There are few families about which we have more anuthentic information than the O'Donovans, for not only have the Genealogical Office a verified pedigree of the eldest branch from Gaelic times, when they held a semi-royal position, to the present day, but also the notes of Dr. John O'Donovan, one of Ireland's most distinguished antiquarians and a member of a junior branch of the same sept, are available to us. Their place of originis Co.Limerick, but shortly after the Norman invasion they were forced to migrate to south- west Co. Cork and it is with that area that they have since been chiefly associated. There lives the present officially recognized "Chief of the Name" and there are found the greatest number of persons of the name.
In fact, according to the latest available returns of the Registrar General of Births, of 211 births registered in that year, 194 were in Munster and of the 175 were in Co. Cork. From this we may estimate that there are nearly 9,000 persons of the name in Ireland at the present day. An increasing number of these prefix the "O" to the name: sixty years ago less than two per cent did so. Dr. John O'Donovan, mentioned above, came from Co. Kilkenny where a branch of the sept was also established and spread into Co.Wexford. As a power in the land the O'Donovans were ruined by their adhesion to the Catholic cause in the time of James ll, Following his defeat many of them took service in the Irish Brigades in the continental armies. O'Donovan's Infantry was on of the foremost regiments of King James's army in Ireland.
In modern Irish the name is O Donnabghain and is formed from two Gaelic words donn(brown) and dubhan (a derivative of dugh-black).
In addition to Dr. John O'Donovan( 1809-1861), referred to above, his son Edmund (1844-1883), whose adventures as journalist and soldier in foreign armies were noteworthy, may be mentionned. The most famous of the name in Irish history waqs Jeremiah O'Donovan (1831-1915) called Rossa, the fenian who went to America after being released from prison. His funeral to Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin, was one of the largest ever witnessed adn was the occasion of a famous and inspiring address by Padraig Pearse.