Select Hennessy Surname Genealogy

Hennessy is an Irish surname, being the anglicized form of the Gaelic O’hAonghusa, meaning descendant of Aonghus or Angus (the chosen one).  Two septs in different parts of Ireland bore this name.

The anglicized O’Hennessy spelling was in place in the 17th century, although it has largely been displaced by Hennessy (while some have even revived the ancient O’hAonghusa name).

Hennessy and Hennessey
are the main spellings today.  Hennessey is a spelling variant found outside of Ireland - in parts of the UK, in parts of the US (in particular in Massachusetts), and in Canada

Select Hennessy Resources on The Internet

Select Hennessy Ancestry

Ireland. The Hennessy septs were to be found in Offaly in the Irish midlands and in county Cork in SW Ireland. 

.  The sept in county Offaly pre-dated the Anglo-Norman invasion in 1170.  From their base at Kilbeggan near the hill at Croghan, the O’Hennessys controlled with the O’Holohans the territory in northern Offaly close to the border with Westmeath. 

"Another chief who is known to us is O'Hennesy who rules over clan Colgan.  His lands are fair beyond those of the Fenians of Fal.   He closely adjoins the borders of Croghan."

These O'Hennessys subsequently spread into Tipperary and Clare. 

.  Another sept of the same name was to be found initially near Rosscarberry in west Cork.  It was from this sept that the Hennessy families, numerous in county Cork, traced their descent. 

The Hennessy stronghold was Dunmahon castle in northern Cork.  Built in the early 1500’s, it was
situated on a rocky outcrop above the Blackwater river near the Nagle mountains.  Cromwell destroyed the castle in the 1640’s and the Hennessy lands became forfeit.  Three of the name were attainted. 

Later Hennessys in this area suffered under English penal laws of the early 1700’s.  Charles Hennessy departed the Blackwater valley for Ostend in 1730 to trade with other exiled Irish merchants there.  And, more famously, Richard Hennessy left his home at Ballymacnoy House near Mallow in 1740 to join
Dillon's Irish Regiment in the French army (although he never did actually fight in battle).  Despite his departure Hennessys have continued to live at Ballymacnoy House to this day. 

“Frederic Hennessy, an eighth-generation descendant of Richard Hennessy, has restored the house to its former glory in recent years.  In 2015 he welcomed, together with his brother Maurice, fifty five wine producers and distillers from the Cognac region to their family home.” 

There have been Ballyhennessy townships in Cork, Kerry, and Clare.  Sir John Pope Hennessy, a Victorian colonial administrator who served as the Governor of Hong Kong, came from Ballyhennessy in Kerry, although he grew up in Cork.  His elder brother Henry was a physics professor. 

  Richard Hennessy, on retiring from service in the French army, made his home at Cognac in the Charente department of France.  In 1765 he set up a distillery there to produce brandy.  The distillery continues to this day, as does the Hennessy line in the company.  Richard’s son James Hennessy, although never formally naturalized as a French citizen, became a peer of France and married into the Martell family that was already famous for its cognac. 

During the 1970’s Kilian Hennessy, a fifth generation descendant of Richard, was the CEO of Hennessy and spearheaded the Moet Hennessy merger (it is now part of the LVMT luxury brand conglomerate).  Kilian remained on the company’s advisory board until his death in 2010 at the age of 103.

.  Early Hennessy arrivals from Ireland were in Virginia and North Carolina. 

Virginia.  A Hennessee family was first recorded in the late 1700’s in Tazewell county, Virginia.  They were closely associated with a Harrison family and the two families moved together to Tennessee in the 1800’s and to Oklahoma and Texas in the 1900’s.

North Carolina.  David Hennesy married his wife Margaret in New Hanover county in 1745.  One son James departed for Canada after the Revolutionary War.  Another line led to the Rev. David Hennessy of the Beard’s Creek Baptist church in North Carolina and later to Louisiana.  Sometimes the spelling in Louisiana became Ennis. 

Patrick Hennessee came to Virginia in the 1750’s and then settled in Burke county, North Carolina.  Family lore has him as part of the Offaly Hennessys.  One of his sons James migrated to Tennessee.  Another son John stayed in Burke county and operated a ferry across the Catawba river.  Many of the Hennessees moved away from the area in 1918 after a family tragedy. 

“In 1913 Gus Hennessee was involved in a dispute with a man which resulted in his injury and the death of the other man.  Gus was acquitted as it was decided that it was self-defense.  But five years later 1918 Gus was shot dead by an assassin as he was stepping off a train.  The family was devastated and most of them moved away.” 

.  Death by shooting also characterized David Hennessy and his son David, Irish immigrants in New Orleans in the second half of the 19th century.  Both were shot dead as policemen, the second David in contentious circumstances in 1890. 

Canada.  Hennesseys in Newfoundland date from the 1760’s when Michael Henessee arrived at St. John’s from Tipperary.  He was a farmer.  The Hennessey numbers there expanded in the 19th century.  Thomas Hennessy and his family came from Fermoy in county Cork to Peterborough, Ontario in 1825 under the Peter Robinson settlement program.  Thomas died soon afterwards in Emily township.  But his sons thrived and married there. 

South Africa
.  A Hennessy family from London arrived in South Africa in the 1890’s and endured the siege of Kimberley during the Boer War. 
Alfred Hennessy was later knighted for his services as the founder of South Africa’s Royal Automobile Club. 

.  Early Hennessys in Australia were convicts:
  • Richard Hennessy was given a life sentence for stealing a horse in Tipperary and transported in 1822.  He did receive a ticket of leave in 1834, but died five years later in Mudgee, NSW.  
  • while Micheal Hennessy was convicted (probably unjustly) of stealing money from a guest at his mother’s boarding house in Tullow, Cork.  He was transported in 1828 and got his certificate of freedom seven years later.  He later married and settled in the bushland region of Kurrajong in western Sydney.  
James Hennessy from Offaly was an assisted immigrant who came to Melbourne in 1840.

James and Margaret Hennessy arrived as free settlers in the 1850’s from Waterford, also to Melbourne.  Their son David, born in 1858, initially joined his father’s bakery business in Fitzroy, but later grew wealthy from a number of speculative investments in Australian mining ventures.  By 1890 he was able to retire from business, tour the world, enter politics, and indulge in philanthropy

Select Hennessy Miscellany

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

Select Hennessy Names

Richard Hennessy began the Hennessy brand of brandy when he started a distillery in Cognac in 1765.
Sir John Pope Hennessy
wasa Victorian colonial administrator who served as the Governor of Hong Kong.
Patrick Hennessy
was a 20th century Irish realist painter.

Select Hennessys Today
  • 6,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 8,000 in America (most numerous in New York) 
  • 17,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

Select Surnames

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 500 surnames.

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