- Recorded as O'Niall, O'Neill, O' Naillan, O'Neligan, Naillan, Neligan and Nelligan, this prestigious Irish family claims descent from Domhnall, grandson of Niall Glun Dubh or Neil of the Black Knee, King of Ireland, who was killed by the Norsemen in 890 a.d. The family are said to have the oldest traceable genealogy in Europe, a remote ancestor being Niall of the Nine Hostages, the legendary 4th Century High King of Ireland. Traditionally, Irish family names are taken from the heads of tribes, revered elders, or some illustrious warrior, and are usually prefixed by "Mac" denoting "son of", or "O", grandson, male descendant of. The given name Niall, genitive "Neill", derives from the Old Gaelic "nia(dh)", champion, and O'Neill has the distinction of being one of the first hereditary surnames ever adopted in Ireland. The O'Neills were the chief family of the Cinel Eoghan, their territory being Tir Eoghan (modern County Tyrone, and parts of Counties Derry and Donegal). Their race formed two main branches - the northern Ui Neill of Ulster, and the southern Ui Neill of Thomond. The former clan held the title "Earls of Tyrone", and the red hand of Ulster is taken from their Coat of Arms; the latter were chiefs of Bunratty in County Clare. The O' Neligans now Nelligan or Neligan are a very small Cork and Kerry sept first recorded in 1315, when Richard Neligan was the interpreter between King Richard 11nd of England and the Irish Chiefs.
Surnames reference. 2013.