The great families of O’Connor have their descendants spread throughout the world, disguised under various spellings of their original name. The Conners, Connors, Conors and Coners all trace their heritage to one of the most illustrious of all of the Irish families.
The name was borne by six distinct septs. A sept is similar to a clan, and refers to a group of people who inhabited the same locality and who shared the same name. The O’Connors of Connaught were the most powerful with three separate branches of the sept developing: O’Conor Don, O’Connor Roe and O’Conor Sligo. These were all descended from Conchobhar who was King of Connaught in the tenth century. One of his descendants was Roderick O’Connor (1116-1198) who was the last High King of Ireland.
The Munster O’Connors were led by O’Connor Kerry who took his name from a different Conchobhar than the originator of the Connaught septs. He held vast lands in Kerry but was forced northwards after the 1172 Anglo-Norman invasion led by Strongbow. A renowned descendant of this sept was Arthur O’Connor (1763-1852) who was a United Irishman and later a general in Napoleons army. Patrick Edward O’Connor (1820-1871) was a pioneer and Indian fighter who also fought in the US Civil War on the Confederate side.
The O’Connors of Corcomroe, located in County Clare separately evolved from Conchobhar, Lord of Corcomroe who died in the year 1002. O’Connor Faly was the Chief of the Offaly sept and was a descendant of Cathaoir Mor who was King of Ireland in the second century. These were a fighting sept who constantly battled the English invaders before being all but wiped out in the sixteenth century.
A further sept of O’Conor was that of Keenaght located in Derry in the very north of the country. They were defeated in battle by the O’Kanes in the twelfth century. Modern day O’Connors in Ulster are often descended from the O’Connors of Glengiven who were descended from Cian, son of the King of Munster in the third century.
In modern times the Kerry sept is much more prominent than the Munster sept. There are over 30,000 people of the name in Ireland, most located in Kerry and Cork.
The history of the O’Connors could fill volumes. It is worth noting the degree to which the septs of O’Connor have heritage dating back to the times of ancient Irish royalty. High Kings dominate their ancestry. A truly ‘royal’ Irish family.