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DUNNE Family History

Ó Duinn - anglicised Dunne, Dunn, Doyne &c. earlier O Dunne. The root word is 'donn' or 'brown'.

This is a great midlands surname. Interestingly, it is etymologically cognate with the English surname Dunn, Donne &c., although there is no genealogical connection. Rather we would look back to an Indo-European word with the meaning of 'dun coloured' or 'brown' which filtered into both the Irish and English languages.

The Ó Duinn sept were lords of Iregan in Leix, which in Irish would be from Uí Riagain, a tribal grouping descended from Cathaoir Mór, a 2nd century king; their territory was roughly co-extensive with the later barony of Tinnahinch. Woulfe writes that the Dunnes go back to the Uí Failghe, likewise descended from Cathaoir Mór ('Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall', 1923). These Dunnes built Tinnahinch Castle in the 15th century, which was destroyed by the Cromwellian forces in 1653. The English Puritans regarded the (O) Dunnes as being the most recalcitrant papists and rebels in the 1641 Catholic Rebellion (see biog. notes). The family seat was moved to Brittas in the same county, where the leading family eventually became 'loyalist', e.g. in the person of Major General Francis Plunkett Dunne, who built an Anglo-Irish style family mansion there in 1869.

Another sept, Ó Duinn of Tara, in Meath, were scattered after the Anglo-Norman invasions of the late 12th century.

In the 'Annals of Inis Cloghran', O' Donovan transcribes an entry for 1160 thus: 'Giolla-na-Naomh O Duinn, lecturer of Inis Clothran, Professor of History and Poetry, and a well-spoken and eloquent man, sent his spirit to his supreme father, amidst a choir of angels on the 17th day of December, in the 58th year of his age'.

By the time of the compilation of the 1659 'Census' by Sir William Petty, the British Commonwealth's Surveyor of Ireland, the (O) Dunnes are recorded as a 'Principal Irish Name' in the following counties:

Ossory (all names are for baronies), Dun 18 (all figures are fior families); Maryborough, Dun 25; Cullenagh, Dun 13; Sliemargeagh, Dun 4; Ballyadams, Dun 14; Stradbally, Dun 13; Tynahinch, Dun 18 plus a 'titulado' or landowner named Mrs Dorothy Dun in Lucan.

Ophaley (Offaley), Duin 16; Naase, Dunne 10; Clane, Dunn 9; Connel, Duin 6; Salt, Dunn 7; Lebban & Narragh, Dunn 15; Kilkae & Moone, Dunn 5; Ikeathye, Dunne 12; Carbury, Duine 9.

Phillipstown, Dunn 15; Ballyaboy, Dun 9; Geshell, Dun 3; Warrenstown, Doyne 11; Garriecastle, Dun 3; Kilcourcey, Teige Dun is a 'gentleman' landowner; Ballybritt, Doyne 7, Doven 11 & Dun 2.

Fertullagh, Doyne 5.

Eliogurty & Ikerrin, Doghon & O Doghon 20.

In the 1850s, and the appearance of Griffith's 'Primary Valuation' of property in Ireland, most Dunne households appear in counties (with numbers): Leix or Laois (803), Kildare (345), Offaly (325), Tipperary (237), Dublin (145 + 132 city) and Kilkenny (234).

The Registrar General, R.E. Matheson's 'Special Report on Surnames...' (1894, 1909), based on the 1890 birth registration figures, shows most Dunne registrations in counties Dublin, Laois (Leix), Kildare, Offaly, KIlkenny, Cork and Tipperary. It was the most numerous name in Laois. Totals were 313 Dunne and 51 Dunn: Leinster 248, Munster 55, Ulster 47 and Connacht 14. In 1890 Dunne was 27th in the numeracy table for Ireland.

Notable Dunnes

Cahir o Dunne of Offaly and Rory Dunne of Leix were among the many Dunnes cited in the 1641 Depositions as participants in the Rebellion of that year against the British colonists.

James O Dunne (1700-1758), bishop of Ossory in Leix was an enthusiatic supporter of the Jacobite cause.

Ben Dunne (b. 1949) founder of the ubiquitous Dunnes Stores, underwent a dubious enhancement of his celebrity status by being kidnapped by the I.R.A. in 1981.

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Terence Dunne

Hi, I am attempting to find forebears of Martin Dunne 1780 - 1845 who was married to Sarah Graham 1780 - 1830. Both died at Ballyhuppahawn, Laois. Any information would be welcome.


Dawn McNamara

Hi, I have just found out that my ggggrandparents lived in Dublin. Lewis (or Louis) Dunne married Ellen Doyle. They had a son named James W. Dunne circa 1842 who moved to New York in 1865 and married Mary Tallon in 1868 (in New York). I am trying to find out more about Lewis and Ellen Dunne. Regards, Dawn

Hannah howard

Hello i am trying to locate a lady called MIriam Bridget Dunne born 23/08/1967, she had an older brother and two younger sisters, her father ran a garage and the son worked with his father,if anyone has any information I would appreciate it greatly. Kind regards Hannah


Hi, I am interested in Dunnes in Drogheda and Belpatrick in Collon Co Louth. Colm


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