In the twelfth century, the family became kings of Tirconnell, and virtually without interruption ruled Inishowen for almost five hundred years, until the defeat and execution of Sir Cahir O'Doherty at the start of the seventeenth century. Sean O?Doherty, Cahir?s brother, managed to survive and some of his family made their way to Catholic Spain in the eighteenth century. His descendant Dr. Ramon Salvador O? Doherty lives in Cadiz. In 1989 he was recognized as Chief of the Name by the Chief Herald of Ireland.
In 1890 the surname was 13th most common in Ireland, with 457 births of the name, almost two thirds of them in Ulster, mostly in Donegal and Derry. In 1996 it was ranked 14th.
Charles Joseph Doherty (1855-1931) was Minister of Justice in the Canadian government and represented his country at the League of Nations.
Kevin O?Doherty (1823-1905) was transported to Tasmania for his writings at the time of the Young Ireland uprising. After serving his sentence and completing his medical studies in Dublin he returned to Brisbane as a doctor and became a member of the Queensland Legislature. On an extended visit to Ireland in the 1880s he also became M.P. for north Meath.