This website has been created to provide Sextons from all over the world with information on our family’s origins, our history, where and how we currently live and, basically, information on all things Sexton!
Where are the Sextons today?
The website has been set up by me, Michael Sexton, and I live in Cork City. Our particular branch of the Sextons are from Castlehaven in West Cork so much of what will appear on this website will focus on this branch of the Sextons but, in time, I also hope to provide information for Sextons whose origins are in other parts of Ireland. There are concentrations of Sextons elsewhere in Co. Cork – particularly in the Timoleague/Barryroe area and in the Donoghmore area and there are large numbers of Sextons in mid and west Clare, Limerick and Cavan (where the Ó Seasnáin name has occasionally been anglicised as Tackney). Smaller numbers of Sexton families can also be found in Tipperary, Waterford, north Kerry, Galway and not surprisingly in the cities of Cork, Dublin and Belfast (though these are almost certainly the descendants of Sextons who moved in from rural areas).
There are lots of famous Irish Sextons – most famous of all is probably world rugby player of the year in 2018, Johnny Sexton, but we also count TDs (Irish members of parliament), American university presidents, British trade unionists and many others amongst our number.
If your name is Sexton, is this site for you?
This website is for people who are descendants of the Irish family of Sextons – the Ó Seasnáin clan (possibly a sept or sub-clan of the Dalcassian clan of Uí Bhriain*, descendants of Brian Ború). There are many other people living in England and the US who bear the name of Sexton and, while we have nothing against these, I’m sure very fine, people (!!!), they are an entirely different family and take their name from the English language word for the occupation of a sexton or church sacristan. We take our name from the gaelic word ‘seasnán’ which was anglicised to Sexton and more rarely to Sisnane, Shasnan, Tarsney and Tackney.
* Recent DNA-based research casts some doubt on this theory and suggests that while the Uí Sheasnáin probably originated in the same Thomand (north Munster) area as the Uí Bhriain, they may be unrelated to them.
If you live in the US or in Britain and you’re not sure which group you belong to, you will probably find a clue in your name and religion. If your grandfather’s first name is John or Patrick or Joseph or Timothy or Michael or Cornelius (Con) or Bartholemew (Bart) and you come from a Catholic heritage, then you are almost certainly one of us! If your grandfather’s first name is Howard or Spenser or Frederick or Benjamin or suchlike and you come from a Protestant heritage, then you are most likely one of ‘them’!! That said, there is compelling evidence that some American Sextons who are descended from 17th century settlers to the east coast of America may be decedents of the Limerick City merchant Sexton family who had a number of Limerick mayors among their number and who had become Protestant in the time of Henry VIII. The story of these Irish Protestant Sextons is told in great detail in the text of a book entitled ‘Early Sexton Roots in America‘ by Velma Odeal Gehrke which may be downloaded from the internet.
But to be clear, this site is primarily intended to be of use to those Irish Sextons whose roots lie in West Cork generally and particularly for those who come from the Toehead area in the parish of Castlehaven, near Skibbereen, Co. Cork.
How is the site organised?
The site is arranged hierarchically in much the same way as a family tree is organised. Once you have identified your Sexton branch on the topline menu, you simply work your way horizontally through the generations. In the case of each branch, the earliest verifiable Sexton in a given geographical area will be identified as ‘G1’ – signifying Generation 1.
So, for the Sextons of Castlehaven (which is, for the moment, the main focus of this site), John Sexton (born c.1735) is classified as G1 as he is believed to be the first Sexton to settle in the Scobaun/Toehead area of Castlehaven parish. His sons, Timothy (c.1765-1835) and Cornelius (c.1765-1835) and daughter, Mary (c.1765-1835,) are all denoted G2 as members of the second generation.