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The O'Hourihane, Hor(ri)gan
Han(d)rahan, and Horan DNA Projects


Project Background:
Origins of the Surname

What started as a seemingly straightforward research project - establishing the DNA haplogroups and haplotypes of Hourihanes in Cork - has quickly grown beyond the initial idea. The problem became more complex upon the realization that forms of one old surname have historically become confused with another. Internal migration within Ireland, regional dialects, illiteracy, and phonetic spellings may have all played a role. Therefore, we are compelled to seek additional information, about the following groups: 1) The O'Horans of the Connaught area, 2) The O'Hanrahans of Tipperary, 3) the O'Horgans of Cork. Were the people named O'Hourihane, a name common in Cork, from one or more of these groups or did they have a different origin? Our research initially started in southwest Cork but is expanding from there. Despite the expansion of the research domain and geography, the original question remains simple.

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Edward MacLysaght

According to MacLysaght, O’Hourihan(e), or Ó hAnradháin, was a sept of West Cork. The prominent family members were erenaghs (tithe collectors) in the parish of Ross.

O’Horgan, or Ó hArgáin, also has County Cork origins, and arises from the earlier form Ó hArragáin. Horgan took the form Horrigan in Cork and Kerry, Hourigan in Limerick, and possibly Arragan in south Waterford and in Tipperary. The same author proposes that Hourican, or Ó hAnnracháin, has origins in the Granard area of County Longford, and is not associated with the Munster Hourigan.

In Irish Families (IF) the author notes that Ó hArracháin, in itself a variation of Ó Hannradhain (Hanrahan), a Dalcassian sept from Thomond, is often anglicized Horan, thus confusing it with O'Horan (Ó hOdráin), a sept originating in County Galway and which spread to County Mayo. MacLysaght describes name variations Harhan, Haren, Haran and Haughran (the latter found in County Offaly) though it isn't always clear whether he's describing the Galway/Mayo sept or the Dalcassian sept - since there has been confusion between the names maybe the variations apply to both!

Back to Cork, MacLysaght says the Horohans (Hourahan), the erenaghs of Ross, were distinct from the Thomond sept, and that the Horans of Cork were "of this stock."

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Patrick Woulfe

The author of Irish Names and Surnames, lists the forms of Ó hANRADHÁIN: Hanrahan, Hourihane, Harraghan, Horoghane, Hourigan, Harragan, Horigane, Horgane, Hawrane, Howrane, Hanrahan, Hourihane, Hourigane, Horrigan, Haran, Horan, Horgan, etc. From this he breaks down:

  1. 1. Ó hANRACHÁIN (Hanraghane, Hanrahan, Handrahan) - The name of a Dalcassian family in Thomond.

  2. 2. Ó hANNRACHÁIN (Hawreghane, Howreghan, Hourihane, Hourahan, Hourihan, Hourican), a form peculiar to County Cork.

  3. 3. Ó hARRAGÁIN (Harragan, Horrogan, Horigane, Harrigan, Herrigan) with this form originating in Leix (now County Laois, and was called Queen's County). They were chiefs of Ui Creamhthainn, near Dunamase.

    Ó hARGÁIN (Horgan and Hargan) is a contracted form of #3, and frequently seen in Cork and Kerry.

  4. 4. Ó hIONNRADHÁIN (Heneron, Henrion), is a form from Corcaree in Westmeath.

  5. Ó hANNRAGÁIN (Howrigane, Hourigan) is yet another variation, and Woulfe points to Limerick and Tipperary for its origin.

  6. Ó hANNRÁIN (Hawrane, Howrane, Haran, Haren, Horen) is yet another variation.

Ó hODHRAGÁIN (Hourigaine, Hourigan) appears to be identified as a separate Corca Laoighdhe family in southwest Cork, but it cannot be distinguished in pronunciation from Ó hANNRAGÁIN.

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Michael O'Laughlin

In his Irish Families guide, O'Laughlin, who may have derived his information from the above two sources, says the following:

The O'Hanraghans were a clan in Tipperary. O'Hanrahans were chiefs of Corcaree in Westmeath. They are believed to have originated in Clare and Tipperary, and show up in the civil registration as Hanrahan. The name is also spelled Handrahan in Tipperary. It is believed that Hourahan and Hanrahan come from the same old name. Hourahan is found in Cork.

In the 1600's, Hanraghan was found in Sligo, O'Hanraghane was found in Clare, Hanraghane was found in Limerick, and O'Hanrahane was found in Tipperary.

Hargon was considered a Cork name. It is Hourigan in Limerick, Arragan in Waterford and in Tipperary, and Hargan shows up as far north as Ulster in the 1890 birth index. Horgan is associated with Cork and Kerry, and may be a form of Horrigan or Hourigan.

O'Laughlin cites the Keatings history for an explanation of Horan. O'Horan was noted in Galway and Mayo. Harhan was originally another family from Clare and has on occasion changed to Horan. O'Horohan of Cork is another name that became Horan. The O'Horohans were the erenaghs of Ross.

In his Families of County Cork, O'Laughlin cites "one source" stating that Horan was part of the Hy Nial tribe that lived in Cork, Wicklow, Limerick and Mayo. In the same work the author notes that in the surviving parts of the 1851 census Horgan, prevalent in Cork, appears in Monedrisane, Kilworth, and has also been linked with Rahan in Mallow.

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Brian Mitchell

In his book The Surnames of North West Ireland: Concise Histories of the Major Surnames of Gaelic and Planter Origin, researcher Brian Mitchell breaks down some of these names:

O hARGAIN was commonly anglicized Horgan in Munster but also as Hargan and Harrigan. Hargan is recognized in Ulster as a variant of Horgan. Admittedly, the geographic origin of the name is unknown but the author suggests that the burgeoning industrial base in Derry during the 19th century attracted workers from elsewhere in Ireland, and Hargan became a common name there.

O hARCHAIN from Country Leitrim and the Connaught area was anglicized as Harraghan and Harrigan. Like Hargan, Harrigan became common around Derry.

Two septs of O hEARAIN, anglicized as Harron, originated from counties Armagh and Donegal of Ulster.

It was the sept of O hARAIN, anglicized as Harron, from County Fermanagh, who were erenaghs in County Fermanagh, in the parish of Derryvullan, around Ballymacataggart.

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Other Opinions

An informant through a project member describes Hourihanes as of the "Guala" sept ("Guala" in Irish means "shoulder", so maybe this group had broad shoulders?), and that a member of this sept assisted a rebel named Hayes who killed a bailiff in Tipperary in 1862, guiding him past the old Skibbereen workhouse, into Cloghane, and eventually to Bantry, where a ship was departing for America. Hayes escaped because he was not recognized while dressed as a sailor, working on the rigging.

After the end of the American civil war, a young boy who went by the nickname Eugene Peg (his mother was Margaret McCarthy Sowney) remembered a group of Fenians staying in Cloghane, leaving a cavalry sword, still in the possession of family members.

Our informant is uncertain whether the eranaghs of Ross were originally from County Clare and moved to west Cork or whether they were a local clan. Regardless of their origins, the clan hung on to land near Castletownsend, but eventually after land confiscations were driven from their fertile lands first into Gortnamucklagh, then eventually they spread into Caheragh, which was boggy, hilly, and very forested. They did a lot of logging. An interesting footnote is that some of these people are known even today as carpenters and woodworkers.

In Gortnamucklagh, the family patriarch was Micheal, or "Foxy Mick." The family tree that we have from this informant, still very much conjecture at this point, but partially verified with some record lookups:

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Peadar Ó hAnnracháin (1873 – 1965), teacher, nationalist, writer, and editor of the Southern Star newspaper of Skibbereen, mentioned the spelling Ó hAmhracháin, put forth by the local writer Micheal O’Hourihane of Clohane, Caheragh in a July 8, 1950 newspaper article. In that same article a theory by writer and historian Jeremiah O’Mahony was offered. O’Mahony wrote the name Ó hOdharadháin, and pointed out that it was one of the clan names of Tuath O hAengusa (O'Hennessy), situated around the parishes of Ardfield and Ross near Clonakilty and extending possibly as far north as Drinagh parish.

Something like the latter spelling indeed appears in Genealogy of the Corca Laidhe, which suggests the name became Horgan, whereas the former spelling does not appear. O’Mahony argued for this as an important origin of Hourihane in south and west Cork, since the Hourihane name had been around for a while and was plentiful in the Carberies.

In his Southern Star column on January 18, 1947, Peadar Ó hAnnracháin did also give the following:

It seems that there were three or four branches of the Hourihane or O'Hourihane clan in that area for those of the name who lived in the Clohane and Bauravilla district were not related to one another or to the Tooreen branch. Other branches lived in the Dunmanway district, and still another branch in Knockmore in the parish of Kilmacabea.

In Appendix B - Cork Genealogies: Book of Lecan, of Early Irish History and Antiquities and the History of West Cork by Revd. W. O'Halloran, the Corca Laidhe Tuath O hAengusa name of Ua Odhradain is given as Horan, which concurs with MacLysaght (above).

In the article “What’s In a Name?” (The Septs, October 1992), author and genealogist Nora Hickey noted that Hourihane was one of several agnomens for O’Brien (another Dalcassian family) around Barryroe, near Clonakilty.

In Griffith's Valuation for the parish of Ross, a Fitzgerald is recorded with (Hour?) after his name. Could Fitzgeralds have been linked with Hourihanes?

Some sources place Horan with the Hy-Nial tribe, which ruled Connaught and Ulster. There is one project member in which that definitely seems to be the case.

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Like so many other surnames, then, the Hourihane surname could have been derived through different pathways. When tracing our ancestors, researchers must keep this in mind as we deal with the more mundane problems of locating and reading church records and civil registration records. To further complicate the matter, occasionally birth or marriage events didn’t get recorded or records were lost. In addition, emigrants may have changed their names – in the case of those emigrating to the United States, Howard was commonly adopted as the emigrant's new name. One project member reports that Handrahan became Henderson, and so forth.


This email is ONLY for DNA project related questions.
Susan J. Barretta, Project Administrator (or message hourihanedna on ancestry.com.)
Colm Ó hAnnracháin, Co-Administrator (in training)

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Last updated: Tuesday, 10-Dec-2013 20:26:35 MST