Branches of the Cenél nEógain

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The Cenél nEógain or Kinel-Owen ('Kindred of Owen') are a branch of the Northern Uí Néill, who claim descent from Eógan mac Néill, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. Originally their power-base was in Inishowen, with their capital at Ailech, in modern-day County Donegal in what is now the west of Ulster. Under pressure from the Cenél Conaill, they gradually spread their influence eastwards into modern counties Tyrone and Londonderry, pushing aside the Cruithin east of the River Bann, and encroaching on the Airgiallan tribes west of Lough Neagh. By the 11th century their power-base had moved from Ailech to Tullyhogue outside Cookstown, County Tyrone. By the 12th century the Cenél Conaill conquered Inishowen; however, it mattered little to the Cenél nEóghain as they had established a powerful over-kingdom in the east that had become known as Tír Eoghain, or the "Land of Owen", preserved in the modern-day name of County Tyrone.

At their greatest they held land spanning much of County Tyrone, as well as parts of counties Donegal, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Monaghan, Armagh and Antrim.

Below is a list of their principle clans and septs.

  Sept of Irish origin
  Sept of Scottish origin

Clann Néill[edit]

The name O'Neill may come from Niall Glúndub, however the Clann Néill (more commonly known as Clan Neill) takes its name from his grandfather Néill Caille. The O'Neills and MacLaughlins who descend from this branch, were the two principal and most powerful septs of the Cenél nEógain, however the MacLaughlins defeat at the hands of the O'Neills in 1241 led to the O'Neills dominance over the Cenél nEógain.

(Common Forms)
Ó Néill (Ruadh)
(O'Neill, Neill)
Meaning: Descendant of Niall Glúndub
Progenitor: Ruadh Ó Néill
Territory: Tyrone
Extra: The principal branch of the Cenél nEógain; named after Niall Ruadh (Red Niall), Prince of Tyrone, brother of Aodh Dubh (Black Hugh), King of Ulster.[1]
Mac Lochlainn
(MacLoughlin, Loughlin MacLaughlin, Laughlin)
Meaning: Son of Lochlainn (of the lakes, i.e. norseman)
Territory: Barony of Inishowen
Extra: A powerful family of the Northern Uí Néill that dominated Ulster in the early medieval period; some MacLaughlins will originally be O'Melaghlins, descended from Máel Sechnaill II.
Mac Suibhne
(Sweeney, MacSweeney)
Meaning: Pleasant, well-disposed
Progenitor: Suibhne O'Neill
Territory: Fanad, Banagh and the Territories in Tirconnell
Extra: Descended from Suibhne O'Neill, a Scottish chieftain from Argyll. A mixture of Dalriadic Gaels and Norsemen, they came to Ulster as gallowglass.
Mac Seáin
(MacShane, MacSean)
Meaning: Sean
Territory: North-east Tyrone, later Donegal and Louth
Extra: Hereditary title of Chief of Moy Ith or Mag Itha (eastern Donegal, southern Londonderry, northern Tyrone); the small sept of O'hAmhsaigh from northeastern Londonderry allied themselves to the MacShanes.
Ó Doibhilin
(O'Devlin, Devlin)
Progenitor: Domailén
Territory: Muintir Dhoiblin (Munterdevlin), on the west shore of Lough Neagh
Extra: The chief of Munterdevlin was hereditary sword-bearer to the O'Neill, and the Devlin's part of his cavalry.
Mac Néill
(MacNeill, MacNeil)
Territory: Counties Antrim and Londonderry
Extra: Originate from the Scottish Clan MacNeil, who claim to descend from Niall, and are 21st in descent from Niall of the Nine Hostages, founder of the Uí Néill dynasty. They came to Ireland as gallowglass, and later as pirates.
Mac Conmidhe
(MacNamee, MacConamy, Conamy)
Meaning: Hound of Meath
Territory: Counties Tyrone and Derrry
Extra: Hereditary poets and ollavs to the O'Neills.
Mac Giolla Easpuig
(MacGillespie, Gillespie)
Meaning: Servant of the bishop
Territory: Aeilabhra in barony of Iveagh, county Down
Extra: A branch settled and became erenaghs of Kilrean and Kilcar, in the baronies of Boylagh and Banagh, county Donegal.
Mac Íomhair
(MacIvor, MacKeever)
Meaning: Son of Ivarr
Extra: From the Norse personal name Ivarr, which may mean bow-warrior, archer.
Mac Laomuinn
(Lamont, MacLamont, MacLamond, MacErchar)
Meaning: Lawman, lawyer
Progenitor: Ladhman mac Giolla Colum
Territory: County Tyrone
Extra: Derived from the Old Norse name Lōgmaor, meaning 'lawman' or 'lawyer', Gaelicised as Ladhmann. Some were also called MacErchar after Ladhman's grandfather Fearchar. The Mac Laomuinn ancestry allegedly traces them to Flaithbertach Ua Néill.
Mac Eoghain
(MacEwen, MacKeown, Keon, MacCune)
Meaning: Owen
Extra: Many are originally Ó Ceothain or Ó hEoghain (O'Keown) rather than Mac Eoghain

Clann Aodha Bhuidhe[edit]

The Clann Aodha Bhuidhe, or the Clandeboye O'Neill ("clan of Hugh the Blonde"), is a branch of Clann Néill, descended from Aodh Buidhe O'Neill (1260–83), grandson of Aodh Meth, King of Ulster and last King to be called King of Ailech. The Clandeboye O'Neills would later take control over most of eastern Ulster with the collapse of the Earldom of Ulster due to the invasion of Edward Bruce, whom they had opposed. Henry O'Neill of this line was King of Ulster from 1325 to 1344; Art O'Neill from 1509 to 1514.[2]

(Common Forms)
Ó Néill
(O'Neill, Neill)
Meaning: Descendant of Niall Glúndub
Progenitor: Aodh Buidhe Ó Néill
Territory: Antrim, Down and the barony of Loughinsholin
Extra: This branch of the O'Neills is more commonly known as the Clandeboy O'Neill's, with Clandeboy being the Anglicisation of Clann Aodha Bhuidhe.
Mac Conuladh

(MacNaul, MacAnulla, MacNally, MacCullough)

Meaning: Hound of Ulster

Progenitor: Cú Uladh Ó Néill

Territory: Antrim

Extra: Descended from Cú Uladh, son of Brian Ballagh Ó Néill, King of Clandeboye who was killed in battle at Carrickfergus in 1425.

Ó Gnímh
(Agnew, O'Gnyw, O'Gnew, O'Gnive)
Extra: Hereditary poets of the O'Neill of Clandeboye; later served the MacDonnell Earls of Antrim.

Clann Cathaín[edit]

The O'Cahan's of the Route are a branch of the Ó Cathaín that moved into the area of north-eastern County Londonderry and north-western County Antrim known historically as "the Route". The Route was held by the Hiberno-Norman MacQuillans, and a fierce rivalry would erupt between the O'Cahans and MacQuillans. The end of this rivalry would see the destruction of the MacQuillans power and the weakening of the O'Cahans corresponding to the rise of MacDonnells.

The Scottish clans Munro and Buchanan are traditionally said to descend from the O'Cahans. MacCausland descend from Ausalan Buoy O'Kayn, allegedly of the O'Cahans of the Route.

(Common Forms)
Ó Cathaín
(O'Cahan, O'Kane, Kane, Keane)
Meaning: Son of Cathan
Territory: O'Cahan Country, equivalent to the barony of Keenaght, County Londonderry
Extra: A powerful branch of the Northern Uí Néill that had the privilege of inaugurating the O'Neill.
Mac Bhloscaidh
(MacCloskey, MacCluskey)
Progenitor: Bloscaidh Ó Cathaín
Ó Maoláin
(O'Mullan, Mullan, Mullin, Mullane, Mollan)
Meaning: Bald or tonsured
Territory: Barony of Keenaght, County Londonderry
Ó Dubhthaigh
(O'Duffy, Duffy, Doohey, Dowey)
Meaning: Black one
Progenitor: St Dubhtach
Territory: Raphoe, Donegal
Extra: Erenaghs of Templecrone in the diocese of Raphoe for 800 years, being kinsmen of the patron of the church, St Dubhthach

Clann Domnaill[edit]

The Clann Domnaill (Clan Donnell) originated in County Donegal however moved eastwards into what is now County Tyrone. The clan is descended from Domnaill mac Áed, son of Áed Findliath and Gormlaith Rapach, daughter of Muiredach mac Echdach, King of Ulster.

(Common Forms)
Ua Donnghaile

Ó Donnghaile
(O'Donnelly, Donelly)

Meaning: Brown warrior
Progenitor: Donnghaile Ó Néill
Territory: Fear Droma Lighen, (Drumleen), Donegal then Baile-Ua-nDonnghail (Ballydonnelly), Tyrone

Extra: Hereditary chief was marshal of the O'Neill's forces, chief of Clann Domhnaill.

Ó Flaithbheartaigh

(O'Flaherty, Laverty, Lafferty)

Meaning: Bright prince
Progenitor: Flaithbheartach mac Murchadh
Territory: Aileach, Donegal and later Ardstraw, Tyrone
Extra: Formerly Lords of Ailech and later rotated the Kingship of Tyrone with the O'Neills and MacLaughlins.

Cenél Moain[edit]

The Cenél Moain, or Cenél Moen (old Irish: Cineal Moain "kindred of Moan"), are descended from Moan, son of Muiredach, son of Eógan, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. In the 14th century, the clan was forced across the River Foyle by the O'Donnells to northeast and east Strabane, County Tyrone.

Sept(Common Forms)
Ó Goirmleadhaigh

(O'Gormley, Gormley)

Meaning: Blue spearman


Territory: Rahpoe, Donegal, then Strabane, Tyrone

Extra: Hereditary chiefs of the Cenél Moain. From 1143 to 1145 Domnall Ua Goirmleadhaigh was King of Ailech.[3][4]

Mac Conallaidh (MacAnally, MacNally) Meaning: Wild hound, wolf

Progenitor: Conchobar mac Conallaidh

Territory: Donegal, then Strabane, Tyrone

Extra: Hereditary chief was high steward to the O'Neill, later became chiefs of Cenél Moain to the exclusion of O'Gormley.[5]

Ó Lúinigh

(O'Looney, Loney, Lunney)

Meaning: Descendant of Lúin


Territory: Donegal, then Strabane, Tyrone


Ó Peatáin

(O'Petane, Patten)

Meaning: Diminutive of Patrick


Territory: Ballybofey, Donegal


Ó Ceallaigh

(O'Kelly, Kelly)

Meaning: war, contention


Territory: Donegal


Mac Giolla Uidhir




Territory: Tyrone


Clann Birnn[edit]

The Clann Birnn is descended from Bern mac Ruadrí mac Murchad mac Máel Dúin mac Áeda Alláin. This clan resided in Muintir Birn (in barony of Dungannon) and Tellach Ainbhith (in barony of Strabane) both in modern-day County Tyrone.

(Common Forms)
Mac Ruaidhrí
(MacRory, MacCrory)
Meaning: Red king
Territory: Teallach Ainbhith and Muintir-Birn, and Ballynascreen in County Londonderry
Mac Murchadha
(MacMurphy, Murphy, MacMurrough)
Meaning: Sea warrior
Territory: Muintir-Birn
Extra: Chiefs of Siol Aodha. They were driven out by the O'Neills and settled in the highlands of south Armagh under O'Neill of the Fews.
Ó Firghil
(Friel, Freel)
Meaning: Man of valour
Territory: Donegal, and lesser extent in Tyrone and Derrry
Extra: Hereditary holders of the office of abbot, of Kilmacrenan, Donegal

Cenél Feargusa[edit]

The Cenél Feargusa (kindred of Fergus) are descended from Fergus, son of Eogan, son Niall of the Nine Hostages. It is sometimes also known as the Cenél Coelbad as the descended septs are through his son Coelbad. The clan originally resided in Inishowen, County Donegal before battling their way towards Tullyhogue, County Tyrone where they became masters of Tyrone and the vanguard of the O'Neills. They advanced into Tyrone after the Cenél mBinnigh had already led the way.

(Common Forms)
Ó hÁgáin
(Hagan, O'Hagan)
Meaning: Young
Progenitor: Ogain mac Coelbad
Territory: Originally Inishowen, then Tullyhogue in Tyrone
Extra: Originally spelt Ó hÓgáin. Held the hereditary right of inaugurating the O'Neill as King of Ulster, as well as hereditary brehons of the O'Neill.
Ó Coinne
(O'Quinn, Quinn, Conney, Quinney)
Meaning: Counsel
Progenitor: Coínne mac Coelbad
Territory: Originally Inishowen, then Tyrone
Extra: Acted as quartermasters to the O'Neill.
Ó Maelfabhail
(Mulfall, Lavelle)
Meaning: Devotee of (St) Fabhail
Progenitor: Mael Fabaill mac Coelbad
Territory: Carrickbraghy in north-west Inishowen, and later Derrry and Tyrone
Extra: Last of the Cenél nEóghain clans in its ancestral homeland of Inishowen, conquered by the O'Dohertys of the Cenél Conaill.
Ó Mealláin
(O'Mallon, O'Mellan, Mallon, Mellan)
Meaning: Pleasant
Progenitor: Aedh mac Fergus
Territory: Meallanacht (O'Mellan's Country), Slieve Gallion
Extra: Joint keepers of St. Patricks bell, the Bell of Testament.
Ó Robhartaigh
(O'Roarty, Roarty)
Meaning: Flood-tide
Territory: Donegal
Extra: An ecclesiastical sept who were co-arbs to St Columcille on Tory Island.

Cenél mBinnigh[edit]

The Cenél mBinnigh are descended from Eochu Binneach, son of Eógan. The Cenél mBinnigh where the first clan of the Cenél nEóghain to advance from Inishowen, bypassing the fierce resistance of the Ciannachta (northern Londonderry) and into western Airgialla (modern-day County Tyrone), and in doing so ousted several Airgiallan clans (Ui Tuirtri and FIr Li) to east of the River Bann.

(Common Forms)

Ó hÁdhmaill
(O'Hamill, Hamill)
Meaning: Descendant of Ádhmall (quick, ready, active)[6]
Territory: South Tyrone and Armagh
Hereditary Chief or Clan chief; Ua hAghmaill (O'Hamill), Teallach Duibhbrailbe
Extra: Giolla Criost Ó hAdhmaill, taoiseach of Clann Adhmaill[7] who fought with the last King of Ulaid, Ruaidhrí Mac Duinnshléibhe against John de Courcy in 1177. In the 12th century Ruarcan O'Hamill, was the chief Poet to the powerful O'Hanlon.[8][9]

Cenél Fearadhaigh[edit]

The Cenél Fearadhaigh, or 'kindred of Ferry', descend from Feradach mac Muiredach (Ferry MacMurdoch), a grandson of Eógan, and by the 12th century controlled a large portion of County Tyrone and had penetrated deep into County Fermanagh. By the mid-14th century, the Maguires would break the power of the Cenél Fearadhaigh in Fermanagh.

(Common Forms)
Mac Cathmhaoil
(MacCaul, MacCawell, MacCall)
Meaning: Battle-chief
Territory: Barony of Clogher, County Tyrone
Extra: Leading sept of the Cenél Fearadhaigh.
Mag Uidhrín
(MacGivern, MacGiveran)
Meaning: Diminutive of Odhar
Progenitor: Uidhrín Ua Maoil-Muire
Territory: Barony of Clogher, Co. Tyrone
Mac Giolla Mhártain
(MacGilmartin, Gilmartin, Martin, Kilmartin)
Meaning: Devotee of St. Martin
Territory: Barony of Clogher, County Tyrone
Ó Brolacháin
(O'Brollaghan, Brollaghan)
Meaning: from the Irish brollach meaning "breast"[10]
Territory: Parts of Donegal, Derrry, and Tyrone
Ó Fearadhaigh
(O'Ferry, Ferry)
Territory: Donegal
Mac Fhiachra
(MacKeighry, MacKeefry, MacKeaghery)
Territory: Tyrone

Other septs[edit]

Cenél Tigernaich[edit]

Sept(Common Forms)
Ó Maoilfothartaigh




Territory: County Tyrone


Ó hEodhusa

(O'Hosey, Hosea)



Territory: County Tyrone


Ó Connagain

(O'Coneghan, Coneghan, O'Cunigan)



Territory: West Londonderry, east Donegal, Tyrone


Ó Corragáin






Cenél Aenghusa[edit]

(Common Forms)
Mac Cana
Meaning: Wolf cub
Territory: Ailech, Donegal then Clanbressil, County Armagh
Extra: The Cenél Aenghusa, or 'kindred of Angus', are only mentioned as being of the Cenél nEóghain by a citation in the Annals, with a similar reference in the Book of Lecan.

Cenél Mac Earca[edit]

The Cenél Mac Earca, or kindred of McErca descend from Muircherdaich, a grandson of Eógain, who was also called Mac Earca after his mother. This branch would produce a line of kings that were styled as sovereigns of Ireland. A Máel Fithrich, son of Áeda Uaridnaich, was styled as being the chief of this branch, and his death at the hands of the Cenél Fearadhaigh saw this branch end up in the barony of Clogher, County Tyrone.

Clann Conchúir Magh Ithe[edit]

The Clann Conchúir Magh Ithe, or Clan Connor, originally hailed from Magh Ithe in County Donegal before moving into County Londonderry, ruling a region that became known as O'Cahan Country. This clan descend from Connor Mac Fergal, who in turn is descended from Muirceartach Mac Earca founder of the Cenél Mic Earca.

See also[edit]


  • Robert Bell (1988) . "The Book of Ulster Surnames", The Black Staff Press



  1. ^ Woulfe, Patrick (1923). "Cineal Eoghain - Irish Names and Surnames". Retrieved 31 May 2023.
  2. ^ Peter Berresford Ellis, Erin's Blood Royal, London (1999), pp. 230-1
  3. ^ Duffy, Seán (ed.), "MAC LOCHLAINN, MUIRCHERTACH (C. 1110–1166)", Medieval Ireland, retrieved 30 April 2023
  4. ^ "Ceneal Moain and the O'Gormleys in East Donegal and West Tyrone". Retrieved 30 April 2023.
  5. ^ Ó Ceallaigh, Seamus (1951). "A Preliminary Note on Some of the Nomenclature on the Map of S.E. Ulster Bound up with the Maps of the Escheated Counties, 1610". The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. 81 (1): 39. ISSN 0035-9106.
  6. ^ "Ó hÁdhmaill - Irish Names and Surnames".
  7. ^ "Part 6 of Mac Carthaigh's Book".
  8. ^ "Part 1 of Annals of the Four Masters".
  9. ^ "Annals of Loch Cé".
  10. ^ Kay Muhr; Liam Ó hAisibéil (19 October 2021). The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names of Ireland. Oxford University Press. p. 446. ISBN 978-0198803263.

External links[edit]