This surname with its variant spelling Sheahan ranks amongst the eighty commonest surnames in Ireland. It is concentrated predominantly, however in Munster; at the end of the last century about ninety percent of all the Sheehans in the country lived in that province and about one half of these were in County Cork. The maritime county of Cork, in Munster, is bounded by the sea on the south-west, the south and the south-east. To the east it has land boundaries with the counties of Waterford and Tipperary, and to the north with Limerick and to the west with Kerry. Anciently the country formed part of the kingdom of Desmond. After the Anglo-Norman Invasion the whole of the present county, save the City of Cork (which had been founded by the Vikings) and its surroundings, was granted in 1177 by Henry II to Anglo-Norman knights who brought over their followers and established a military colony. The homeland of their ancestral sept O'Siodhachain, was in the barony of Lower Connello in County Limerick. The name means 'peaceful'. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames. The came into being fairly generally in the 11th century and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000.
The tradition of surnames in Ireland developed spontaneously, as the population increased and the former practice, first of single names and then of ephemeral patronymics or agnomina of the nickname type proved insufficiently definitive. At first the surname was formed by prefixing 'Mac' to the father's Christian name or 'O 'to that of a grandfather or earlier ancestor.
At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments.
With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield, and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over the armour. The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. (The sept of O'Shighan).
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