This interesting name is of Irish origin. It derives from the medieval Gaelic O' Ruanaidh, meaning The descendant of the champion". Unfortunately we do not know who the champion was except that he would have been the chief of the clan. The original O' Rooneys were from Dromore in County Down, and today whilst they are spread through Ireland, they remain principally in Ulster, and the neighbouring county of Leitrim. They were famous as a literary family, who included Eoin O' Rooney, chief poet to the Mac Guinness of Iveagh in the 14th century, whilst five centuries later the tradition was still continuing with John Jerome Rooney.He was born in America in 1866, and an Irish-American Catholic poet, whilst William Roony (1873 - 1901), was both a poet and a Gaelic revivalist, and Micky Rooney was the most famous filmstar of his day. There is a place called Rooney's Island in County Donegal. The modern surname can be found as Rooney, Roony, Rownoe and Roney. Amongst the sample recordings in Ireland is the christening of Daniel, son of Hugh and Joanna Rooney on January 31st 1754 at Inch by Gorey, County Wexford. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ceallach O' Rooney (chief poet of Ireland), which was dated 1079. 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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