This name, with variant spellings Conan, (O) Cooney, Counihan, Coonihan etc., is an Anglicized form of the old Gaelic O'Cuana or O'Cuanain. The Gaelic prefix "O" indicates "male descendant of", plus the personal byname Cuana(in) from "Cuan", elegant. This great sept originated in the Ulster county of Tyrone, but at an early date migrated westwards to north Connacht and established themselves in county Sligo. Some branches of the sept subsequently moved to the bordering counties of Tipperary and Offaly where the name is found on record i the mid 12th Century, (see below). One, Diarmid O'Cuana, noted in "The Annals of the Four Masters" circa 1248 was described as "The great priests of Elphin". The diocese of Elphin lies in the Connacht counties of Sligo, Roscommon and Galway. In Offaly and other midland counties Conan is frequently found as a variant of Coonan. On April 25th 1846 Martin Coonan, "a laborer", aged 21 yrs., embarked from Liverpool on the "Patrick-Henry" bound for New York. He was a famine immigrant to that city. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Isaac O' Cuanain, Bishop of Roscrea, which was dated 1161 - 1168, "Ecclesiastical Records of County Tipperary", during the reign of King Rory O' Connor, High King of Ireland, 1166 - 1198. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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