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HIGGINS Family History

Ó hUigín- anglicised O Higgin, O'Higgins, Higgins. Woulfe writes that the root word is 'Uige' -knowledge, skill etc.

MacLysaght writes that it is not from Uige but from an Old-Irish word 'akin to Viking'. See P. Woulfe, 'Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall' (1923) and E. MacLysaght,'The Surnames of Ireland' (1985).

The sept originally inhabited the Barony of Rathconrath in present Co Westmeath, but migrated to Connacht (see the 1659 numbers in Roscommon , below). In Co Sligo they remained influential until the time of the Cromwellian expropriations. They were of the Southern Uí Néill, and thus descended from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages or Niall Noígiallag.

They are often mentioned in the 'Annals of the Four Masters' (compiled from medieval manuscripts by the O Clerys in Donegal in the 1630s). In fact, several of them are mentioned in that record as poets/scholars.

In the 1659 'Census' of Sir William Petty, we find listed as a 'Principal Irish Name' in Co Sligo: O Higgin, 5 families, in Carbry Barony; 11 families of O Higgin in Leynie Barony; 13 families of O Higgin in Tyrerell Barony.

There are no signs of Higgins families in Petty's 'Census' in Co Westmeath.

In Co Roscommon, however, there are 9 families of O Higin & O Higgin in Roscommon Barony; 11 families of Higin & Higgin in Ballintobber; 5 families of O Higgin in Boyle Barony; 7 O Higgin & O Higgan in Moycarnan.

Returns in the 'Census' for Cos Galway and Mayo are missing.

By the time of Griffith's 'Primary Valuation' of property from 1847-64, most Higgins households were in counties Galway 248, Mayo 242, Roscommon 178, Cork 169 and Sligo 144. (I found no trace of the name in the 1659 'Census' Cork lists, which suggests to me a late migration).

In view of the widely known Kevin O'Higgins, it is worth noting that the figures in Griffiths show in total 1965 Higgins and just 2 O'Higgins.

The 1890 Births Registrations found most occurrences of the name in Mayo, Galway, Dublin Roscommon, Cork and Antrim.

In terms of provinces,the 1890 figures are: Connacht 105, Leinster 45, Munster 32 and Ulster 23.

Higgins is also an English name, and is often treated exclusively as such in British surname dictionaries, e.g. P.H. Reaney's 'Dictionary of British Surnames' (1977). This is odd, since in Ireland in 1890 it was the 83rd most numerous surname; and in England & Wales in 1996, it was the 227th most numerous surname (also, numbers of these would be the result of Irish immigration).

Nonetheless, some Higgins bearers, perhaps moreso in the 6 counties, may be of British stock.

Two famous Higgins:

Bernardo O Higgins (1778-1842) the Great Liberator of Chile from Spanish Rule, was the natural son of Spanish Marquis d'Osorno, Ambrosio O Higgins, who came from the Sligo family. Bernardo became the 2nd Supreme Director of Chile.

Kevin O'Higgins (1892-1927) born in Co Laois, Irish Nationalist politician, As a Sinn Féin member he was imprisoned in Britain in 1918. Whilst in prison he was elected as MP for Stradbally, Laois. He took the Pro-Treaty side in the Irish Civil War (1922-1923), and as Minister of Home Affairs he was responsible for Justice; he authorised the execution of Anti-Treatyist Rory O'Connor, who had been best man at O'Higgins' wedding(!). Altogether he confirmed the execution orders on 77 Anti-Treaty republican prisoners. He was shot in reprisal by 3 IRA men on his way to mass in 1927.

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Anthony Barrett

(Part 1 of 3) The Higgins name is from Ireland, but one of its origins according to DNA is from the north-west coast of the Emerald Island. One Higgins story [dominated by DNA tribal marker R1b-L513, Subgroup A1] can trace their origins to the Finn Valley in Donegal, Ireland from 50 BCE. Perhaps the journey begins with the Clanna Dedad; Deda, son of Sen or Deda Mac Sin. This Higgins surname origin is from a Northern Ui Neill [R1b-L513] tribe. The Cenél Eoghan and the tribes of Donegal conquered much of Ulster (Derry and Tyrone).

Anthony Barrett

(Part 2 of 3) Cenél Eoghan will expand across northern Ireland with their cousins Cenél Conaill and the Northern Ui Neill between 500-800 BCE. The clans of Finn Valley have the same DNA as people from Gwened in Brittany. But how could this be? Recent discoveries from DNA testing are unlocking the migration patterns of Celtic tribes as late as 800 CE to 1200 CE. The Higgins story begins in pre-history Ireland then moves to Scotland as they form part of the Dalriada. Descendants of their tribe will then travel to Brittany, France during the Dark Ages.

Anthony Barrett

(Part 3 of 3) Discover their newly found untold story and how forgotten texts bring their story back to life. From the ebook, “The Tribe Within” learn how DNA unfolds this amazing tale and if you look in the right places, how history narrates this evidence. There is another written account of their story, but it is camouflaged in smoke and myth – it will become the tales of King Arthur. Come follow in the footsteps of Deda Mac Sin and visit

Higgins 8 day Sligo tour
€989 - 3 Nights | 5 Star
8 day tour of Sligo Find out more »
Higgins 8 day Westmeath tour
€989 - 3 Nights | 5 Star
8 day tour of Westmeath Find out more »
Areas of Origin for HIGGINS

Leinster , Ireland

Connaught , Ireland

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