Select Corcoran Surname Genealogy

Corcoran is an Irish surname, the Gaelic version being O’Corcrain meaning "descendant of Corcrain.”  The name corcair originally meant “reddish” or “ruddy,” but is now used to denote the color purple.

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Select Corcoran Ancestry

IrelandThe Corcorans have an ancient history in Ireland.  They were known in Gaelic times as ecclesiastics, writers, chroniclers, and bards. In early Corcoran history they were based around Lough Erne in county Fermanagh in Ulster.  However, after the Norman invasion in 1170, several branches of the sept left the area.

In the Annals of the Four Masters, there was mention of thirty chiefs of the Corcoran sept in Fermanagh between 1250 to 1480.  Three of the learned and respected erenachs, lay ecclesiastics, were recorded as Daire O’Corcrain, Padraig O’Corcrain and Conn O’Corcrain.

In 1373 John O’Corcrain was the Bishop of Clogher in nearby Tyrone.  Brian O’Corcrain was the vicar of Cleenish and bard to the Maguires a century later.  He wrote the Celtic romance Eachtra Mhacaoimh-an-Iolair, which translates as “The Story of the Eagle Boy.”

In 1590 the English took control of Fermanagh and an Anglo-Norman family of Devenish took possession of the Corcoran lands.  Three prominent Corcorans were executed at Newtonbutler during Cromwell’s time.  These developments prompted a larger out-migration.  Today there are very few Corcorans in Fermanagh or elsewhere in Ulster.

The distribution of the Corcoran name in Ireland is now very different.  The name had spread south and west - primarily to Tipperary, Mayo and Cork.  Some of these Corcorans originated from the Mac Corcrains of clan Ruiane in Offaly and north Tipperary that migrated south.  There developed a Corcoran enclave at Carbery in county Cork.

Many Corcorans emigrated in the 19th century.

.  A number headed for England and particularly for Lancashire where there was work.  The 1851 census in Liverpool listed seven Corcoran families with men in the following trades - provision dealer, shoemaker, joiner, laborer, warehouse porter, and two dock porters.  John Corcoran arrived from Tipperary around 1860 and worked on the docks.  His son Dennis signed on for the Titanic in 1912, but sadly went down with the ship after it hit the iceberg.

Tony Corcoran, an Irish folk singer in England today, recalled his family background:

“I was born into an Irish family in Maudsley near Preston.  My grandfather emigrated back in the late 1800's from the village of Glen Hast in county Mayo.  Lots of Irish people came over then to work in the Lancashire woollen mills, particularly after the famine of 1879 which affected the west coast of Ireland fairly harshly.”

.  Corcorans in America made their mark in the nation’s capital, Washington DC.

.  The first Corcorans of Washington DC owed their position to Thomas Corcoran Sr because, around 1750, he had married into the influential Anglo-Irish Wilson family of Limerick.  His brother-in-law William Wilson arrived in Maryland in 1769 and soon became one of the biggest importers into Maryland. Thomas Corcoran Jr followed his uncle to Baltimore in 1783.

This Thomas then happened to be in the right place at the right time.

“In 1788 he went to Georgetown, now Washington DC, and was mayor when President Washington came with L'Enfant to lay out Washington City.  He headed the welcoming delegate ation and gave the address.  He served as Adjutant of the 18th Maryland Regiment in 1794 and was named Magistrate by President Jefferson and Postmaster by President Madison.”

His son William Wilson became a wealthy banker. 
As a partner in Washington’s Corcoran & Riggs Bank during the Mexican War of the 1840’s, he was responsible for the sale of government war bonds to England, thereby establishing the American government’s credit abroad.

The Corcoran mansion
off Lafayette Park enabled him to display his fine art collection.  It was also “the center of the most fashionable and distinguished society of the capital with his entertainments being of the most elegant and costly character.”

Another Corcoran, much later, who made his mark in the capital was “Tommy the Cork” Corcoran.  Born in Rhode Island in 1900 and the grandson of an Irish immigrant, he trained as a lawyer and came to Washington in the 1930’s.  He rose to power as Franklin D. Roosevelt's personal trouble-shooter and fixer at the time of the New Deal.

New YorkMichael Corcoran from Sligo emigrated to New York in 1849 shortly before his twenty-second birthday.  In the fourteen years that remained to him he became a highly popular leader of Irish troops in the Civil War.  
Edward Corcoran who came to New York from Laois in 1863 also fought in the Civil War, although not under Michael Corcoran.  He later settled at Trumansburg in upstate New York.

James Corcoran from Dublin was in New York as well during the Civil War.  He became well-known after the war as a champion of working-class Irish immigrants in the city.  He started a squatter colony, known as Corcoran’s Roost, on Dutch Hill at the juncture of 40th and First Avenue.

.  A Corcoran family from Crossmolina in Mayo provided many emigrants to Canada.  Three Corcoran brothers – John, Patrick, and Thomas - were the first to arrive in 1811.  They went to work for the Hudson Bay Company at its trading post along the James Bay.  They later settled in Quebec, first in Rawdon and then in Montreal.  Over time siblings and their offspring arrived and the Corcoran numbers mushroomed across Canada and the States.

Thomas Corcoran from Kilkenny emigrated to Prince Edward Island in 1840 with his father.  His father returned to Ireland.  But he remained in PEI and raised a family in Kings county.

Early arrivals were convicts.  There were no fewer than twenty-two Corcorans from Ireland who were transported to Australia between 1815 and 1830.  Among them were:
  • Roger Corcoran who was transported in 1815 for political offences.  After getting his ticket of leave in 1823 he ended up a successful farmer in the Burrowa district of NSW.
  • and Edward Corcoran from Kildare who arrived in 1819, married ten years later, and settled down in Sydney.
Winifred Corcoran, described as a solitary girl, was an assisted passenger who arrived in Sydney from Tipperary on the Constitution in July 1855.  Aged just twenty-one, she married an older man William Scanes three months later. He died in 1874.  But she lived on in Sydney another forty-two years.

Select Corcoran Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Corcoran Names

Brian O’Corcrain was a clergyman and bard in Fermanagh and author of the Celtic romance The Story of the Eagle Boy in the mid-15th century.
William Wilson Corcoran
was a wealthy banker in Washington DC in themid-19th century.  His home was the center of Washington social life in the years preceding the Civil War.

Fred Corcoran
 who died in 1977 was an American golf tournament director, publicist, and agent, known around the world as "Mr. Golf."

Select Corcorans Today

  • 6,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 8,000 in America (most numerous in New York) 
  • 14,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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