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The principal sept of the name O Doibhilin belongs to Co. Tyrone, specifically the area that comprises the barony of Dungannon. Their chiefs were lords of the territory known as Munterdevlin on the Tyrone shore of Lough Neagh. Eighty per cent of present day Devlins (the prefix O is seldom if ever used in modern times) are from Ulster, most of whom hail from Tyrone or an adjacent county. According to Keating's History of Ireland the name is given as "O'Dobhalen, or O'Devlin ... another chief in Corran", of the Ui Fiachrach. (The territory of the Ui Fiachrach comprised the counties of Mayo and Sligo). In the Elizabethan Fiants they are called Doibhlin, but the name is scarcely found in any form in the census of 1659, since the Co. Tyrone is missing from that document.
There was once a not unimportant sept of O Doibhilin, anglice O'Devlin, in what is now the barony of Corran, Co. Sligo. As late as 1316 one of these, Gillananaev O'Devlin, who was standard bearer to O'Connor, was slain in battle. The name is hardly ever found in this part of Ireland nowadays, possibly because the sept died out. However, according to the family historian Mr. T. O Raifeartaigh the O'Devlins of Co. Sligo are still extant, and even numerous in counties Sligo, Leitrim and Cavan, but the name there has been widely changed to Dolan.
An O'Devlin who died in 1211 was Bishop of Kells. A prominent rebel in the Portadown area in 1641 was Patrick O'Develin; Francis O'Devlin (d. 1735), a Franciscan friar of Prague, born in Co. Tyrone, was a writer of some note; and James Devlin (d. 1825), was a veteran of the American War of Independence.
The name remains one of Co. Tyrone and of Ulster to this day. Families are found in Antrim, Tyrone, Armagh, Dublin, and Londonderry in the 1890 birth index. The existing 1659 census does not cover Co. Tyrone, but we do find 'Divelin' listed in Co. Antrim at that time.
The best known of the name in Irish history, however, was associated with Wicklow and Tyrone - Anne Devlin (1778-1851), the faithful servant of Robert Emmet, who though imprisoned and tortured would not give information against him. Joe Devlin (1872-1934), the Belfast Nationalist M.P., one of the best known figures in Ireland during the first twenty years of the present century, and another Joseph Devlin (b. 1869), who wrote voluminously over the nom de plume of "Northern Gael", were both unmistakable Ulstermen.
In modern times, Bernadette Devlin was the youngest ever member to be elected to the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
The following entry is found in Burke's General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
Devlin (granted to Jeremiah Devlin of New York, America, son of Jeremiah Devlin of Buncrana, County Donegal)
Arms: Azure an Irish cross or between three mullets argent.
Crest: A griffin passant gules charged on the shoulder with an Irish cross as in the arms.
crux mea stella (the cross is my star)