Select Quinn Surname Genealogy

Quinn is the anglicized form of the Gaelic O'Cuinn, the name for a number of distinct septs or clans to be found around Ireland.  O'Cuinn itself comes from the Irish word conn, meaning "counsel" and generally describing a wise man or a man of high intelligence.  Niall O'Cuinn, who died at the battle of Clondarf in 1014, was the first in the Quinn clans to use the surname.

It has been said in Ireland that Catholics generally spelt their name "Quinn," while Protestants spelt it "Quin."  

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Select Quinn Ancestry

Ireland.  Quinn septs in Ireland could be found in Tyrone, Antrim, and Limerick.

Tyrone  The O'Quinns of Loughinsholin were based primarily in Tyrone.  They were close to the O'Niells, acting at times as their hereditary physicians and foster parents to their sons.  They held good land and prospered.  However, the English encroachments into Tyrone were beginning in Elizabethan times.  An English commander boasted in 1600:

"The last service was upon Patrick O'Quinn, one of the chief men of Tyrone, dwelling within four miles of Dungannon and fearing nothing, but we lighted upon him and killed him, his wife, sons, daughters, servants and followers being many and burnt all to the ground."
It was Cromwell who dealt the fatal blow forty years later, routing an army led by Owen and Neil O'Quinn and confiscating land for Protestant planters.  The O'Quinns remained within the barony of Dungannon.

Antrim  Another O'Quinn clan, of Clanndeboy, claimed descent from Congalagh O'Cuinn who had been killed by the English in 1219.  They were based further east in the Glens of Antrim.  The English and Scottish planters were also arriving there.  Neil Oge O'Quinn, a tenant of an English lord at Lissan, led a revolt in 1614, but this too was put down. 

Limerick  The Quins that were descended from the Hy Ifearnan clan had originally been in county Clare, but were driven out from there into Limerick by the O'Briens. 

Valentine Quin built the first Quin Manor at Adare on the river Maigue in 1730.  His family converted from Catholicism to Protestantism in 1739 and it was no coincidence that they subsequently became one of the few families of Gaelic origin to ascend, as the Earls of Dunraven, into the Irish peerage.  Perhaps the most flamboyant of these Quins was Wyndham Quin, the fourth Earl.  Adare Manor was sold by the family in 1984 and now operates as one of Ireland's prestige hotels.

Armagh  There has been a more modern Quinn dynasty from county Armagh:

"The first supermarket in Newry was Quinn’s the Milestone on Hill Street, founded by John Quinn from Lisnacree.  His family included Ruairi Quinn, former leader of the Irish Labour Party and Irish Finance Minister, as well as Fearghal Quinn, head of the Superquinn chain, and the late Dr Padraig Quinn who fought in the Irish War of Independence."

Today Quinns are found throughout Ireland, but the greater numbers are around Lough Neagh in county Tyrone (where it is the most common name today) and in Antrim. 

Sean Quinn grew up on the border between Fermanagh and Cavan and built up a large insurance business that made him for a while the richest man in Ireland.  He was known then as the Mighty Quinn.  But a series of rash financial deals saw him careering into backruptcy in 2010.

England.  An early arrival in London was the Dublin-born poet Walter Quin who became the tutor and lifelong friend of the monarch Charles I.  His son James was expelled from Oxford for his royalist views, but then was reinstated after he had apparently charmed the uncharming Oliver Cromwell with his "fine singing voice." However, his grandson Mark Quin had a less happy outcome.  A century later another James Quin of this family graced the London stage with his performances of Falstaff, if "graced" is the appropriate word:

"James Quin twice killed fellow actors.  Once during a performance he accidentally killed a fellow actor in a duel on stage and the other came about after a dispute over the pronunciation of a particular word."

Michael J. Quin came to London in the 1820's as a writer and journalist.  In 1836 he started the Dublin Review which became the leading Catholic periodical of the time.

The 19th century saw Irish and Quinn immigration shift towards the jobs that were available in industrial Lancashire.  A century later Niall Quinn crossed the Irish Sea to play football for Manchester City.  He ibecame the chairman of the English football club Sunderland.
America.  Early Quinn arrivals in America were:
  • Loftin Quinn who came to North Carolina in the 1730's.  Quinn marriages of the late 18th century show his family mainly in Carteret and Duplin counties.  The Quinn homestead at Comfort apparently still remains.  A subsequent Loftin Quinn was a veteran of the War of 1812.  He was buried in the old Quinn burying ground in Shelby county, Alabama.
  • John Quin from county Down who came to New Jersey in 1748 and later settled in Maryland.  His descendants adopted the Quinn spelling.  There were two main branches, one in Georgia and the other in Ohio.
  • Hugh Quinn from county Tyrone who arrived in South Carolina during the 1760's.  He and his wife Margaret received land grants in what is now York county.  Hugh was a member of the local Baptist church and was licensed to keep a tavern on his premises.  He died in 1798.  His son John migrated to Alabama in the early 1800's. 
  • and Patrick O'Quinn who came to Philadelphia as an indentured servant in 1772.  He fought in the Revolutionary War and was subsequently awarded a land grant in Sampson county, North Carolina.  His son Wiley, sometimes called Gwinn, moved to Buchanan county, Virginia.
Larger numbers came in the 19th century, many of them - like James Quinn of Kilkenny - fleeing the famine in Ireland.  They headed for the big cities like New York, Boston, and Chicago. 

Two who headed elsewhere were James Quinn from Donegal who went originally to Boston but then moved west to Minnesota in 1857; and John Quinn from Antrim who ended up in Ohio.  He married there, worked for the B & O Railroad, fought in the Civil War, and lived on into his nineties until his death in 1921.

Australia.  Among the early Quinn settlers in Australia were:
  • Michael Quinn from Limerick who came to Perth in 1835 and ran a carting business there.  His son Michael  was one of the first farmers in the Williams river area of Western Australia.  He married Mary Hale from another pioneering family in 1857 and they raised thirteen children there.
  • Captain Hugh Quin from Armagh who became the harbour master at Adelaide in South Australia in 1858.  He had arrived in the colony as early as 1836.  He was reported to have attended the banquet at Adelaide Town Hall on December 28, 1871 for all colonists who had arrived before 1841.
  • James Quinn from Antrim who arrived with his family in 1841 and farmed in various places in NSW over the next thirty years.  His daughter Ellen married into the notorious Kelly gang. 
  • Patrick Quinn from Tipperary who came to Sydney with his wife and three children in 1858.
Arriving in 1861 was James Quinn as the Bishop of Brisbane.  He did much to encourage the emigration of Irishmen to Queensland over the next twenty years.

Select Quinn Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Quinn Names

Niall O'Cuinn was the first in the Quinn clans to use the surname.  He was killed at the battle of Clondarf in 1014.
Frederick Hervey Foster Quin was an orthodox physician who converted to homeopathy and helped found the British Homeopathic Society.  He was thought to have been the illegitimate offspring of Valentine Richard Quin, Earl of Dunraven, and Lady Elizabeth Foster, a well-known courtesan.
John Quinn, born of Irish immigrants in Ohio, was a successful New York lawyer and an important art patron and collector of manuscripts there in the early 20th century.
Anthony Quinn was a well-known and highly successful film actor of the 1950's and 1960's.  His father was of Irish-Mexican ancestry and he was born in Mexico.
Fergal Quinn is an Irish politician and successful local businessman.  He founded the chain of supermarkets around Dublin called Superquinn.
Pat Quinn was the head coach of the Canadian hockey team who took them to gold in the 2002 Winter Olympics and gold in the 2004 World Cup.

Select Quinns Today
  • 26,000 in the UK (most numerous in Tyne and Wear)
  • 34,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 36,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland).

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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