This interesting surname is an Anglicized form of two Old Gaelic sept names: O'Cuana and O'Coinne. The former sept originated in the Ulster county of Tyrone, where they held positions of great importance. At an early date the O'Cuanas migrated westwards to north Connacht, and established themselves in Co. Sligo. Some branches of the sept subsequently moved to the bordering counties of Tipperary and Offaly where a diminutive form of the name appears on record in 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 priest of Elphin", a diocese lying in the Connacht counties of Sligo, Roscommon and Galway. The sept name was taken from "Cuana", a byname meaning "handsome", "comely". The second sept of O'Coinne, also originating in Ulster, take their name from one Conn - a given name meaning "leader", "chief". Further Anglicized forms of both "O'Cuana" and "O'Coinne" include: Cunny, Cooney, Cunnea, Cuney, Quinney and Quinn. On January 28th 1849, Pat Cunney and Bridget Durkan were married in Kilmacteige, Co. Sligo, and on August 9th 1867, the birth of one William Cunney was recorded in Bangor, Co. Down. 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, in the "Ecclesiastical Records of Co. Tipperary", during the reign of 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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