a bus stop), Betty lived with her sisters Peg, Una, Kitty & Julia in a multi-family home);
      • Patrick DONOVAN (1902-1903) – died aged 3 months;
      • Hanora V “Nora” or “Una” DONOVAN (1908-1986)* – at home in 1911. She died (unmarried) in Sep 1986 in White Haven, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, USA. Before moving to the US, Una lived in England and was engaged, but her fiancé died in the War;

Left to Right: Nance HANRAHAN nee DONOVAN, Edward & May O’KEEFE, Peg DONOVAN, Joanie CAREY nee DONOVAN, Una DONOVAN

    • Anne “Nancy” DONOVAN (1845) = James HURLEY (1841-1909) of Tooreen (Shanacrane) in 1877. No children. After James’ death in 1909 the farm passed into the hands of Michael WHITE of Ardcahan, the husband of niece Mary “Siss” DONOVAN, who was living there prior to 1901. She was listed as one of the chief mourners at John O’DONOVANs funeral in 1920;
    • Michael "The Count" O'DONOVAN (1847-1924), town clerk of Clonakilty = Ellen HAYES (1853-1883) in 1871 Clonakilty (3 daughters and a son). They lived in Soverign Street, Clonakilty. Widower Michael remarried to Mary FITZPATRICK (1848-1924) in 1884 Rosscarbery. Michael was recorded as a shopkeeper in Clonakilty and Mary as a spinster shopkeeper in Lissavard (my wife's GGPs). During his first marriage to Ellen, Michael was described as a shopkeeper in The Square, Rosscarbery. Michael apparently became known as “The Count” as was noted for being smartly dressed. His son John was also known as “Count” either as being his father’s son or also that he became town clerk. Michael & Mary were listed as some of the chief mourners at John O’DONOVANs funeral in 1920. At Michael’s baptism, the Ellen DONOVAN (sponsor) would be his grandmother, Ellen COVENY. Michael’s children:
      • Johanna DONOVAN (1875) – no history;
      • Margaret Hannah DONOVAN (1877) – no history (but may have married HARNETT or HARTNETT to provide a person named in some family stories);
      • Mary DONOVAN (1878) – no history;
      • Denis Joseph DONOVAN (1880-1906) – Post Office Clerk, unmarried. Probate indicates that his father was the main named beneficiary;
      • Michael Richard O'DONOVAN (1886-1919);
      • Mary Bridget “Bridie” O'DONOVAN (1897-1960) = Felix O'NEILL, my wife's GPs. They were listed as some of the chief mourners at John O’DONOVANs funeral in 1920;
      • Julia O'DONOVAN (n. & d. 1888);
      • John “Count” O'DONOVAN (1889-1920) Clonakilty Town Clerk and noted multi-talented local sportsman (see images below) = JohannaMinnie” “Mina” MOLONEY in 1920. John tragically died after only 18 days of marriage, having contracted pneumonia while playing a hockey game in Limerick. Clonakilty shut down for the duration of his funeral and the event was widely reported in the press;
      • Catherine Mary O'DONOVAN (1891-92);

Clonakilty Hockey Team
(Note: as my wife's granduncle John "Count" O'DONOVAN (1889-1920) is shown standing on the left, and the back of the photo indicates a date of December 1929, which presumably should be 1919 as “Count” died in April 1920. On the reverse is written: "Back Row (left to right): John "Count" O'DONOVAN (Town Clerk), W. WATT (Bank of Ireland), Wesley BATEMAN (Store Keeper), Arthur TRAVERS, Hal BENNETT (Farmer), Peter SHIELDS. Front Row (left to right): T H "Bertie" O'DONOVAN (part of “hotel branch” family – See Part 2, below), Sam FITZPATRICK (?), Raymond GILMAN, Pat "Post Boy" O'BRIEN, William "Ginger" NAGLE"

Clonakilty Hurling Club 1914
On reverse: "Winners of the Cork, Bandon & South Coast Railway Shield - 1914. Back Row (left to right): M KEHOE, T KENNEDY, J J HASSETT, T SHANNAHAN, T ENRIGHT, L BRASSIL, R GLEESON. Centre Row (left to right): T J CANTY JP, J FLYNN (Hon. Sec., married to "Flyer" NYHAN's younger sister), John "Count" O'DONOVAN, Stephen O'NEILL, P O'BRIEN, D COLLINS, J LYONS, M AHERNE, J C O'DONOVAN. Front Row (left to right): Dan HART (Capt. Clonakilty Company IRA), J "Flyer" NYHAN, P LOMBARD, C O'DRISCOLL, Capt. M MURPHY, T KEOHANE, J KINGSTON".

 Both John "Count" O'DONOVAN (1889-1920) & Stephen O'NEILL (1889-1966) are my wife’s granduncles.

  • 2. Mary DONOVAN (birth date unconfirmed, but possibly on or before 1812, to be married at 21) is reported by family stories (usually being quite reliable in Irish families) to have married Michael CROWLEY. Records show this marriage as having occurred in Rosscarbery in 1843, but the record does not necessarily support her being a member of the family due to the marriage location not being Dunmanway (witness was a Pat DONOVAN) and both being given as resident in “Creemere” (unrecognised and unlocated). Children - John CROWLEY (Nov 1844) & Margaret CROWLEY (Feb 1849) of Derreens, north of Dunmanway (just south of Derrylahan) match this couple. I remain open to further evidence in support of Mary as a child of Timothy;
  • 3. Michael DONOVAN (c1818-81) = Ellen MANNING (c1815 of the same place) in 1838 Dunmanway, with the same witnesses: Cornelius MANNING & Timothy DONOVAN. It is confirmed that Denis & Michael were brothers (with father Timothy) and that they married MANNING sisters, which supports oral family histories. Their children of Derrylahan:

    • Mary DONOVAN (1841) – no history;
    • Timothy DONOVAN (1843-1916). He was a widower farmer at Derrylahan in 1901, but then gave up farming and was registered as a labourer living in Main Street, Dunmanway in 1911. He married Anne LUCY or LUCEY in Skibbereen in 1873 (undoubtedly related to Minnie LUCY his cousin married a few years later). In 1886, the Derrylahan farm was split equally between Timothy & his cousin Richard following the retirement of Denis. The following children were all born at Derrylahan, with no following history:
      • Ellen “Lena” DONOVAN (1874) – A dressmaker in Main Street, Dunmanway (both in 1901 & 1911);
      • Michael DONOVAN (1875);
      • Mary DONOVAN (1877);
      • Hannah DONOVAN (1881);
      • Catherine DONOVAN (1882-86);
      • Ann “Annie” DONOVAN (1885);
      • Timothy DONOVAN (c1887);
      • Julia DONOVAN (1888-89);
      • James DONOVAN (1891);
      • Denis DONOVAN (1892);
      • Catherine E “Kathleen” DONOVAN (1897-1991 USA);

    • James DONOVAN (1845) – no history;
    • Denis DONOVAN (1847) – no clear history, but appear to have married Anne/Annie MAHONEY in 1867 Dunmanway;
  • 4. Richard “Rick” DONOVAN (1820) - history unknown; Confirmed as a child in family legend. He was a godparent at a DONOVAN baptism in 1843;
  • 5. Daniel DONOVAN (Jan 1822) – history unknown;

2. The DONOVAN Family of Shannonvale/Templebryan (Clonakilty), County Cork

Significant progress has been made in November 2016 having been provided access to the extensive family tree of the O’DONOVANs (6-generation owners of the O’DONOVAN Hotel in Clonakilty) combined with records becoming available from the family’s church at Darrara (Clonakilty) which has births & marriages from 1809.

As evidenced from the Tithe Applotment List of 1826 and Griffith’s Evaluation of the 1850’s, there were numerous DONOVANs farming in Templebryan and adjoining townlands, adjacent to Shannonvale. Familial relationships prior to 1809 cannot be determined but can be suspected. The hotel branch, typically, had baptisms interchangeably between Shannonvale & Templebryan (“Templebrien”) as the homeplace, and their proven line is headed by Denis DONOVAN & Elizabeth NEIL who farmed Templebryan South & Templebryan North and who married in Rosscarbery in 1823. There were also DONOVANs listed at Grancore (“Granecore”) and Fourcuil (“Fork Hill”). There were O'NEILLs farming at Fourcuil, and Reenroe (my wife’s family’s homeplace) is immediately west of Fourcuil and Grancore, so being neighbours it is easy to see how DONOVANs & NEILLs knew each other (see map below). It is entirely possibly the Elizabeth NEIL who married Denis DONOVAN prior to 1809 is part of the Reenroe and Fourcuil clan as neighbouring families often intermarried. Elizabeth NEIL may be d/o William NEIL farming at Templebryan South.

Despite the numbers of DONOVANs there is only one baptism of an Anne DONOVAN in 1818 (of Templebryan), the d/o Cornelius “Cors” DONOVAN & Catherine “Cate” COLLINS who married at Darrara in 1811. An examination of the church records suggests that Anne is an only surviving child (no further baptism to the couple). This is supported by inferences from other records – Cornelius DONOVAN was listed as a farmer in 1826 at Templebryan North (Tithe Applotment Book) however he was deceased by the time of Griffith’s Valuation (c1850) as his wife Catherine is listed as the farmer there (having no surviving sons and heirs). It is also likely that Cors died prior to 1840 as it may have been expected he would have witnessed the marriage of his only child (a Daniel DONOVAN taking that role, who is the s/o neighbour and possible relation Denis DONOVAN of Templebryan, above). Cors & Catherine would be my wife’s 3xGGPs.

Anne DONOVAN (1818) of Shannonvale = John O'NEILL of Reenroe in March 1840 at Darrara church, Clonakilty. These are the GPs of Felix O'NEILL (above) and my wife’s 2xGGPs. After marriage, Anne joined her husband at the family farm at Reenroe and would have died there (coming under the Clonakilty registration district).

3. Other C18th West Cork DONOVAN Families (Dunmanway)

The earliest branches of the MENNIS family in West Cork had two marriages into assumed local DONOVAN families:

John MENNIS married Katherine DONOVAN sometime in the 1750-1760 period. John’s son, James MENNIS married Hanora DONOVAN sometime in the 1770-1780 period. Per family stories, Hanora was the d/o Andrew DONOVAN & Mollie O’HEA.

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