Irish Surnames – Sheehan, Sheahan, Sheen coat of arms

To further enhance our ever popular profiling of Irish surnames we’ve decided to move the fearure to our blog and allow for better and improved user interaction and feedback.

Taking the spotlight today is the name Sheehan or Sheahan.

Sheehan coat of arms

Sheehan coat of arms

The popular name Sheehan or Sheahan, often referred to in the USA as  Sheen or Shean, is the anglicisation of the Irish Ó Siodhacháin, from a diminutive of siodhach, meaning ‘peaceful’.
The eponymous ancestor of the family is disputed, but must have been unique among the Irish of the day to have deserved the description “peace maker”. Not every scholar accepts this origin of the name, but given the fact that the sept’s traditional coat of arms features a dove of peace, there will be few of the name who will want to consider any alternative. One ancient genealogy places the sept’s ancestor as a brother of Brian Boru while another has him as a member of the Scanlan sept. The Book of Leinster refers to “Muintir Sidechain” from a distant relative of Brian Boru.

Cormac Cas was King of Thomond (Tuathmhumhan, modern county Clare with adjacent parts of Limerick and Tipperary) around the fifth century and he spawned a tribal grouping known as the Dál gCais or Dalcassians which dominated Munster until the final suppression of the old Gaelic order in the seventeenth century. Their most famous family is that of O’Brien, but the group includes other well known families such as McNamara, O’Grady, Heffernan, McMahon, Hickey, Clancy, etc. Regardless of the precise identity of their ancestor, the sept of Ó Siodhacháin is believed by most authorities to be part of the Dál gCais, having a chief residence in Lower Connello, Co. Limerick. O’Sheehan, O’Meehan and O’Cullane all served as chiefs in that barony. Over the centuries, however, the members of the sept migrated southwards and in modern times the name is most common in County Cork, though also found in Kerry(profiled in our top 10 places to visit in Ireland) and Limerick. The name starts to appear regularly in the records of Cork from the fourteenth century mentioned in connection with Kilcredan parish in the diocese of Cloyne on several occasions. We find John Shyghan of Youghal who was a tailor there in 1617. In the same town we find William Sheehan as town clerk in 1688. We also find one Thadeus O’Sheaghan as a Church of Ireland Vicar of Inchigeelagh in 1639. In 1689 we find one Capt. William Sheehan in King James army list.

It is one of Ireland’s very numerous surnames: combining the alternative spellings it holds the seventy-fifth place in the list thereof, with an estimated total population in Ireland today of about eight thousand five hundred persons of the name. Of these the great majority were born in Co. Cork or, on its borders, in the adjacent counties of Kerry and Limerick. Read further about this name Sheehan

Content kindly provided by Eddie Geoghegan of Araltas

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26 Responses to Irish Surnames – Sheehan, Sheahan, Sheen coat of arms

  1. Elizabeth McFarland says:

    My husband says our last name is Irish… is it? I read somewhere that McFarlane is Irish and McFarland is Scottish. If you could shed some light on this I would most appreciate it!

  2. Bob Looney says:

    interesting writeup. Do you know how I can get info on Looney? My grandfather was born in Boston Massachusetts in late 1890s and I have just started to trace family history

  3. Mary Sheehan says:

    thank you for profiling the name Sheehan. I am an Irish American that has come home to Ireland. I live in Fanore, Co. Clare so as the Sheehan’s originated in Thomond I am home, indeed. I have published a cookbook entitled “Coming Home To Cook” and give cookery classes.Perhaps your American readers would be interested in reading my blog as I write about Food andFarmers Market News relating to North and West Clare Slan, Mary Sheehan

  4. Brian R. Parrott says:

    My grandfather was a Curtin from Lima,Ohio nd his family came from Ireland during famine years, I believe.
    Protestant background, so were they from Northern Ireland?? Thanks, Brian

    • DiscoveringIreland says:

      Hi Brian,

      I will check with my colleagues and get back to you asap on this – thanks for asking the question.


  5. Jason Ray says:

    Hi.I know that my surname Ray has Scottish,English and French origins.I also know that it has Irish origins too but I just don’t know exactly where (Ulster,maybe??) I am eager to find the Irish history of the Ray surname but it is impossible to find anywhere.I am told that there is also an Irish coat of arms for the surname Ray.I’ve seen the Scottish,English and French ones,but never the Irish one.Can you please help me with this?I’d really appreciate it.Regards,Jason Ray(Séasán Ó Riabhaigh).

    • Doug Ray says:

      I’m in about the same situation. Maybe we can help each other out. Go on and type in our last name.

  6. Pingback: Irish Surnames O Callaghan coat of arms » Ireland Vacations with DiscoveringIreland

  7. Farrell says:

    grandmother Dorothy Farrell, Tipperary area born 1885 died 1923..Chicago, been to Waterford, Tippereary, can’t find anyone in Neenah

  8. Karen Harvey Hopple says:

    I am descended from the Clancy’s of County Clare………..looking forward to visiting for the first time in May 2011.

  9. william sheehan says:

    what is the best way of tracing your familly i have never known them what i found on the net so far is the little town where my mother lived in co limerick not knowing my frathers background i need a link to his line of work can you help in any way as time is running out as i am 65yrs and would love to know if i have an familly as i have being on my own all my life. billy

  10. Tommy McTeer Saunders says:

    will be coming to Ireland in the near future, for a long stay and tour, found this surname site. My name seems to a jumble is it Irish ,English, or a combination of the both? thanks loads it is most intersting already the amount of information is great and very easy to acquire, thanks Tom S.

  11. Kevin Roache says:

    I have recently started to trace my Irish roots and find it thoroughly fascinating. I am very impressed with your site and intend to use it significantly in my future quest.

  12. Maria de Lourdes Sheen says:

    Hi! I am from Peru (South America) and my last name is also Sheen. I am very glad to know that they are more Sheen or Shehan around the world. It is woderful!

  13. David J Breen says:

    Please research “Breen” since the DNA info received from didn’t help much and most of my relatives are gone.
    Thank you

    • Margaret Flanagan says:

      I have just done a Family Tree DNA Family Finder Test. It is above my head but I hope when I get back the test in the next four to six weeks that I will have some information. I am up against a brick wall trying to find the location in Co Cork that my G Grandmother came from. She was Catherine Breen DOB 1824/1834 approx from Kilbrin or Boherbue Co Cork area.


    • Margaret Flanagan says:



      I done a ( DNA ) with ( FTDNA ) to find relatives of my G-grandmother Catherine Breen DOB 1825/1835 approx She came from Glencollins, Doonasleam or Kilbrin area of Co Cork, and she married a James Daley also from Co Cork

      I do know a lot of Breens live in Doonaslean Kiskeam Boherbue Co Cork
      But I am up against a brick wall trying to pinpoint in the direction where she came from



    • John Breen says:

      Interesting to hear someone using DNA to link families.
      I had my DNA done some years ago- if you have info on Breen DNA I would like to check it against my own. My Breens originated in Co.Kerry, Ireland.

      • Margaret Flanagan says:

        Yes I done a ( DNA ) i have my results up in Gematch. I think my G-Grandmother Catherine Breen came from Kilbrin Co Cork. Or Boherbue Co Cork, which was then in the Dioceses of Co Kerry

  14. L. SHEAHAN says:

    My surname is Sheahan. What is the difference between Sheehan and Sheahan?
    Kind regards

  15. Annie Sheen says:

    or Sheen for that matter

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