By Jared L. Olar
September 2012-May 2016
As discussed in Part One, among the O'Shea families of Munster the two most prominent and important are the O'Sheas of County Kerry and the O'Sheas of Counties Tipperary and Kilkenny. The Kerry O'Sheas are the oldest group of O'Sheas in Ireland, originating as the Ua Séghdha, one of the ruling clans of an ancient Irish people known as the Corco Duibne. Traditionally it was thought that other O'Shea families were offshoots of the Kerry clan, and in particular the O'Sheas of Tipperary and Kilkenny claimed descent from the ancient O'Sheas of Kerry. However, DNA testing has shown that the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Sheas are not male-line descendants of the original Kerry O'Sheas. Following is an examination of the traditional origin of the Tipperary and Kilkenny O'Sheas.
Preserved in the collections of the National Library of Ireland is a 16th century manuscript indexed as MS 2153 and catalogued as "A charred and badly damaged vellum ms. containing genealogical material, relating to the Poer-Shee family, with coats of arms (in colour)." This manuscript is the earliest known document mentioning the legendary genealogical origins of the O'Sheas of Tipperary and Kilkenny. In his paper, "Conjecture on the Origins of the O'Sheas of Tipperary and Kilkenny," James O'Shea briefly relates the substance of the tradition found in MS 2153:
"Old genealogies claim an Odanus Ó Seaghdha c.1158 AD in Kerry was the first to use the patronymic name of O'Shea said to have been derived from one of his ancestors, Sheadh Mac Cuirc born c.730 AD in Iveragh, Kerry, who was renowned for his martial deeds."
The name "Odanus" itself is a somewhat peculiar form but not necessarily problematic. It could be a latinised form of a Gaelic name such as Aodhan (Aedhan) or Aodh (Aedh, which was usually anglicised as "Hugh"), or it might derive from a misreading of the name "Adamus" or Adam. In addition, this legend correctly places the origin of the O'Shea surname in Iveragh, County Kerry. So far, the legend could be historically accurate. However, the surname O'Shea in fact first appears in the Annals of Innisfallen, under the year A.D. 1041 ("Ua Ségda, king of Corcu Duibne was slain"), about a century earlier than the time when Odanus Ó Seaghdha is said to have flourished. Thus, Odanus, if he really existed, could not have been the first person to bear the surname of O'Shea. Furthermore, the name "Odanus" could be an invention modeled on the name of a later important (and undoubtedly historical) member of this family who was named Odoneus. Finally, the tradition that the surname derived from an ancestor named Sheadh mac Cuirc (who appears in variants of the synethetic O'Shea genealogy as "Seagha mac Corc") does not agree with the tradition found in the much earlier Book of Leinster genealogies, which appear to trace the Ua Séghdha clan back to an ancestor named Era Ség mac Irchond. The warrior "Sheadh mac Cuirc" or "Seagha mac Corc" looks like a garbled memory of "Era Ség mac Irchond," though he may rather be the invention of a later genealogist who was unaware of the earlier tradition found in the Book of Leinster. On the other hand, "Seagha mac Corc" might simply represent the fact that the Ua Séghdha's name-father was member of the Corco Duibne. It could also be the case that the O'Shea's eponymous ancestor Seagha mac Corc really existed, and that the name "Corc" was popular in this tribe simply because it was a part of the Corco Duibne.
The traditional Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Shea genealogy will be presented in greater detail below, but a few other initial observations about it should be made. For instance, the traditional genealogy also claims that Odanus Ó Seaghdha was "Lord of the manors of Cloran-O'Shee, Clone-O'Shee, and Drangan-O'Shee, in the barony of Middlethird and county of Tipperary, and of the Canthred of Texnane O'Shee, in the county of Kerry, (situated in the barony of Iveragh)" (See John Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland, page 121). Notably, in the medieval Justiciary Rolls of Ireland, Drangan in County Tipperary is named as the seat of one or more O'Shee families during the early 1300s. From Odanus, the legendary lineage is then traced down to a Thadeus O'Shee ("Thadeus" probably stands for the Gaelic name "Tadg"), who is said to be seventh in descent from Odanus. Thadeus, so it is claimed, left Texnane O'Shee (Sisceann Ui Sheaghdha, O'Shea's Marsh, in Iveragh, chief seat of the O'Sheas of County Kerry) about the late 1200s A.D. and settled in County Tipperary, where he became the ancestor of the O'Shee, Shee, O'Shea, McShea, and Shea families of Counties Tipperary and Kilkenny.
As noted above, Y chromosome DNA testing has shown that the primary claim of this tradition -- that the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Sheas were descendants in the male-line of the Kerry O'Sheas -- is false. The Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Sheas belong to the Irish Type IV/Continental sub-clade, while the original O'Sheas of County Kerry belong to an entirely separate genetic sub-clade. The Kerry O'Sheas and the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Sheas do share a common male ancestor, but DNA test results indicate that, whoever he was, he most likely lived no less than 1,000 years before the birth of Christ and probably even earlier than that. Consequently, we must reject the legend that the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Sheas were male-line representatives of the original O'Sheas who had migrated from County Kerry to Tipperary circa 1300 A.D. Furthermore, as we shall see below, a close examination of the traditional Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Shea genealogy seems to reveal telltale signs that this family did not originate in the male line from the Kerry O'Shea clan.
Where, then, did this family of O'Sheas come from, and why did they trace their genealogy back to the Kerry O'Sheas? Admittedly, an overview of their history will provide little if any reason to suspect that the O'Sheas of Tipperary and Kilkenny were anything but a native Gaelic clan or tribe. To illustrate, I note that James O'Shea, in his "A History of the O'Shea Clan," summarizes and describes this family as follows (emphasis added):
"Records of the early fourteenth century note the presence of Shethes and Shees in the vicinity of Drangan in south-east Tipperary, not far from the medieval town of Fethard. Up to recent research it was believed these were descendants of the Kerry O'Sheas. Over a number of generations they became relatively prosperous and built up relations with their Anglo Norman overlords, the Butlers, controllers of much of Tipperary. By 1381 they had become so acceptable to their masters that Odoneus O'Shee was granted letters of Denization and a coat of arms by the English King of Arms, thus becoming one of the first members of a Gaelic family to be so awarded. By 1500 descendants of the Tipperary settlers had spread to Kilkenny, generally known by the anglicised surname 'Shee' (pronounced Shea) and by 1600 headed by the enterprising and at times ruthless Sir Richard Shee, had become one of the most important and wealthiest families in Kilkenny. For almost 150 years the Shees were a dominant family in the region with extensive estates in both Kilkenny and Tipperary. Although recognised as a Gaelic rather than an old English family, they worked closely with the establishment."
To all appearances, then, these O'Sheas were a native Irish tribe, having lived in County Tipperary since the 1300s, and were so firmly established in County Kilkenny that they in fact came to be classified as one of the Twelve Tribes of Kilkenny. Nevertheless, appearances can be deceiving, as they are in this case. As members of the Irish Type IV sub-clade, it is extremely unlikely that the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Sheas were a native Irish family. That is because the Irish Type IV sub-clade includes not only families with Irish surnames, but also families from Britain as well as families from elsewhere in Europe who could not have had any connection with Ireland. As James O'Shea explains, the Irish Type IV's "matching surnames include a majority with British and Continental ancestry," and, "The majority of the conforming surnames would be considered British or from mainland Europe with a strong Norman presence." Continuing, O'Shea says:
"It might be possible to accept that the British surnames evolved from a S.E. Irish source, but it is almost impossible to see how the many Continental did. It is thus more logical to accept that the progenitor [of the Irish-Type IV sub-clade] was a European whose descendants migrated to Britain leaving offspring there, some of whom in turn moved westwards to Ireland. Alternatively, descendants could have migrated independently from the mainland directly to England and to Ireland. While no expert on medieval migrations, seeing the presence of many surnames of apparent Norman origin, it would appear that the progenitor could have been of Norman extraction whose descendants arrived in England as part of the Norman invasion of 1066 and subsequently adopted various surnames there. Later descendants could have been part of the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169 who settled in the S.E. of Ireland."
From this genetic analysis, the most likely explanation of the origin of the O'Sheas of Tipperary and Kilkenny is that they were an Anglo-Norman family who arrived in Ireland in or soon after the Anglo-Norman Invasion of A.D. 1169. It has always been known that many Anglo-Norman invaders forged ties and alliances, both political and marital, with native Gaelic tribes, and in time several of these Anglo-Norman families "became more Irish than the Irish themselves," as the old saying goes. Their "going native," so to speak, could sometimes extend even to the point of the invention of genealogies tracing their families back to native Gaelic clans. For example, the unquestionably Anglo-Norman families of Eustace, Lords Portlester and Viscounts Baltinglass, and Power of County Waterford, became so "gaelicised" that they were known, respectively, as the Cinel Iusdasach and the Cinel Puerach, although they still preferred Norman given names such as Iusdas (Eustace), Muiris (Maurice), Uilliam (William), Risdeard (Richard), or Piarus (Piers). The families of Eustace and Power maintained that they were descendants of an early Anglo-Norman invader named Sir Robert de Poer, but that did not prevent the Irish genealogist Dugald MacFirbis, writing in the mid-1600s, from dutifully tracing their genealogies back to an entirely fictitious Gaelic eponym named "Por," supposedly a son of Donnchadh, King of Munster, son of Brian Boruma, High-King of Ireland. (See John O'Hart's Irish Pedigrees, vol. I, pages 87, 252)
It seems that something similar also happened in the case of the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Sheas, who were classified as a Gaelic family and published their legendary genealogy in the 1500s which traced their male-line genealogy back to the ancient O'Shea clan of County Kerry. Despite the accepted belief that the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Sheas were a native Gaelic tribe, nevertheless the fact that they worked closely with the English ruling establishment, and the fact that they preferred Norman given names such as Robert, William, and Richard, are probably telltale signs that they were an Anglo-Norman family who had assimilated into native Irish culture.
Given what we know of the history of Anglo-Norman families in Ireland, it is hardly surprising that an Anglo-Norman family might assimilate into Gaelic culture and eventually come to behave as and to be thought of as a Gaelic clan. But if the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Sheas were originally an Anglo-Norman family, how did they acquire a Gaelic surname? Unfortunately a definitive answer to that question is impossible, but the available evidence enables us to propose a few hypothetical explanations.
Perhaps the most likely explanation is the one that is briefly sketched by James O'Shea in his two essays on the Irish Type IV sub-clade and the O'Sheas of Tipperary/Kilkenny. Some Irish families who belong to the Irish Type IV sub-clade have surnames that indicate they are of Norman descent (such as the Butler/Boteler family), but others have Gaelic surnames (such as O'Gorman, Whelan, Reilly, O'Neill of Waterford, Kennedy, and O'Shea). O'Shea proposes that the Gaelic-surnamed Irish Type IV/Continental families may originally have been Anglo-Norman:
"They could perhaps even have been kin of those who adopted the Butler surname. The other Irish surnames could have been adopted over the generations by the usual methods of paternity events, fostering, intermarriage, adoption etc. It is known that there were strong links between the incoming settlers and the native Irish resulting, for instance, in James Butler (d.1487) the father of the eighth earl of Ormond being fostered out, probably to Kennedy foster parents. . . . It would thus appear possible that the O'Sheas of Tipp/KK are genetically of Norman extraction who, arriving with one of the various invasion groups in the late twelfth century, adopted a name something like the [surname] Osseth . . ., just as one of the most prominent invasion families adopted the surname Butler. In fact the Tipp/KK group does have a close 34/37 match with the Butler lineage E, although this could be just a coincidence." (Conjecture on the Origins of the O'Sheas of Tipperary and Kilkenny, James O' Shea, pages 3-4)
Why would a family of Anglo-Norman settlers adopt the name of "Osseth" or "Oshethe" (O'Shee)? The most likely reason is intermarriage with a family of Gaelic O'Sheas -- that is, an Anglo-Norman adventurer, perhaps related in the male-line to the Boteler/Butler family, married a woman who belonged to an O'Shea clan and forged a close affinity to his wife's clan. The children of that marriage may have taken their mother's name. Another scenario is that an Anglo-Norman family in Ireland had a son who was fostered by an O'Shea family, and so came to adopt his foster parents' clan name. It's also possible that both a marital alliance between an Anglo-Norman family and an O'Shea clan as well as an adoption took place. Be all that as it may, in time the descendants of this formerly Anglo-Norman family assimilated into Irish culture to such an extent that by 1300 they had begun to use Gaelic Christian names, and in time they forgot their true origins and naturally came to believe that they were male-line descendants of an O'Shea clan. This adoptive native Irish O'Shea clan, perhaps female-line ancestors of this Anglo-Norman family, may have been a branch of the ancient O'Sheas of County Kerry. That would account for the tradition that the Shees or O'Sheas of Tipperary and Kilkenny were male-line descendants of the Kerry O'Sheas. As James O'Shea says:
"Some of the early O'Sheas in Tipperary bore English sounding names such as Philip, Robert, Richard, Adam and David, while others had the Gaelic names of Donechyt, Royery and Lorcan. Perhaps some O'Sheas did migrate to Tipperary and some of their women interbred with those of Norman descent who were plentiful in the area and who then adopted a variant of O'Shea as a new (and possibly first) surname. The male line of those originally from Kerry may have died out leaving the new strain to flourish and expand into Waterford and Kilkenny."
Given the absence of pertinent historical and genealogical documents dating from the period when the O'Sheas of Tipperary and Kilkenny originated in Ireland, examinations of the question of this family's origins must involve a great deal of conjecture. Thus, we can't be sure that the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Sheas had any kind of connection to the Kerry O'Sheas, and we can't even be sure how this family acquired the surname of O'Shea. Unless and until more evidence comes to light, James O'Shea's conjecture, or conjectures like it, are the best we can do at this time.
In County Tipperary, the surname of O'Shee first appears in the historical record in the year 1297, when the Justiciary Rolls of Ireland mention an outlaw in Leinster named Dermot OSethe (or Oseghe), who was in league with the Leinster royal clans of O'Toole, O'Byrne, and MacMurrough in committing robberies and depredations. It is somewhat remarkable to find an O'Shee in Leinster as early as 1297, but Dermot no doubt was one of the many O'Shees of County Tipperary, which borders on Leinster. Dermot is named a second time in the Justiciary Rolls in 1310, when he was sentenced to be hanged for his robberies.
In addition to the two references to the outlaw Dermot O'Shee, from the year 1300 until 1312 the Justiciary Rolls of Ireland describe several serious civil disturbances and violent crimes in Counties Tipperary and Kilkenny in which a number of men surnamed "Osseth," "Osheth," "Oshethe," and "Osethe" were among those who took part. A total of 38 O'Shees are named in the Justiciary Rolls during these years. These O'Shees lived at or near Drangan in the southeast part of County Tipperary (in the vicinity of the medieval town of Fethard). It is notable that 19 of the O'Shees in the Justiciary Rolls had Gaelic names (sometimes including a Gaelic patronymic), while 16 had typically Norman or English names. (There are also two references in 1306 to an O'Shee of Tipperary with the Norse name of Magnus, possibly the same man both times. A Stephen Oshyth, perhaps or perhaps not an O'Shee, also appears in 1306. An R... Osseth of County Tipperary is named in 1300, but due to the partial reading of his Christian name, it cannot be determined if he had a Gaelic or a Norman name). Perhaps this prevalence of Gaelic Christian names means some of these Tipperary O'Sheas were members of a native Irish clan while others belonged to the Anglo-Norman O'Shees, or perhaps it simply means that by this time the Anglo-Norman O'Shees had already assimilated into Irish culture and had become ethnically Irish.
The surname of O'Shee next appears in the records of County Tipperary in 1377, when a certain Thomas Ossheth and his wife appear in a deed of attorney by Thomas Yong, who appointed Stephen Crynan to place Thomas Ossheth and his wife in seisin of lands in Crumpistown, Elyottesheis, Oldtoun and Kylcowll, all in Tipperary. A few years later, in 1381, at Clonmel, County Tipperary, Odoneus O'Shee and his three brothers William O'Shee, John O'Shee, and Edmund O'Shee, each received Letters of Denization from Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, essentially granting them the rights and status of subjects of the English crown. At the same time, as noted previously, Odoneus received a grant of heraldic arms, becoming one of the first Irish nobles to obtain a grant of hereditary arms from an English herald. Odoneus had a very large number of descendants in Counties Tipperary and Kilkenny and other parts of Ireland.
From the late 1300s through the mid-1500s in County Tipperary, several men bearing forms of the O'Shea surname appear in the Calendar of Ormond Deeds, such as John O'Sheth in 1389 (probably the abovementioned brother of Odoneus O'Shee), Makrobert O'Sheth, Shane O'Sheth, and David O'Sheth. Other variants of the surname in the Ormond Deeds include "O'Shethe" in 1400, "Shethe" in 1418, and "O'She" in 1545. As noted above, the Butlers, Earls of Ormond, controlled much of County Tipperary, and were feudal superiors of the O'Shees.
From County Tipperary, branches of this family had spread east to County Kilkenny by 1500. There they rose to prominence as "sovereigns" (mayors) of the city of Kilkenny. One particularly notable and powerful member of the Kilkenny branch was Sir Richard Shee (died 1608), Deputy Treasurer to the Earl of Ormond. Other branches spread south to County Waterford, or west to County Limerick. Most members of this family went by the surname of "Shee," but other forms also appear, such as "O'Shee," "O'Shea," "Shea," "McShea," and "McShee," and even some of the older variants such as "Shethe," "Sheeth, "O'Shethe," etc., occasionally are found as late as the 1600s. According to James O'Shea, "The surname 'O'Shea' was first observed in 1587 and it and 'Shea' gradually became popular." (Conjecture on the Origins of the O'Sheas of Tipperary and Kilkenny, Aug. 2012, page 1)
Shown here is the blazon from the 1582 Confirmation of Arms by Robert Cook, Clarencieux King of Arms, to Sir Richard Shee of Kilkenny (died 1608), Deputy Treasurer to the Earl of Ormond. This was a confirmation of arms first granted in 1381 to Sir Richard's ancestor Odoneus O’Shee of Drangan, and an allowance of quarterings.
Concerning the branch of the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Sheas that had settled in County Limerick, James O'Shea briefly comments in his clan history as follows:
"Shees also had a presence in Limerick where in 1600 Rory McShee was described as chief of his name, being listed as one of those who had 'the greatest and best part of the county of Limerick'. Unlike their kinsmen in Kilkenny, these McShees were rebels who 'from the cradle inclined to mischief'. As a result Rory's brother Murtogh Óge was executed in Cork in 1597 by 'having his arms and thighs broken with a sledge and hung in chains'."
In Sir William Petty's 1659 survey of Ireland, "tituladoes" (i.e., prominent individuals) and Irish families surnamed "Shea," "O'Shea," "Shee," "O'Shee," "Sea," and "McShea" could be found not only in County Kerry, but also in the counties of Clare, Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Tipperary, Kilkenny, and Laois. Remarkably, the only O'Shea tituladoes that Petty found all lived in the counties of Tipperary and Kilkenny. In 1659, Tipperary had 131 Shea or O'Shea families and only one Shea titulado, and Kilkenny had 100 Shea or Shee or McShea families and eight tituladoes of those names. The lone Shea titulado of Tipperary was Richard Shea, gentleman, of the townland of Ballyloingne in Killanunnane Parish, in the barony of Sleavordagh. Following are the eight Shea, Shee, or McShea tituladoes of County Kilkenny in the 1659 survey:
Edmond McShea, gentleman, Ballyknocke townland, Disertmone Parish, barony of Ida, Igrin and Ibercon William Shea, gentleman, Watons groue townland, barony of Knoktopher Nicholas Shea, merchant, Ballyraggett townland, barony of Fassagh Deinin Robert Shea, gentleman, Towne of Kells, barony of Kells Thomas Shea, gentleman, Rathcubbin and Spruces Hayes townland, barony of Kells Robert Shea, gentleman, Caherslesky townland, barony of Kells Richard Shea, gentleman, Killary townland, barony of Crannagh John Shea, gentleman, Ballydaniell townland, barony of Crannagh
As noted above in another excerpt from James O'Shea's clan history, by 1600 the Shees or O'Shees "had become one of the most important and wealthiest families in Kilkenny. For almost 150 years Shees were a dominant family in the region with extensive estates in both Kilkenny and Tipperary." Continuing, James O'Shea also observes:
"Descendants of the various prominent [Shee] families of this period were both Catholic and Protestant and confusingly some retained the 'Shee' [spelling] while others adopted O'Shee, O'Shea and Shea. During the turbulent seventeenth century many of their estates were confiscated; first after Cromwell and later after the Boyne. Nevertheless some descendants managed to still own very substantial estates in Kilkenny, Waterford and Galway into the 19th century."
Elsewhere, James O'Shea goes into somewhat more detail about those descendants who held estates in Kilkenny, Waterford and Galway. O'Shea notes that at the time of the Griffith Survey of Ireland in 1852,
". . . Nationally the largest O'Shea landowner was Nicholas Poer O'Shee, a direct descendant of Sir Richard Shee of Kilkenny (died 1608), with 7,500 acres in Waterford and Kilkenny and Sir George Shee, descended from Sir Richard's brother Elias, with 738 tenancies near Tuam in Co. Galway. Sir George (1784-1870) was the son of Sir George Shea (1754-1825) who had made his fortune in India, being for a while secretary to Warren Hastings the CEO of the East India Company. On his return to Galway in 1780 he purchased the Ross estate comprising some 11,000 acres, thus becoming the only Kilkenny Shee descendant to create landholdings to rival that of his ancestors."
Besides the Shees and O'Shees who remained in Ireland, James O'Shea notes that some members of this family sought their fortunes on the continent of Europe:
"Others emigrated and distinguished themselves in European armies, particularly in France where many either married into minor noble houses or were themselves awarded French titles for services rendered. Although those who remained in Ireland generally kept their Catholic religion, they were completely Anglicised and would have been considered by Irish nationalists as being no different to the Anglo-Irish ruling landlord class, resulting in the burning of probably the finest remaining seat of the Shee descendants, that of the Poer-O'Shee residence at Gardenmorris, near Kill in Co. Waterford, by the IRA in the 1920s. The Shee name and descendants are now rare in Ireland."
Shown at left is Gardenmorris House as it appeared circa 1900, and at right is the house as it appears today. The house dates from the 1600s, when it was the residence of the Power (Poer) family, which, as noted above, was an Irish family of Anglo-Norman origin. Additions to the house and remodeling were done in the 1700s. Around that time, Gardenmorris was inherited by the O'Shees of Sheestown, due to the marriage of Elizabeth Power of Gardenmorris and John O'Shee of Sheestown. Their descendants are known as the Power O'Shees. In the 1800s, Gardenmorris House was enlarged and re-designed in the style of a French chateau. Members of the Irish Republican Army set Gardenmorris to the torch in 1923, destroying most of the library and artworks in the house, which had to be almost completely rebuilt. An octagonal tower survived the fire, and the house was reconstructed according to its pre-fire plan.
Having sketched the general outline of the history of the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Sheas, next we shall begin to trace their genealogy in greater detail.
Our treatment of the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Shea genealogy commences with a legendary, traditional pedigree, which proceeds down to the latter 1300s, at which point we reach indisputably historical and documented generations. We then bring the genealogy of the family down to the 1800s. Unfortunately, the initial portion of the pedigree is demonstrably fictional, while the subsequent generations are impossible to verify prior to the late 1300s. That does not mean this subsequent portion of the genealogy is purely fictional or imaginary -- it could well be historically accurate or substantially so. It does mean, however, that one cannot regard it as proven and established to be true.
The chief source for the following genealogy is Rev. William Healy's 1893 History and Antiquities of Kilkenny (County and City), vol. I, pages 128-145, a very detailed account which in turn was based on the work of an earlier influential peerage writer and genealogist named William Playfair, compiler of Family Antiquity of the British Nobility (also called "British Family Antiquity") and British Baronetage, which were printed from 1809 to 1811. Playfair treated the baronetage of Ireland and affiliated Irish families -- including the Shees or O'Shees of Tipperary and Kilkenny -- in volume IX of his "British Family Antiquity" and in volume four of his "British Baronetage." With Rev. Healy's account, I have collated and compared the summarised genealogies conveniently found in John Bernard Burke's 1852 A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire, pages 892-893; John Burke's 1835 A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. II, pages 120-126; Sir Bernard Burke's 1852 A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, pages 979-981; Sir Bernard Burke's 1852 A Genealogical and Heraldic History, pages 355-356; and John O'Hart's 1881 Irish Pedigrees: Or, The Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation, pages 895-898. Of course I must stress that the various Burke's and O'Hart publications are, as I said, convenient summaries -- but being that their genealogies are usually unsourced or undocumented, as well as being older publications whose treatment of their subjects has usually been superseded and corrected by more recent scholarship, it is very important to treat the O'Shea genealogies from Burke's and O'Hart with caution. For the purposes of tracing this genealogy, O'Healy and Playfair are generally more trustworthy than Burke's and O'Hart, but even so O'Healy and Playfair cannot be regarded as infallible and unimpeachable, as we shall see.
Besides those sources, at Ancestry.com one may find several undocumented and dubious family trees that include variants of a synthetic version of the traditional Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Shee or O'Shea genealogy that bears close comparison with the summarised accounts of O'Healy, Burke's, and O'Hart. However, whereas those publications commence their accounts with the legendary founder of the family Odanus O'Shee, this synthetic genealogy extends the purported genealogy of Odanus for several generations, tracing the lineage back to a manifestly fictitious William who supposedly was the son of the Floinn mac Olchobhair presented in the comparative genealogical chart in Part One as the grandson of Seagha mac Corc, eponym of the Kerry O'Shea tribe.
Here is one version of the traditional Tipperary'Kilkenny O'Shee genealogy:
William, son of Floinn, was the father of -- Richard Mor, father of -- Richard Og, born circa A.D. 903, father of -- William Robert, father of -- Amlaidhe, father of -- Robert John, father of -- Richard, father of -- Odanus O'Shee, born circa A.D. 1040.
Another version of the genealogy, which favors Gaelic forms of names, is as follows:
Uilliam Ó Seaghdha, born A.D. 980 in Iveragh, County Kerry, died 1040, father of -- Riocaird Ó Seaghdha, born 1010, father of -- Maoilleithir Ó Seaghdha, born 1050, father of two sons, Murchad Ó Seaghdha (1065-1127), and -- Amhlaibhe Ó Seaghdha, born 1070 in Iveragh, father of -- Sean Ó Seaghdha, born 1090 in Iveragh, father of two sons, Tadhg Ó Seaghdha, and -- Riocaird Ó Seaghdha, born 1115 in the barony of Middlethird, County Tipperary, father of -- Robeird Ó Seaghdha, born 1135 in Middlethird, father of -- Oda Ó Seaghdha, born 1158 in Middlethird.
This "Oda" was Odanus Ó Seaghdha, that is Odanus O'Shee, who as we have seen is traditionally (and quite erroneously) said to have been the first man to assume the surname of Ó Seaghdha or O'Shee in 1158 (cf. this pedigree's stated year of birth for Oda). Despite that tradition, this synthetic genealogy gives the surname of Ó Seaghdha to all seven of the purported ancestors of Oda/Odanus. Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Shea tradition also claims that these O'Sheas left County Kerry in the late 1200s and settled in County Tipperary, but the second version of this synthetic genealogy apparently claims the migration to County Tipperary had taken place circa A.D. 1100. However, it is specifically the names of these supposed ancestors of Odanus that are the clearest indication that this genealogy is a fabrication. While some of the names are authentic Gaelic ethnic names (Maoilleithir, Murchadh, Amlaidhe or Amhlaibhe, Tadg), other names are quintessentially and typically Anglo-Norman (William or Uilliam, Richard or Riocaird, Robert or Robeird), while the name John or Sean is probably Anglo-Norman since we don't see the older Gaelic equivalent "Eoin." These Anglo-Norman names are glaringly obvious anachronisms -- for these individuals are claimed as native Irish who lived prior to the advent of the Anglo-Normans who brought the names of William, Richard, and Robert to Ireland in A.D. 1169. The second version's conceit of utilising Gaelic spellings of given names cannot obscure the fact that it is impossible that any Ua Ségda kings of Corco Duibne circa A.D. 1000-1100 or earlier could have been named William or Richard or Robert. For the same reason, it is impossible that Floinn mac Olchobhair could have named his son "William," and no Corco Duibne tribe in the ninth century A.D. could have had members named "Richard."
Thus it is clear that, regardless of where these Ancestry.com family trees found this O'Shea pedigree, this particular strand of the pedigree must be rejected as a work of fiction. Presumably the historical Kerry O'Shea names of Murchadh and Tadg were attached to the pedigree at some point due to the old, mistaken tradition that the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Sheas had come from the Kerry O'Sheas. As we noted in Part One, the medieval Annals of Innisfallen say that Murchad Ua Ségda, king of Corco Duibne, was banished in 1124 and slain in 1127 (just as this pedigree says Murchad Ó Seaghdha died in 1127), and that Tadc Ua Ségda was slain in 1118. It is unclear whether this pedigree's Tadhg Ó Seaghdha, supposed grand-nephew of Murchad Ó Seaghdha, is meant to be the Tadc Ua Ségda of the Annals of Innisfallen, but at the very least we can be reasonably sure that the appearance of the name Tadhg in this spurious pedigree is due in part to the annalistic entry on Tadc's death.
Seeing that the purported ancestry of Odanus O'Shee is fictitious, we turn now to the traditional O'Shea pedigree which commences with Odanus himself.
1. ODANUS Ó SEAGHDHA (Odanus O'Shee, sometimes called "Oda" in older publications), traditionally -- but erroneously -- said to have been the first to assume the O'Shea surname in A.D. 1158. Most sources say Odanus lived in the 1100s, but some say he lived in the tenth century. Tipperary/Kilkenny tradition also says Odanus was a male-line descendant of Sheadh mac Cuirc (Seagha mac Corc), supposedly born circa A.D. 730 in County Kerry, ancestor and eponym of the O'Shea clan of Kerry. Odanus was said to be lord of the manors of Cloran-O'Shee, Clone-O'Shee, and Drangan-O'Shee, in the barony of Middlethird and county of Tipperary, and of the cantred of Texnane-O'Shee in the barony of Iveragh and county of Kerry. Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Shea tradition says Odanus moved from County Kerry to County Tipperary in the early or middle 1100s. The lands of Cloran (Cloghran), Clone, and Drangan are all historically associated with the O'Sheas of Tipperary/Kilkenny, but this family never had any connection to Iveragh and thus were not lords of Texnane-O'Shee (Sisceann Ui Sheaghdha, O'Shea's Marsh, near the source of the River Inny -- Sisceann, also spelled Sheskinan or Sheskanane, was the chief seat of the Kerry O'Sheas).
Now, as previously noted, the form of the name "Odanus" is unusual and problematic. It could be a latinised form of a Gaelic name such as Aodhan (Aedhan) or Aodh (Aedh, which was usually anglicised as "Hugh"), or it might derive from a misreading of the name "Adamus" or Adam, more common among Anglo-Norman families. Notably, it may or may not be significant that a legal document dated April 24-May 1, 1306, and registered in the Justiciary Rolls of Ireland mentions an Adam Oshethe (Adam O'Shee) among many other O'Shees and other Irish noblemen who were granted a royal pardon for any robberies or other crimes they may have committed, in recogition of their assistance in fighting native Irish insurgents in the mountains of Leinster in the autumn of 1305. Was the Adam O'Shee of 1306 a descendant and namesake of Odanus/Odamus/Adamus? Again, "Odanus" or "Oda" may represent the Germanic Anglo-Norman name Oda (a variant form of Odo or Otho or Otto). In light of the fact that the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Sheas are an Irish Type IV/Continental family, perhaps the hypothesis that "Odanus" was a form of Adam or Odo should be preferred to the "Aodhan" hypothesis. On the other hand, the name and the individual "Odanus" could be nothing more than an invention, perhaps modeled on the undoubtedly historical Odoneus O'Shee who lived in the latter 1300s.
Even so, it could well be that Odanus O'Shee was a real person, perhaps an Anglo-Norman adventurer who settled in Tipperary in or soon after A.D. 1169 and became the actual founder of this family in Ireland. It is interesting that Odanus traditionally is said to have been roughly contemporary with the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. Although it is true that Odanus could not have been the first man in Ireland to assume the O'Shea surname, perhaps he was the first man in his Anglo-Norman family to assume the surname, maybe having formed a political or marital alliance with a branch of the Kerry O'Shea clan.
Be all of that as it may, according to tradition Odanus was the father of --
2. ROBERT O'SHEE, son of Odanus O'Shee. Significantly, the Anglo-Norman name of "Robert" immediately appears in the traditional genealogy of the family of Odanus. It is noteworthy that the Justiciary Rolls of Ireland mention a Rob. Osseth de D..ngan (Robert O'Shee of Drangan) in a Common Plea dated at Callan, Counties Tipperary and Kilkenny, on 28 June 1300. According to that document in the Justiciary Rolls, Robert Osseth of Drangan was one of numerous other O'Shees and other Irish nobles or landed men who had engaged in civil disturbances and bloodshed near Callan. That reference in the Justiciary Rolls and the traditional genealogy of the O'Shees both attest to the popularity of the name "Robert" in this family. Robert, traditionally said to be son of Odanus, was said to be the father of --
3. RICHARD O'SHEE, son of Robert O'Shee. Once again we find an Anglo-Norman name, "Richard," in this family. The person who fabricated the synthetic genealogy of the purported ancestors of Odanus may have drawn the names of "Riocaird" and "Robeird" from this portion of the traditional O'Shea pedigree. Interestingly enough, the abovementioned legal document of April 24-May 1, 1306, found in the Justiciary Rolls of Ireland mentions a Ric. son of Alex. Oshethe (Richard son of Alexander O'Shee) who, along with Adam O'Shee and many other O'Shees and other Irish noblemen, was granted a royal pardon for any robberies or other crimes he may have committed, in recogition of his help in fighting native Irish insurgents in the mountains of Leinster in the autumn of 1305. We see, then, that the name of "Richard" was popular among the O'Shees of County Tipperary. Richard, traditionally said to be son of Robert, was said to be the father of --
4. ROBERT O'SHEE, son of Richard O'Shee. In this segment of the traditional pedigree of the O'Shees, we find a series of doublets of the names Robert and Richard, which, as we have noted, were very popular in this family. Thus, this second Robert is said to have been the father of --
5. RICHARD O'SHEE, son of Robert O'Shee. This second Richard O'Shee is said to have been the father of --
6. CORMACK O'SHEE, of Cloghran, County Tipperary, son of Richard O'Shee. As mentioned before, the lands of Cloghran or Cloran are historically associated with the O'Shees of County Tipperary. It should be noted, however, that the synthetic O'Shea genealogy discussed above omits entirely the two pairs of Roberts and Richards in this pedigree, instead showing Cormac Ó Seaghdha (supposedly born 1190 in the barony of Middlethird in County Tipperary) as the son of Oda or Odanus. Be that as it may, the appearance of the Gaelic name "Cormac" in this genealogy, in which we have so far seen mostly if not entirely Anglo-Norman names, would indicate that this family had begun to assimilate into native Irish culture. It is also noteworthy that the Justiciary Rolls of Ireland mention a Cormok M'aulech Osseth (Cormac son of Awley O'Shee) in a Common Plea dated at Callan, Counties Tipperary and Kilkenny, on 28 June 1300. According to that document in the Justiciary Rolls, Cormok M'Aulech was one of numerous other O'Shees and other Irish nobles or landed men who had engaged in civil disturbances and bloodshed near Callan. It's also interesting that the name of Aulech or Awley (a Gaelic name of Norse derivation, coming from "Anulaifur," that is, Anlaf or Olaf) also appears in the abovementioned synthetic O'Shea genealogy (i.e., Amhlaibhe Ó Seaghdha, purportedly an ancestor of Odanus O'Shee). Cormack, traditionally said to be son of Richard, is said to have been the father of --
7. RICHARD O'SHEE, son of Cormack O'Shee. According to Playfair and Healy, this third Richard had a son named Thadeus. The synthetic O'Shea pedigree says Richard also had a younger son named Walter, supposedly born in 1255 in County Kerry (whereas the same pedigree much more plausibly places the birth of Walter's older brother Thadeus in Middlethird, County Tipperary). The connection with Kerry is, of course, unhistorical, and the synthetic pedigree's dates of birth are apparently only estimates. Thus, Richard is said to have had two sons --
8. THADEUS O'SHEE -- WALTER O'SHEE
8. THADEUS O'SHEE, son of Richard O'Shee. Healy identifies him as "Lord of Drangan, Cloghran, Clone, O'Shee, Cramin's Castle and the Cantred of Tirnane-O'Shee, &c. He left issue four sons, viz. — (1) William, (2) Odonius, (3) John, (4) Edmond, . . ." (History and Antiquities of Kilkenny, page 131). John Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland (1835), vol. 2, page 121, mentions the tradition that Thadeus O'Shee "removed from Texnane O'Shee to the county of Tipperary." Healy's "Clone, O'Shee" is a typographical error for "Clone-O'Shee," which was mentioned previously as one of the manors of the legendary Odanus O'Shee. Similarly, "Tirnane-O'Shee" is a typographical error for "Texnane-O'Shee," a cantred in County Kerry that was mistakenly associated with this family, but in fact was the chief seat of the ancient Ua Ségda of Iveragh, traditionally claimed as male-line ancestors of the O'Shees of Tipperary and Kilkenny. Thus, there is no basis for the tradition that Thadeus relocated from Texnane-O'Shee to County Tipperary. Assuming that Thadeus really existed, he would have lived in or near Drangan in County Tipperary throughout his life.
Besides Healy's typographical errors, his statement that Thadeus was the father of the four brothers William, Odonius (Odoneus), John, and Edmond is contradicted by other sources, as can be seen in the various Burke's publications. Thus, John Burke's Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 2, page 121, says Thadeus was the "grandfather" -- not father -- of Odoneus and his three brothers. The Burke's publications and O'Hart also state that Odoneus was 10th in descent from Odanus. But if Odoneus was grandson of Thadeus, that would mean there were a total of 10 generations inclusive from Odanus to Odoneus, making Odoneus ninth in descent from Odanus. It appears that "10th in descent from Odanus" is a mistake for "10 generations from Odanus to Odoneus." That would mean that Odoneus' grandfather Thadeus was seventh in descent from Odanus.
It is particular relevant that the abovementioned legal document of April 24-May 1, 1306, recorded in the Justiciary Rolls of Ireland, mentions a Taygg Oshethe (Tadg O'Shee) who, along with Adam O'Shee, Richard son of Alexander O'Shee, and many other O'Shees and other Irish noblemen, was granted a royal pardon for any robberies or other crimes he may have committed, in recogition of his help in fighting native Irish insurgents in the mountains of Leinster in the autumn of 1305. This reference in the Justiciary Rolls is significant, because the name "Thadeus" is a latinisation of the Gaelic name "Tadg" (Tadc, Tadhg, "Teige"). Based on chronological and onomastic considerations, it is not impossible that "Taygg Oshethe" was Thadeus O'Shee, grandfather of Odoneus O'Shee and his three brothers. If not the same as this Thadeus, however, this reference still attests to the usage of this name among the O'Shees of County Tipperary around the beginning of the 14th century, a further indication of assimilation into native Irish culture.
As noted above, although Healy says Thadeus O'Shee had four sons, other sources say Thadeus was the father of --
9. RICHARD O'SHEE, son of Thadeus O'Shee. Richard is said to have married CORDALA FITZGERALD, daughter of John Fitzgerald, a member of an important Anglo-Norman Irish family who became Barons of Naas, Barons of Offaly, and Earls of Kildare. The Fitzgeralds took their name from their ancestor Gerald, Constable of Pembroke in Wales in the early to middle 1100s, whose wife was Nesta, daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, King of Deheubarth (South Wales). It is unclear who Cordala's father John may have been, but John Fitzgerald was created 1st Earl of Kildare in 1316, so he presumably was the John Fitzgerald said to be Cordala's father. The 1st Earl of Kildare, who was fifth in descent from Gerald and Nesta, had two grandsons, brothers named John Fitzgerald, one who died young in 1323 and a second John who may have died in 1383. Be all that as it may, Richard O'Shee and Cordala Fitzgerald are said to have have four sons --
-- WILLIAM O'SHEE 10. ODONEUS O'SHEE -- JOHN O'SHEE -- EDMOND O'SHEE
It is with Odoneus and his three brothers that the genealogy of the O'Shees of Counties Tipperary and Kilkenny emerges from tradition and legend and reaches solid and documented history. The genealogy of the descendants of Odoneus down to modern times has been presented several times in standard publications of peerage and landed gentry, and the interested reader is referred to such publications to learn of the subsequent history of this family.
The O'Shea Y-DNA Surname Project O'Shea Surname: O'Shea, Shea, Shay y-DNA and Family History Weblog The O'Sheas of Tipperary and Kilkenny (Part One)
Census Records | Vital Records | Family Trees & Communities | Immigration Records | Military Records Directories & Member Lists | Family & Local Histories | Newspapers & Periodicals | Court, Land & Probate | Finding Aids