The Kennedy family at Hyannis Port, 1931. What are the origins of your family's name? A comprehensive listing of the main Irish surnames, letters H - M.JFK Presidetial Library

Some families get all the talent/luck! Either through sheer chance of DNA, or a tough family work ethic and lots of hard work, these are some of the top Irish families where siblings have excelled in their chosen field. 

1. The Yeats family

The Yeats family.

The Yeats family.


While W. B. Yeats’ poetry is celebrated the world over, his brother Jack became an esteemed painter and his sisters Elizabeth and Lily (known as Lollie and Lily) were involved in the Arts and Crafts movement. Lollie and W.B. established Cuala Press (publishers) together in 1908 while Lily founded the embroidery workshop under Cuala Industries. Jack is also credited with winning Ireland’s first Olympic medal as a Free State in the arts and culture section of the games.

2. Patrick and William Pearse

Patrick Pearse and William Pearse (circa 1910). Credit: RTÉ archives.

Patrick Pearse and William Pearse (circa 1910). Credit: RTÉ archives.


Patrick Pearse is one of the most celebrated leaders of the 1916 Rising, but his brother Willie was also executed for the role he played in the rebellion. Devoted to his older brother, Willie became a sculptor studying in Dublin and Paris before joining Patrick in running St. Enda’s, the school Patrick founded. Although he played minor role in the Rising, his surname would send him to his death.

3. The Gleeson brothers

Domhnall Gleeson (right) and Brian (left) with their Dad Brendan.

Domhnall Gleeson (right) and Brian (left) with their Dad Brendan.


The sons of Brendan Gleeson are certainly not living in the shadow of his fame but making their own names as talented actors. You can see 32-year old Domhnall in the latest 'Star Wars' installment while Brian played one of the main roles in RTÉ’s 1916 centenary drama “Rebellion.”

4. Frank, Malachy and Alphie McCourt

Frank (left), Malachy (top right) and Alphie (bottom right).

Frank (left), Malachy (top right) and Alphie (bottom right).


Pulitzer-prize winning writer Frank McCourt is best known for his tragicomic memoir “Angela’s Ashes” while his actor brother Malachy can be seen in movies such as “Molly Maguires,” “She's the One,” and “The Devil's Own.” Youngest brother Alphie is also a writer and has published books including “Heartscald: A Collection of Verses, Songs and Chronicles,” and “The Soulswimmer: A Collection of Stories, Verses, and Songs.”

5. The Clancy brothers

The Clancy Brothers and their trademark Aran jumpers were an important part of the American folk music revival in the 1960s. Born in Carrick-on-Suir in Co. Tipperary, Paddy, Liam and Tom are best known for their music with Tommy Makem with whom they made some two dozen albums.

6. Kathleen Clarke and Ned Daly


The wife of Thomas Clarke, the man regarded as the vital mind behind the Easter Rising planning, was also the sister of another of the rebels executed in the aftermath of the rebellion. Kathleen Clarke (nee Daly) was a founding member of Cumann na mBan and the first female Lord Mayor of Dublin while her younger brother Ned Daly became the youngest man to be executed for his role in the Rising after he fought as commandant of Dublin's 1st battalion.

7. The Brogans

Bernard (left) and Alan (right) with their Mom and Sam Maguire.

Bernard (left) and Alan (right) with their Mom and Sam Maguire.


Sons of the All-Ireland winning footballer Bernard Brogan Senior, Bernard and Alan have been crucial members of the Dublin senior football team in the last few years, both winning three All-Irelands with the intercounty team. Their younger brother Paul also spent some time on the Dublin panel making his debut in 2008.

8. Arthur Shields and Barry Fitzgerald

Arthur (left) and Barry (right) in The Quiet Man.

Arthur (left) and Barry (right) in The Quiet Man.


Star of “The Quiet Man” Arthur Shields fought in the Easter Rising before making his way to Hollywood and becoming a star actor. His brother Barry Fitzgerald also hit the big time for his acting talent, winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for “Going My Way.”

9. Gerald agus Arthur Neilan

British soldiers during the Rising. Credit: British Pathé / YouTube.

British soldiers during the Rising. Credit: British Pathé / YouTube.


These Easter Rising siblings both fought near the Four Courts but for opposing sides. Gerald Neilan was the first British officer to die when the fighting broke out despite being described as an Irishman so “strongly nationalistic in his sympathies as to be almost a Sinn Féiner.” His younger brother Arthur heard news of the Rising late and rushed to join the cause, being sent by Pearse to fight with the garrison that had killed his brother earlier the same day.

10. The Kennedy family

Kennedy family photo.

Kennedy family photo.


Amongst Robert F., John F., Ted, Rosemary, Eunice, Joseph Jr., Kathleen, Jean and Patricia we find US Presidents, US Ambassadors to Ireland, and senators, to name but a few of the significant roles they’ve played in US politics and in world history. This Irish-American family have had their fair share of scandal and pain, but with it has also come success.

Are there any successful siblings we've forgotten. Let us know in the comments section.