The O'Donovan pedigree goes back to Callaghan, a 10th-century King of Munster. From his son, Donnabhain, came the family name (donn meaning 'brown' and dubhann meaning 'black').

A noble race in Munster, they were chieftains in Carbery. Their extensive territory followed Limerick's River Maigue. Brugh Riogh ('royal residence') was the explanatory name of their stronghold until the Normans drove them south to Cork, where they acquired more possessions and are still very numerous.

Because of their adherence to the doomed Stuarts they were outlawed and lost their wealth. In France, where they found careers in the army, O'Donovan's Infantry was a regiment to be reckoned with. Because they were aristocrats they suffered sadly during the French Revolution.

Another O'Donovan family of Kilkenny who claimed descent from Eoghan, a 3rd-century King of Munster, produced one of the most celebrated historians, John O'Donovan. He published an Irish Grammar and translated and edited the first complete edition of the Annals of the Four Masters.

Jeremiah O'Donovan, the revered patriot O'Donovan Rossa (red), emigrated to America, driven by his Fenian activities.

The classic short story writer, Frank O'Connor was, in fact, born Michael O'Donovan of Cork city.