Perhaps more correctly spelt O'Curneen or in the gaelic O'Cuirnin, this is a very rare Irish surname. Originally it was found only in County Leitrim, but over the centuries has spread to other counties, but always remaining a rare commodity. This is not surprising in that the original name holders were 'Ollavs' or professional advisors and academics to the famous O'Rourke clan, original claimants to the throne of Ireland. It is said that etymologically the name means the same as O'Rourke, both originating from the Norse-Viking 'Hrothrekr'- meaning 'the descendant of the restless one', quite an appropriate name for Vikings. The leaders of the O'Rourke clan were driven into exile by Oliver Cromwell in 1650 and this action in itself probably caused the demise of the O'Curneen nameholders as well. The civil war of 1922 and the destruction by the IRA of the National Records Office in Dublin, has meant that many valuable registers covering the early records of the Curneen's have been lost. Examples of surviving recordings include Honor Curneen, the daughter of Frances and May Curneen of Kinlough, County Leitrim on November 1st 1865, and Pat Curneen and his wife Bridget (nee) Gilroy at Carrigallen, County Leitrim, on April 26th 1868. An interesting recording is that of Henry and Luke Curneen, brothers aged 24 and 19 respectively, who left Ireland on the ship 'Ashland of Liverpool', bound for New York, on May 31st 1847. They were refugees from the 'Great Famine' of the same year. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Lucas Curneen, which was dated February 7th 1847, christened at Drumcliff, County Sligo, Ireland, during the reign of Queen Victoria, known as 'The great white queen', 1837 - 1901. 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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