The Tinneny Family History Site



The Tinneny surname is extremely rare. There are a handful of our relatives with that name in England, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, Canada and one in India.  However, the name is most common in America.

At this writing, in America, there are well over 250 descendants of Big John Tinneny of Goladuff as well as the descendents of several other Tinnenys whose roots go back to Goladuff. With few exceptions, the Tinnenys in America are descendants of Yankee Pat, the son of Big John Tinneny. Patrick settled in Philadelphia at the beginning of the 20th century.

The other Tinnenys in America can also be traced back to Goladuff. There are a number of descendants of Philip Tinneny of County Leitrim who immigrated to New York in September of 1927. They live in and around New York City, upstate New York and in Florida.

There were also 3 descendants of Big John Tinneny's son Francis who lived first in New York then in New Jersey until 1996 when they returned to Ireland. They were Susan Brady, the great-granddaughter of Yankee Pat’s brother Francis, her two daughters and her husband Owen Lavery.

As of 1998 I had learned of approximately 25 descendants of Francis Tinneny, the son of Thomas Tinneny and Bridget Gilmartin of Belturbet, in the United States. Francis and his wife came to America in 1912 and his name was changed to Tierney when the nuns in the parochial school the children said there was no such name as Tinneny that their name was Tierney. Thereafter, the children and their parents were known as Tierneys. I was unable to locate any of Francis’ descendents until 1996 when after much trying I located them in New England. They were almost lost forever among the many non-related Tierneys in America.

James Davis, the son of Annie Tinneny and grandson of Tommy Tinneny of Belturbet, lived in California as of 1996. He had seven children and numerous grandchildren. Although not Tinnenys by name, they are all Tinnenys by blood.

Of course, the names of many other Tinneny descendants in America have changed due to marriage and in one of the family lines due to adoption.

On page 284 of his classic work, The Surnames of Ireland, published by The Irish Academic press, Edward MacLysaght the prime authority on Irish surnames speaks to our name:  "Tenneny, Tinnenny, These names in various spellings are found in counties Cavan and Leitrim, where Tinnelly is also found. I have not ascertained their origin. It seems probable that they are both anglicized forms of the same Gaelic-Irish surname, possibly Timpany."

Another scholarly work containing a description of the source of the Tinneny name was found in the book Irish Family Names with Origins, Meanings, Clans  Arms Crests And Mottoes. The book, which was written by Captain Patrick Kelly, was published by Oconnor and Kelly of Chicago in 1939 and was republished by Gale Research Company Book Tower, Detroit, in 1976. The book contains a collection "from the living Gaelic and from authoritative books, manuscripts and  public documents." It includes drawings of coats of arms with a brief description for each. On page 22 of the book is the coat of arms for "Mac an Tiompanais" and  a description of the name [with variations] to which the coat of arms applies. The description reads as follows:

McItempany, McTympane, McTempane, MacAtimney, MacAtimeny, MacAtamney, MacAtaminey, MacTimney, MacTamney, Timpany, Tympany, Tymmany, Timony, Tamney, Tempeny, Tenpeny, Toompane, Tumpany, from the Gaelic thiompanach, (noisy). This surname originated in Ulster. The records indicate that it's bearers were numerous in Tyrone where they served as kern of the army of the O Neil's. The Gaelic motto is "Uppermost".

Tiompanac, -aige, a., related to a tympanum, noisy, disorderly, troubled.

Sketch: The Coat of Arms for Mac an Tiompanais

As a Christmas present for me in 1991 my oldest son Christopher P. Tinneny commissioned heraldry researcher and artist Annie H. Crenshaw to research and to paint a Tinneny coat of arms. Ms. Crenshaw was the owner of Southern Illuminations. Her address was 306 Government Street, Wetumpka, Alabama 36092, S.A. She based the coat of arms that she prepared for us on the name information and the coat of arms sketch for Mac an Tiompanais found in Kelly's book.The following information was generally obtained from a contemporary commercial source of family names, The Historical Research Center,Inc. (IRC). The IRC publishes a decorative Family Name History Certificate, which describes our name and it's origin.

It describes the name as a modern Anglicization of the old Irish name O'Tiompanaigh which is literally translated "from the family of the Tympanist." It states that the name is of occupational origin, and belongs to the category of names based on the type of work a man did or the profession he pursued. Musicians of the Royal Court were usually named Tiompanaigh. They were poets and singers and entertained at the court of the High Kings of Ireland.  They wrote ballads telling of the heroic deeds of their patrons and entertained at social gatherings in the palaces and in the manors.Sometimes Tiompanaighs traveled from town to town where they were generally regarded as sages who had magical powers.

In the 1600s the Irish Chieftains were deposed by the British occupation and their lands were given to English settlers. English then became the spoken language in  Ireland and surnames were Anglicized thus -- Tinneny evolved from the medieval name O'Tiompanaigh.    To the present day in Ireland, Tinneny is translated O' Tiompanaigh in Gaelic. Fidelma, Aisling and Kitty, the daughters of Hubert and Susanna Tinneny of Quivvy, Belturbet in County Cavan, Ireland were all told in their Gaelic classes that their name in Gaelic was Ni Tiompanaigh. Ni is the prefix used with the female usage of the name.

Mary Tinneny O' Kane, who in 1997 lived in Limavady, Northern Ireland, told another version of the source of the name which was passed down to her by her  grandfather Thomas "Tommy" Tinneny who was raised in Belturbet, County Cavan. Mary said that she remembered her grandfather Tommy telling her many times  that the name was one of Viking origin and that she believed it had evolved from the Danish name Tynan.

As all Tinnenys have experienced, ours is a very misspelled and mispronounced name. In some cases this is simply an annoyance. In other instances, such as  genealogical research or arriving at the port of New York in the early 1900s, there were more bothersome and significant consequences.

Take the case of Francis Tinneny, the brother of Mary Tinneny O'Kane's father James.  When Francis and his young bride arrived at the port of New York as  immigrants in 1912, Francis said that his name was changed. He probably stated his name to the inspector as Tinneny and the inspector heard Tierney and wrote  Tierney on his documentation. Thereafter, Francis and his descendents, who included three sons who served in the American Army and Air Corps during World  War II, have been known as Tierneys.

Mary O'Kane's family corresponded with their "Tierney" cousins in New York until the 1950s, however, their address, and they were subsequently lost among the  thousands of Tierneys living in the United States who are not related to us until I was able to locate them in 1996 after much research. At that time they were living in  New England.

In the course of this research I have seen quite a few variations on the spelling of our name.  In all but two of those cases, it was not the intent of our family member  to spell the name according to the variation. A very major factor that played in the misspellings was the lack of formal education on the part of both our Tinneny  ancestors and the church or town clerks and other officials who recorded their names in various records.

Following are some common variations found in church and civil records in Scotland, and in Counties Cavan and Fermanagh in Ireland and in British government  records in Belfast. In each case the person referred to in the records was a Tinneny.  The misspellings found were: Tinniny, Tinenny, Tinnaney, Tinnen, Tinnany,  Tineny, Tierney, Tinnany, Tinney, Tinnery.

Other Tinnenys such as Daniel and Wallace Tinneny, the great-grandsons of Big John Tinneny of Goladuff, had their names changed in their youth.  After their father  Patrick Tinneny, the youngest son of Yankee Pat, died in Philadelphia, their mother Anna remarried. The two boys were adopted by their stepfather and took his  family name, which was Klebes. Although this line continues in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and upstate New York through Yankee Pat's grandson, Daniel Klebes and his children, over time their descendants will not be easily recognizable as Tinnenys.

On the other hand Patrick Tinneny, the son of Francis Tinneny and Anne Elliott, who was born in Belturbet, County Cavan, Ireland in the mid 1800s and lived out his adult life in Helensburgh, Scotland, spelled his name Tinnany.  Although his parents, brothers and sisters all used the traditional spelling of the name, for reasons  unknown, he and all of his descendants in Scotland, spelled their name with the "a". Maybe the same thing happened to him that happened to Francis Tinneny (Tierney).


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Updated December 23, 2023
Copyright  R. Tinneny,  All Rights Reserved, 2002-2023