Select Costello Surname Genealogy

Costello sounds Italian, but isn’t.   The root of the name is Irish, from Oistealb which is the Gaelic rendering of Jocelyn and in Gaelic is a personal name meaning “resembling a deer.”  The Jocelyn in question was the Anglo-Norman knight Jocelyn de Angulo who had come to Ireland at the time of Strongbow.  His descendants settled in Connacht and adopted the Gaelic name Mac Oistealb or Mac Costello.

Costello is the main spelling today.   A variant in Ireland is Costelloe.

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Select Costello Ancestry

Ireland.  The Costello family first appeared on record in Ireland in 1193 when the Annals of the Four Masters recorded: “Inishcloghbran was plundered by the sons of Osdealb.”  The first known holder of the surname was believed to have been Cumumhan Mac Casarlaigh in about 1252; whilst in the 'modern' spelling it may have been Teag MacCostello, chief of the clan in 1565.  

The family held lands in county Mayo, in the barony of Costello (named for them) in the east of the county, until the end of the 16th century.  Much of their time was spent in feuds with
the MacDermots, their neighborsIn 1565 the principal seat of the Costellos was at Castlemor near Ballaghadereen.  However, by the time of Cromwell, most of their estates in the barony had been confiscated.   

“Dubhaltach Costello, a colonel in the Spanish army, had returned to Ireland after the Restoration and, disappointed by his failure to recover the family estates, devoted the rest of his life to wreaking vengeance on the new Dillon proprietors.  Proclaimed a rebel and an outlaw in 1666, he carried out ‘a vendetta of raids and burnings against Viscount Dillon' until he was shot dead by Dillon’s soldiers in March 1667.”  

The Costello castle at Castlemor had been destroyed and the family had to move to more modest quarters at Edmondstown House in the northern part of the barony.  There they were to remain.  In 1864 Arthur Costello built a new house by Edmondstown in the style of a Scottish manor house where he entertained lavishly. However, the expenditure all but ruined him and he died in poverty en route to Dublin, the last of the Costello line.

The Costello name remains a common surname in Mayo and Galway where it is often spelt with an extra "e" at the end.  Roughly 20% of Costellos in Ireland today are Costelloes.

England.  Many Costellos migrated from Ireland to England.   The best-known son of this migration, the singer/songwriter Elvis Costello, adopted the Costello name.

The Costello name was first stamped on America through Maurice Costello, the son of Irish immigrants Tom and Ellen Costello who had come to Pittsburgh in the 1870’s.  Maurice started off in local vaudeville and got his big break in film in 1912.  As he recounted:

"I had wealth and a volume of fan mail arriving daily - love notes, mash notes, telegrams asking appointments, telephone calls, gifts, flowers, offers of marriage, everything. I could not help it.  I was the first great screen lover, the first star, I belonged to the public.”

His daughter Dolores, who married the actor John Barrymore, and Helene also became screen stars of the silent era.

Costello in America is often thought to be an Italian name, because of the number of Italian-Americans - such as the comedian Lou Costello and the crime boss Frank Costello - who have adopted the Costello name.

Canada.  Thomas and Mary Costello who left their family home in Kerry for Canada in 1825 have a large number of Costello descendants in Canada today.  They originally settled in Douglastown on the Gaspe Peninsula.  Costellos later moved west to Calgary where they were among its early settlers.  Copps Costello was Mayor of Calgary from 1915 to 1919.

Australia and New Zealand.  Two Costellos who came to Australia, John and Patrick Costello, made their mark on their new country, despite adversity.
  • John Costello arrived with his parents Thomas and Mary from Tipperary to Sydney in 1837.  Four of their five children had died during the voyage but Johnthe youngest had managed to survive.  His restless nature took him to ranching in Queensland and even to the Northern Territory; but drought, fever, and bush fires took their toll and he eventually settled in the early 1900’s in quieter pastures at Tocabil in western NSW.  Michael Costello’s 1930 book Life of John Costello told his story.
  • Patrick Costello came with his sister Mary as assisted migrants from Leitrim to Melbourne in 1841.  His life was to be urban, as a building contractor and local politician.  He too had his reverses, being jailed for a year and expelled from Parliament in the early 1860’s for irregularities.  He was later encumbered by debt.  However, he managed a return to politics in the early 1890’s as Mayor of Melbourne.  A descendant is the Australian Federal Treasurer of the 1990’s, Peter Costello.
John and Ann Costello arrived in New Zealand via Australia from Tipperary in the 1840’s.  They raised nine children on the Coromandel Peninsula on North Island (one of whom, Michael, drowned there in a swimming accident).  A number of Costellos left Kerry for Invercargill, South Island in the 1860's.

Select Costello Miscellany

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

Select Costello Names

Teag MacCostello
, chief of the Costello clan in Mayo in 1565, was the first to bear the Costello name.
Maurice Costello, Irish-American born, was a leading figure in American vaudeville in the late 1890's and early 1900's.  His daughters Dolores and Helene became stars of the silent screen.
Frank Costello, born Francesco Castiglia, was an American Mafia crime boss of the 1930's.
Lou Costello, born Louis Cristillo, was one half of the famous Abbott and Costello comedy double act that entertained American audiences in the 1940's and 1950's.
John A. Costello, born in Dublin, was twice Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland, in 1948-51 and 1954-57. 
Elvis Costello, born Declan MacManus, is an English singer/songwriter of Irish roots.

Select Costellos Today
  • 9,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 11,000 in America (most numerous in New York) 
  • 16,000 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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