Mahoney History From Ireland to America

Brian Boru

The legend says that the Mahoney name begins with Brian Boru, said to be one of Ireland‘s greatest heroes. A high king of Ireland in the eleventh century, he united many smaller kingdoms of Ireland to fight the Saxon invaders.

Brian’s grandson: Mathghamhna (Mahowna)

Brian Boru's daughter, Saidbh, married and had a son named Mathghamhna (pronounced Mahowna), which means “bear” in Irish.

Mathghamhna, his grandfather, and many other Irishmen, died at the Battle of Clontarf which took place on 23 April 1014 between Brian Boru‘s army and forces led by the King of Leinster, Máel Mórda mac Murcada. It ended in a rout of Máel Mórda's forces, but Brian was killed by a small group of fleeing Norsemen who happened across his tent. After the battle, Ireland returned to the status quo with many small, separate kingdoms, none of them with much power.

Evolution of the Mahoney Name

Mathghamhna's descendents called themselves O'Mathghamhna in his honor. This surname became O'Mahoney and by 1890’s, the 'O' had been largely dropped and Mahoney was the most common spelling. So far, in various records, the name has been spelled Mahoney in America and Mahony in Ireland but it is not uncommon to also see it spelled as O'Mahony, Mahowney, or even McMahony. (It also has different pronunciations, depending on where you live.)

Today in Ireland, the Mahoneys are found primarily in County Cork (the light green on the map at the right) in the lands that used to form the Mahoney territory.

Three Mahoney Ancestors

There are only two men and one woman, their spouses and their children, to research in the Mahoney genealogy for my family: Dennis Mahoney, Michael James Mahoney, and Estella Mary Mahoney. It may never be possible to determine the ancestors of Dennis Mahoney.

Dennis Mahoney and Mary O’Connor

Dennis Mahoney (1832-1927) and Mary O’Connor (1836-1898) lived through Ireland’s potato famines of the mid-1850’s. They emigrated from Ireland to the United States before 1868. After living in Chicago for a short time, they settled in Heartwell, Nebraska, where Dennis farmed. Mary gave birth to seven children; at least three were born in the United States.

Michael James Mahoney and Josephine Amanda Porter

Their son, Michael James Mahoney (1868-1939) married Josephine Amanda Porter (1875-1966) in Heartwell, Nebraska, in 1893. Michael had moved to Heartwell with his parents in 1889, and that is where Josephine and Michael met. Michael was a farmer all of his life. They had seven children.

Stella Mahoney and Hans Lloyd Hansen

One of Michael and Josephine’s seven children was a daughter, Estella Mary Mahoney (1895-1967). Called Stella all her life, she was proud of her Irish ancestry and loved her large family of one sister and five brothers. Stella married Hans Lloyd Hansen(1895-1954) in 1915. They had three children.

[This page researched and written by Susan Overturf Ingraham, a descendant of three Mahoneys. Updated on September 18, 2011.]

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