Mick O’Neill’s family history journey

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view from the house

Mick lives in Blackheath in the Blue Mountains, about 120km west of Sydney, NSW, with views over the Grose Valley. Mick became interested in the O’Neill side of his family during a visit to Ireland in 1995, and very quickly on his return to Sydney managed to trace his line back to his great-great-grandfather, Patrick O’Neill, using the Pioneer Index and Federation Index CDROMs in Fisher Library at the University of Sydney.

Mt Bromo, Java 2005

At this stage, and by the kind of fluke that often occurs during family history research, he learned of the gathering of an O’Neill clan that had occurred in November 1994 in Dungog, NSW. He immediately contacted one of the organisers of the gathering, Jann O’Neill of Wauchope, NSW, and learned that his family was one of the several missing links in Jann’s research.

Mick grew up believing that his family was tiny – his mother was an only child, his father had just one brother and there were only two first cousins. He now realises he has a large extended family, and has endeavoured to meet as many of his relatives as he can. Mick and Chris returned to Ireland in 1999 and again in 2006, and managed to locate where his Irish forebears lived.


Our mob have been in Australia now for at least eight generations, starting from a convict, William O’Neill, who arrived in NSW on the Mangles 2 on November 8, 1822. Like many Australian families, we are descended from a mix of convicts, soldiers and free settlers of many ranks and professions.

William O’Neill was born in 1795 in County Kerry on the south west coast of Ireland very near Tralee, the doorway to the Dingle Peninsula. He was described as a ploughman and married Johanna Flaherty (born in 1799) in St John’s Catholic Church, Tralee, on February 13, 1820. On their marriage certificate it was stated they [one of them] came from Ballyroe (B.roe), which is a hamlet on the road to Ardfert. It now appears that William and his family lived in Killorglin, which sits just above the E in the name Kerry on the left hand map below:


William O’Neill was tried under the Insurrection Act of 1822 (introduced in February to quell an uprising in the south-west corner of Ireland) to transportation to NSW for seven years. A son John was born in 1822, but since the Mangles sailed from Cork on June 21, there is some doubt that William would have seen John before he sailed. At the end of William’s sentence he sought permission for Johanna and John to join him. They arrived on 12 Nov 1828 on the City of Edinburgh. They settled in Clarence Town on the William River between Maitland and Dungog and had five more children.

Early records have William’s surname spelt as O’Neil. His son Patrick had 12 children, half spelt O’Neil and half O’Neill in the NSW index of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Folk descended from John are today spelt O’Neil. For the purpose of uniformity, we have chosen to use O’Neill for historic records and the appropriate spelling for modern records.

William’s parents were Martin O’Neill and Catherine Barry. We cannot go further back in Irish records because of restrictions posed by the English conquerors. You can click on the page Catholics in Ireland to read more of this history. To understand more about the political times in Co Kerry, click ion the tab Co Kerry in the 1820s.

Martin O’Neill and Catherine Barry had at least one other child, a daughter Ellen Neill (as her birth is registered in Irish records). At least one of her sons, William Charles O’Neill, arrived in NSW as a free settler. His story can be read by clicking Ellen’s family.

Descendants of William O’Neill are encouraged to contribute to this webpage. We are actively seeking individuals who can write about their own family, or about any part of our family. Please send contributions to Mick O’Neill (mick@oneillfamily.id.au).

Mick’s paternal grandfather was Joseph William Hudson, and a separate webpage tells his story.

In 1994 there was a gathering of descendant families of William O’Neill & Johanna Flaherty. Some photos from this gathering can be viewed by clicking the Dungog 1994 tab. There  is some discussion about a second gathering of members of our wider O’Neill family close to 12 Nov 2022, celebrating the bicentenary of convict William’s arrival in NSW. More of this later.

These pages have various links to original documentation. Some of these are to ancestory.com pages, and can only be opened with a current membership login. Links to NSW Births, Deaths and marriages records and to Australia’s historic newspaper archives TROVE are generally opened in a separate window.


Mick enjoying a cuppa outside the Ballyoe Hotel, just north of Tralee, with views of Ballyroe – now just fields and homes – stretching to the Slieve Mish Mountains:


We do not publish names of living people without their permission, unless they appear in an official or public document. Please send your stories and photos which we will publish with due acknowledgment.

Mick O’Neill (mick@oneillfamily.id.au, m. 0405 595 654)
21 Days Crescent
NSW 2785

Tel +61 2 4787 5725

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