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McDonnell of county Mayo, possibly from the district around Castlebar or Foxford

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The county of Mayo, with the Castlebar and Foxford districts highlighted. Source: Arrowsmith, Aaron. “Map of Ireland.” In, Various Surveys of Ireland. Philadelphia: John Conrad & Co., 1804. Edited by Alison Kilpatrick (2021) to highlight the location of the towns of Castlebar and Foxford, and district.

Welcome to this landing page for family history research findings for McDonnell of county Mayo. Our earliest known ancestor for this line is our third great-grandmother, Mary McDonnell (1794–1869), whose husband was John Burke (1795–1839) of Claremorris.

Contents :

Biographical sketches :

Blog articles :

Limited records & Genetic genealogy :

Though all of the county Mayo church records were studied, unfortunately a record of marriage was not found for this couple. John Burke was stationed at Castlebar with the 39th Regiment of Foot for two years, 1819–1820. However, while Mary McDonnell’s home parish and townland are not known, DNA matches confirm distantly related McDonnell families in the general district surrounding the towns of Castlebar and Foxford.

Origin of Surname and spelling variants:

Lee (1920) asserted that the surname, MacDonnell, Macdonnell, or McDonnell, was “of Irish and Scottish origin but mainly found in Ireland. It is an anglicized form of the Gaelic name ‘Mac Domhnaill,’ which means son of Donald (Anglicized version of the Scottish Gaelic Dòmhnall and Irish Domhnall).” Further, the name is considered a variant of other Clan Donald surnames including MacDonald. 1

As it happens, when Mary was widowed a second time, she married Charles Hodder. The marriage church record cited her father as John McDonald, a smith by trade. 2 As a cautionary note, the Anglican minister who solemnized the marriage might have interpreted Mary’s pronunciation of McDonnell as McDonald. We need also to consider the possibility that Mary’s relatives in Ireland might have used the surname, McDonagh.

Request for help to find Mary McDonnell’s family of origin :

If you have information that could help us connect Mary McDonnell to a family in county Mayo—or if you have information to add to the biographical sketch presented on Arborealis—please consider getting in touch via the contact page.

Footnotes :

  1. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. McDonnell (surname). (accessed 2021-01-17.) Citing: Lee, Henry. History of the Clan Donald: The Families of MacDonald, McDonald and McDonnell. New York: R. L. Polk and Co., 1920. ↩︎
  2. Church of England. Parish of St Mary, Chatham. Solemnization of a Marriage. Extract: Marriage solemnized at the Parish Church in the Parish of Chatham in the County of Kent. 1854 August 4. Charles Hodder, age 49, widower, occupation: pensioner; residence: [The] Brook, Chatham; father: Richard Hodder, cabinet maker. Mary Anderson [sic] (signed with her mark), age 60, widow; residence: ditto.; father: John Macdonald, smith. Married in the parish church according to the rites and ceremonies of the Established Church after Banns by the Rev. Robert F. Wheeler, Curate; witnesses: Gurfa? [Sarah? or George? nearly illegible] Bourke or Burke or Bowke; Ellen Slattery (signed with her mark). Original record held by Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre, archival ref. P85/1/61, no. 121. Digital image online at Medway Archives, (extract by Alison Kilpatrick, 2021-01-21). ↩︎

Source citation for this page: — Kilpatrick, Alison. “McDonnell of county Mayo.” Index page for family history research for the McDonnell family of county Mayo, townland and parish as yet unknown. Online at Arborealis,, accessed [insert date of access]. All rights reserved.

Updated 14th Oct. 2023.