Skip to content
  • Start free trial

Origins of the Sullivan surname

A collage of historical images including two family portraits and a postcard of people boarding a ship

What does the name Sullivan mean?

The origin of the Sullivan name is in Ireland, where it is still the third most popular surname in the country (and is particularly prevalent in Cork and Kerry). From there it has spread to the rest of the English-speaking world. It is believed to be an anglicisation of a patronymic, referring to someone who is the son or descendant of 'Suileabhan' (the dark-eyed, or hawk-eyed one).

Alternative variations of the name Sullivan

Sullivan, Sulivan, Sullvan, Sullivane, Sollivan, O'Sullivan

I’ve managed to trace back to the mid-1500s! I can’t believe it! Utterly engrossing and I have uncovered some quite moving and heartbreaking stories attached to various ancestors. You don’t need any qualifications to start - just time patience, and some information.

TrustPilot review
1 of 3

Start your family tree

Trace your family back in time. Make new discoveries and see what other Findmypast family historians in our genealogy community have discovered about the Sullivans.

Sign up to get started

Delve deeper into the Sullivan family's history

Where do most Sullivans live?

In 1921, most Sullivans lived in London.

Census records trace your ancestors through each generation, so you can follow where your relatives lived through each decade.

Interesting facts about Sullivans

How common is your surname?

223rd most common surname in the UK

We have 119,000 records for the Sullivan surname. The oldest one dates back to 1575.

Who were Sullivans most likely to marry?




Our Marriage record sets tell us which families married Sullivans.

What are the most common Sullivan first names?

  • John
  • James
  • Mary
  • Margaret

Our birth record sets tell us the names of Sullivan family members

Common jobs for Sullivans

Men and women often performed different types of jobs, so these are displayed by gender to maintain their historical accuracy.

Common Female occupations for Sullivans in 1921






Domestic Servant




Common Male occupations for Sullivans in 1921
General Labourer




Dock Labourer




Semiskilled Chauffeurs And Drivers


An image of a census transcript and a picture of a dairy farmer holding two milk jugs

Census records provide incredible detail on names, ages, marital statuses, occupations and more.

We found over 130,000 family trees with the Sullivan surname

Trace your family back in time and see what other Findmypast family historians in our genealogy community have discovered about the Sullivans.

Search for a relative in our family trees

Share your discoveries

Find out more about your family in our records

or try an advanced search

Start your family history journey

Start free trial

Start free trial