The Doherty or O'Doherty name has many variations, including (O) Dougherty, Daugherty, Docherty, and Doharty. The name, derived from the Gaelic O'Dochartaigh, means (descended) from Dochartach. Dochartach was a descendant of the infamous "Niall of the Nine Hostages", who was king of Ireland in the fourth century.
Tradition has it that Niall was responsible for bringing Saint Patrick to Ireland as a captive, following a raid on the coast of Wales. The original seat of the O'Doherty clan was at Ardmire, County Donegal. In the 14th century the clan extended their territory to become Lords of Inishowen, the peninsula which lies between Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle.
The Annals of the Four Masters in 1413 record that Conor O'Doherty is Lord of Inishowen. To protect the narrow land-access to the peninsula, the O'Dohertys built the castles of Enagh, Burt and Inch. The O'Dohertys lost control of their territories following a foolhardy rebellion by Sir Cahir O'Doherty; however, they still remained the predominant family in the area. In the Griffith survey of land-holdings, conducted in 1857, there were over 2,000 (O) Doherty land-holdings in County Donegal, and many hundreds in the neighboring county of Derry.
Although the name O'Doherty is very closely associated with Donegal, it is also found in great numbers in several other counties, particularly the Northern counties. After Cromwell's suppression of the Rebellion of the Catholic Confederacy in 1649, many O'Doherty estates in Donegal were confiscated and the rightful owners were resettled in the North of County Mayo.
During the 1798 rebellion, a French force landed in this area to help the insurgents, among them one Pat Dogherty, who is recorded as being "a noted rebel". The Dohertys first settled in Kerry in 1601, when the army of O'Neill, which included the allied O'Dohertys, marched through on their way to help the Spanish force that landed at Kinsale. Some of the O'Dohertys remained behind to help the local chiefs and never returned to Donegal.
Today the name is fairly common throughout Ireland. Prominent O'Dohertys in history include Sir Cahir O'Doherty (1587-1608), who, like his predecessor, was Lord of Inishowen. Unlike many of his clan, he sided with the English forces after the departure of O'Neill and his allies in 1607. He was thus able to retain control of O'Doherty lands and was knighted and made Alderman of Derry City in recognition of his support. However, he gradually developed an enmity with Governor Paulet of Derry.
In 1608 Paulet struck him in a dispute over a land sale and in revenge, Sir Cahir O'Doherty attacked and burned Derry, killing Paulet and destroying his garrison. After a short period of rebellion, the gallant but foolish Sir Cahir was shot by the English Army sent out to capture him. Subsequently, the O'Doherty lands were confiscated and granted to the Chichester family who planted the area with settlers.
Eighty years later the Irish Army, which supported the Catholic King James II, included Lieutenant Con O'Doherty of Colonel Cormac O'Neill's Infamous Regiment. In the same army was Henry O'Doherty (1660-17?), who was secretary to Patrick Sarsfield, hero of the Jacobite army at the Seige of Limerick, who helped in the drafting of the famous Treaty of Limerick.
Kevin Izod O'Doherty (1823-1905), as a young Dublin medical student, actively supported the nationalist movement and was a member of the Young Irelanders. In 1849 he was captured and transported to Tasmania for treason. Pardoned in 1854, he returned to Dublin and qualified as a medical doctor. He emigrated to Australia in 1862 and became a member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly from 1877 to 1885. Returning again to Ireland, he became a member of parliament for County Meath.
Dohertys were also active in America's fight for freedom and no less than 248 Dohertys (and synonyms) were members of the Revolutionary Army. Among the Doherty officers were Major George Doherty of the Georgia Brigade and Major George Doherty of the 6th Regiment, North Carolina Line; Captain Henry Dougherty of the Pennsylvania Navy; Lieutenant John Dougherty of the Pennsylvania Militia and Lieutenant John Dougherty of Magraw's Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment.
In the U.S., Dohertys of note include Henry Latham Doherty (1870-1939), who was born in Columbus, Ohio and rose from the position of office boy to become one of the major figures in the U.S. gas industry. In the period when the industry was under significant threat from electricity, Doherty realized the need to establish new uses for gas. He formed the Cities Service Company to develop his ideas of large-scale natural gas exploration, drilling and transport. In 1831, his company completed the first long-distance large-diameter gas pipeline, from Amarillo, Texas to Chicago.
Other Dohertys of note are Moya Doherty, producer of Riverdance; actress Shannon Doherty, formerly of Beverly Hills 90210; former Irish government minister of justice and member of Fianna Fail, Sean Doherty (1944-2005); and Ken Doherty, 1997 world snooker champion.