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The O'Neill Dynasty is an important collective of families that have held prominent positions and titles throughout European history. The various O'Neill families claim descent from Niall Noigiallach of the Nine Hostages, the legendary fifth century High King of Ireland. The sons of Niall Noigiallach would initially establish a dynasty called the Connachta, which would then give rise to the Uí Néill dynasty that would dominate Ireland from the sixth to tenth centuries.

The seat of the Uí Néills was centered in Ulster. The head of the family traditionally held the title of The O'Neill, and during early English rule when the title of High King of Ireland was abolished, the title of The O’Neill remained in use. Many contemporary Irish believed that The O'Neill was the legitimate sovereign of Ireland.

The Uí Néill dynasty has given rise to the modern O'Neills of Clanaboy, the O'Neills of the Fews and the O'Neills of Tyrone dynasties and principalities.


The original Uí Néill dynasty refers to an Irish kinship group based in Ulster, all of whom were descended from Niall Noigiallach of the Nine Hostages, a legendary High King of Ireland who reigned in the fourth of fifth century and was himself said to be descended from a long line of high kings. Uí Néill, which has many alternate forms such as Ó Néill and O'Neill, is comprised of the element before the name Niall, and together mean "grandson of Niall." The seven children of Niall Noigiallach, therefore, did not refer to themselves as the Uí Néill, but as the Connachta. Not until the tenth century or later was Uí Néill adopted, likely by the grandsons of Niall Glúndub, who was a descendant of Niall Noigiallach.

The Cúige Chonnacht, literally meaning "fifth province," was a term applied to territory of west-central Ireland and Connachta to its rulers, the sons of Niall Noigiallach. The sons, seven in all, were Conall Gulban who was the ancestor of the Cenél Conaill dynasty, Éndae who was the progenitor of the Cenél nÉndai dynasty, Eógan who fathered the Cenél nEógain line, Conall Cremthainne who was ancestor of both the Clann Cholmáin and Síl nÁedo Sláine dynasties, Coirpre who was ancestor of the Cenél Coirpri, Lóegaire who was the progenitor of the Cenél Lóegaire line and Fiachu who fathered the Cenél Fiachach. Several of the dynasties maintained their power in Ulster until their defeat in the Nine Years War, which ended in 1603. The heads of the families left for Catholic Europe in 1607, an event known as the Flight of the Earls.

O'Neills of Clanaboy

The current head of the Clanaboy O’Neill dynasty is Hugo Ricciardi O'Neill, son of Jorge Maria O'Neill, whose family has been in Portugalmarker since the 18th century. He is officially recognized by the offices of arms throughout Europe as titular Prince and Count of Clanaboy, but he refuses to use this title, using instead the style The O'Neill of Clannaboy. The name Clanaboy (or Clandeboye) is a curruption of the Gaelic family name of 'Clann Aoidh Bhuí' or the 'Family of Fair Hugh' 'fair' being a reference to hair colour, most likely. The O'Neills of Bellaghy are of this line.

The O'Neill of Clannaboy ( Clann Aodha Bhuidhe ) is one of the hereditary Chiefs of the name of Irelandmarker and thus officially the head of the family descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages. The O'Neill family supplied many of the High Kings to Ireland in the Middle Ages. The senior branch of the family moved to Portugalmarker in the 18th century, and the current holder of the title is Hugo Ricciardi O'Neill.

O'Neills of Tyrone

Today there is no recognized head of the O'Neills of Tyrone, thus no O'Neill Mór. There are a few families that may, and some do, claim the rights of O'Neill of Tyrone. These claimants are made up of descendants of the first Earl's (Conn Bacach O'Neill) (Conn O'Neill, 1st Earl of Tyrone) sons: Shane Diomas (Shane O'Neill) and Phelim Caoch O’Neill (Phelim Caoch O'Neill). The original earldom was granted by Henry VIII in 1542, on the creation of the Kingdom of Ireland. These include O'Neill of Corab, O'Neill of Waterford, McShane-O’Neill of Killetragh, and O’Neill of Dundalkmarker. All descend from the Chiefs of O'Neill of Tyrone.

In addition to the chiefships, there are numerous Continental titles held by descendants and ancestors of the 3rd Earl, Hugh. His title was recognized in two separate fashions at Hugh’s death by the Spanish crown in 1616. The title “Earl of Tyrone” passed to his son John as 3rd Earl, then to his son Hugh Eugene (4th Earl Tyrone), then Hugh Dubh (5th Earl), then Hugo (6th Earl), and finally Brian Roe (7th Earl). The title “Comte d' Tyrone” or “Count of Tyrone” was granted to the 3rd Earl’s son, Patrick O'Neill of Hollandmarker in 1623. He was recognized as such by the Spanish governor in the Netherlandsmarker, the Infanta Isabella for King Philip VI of Spain. The line of Counts of Tyrone via Patrick is continuous today. Jaques (James) d' Tyrone is the 9th holder of the rank Count of the Spanish Netherlands creation of the title.

An act of the English Parliament in 1569 for the retrospective attainer of Shane O'Neill banned the use of the title of "The O'Neill Mor". In addition, the title of "The O'Neill Mor" was not a patrilineal hereditary title, but rather was conferred upon the individual duly elected and inaugurated to rule Tir Eoghain.

The O'Neills in the Caribbean

There were many O'Neills in the Caribbean especially the Counts of Tyron of the Aodh Mór mac Feardorcha Ó Néill line. Don Patrick O'Neill was born in the Spanish Netherlands (modern day Belgium) in 1622 and given the courtesy title of Count of Tyrone in deference to his father's title which was taken upon the death of Hugh O'Neill in Rome 1616. Patrick O'Neill and his cousin Eoghan Rua Ó Néill, anglicized as Owen Roe O'Neill (c. 1590–1649) "Red Owen", was a seventeenth century soldier and one of the most famous of the O'Neill family of Ulster O'Neill was the son of Art O'Neill, a younger brother of Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone. As a young man, left Ireland in the Flight of the Earls to escape the English conquest of his native Ulster. He grew up in the Spanish Netherlands and spent 40 years serving in the Irish regiment of the Spanish army. He saw most of his combat in the Eighty Years' War against the Dutch Republic in Flanders, notably at the siege of Arrasmarker, where he commanded the Spanish garrison. O'Neill was, like many Gaelic Irish officers in the Spanish service, very hostile to the English Protestant presence in Ireland. Both cousins returned to Ireland during the Irish Rebellion of 1641 to fight in the Irish Confederate Wars. Owen Roe O'Neill was poisoned by the Cromwell supporters and died in 1649. Patrick O'Neill left Ireland and took loyalty and arms for the King of France and moved his family to the Island of Martiniquemarker where they lived for 200 years. In the 1641 Irish Rebellion Sir Henry O'Neill remained loyal to the English crown while his sons and brothers played a prominent part in the 1641 Irish Rebellion, resulting in the confiscation his lands, which were divided up among a number of Cromwellian settlers; the chief beneficiary was Thomas Ball whose various grants totalled more than 6,000 acres. Sir Henry O'Neill was banished to Connaught, Ireland, where he was awarded an estate in Co. Mayo, Ireland. In 1755, the 99-year lease on the lands of his son Henry O'Neill (Enrique O'Neill) in Meelick, Carrowrory, and Carrowconnell expired. Henry (Enrique) O'Neill and his wife Hanna O'Kelly, the daughter of counselor John O'Kelly of Keenagh, Co. Roscommon, moved with their family to Spain around 1758. In the result of a James Knox of Moyne of Killala, Co. Mayo took steps against O’Neill's to confiscate his lands. During the Cromwell and the English Protestant labored to give war with the policy of extermination of the Irish. The inhuman methods of selling Irish have slaves to plantation owners in the Leeward Islands especially Monseratte and other Britishmarker governed Islands. The Leeward Islands lie east of Puerto Rico this gave the perfect opportunity for the veterans of the Irish wars and Spanish Regiments who had fought in the Spanish Netherlands to exact revenge. Sometizmes allied with French troops the attacked the British colonies most of the time resulting in the extermination of English plantation owners and the native inhabitants in these Islands.

The O'Neills in Puerto Rico

The English controlled the island of St. Croix until 1650. In that year the Spanish sent a fleet of five ships and 1,200 men to St. Croixmarker from Puerto Rico and slaughtered every man, woman and child. After only 15 years of domination, the English were ousted. History shows that the O’Neill's had previous knowledge of the Islands with the names of Rocco, Eammon, Constatino or Conn the name possibly referring to Conn O'Neill, 1st Earl of Tyrone, Eoghan, Edmundo & Gill these were men who first in the Ultonia and Hibernia regiments for the Crown of Spain sometimes allied with the French to eliminate the English from these Islands.

Most O'Neill families of Puerto Rico have for many generations resided in the districts of Hato Nuevo, Mamey, and Sonadora of the city of Guaynabo located on the northern coast of the island of Puerto Rico. Other O'Neill families have settled in the cities of Río Piedras and Caguas. Many other O'Neill families that immigrated from Barbadosmarker settled on the Island of Viequesmarker. The O'Neill's have produced a few mayors in their respected cities:
  • 1849 Arturo O'Neill, Mayor of Bayamónmarker
  • 1851- 1852 Felix O'Neill, Mayor of Bayamón
  • 1852 Arturo O'Neill, Mayor of Toa Altamarker
  • 1853 Arturo O'Neill, Mayor of Toa Bajamarker
  • 1854 Felix O'Neill, Mayor of Caguasmarker
  • 1854-1856 Felix O'Neill, Mayor of Poncemarker
  • 1867 Enrique O'Neill, Mayor of Ponce
  • 1993-present Hector O'Neill, Mayor of Guaynabo

O'Neills of the Fews

The O'Neill of the Fews dynasty, led by a Spanishmarker nobleman, Don Carlos O'Neill, 12th Marquess of la Granja. He is also stylized as the Prince of the Fews. From the same line is the family of Sir William Johnson, 1st Baronet of New Yorkmarker. "The Fews" is an area in County Armagh and was a sub-territory under the O'Neills of Tyrone.

The descendants of Don Enrique O'Neill of the Fews

In 1755 the 99-year lease on his lands in Meelick, Carrowrory and Carrowconnell expired. Henry (Enrique) O'Neill and his wife Hanna O'Kelly, the daughter of counsellor John O'Kelly of Keenaghmarker, Co. Roscommon moved his family to Spain around 1758. They became the parents of Don Arturo O'Neill de Tyrone born in 1736 in Dublin, Irelandmarker. Latter known by the title of the 1st Marques Del Norte and Governor of the Yucatanmarker on the 3rd of October, 1792. The successor of Don Jose Sabido de Vargas. Named Governor of West Florida and named into the Supreme Council of War of Spain (replacing Governor Miguel de Uztaraiz). His brother Lieutenant-Colonel. Niall 'Nicolas' O'Neill O'Kelly was b. 1734 died at Saragossamarker, Spain. Don Tulio O'Neill O'Kelly married Catherine O'Keffe y Whalen and became the parents of Arturo O'Neill O'Keffe and Tulio O'Neill O'Keffe born in St. Croix in 1784 became a General and won many distinctions during the Peninsular War. He married Manuela de Castilla the daughter of a Spanish Nobel. They became parents of Don Juan Antonio Luis O'Neill born in 1812 who married Dona Luisa de Salamancamarker. He latter inherited his mother's titles in 1847. Marques de la Granja, Marques de Caltojar, Count of Benajiar and Marques de Valdeosera (d.1877). From then on they are known as the O'Neill's of the Fews of Sevillemarker. Don Arturo O'Neill O'Keffe was born 1783 in St. Croix. Became Lieutenant Colonel on the 17th of August, 1828. in Bayamón, Puerto Ricomarker. A Knight of the Royal Order of King Carlos the 3rd of Spain and 2nd Marques del Norte. He died in Sept 7, 1832 and is buried in the Roman Catholic Church of Frederikstedmarker, Saint Croix (Santa Cruz). He was married to Joanna Chabert Heyliger on April 19, 1802 in St. Croix. Recent findings are showing that other O'Neill's did settled in Puerto Rico in the 1770s or early 1700s in orders of the Spanish Royal Courts. The earliest record show that of a man named Patricio O'Neill arrived in Puerto Rico in the 1770s.

  • Tulio Luis O'Neill y Chabert b. 17.06.1808 in St. Croix.
  • Arturo O'Neill y Chabert b. 25.08.1820 in Loyza, Puerto Rico baptized in Loyza, Puerto Rico 07.09.1821.
  • Micaela Ulpiana O'Neill y Chabert b. 03.04.1825 in Puerto Rico baptized has the daughter of the Marques del Norte in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • Gonzalo O'Neill y Chabert b. 20.08.1829 Río Piedras, Puerto Rico baptized in 31.03.1830 in San Juan, Puerto Ricomarker.
  • Arturo Eustasio O'Neill Andino born in San Juan, Puerto Rico 29.03.1857.
  • Arturo O'Neill Abajo born in Madridmarker circa 1890 died 3.012.1936 .
  • Arturo O'Neill Pecino died at the age of 17 in 1.03.1937
  • Diego Arturo Ricardo Próculo O'Neill Pecino. born in 14.04.1922.
  • Arturo César O'Neill de Tyrone Daneyko born in Oviedomarker, Asturiasmarker, 9.10.1950
  • Carlos O'Neill Pecino
  • Margarita O'Neill Pecino
  • Africa O'Neill Pecino
  • Miguel O'Neill Pecino
  • Luis O'Neill Pecino
  • María del Rosario Magdalena O'Neill Abajo born in San Juan, Puerto Rico 22.07.1895.

From this O'Neill family line descends the true O'Neill Mór and Chief of the O'Neill's.

El 6 de diciembre de 1816, el sobrino del I Marqués del Norte, también llamado D Arturo O'Neill solicitó al rey se le expidiese la correspondiente carta de sucesión tras haber tomado posesión del vinculo ante D Joaquin Almazán del Consejo de S. M. y teniente corregidor en Madrid el día anterior según testimonio del escribano de Madrid, Antonio Lopez de Salazar. Previa la expedición de la real carta de sucesión pagó 20,361 reales y 3 maravedis por los derechos sucesorios.

Coats of Arms

It is a common misconception that there is one coat of arms associated to everyone of a common surname, when, in fact, a coat of arms is property passed through direct lineage. This means that there are numerous families of O'Neill under various spellings that are related, but because they are not the direct descendants of an O'Neill that owned an armorial device do not have rights or claims to any arms themselves.

The coat of arms of the Uí Néills of Ulster, which held the title of High Kings of Ireland, were white with a red left hand cut off below the wrist, and it is because of this prominence that the red hand (though a right hand is used today, rather than the left used by the high kings) has also become a symbol of Ireland, Ulster, Tyrone and other places associated with the ruling family of O'Neills. The red hand by itself has become a symbol of the O'Neill name, such that when other O'Neill family branches were granted or assumed a heraldic achievement, this red hand was often incorporated into the new coat of arms in some way.

The red hand is explained by several slightly differing legends, but which tend to have a common theme that begins with a promise of land to the first man that is able to sail or swim across the sea and touch the shores of Ireland. Many contenders arrive, including a man named O'Neill, who begins to fall behind the other. Using his cunning, O'Neill cuts off his left hand and throws it onto the beach before the other challengers are able to reach shore, thus technically becoming the first of them to touch land and wins all of Ireland as his prize. However, the legends seem to originate in the seventeenth century, several many centuries after the red hand was already borne by the O'Neill families.

The Uí Néills of Ulster. The O'Neills of Clanaboy. The O'Neills of Tyrone. The O'Neill sept arms.


The Y-chromosome haplogroup R1b1b2a1a2f2 (M222) may be a genetic indicator of descendants of the Uí Néill kindred.[521965] Alternatively the marker M222 may only belong to a large sept of the kindred but not to the Uí Néill entirely.

Only a few O'Neills of Puerto Rico have Y-DNA tested to discover their genetic origins and to see they all share one common ancestry. The two results have been acquired one member being of the Haplogroup J2 now recently updated to J1, by FTDNA,and another of the Haplogroup R1b sub clades.
  • Y-DNA Haplotype shows a possible ancestry among an ancient North Germanic tribe, no genetic genealogist so far has been able to find or can explain the origins of the haplotype.

Today there are three ancient O'Neill dynasties or principalities. The original titles passed under the elective derbfine system of Irish Brehon law. Incumbents were then granted further titles that could be inherited under primogeniture by various Roman Catholic kingdoms in Europe.


  • The Spanish Monarchy and Irish Mercenaries, R.A.Stradling
  • The O' Neills in Spain, Spanish Knights of Irish Origin, Destruction by Peace, Micheline Kerney Walsh. The Irish Sword, Vol 4-11
  • Erin's Blood Royal: The Gaelic Nobel Dynasties of Ireland, Peter Berresford Ellis
  • The Wild Geese, Mark G. McLaughlin.
  • Wild Geese in Spanish Flanders,1582-1700, B. Jennings.
  • General History of Martinique, 1650-1699
  • Archivo General de Simancas
  • Archivo General de Indias
  • Archivo de la Chancilleria de Valladolidmarker
  • Archivo Histórico Nacional, Spain
  • Registro demografico de Puerto Rico
  • Obispado de San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • The History of Irish Brigades in the service of France, Shannon (1969)

See also




External links

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