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About the study

The O'Farrell One-Name Study began in earnest on July 22 2015 when I created MyHeritage O'Farrell Family Tree from old family records recorded back in 1925. It connected me to O’Farrell’s worldwide. I discovered the official profile photograph of my ancestors c.1896 in our National Library during a search.

However, my interests in Family Heritage goes back to my childhood days in the 1960s to the stories I have accumulated from many fascinating discussions and invaluable recordings credited to my Grandfather who was born in 1875 and my Aunt born in 1901. My Aunt was the acknowledged leading Social Memory custodian of our O’Farrell’s of Kilkenny (Ireland) Family story, which she retold until she died in 1999, aged 99.  My Grandfather who died in 1973 aged 98, retold stories to me of our Family History that had been told by his father, thus from my great grandfather’s time. He had lived until the age of 87 and was born in 1829 and also related to him many stories from his grandfather, thus in my great great grandfathers time. He was born in 1793 and lived to age 72 - having lived during Napoleonic times 1769–1821. These fuelled my interest in further research throughout my life and generated an intrigue about the origins of our O’Farrell Surname. The O'Farrell Name was registered with the Guild of One-Name Studies in 2016.


Variant names

Pupular registered variants of the O'Farrell Surname are:

O'Farrell, O'Fearghail, Farrell, Fearghail, O'Farrel, Farrel, O'Farell, O'Farrall, Farell, 

Other known variants of the name include: 

(O')Farrelly,    (O')Farrely    (O')Farelly     (O')Farrelli    (O')Farely    (O')Farel    (O')Farley    (O')Farill    (O')Farrill    (O')Feral    (O')Ferrall    (O')Ferraly    (O')Ferral    (O')Ferally    (O')Ferall    (O')Feraly    (O')Feral    (O')Ferrell    (O')Ferrill    (O')Frawley    (O')Ferrel

All variants of the O'Farrell & Farrell name are Anglicised forms of the Gaelic name Fhearghail (fhear = man, ghal = valor).

Name origin

This excerpt from the History of the Farrell Clan of Ireland is credited to Hugh O’Farrell & Farrell Clan Research Committee, derived from their outstanding rersearch and international Gatherings:

“The O'Fearghails were one of the four chief clans of the Conmacne [race of Conmac (son of legendary Fergus MacRoigh and Queen Maedhbh (Maeve)]. They were the princes of Annaly (roughly the Irish midlands); their chief seat of power was Longphort Ui' Fearghail (O'Farrell's fortress), the present-day Longford town. (source: "Farrell Clan - a brief history", a booklet by Hugh Farrell).  The descendants of Fearghal, who fought alongside Brian Boru at the battle of Clontarf, took the surname of Uí Fhearghail (descendants of Fearghal) or anglicised O'Farrell.

After Clontarf the Uí Fhearghail went on to become Princes of the territory of Anghaile (Annaly), roughly corresponding to present day County Longford, their chieftain sitting at Longphort Uí Fhearghail (O'Farrell's stronghold), present day Longford town. Other sites associated with the clan are Moatfarrell (Móta Uí Fhearghail), in the east of Annaly between the present day towns of Ballinalee and Edgeworthstown, and Mornine Castle close to Moydow.

The clan's control of Annaly was disrupted by the English invasions of the 12th and 13th centuries, but by the 15th century, the clan had reasserted control over the territory. They had divided into two family subgroups, Uí Fhearghail Bán (White O'Farrell) and Uí Fhearghail Buí (Yellow O'Farrell), controlling the north and south of Annaly respectively.

The Clan lost most of their lands during the colonial confiscations of James I in the early 17th century, with many of the clan members becoming tenants of the new English and Scottish landlords in what was now County Longford.

The Farrells have been associated with this midland region for more than 1,000 years. The Farrell Clan lost its control of the area just over 300 years ago when leading military members were forced to take flight and joined the armies of France and Spain. The majority remained settled in County Longford and the surrounding counties of Roscommon and Westmeath. Others moved to the cities in search of a livelihood with Dublin being the most popular destination. Farrells are presently very plentiful in the county, but the big numbers live elsewhere mostly in Dublin. ”

Historical occurrences of the name

This record from "Irish Families, their Names, Arms & Origins", a book by Edward MacLysaght,  is the best and most authentic representation of the Irish O’Farrell Clan stories that I have found:

"There were many distinguished churchmen of this name, of which Capuchin Father Richard O’Farrell (1615-1663) of Annaly was the most notable. Despite the misfortunes that befell the great Gaelic Irish Families in 16th & 17th centuries (after arrival of Cromwell) the O’Farrells of Annaly were not entirely submerged and many of them took a worthy part in Irish resistance to English aggression. Three sons of Ceadagh O’Farrell of Annaly died in Battle of Boyne 1691 has previously greatly distinguished themselves as officers of the Irish Brigade in service of France. The family settled in Picardy. Richard More O’Ferrell (1797-1880) was a prominent supporter of Daniel O’Connell. Sir Thomas Farrell (1827-1900) was a noted sculptor, many of whose statues still adorn Dublin City. The compiler of the best known Irish genealogical manuscripts, Linea Antigua (1709), now in Dublin’s Genealogical Office was Roger O’Ferrall.”

Edward MacLysaght (6 November 1887 – 4 March 1986) was one of the foremost genealogists of twentieth century Ireland. His numerous books on Irish Surnames built upon the work of Rev. Patrick Woulfe's Irish Names and Surnames (1923) and made him well known to all those researching their family past. His works include: Irish Life in the Seventeenth Century (1939), The Surnames of Ireland, Irish Families: Their Names, Arms & Origins, Supplement to Irish Families,More Irish Families,More Irish Families incorporating Supplement to Irish Families.

"One of the leaders of the Annaly O'Farrells, Ceadagh, was killed at the battle of the Boyne in 1691. Three of his sons fought in the Irish Brigade in the French army and settled in northern France, in Picardy, where the name is still well known.

Michael Farrell (1899-1962), spent almost 30 years writing his novel Thy Tears Might Cease, which remained unfinished at his death. Edited by Monk Gibbon, it achieved international recognition when it was finally published in 1963.

Brian Farrell (1929 -2014) was Associate Head of Politics at University College Dublin and has been Ireland?s best known current affairs broadcaster for over 20 years, He was Director-General of the Institute for European Affairs.

Michael Farrell (1940 -2000) was one of the country's most accomplished contemporary artists, whose nude self-portraits are particularly well known." (Source: John Grenham)


"Elizabeth O'Farrell and Sheila (Julia) Grenan are interred side by side in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. They had been friends since childhood and both women played a significant role in Irish history. Both women were members of Inghinidhe na hÉireann, the group which preceded Cumann na mBan, and both women joined Cumann na mBan after its inception. At the request of James Connolly both women joined the Irish Citizen Army and participated in the Easter Rising. They engaged in the very dangerous task of delivering dispatches in Dublin and acting as couriers thoughout the southern counties. During Easter week they were also responsible for providing sustenance for the men and for the care of the wounded in the General Post Office. Despite what films based on the period may show, it was in fact a woman, specifically Elizabeth O'Farrell, who was chosen by Padráig Pearse to deliver the documents of surrender to the British forces. The work of both women, as well as that of many others in the period, is excellently detailed in the book No Ordinary Women by Sinéad McCoole." (Source: National Museum of Ireland)


Name frequency

“The (O)Farrell, (O)Ferrall, Farrell with and without the prefix ‘O’ is a well known name in many parts of Ireland and stands 35th in the list of 100 most common Family Names in Ireland. It is estimated that there are over 13,000 of that Name in Ireland; the great majority were born in Leinster, mainly in Co Longford and surrounds.  This is as might be expected for the great O’Fearghail (O’Farrell, O’Ferrall) sept was of Annaly in Co Longford. The chief of the sept was Lord of Annaly and resided in Longford (Longphuirt Ui Fearghail, O’Farrell’ Fortress) to become the name of that town and county. So important were they that references to them  in  ”The Annals of the Four Masters”  occupy more than seven columns of that monumental work. There were two Branches of the sept, the chiefs of which were distinguished as  O’Farrell Boy & O’Farrell Bane." (Source: Edward MacLysaght)

In Griffiths Valuation survey of Irish Land Occupiers (1847-64) the following Name variants were found:

Farell: 3, Farle: 2,Farrel: 17, Farrell: 3548, Ferrall: 15, Ferrell: 2, O'Farrell: 80, O'Ferrall: 7


Distribution of the name

Also from History of the Farrell Clan of Ireland we learn:

"Internationally most people with Farrell origins are in the UK (England, Scotland and Wales), USA, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina. We have members from all these countries as well as from South Africa, Zimbabwe, France, Germany, Spain and Belgium."

Extract from the works of John Grenham:

"The original Fearghal or Fergal from whom the family claim descent was king of Conmaicne and was killed at Clontarf in 1014. His great grandfather Angall gave his name to the territory they possessed, Annally in Co. Longford. The present name of both the county and the town derives from the family, the full name in Irish being Longphuirt Ui Fhearghaill, O'Farrell's Fortress. They ruled this area for almost seven centuries, down to the final catastrophes of the seventeenth century, after which many members of the family fought with distinction in the armies of continental Europe. Today the surname is one of the most common in Ireland, with a wide distribution throughout the country, though the largest concentration remains in the historic homeland of Longford and the surrounding areas. In Longford the family's influence is recorded in the placenames, including Lisfarrell (Templemichael parish), Moatfarrell (Clonbroney) and Formoyle Farrell (Rathcline)."

John Grenham is the author of of a number books, including Tracing your Irish Ancestors (3rd ed., Dublin, 2006), the standard guide, and Irish Ancestors (Gill & MacMillan, 2004), as well as the CD-ROM Grenham’s Irish Surnames (Eneclann, 2003). He was a founding member of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland, is a Fellow of the Irish Genealogical Research Society, and was Dublin City Library and Archives Genealogist-in-Residence in 2005-2006.


"The resumption of the "O" prefix has been noticeably less widespread for this family than for others: 6% recorded the name as "O'Farrell" in 1890, and 14% in 1996.

In 1890 the surname was 35th most common in Ireland, with 330 births of the name; by 1996 it was ranked 31st." (Source: Edward MacLysaght)


Farrell Clan of Ireland

Griffiths Valuation survey of Irish Land Occupiers (1847-64), by John Grenham

John Grenham's website