Nollaig O Muraile – Gaelic Pedigrees

Nollaig Ó Muraíle, NUIG: Lunchtime Lecture, National Library of Ireland, 27 Lúnasa 2012

A Thousand Years of Irish Genealogy: How to Use Gaelic Pedigrees and Family-trees in Your Research

The Principal Extant Irish Genealogical Texts in Chronological Order

            • (1) First Leinster collection – in the second portion of Bodleian Oxford MS Rawlinson B 502 – penned, possibly at Glendalough, c. 1125.

            • (2) Second Leinster collection – towards the end of the Book of Leinster (TCD MS 1339 [H.2.18]) – penned somewhere in Leinster c. 1160.

            • (3) The Bansheanchas, Lore of Famous Women, in both prose and metrical versions – the latter composed in 1147 by Gilla Mo-Dutu Ó Caiside in Devenish monastery in Lower Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh – preserved in seven manuscripts (including the Books of Leinster, Uí Mhaine, Ballymote, Lecan, etc.).

            • (4) The Genealogies of Irish saints, preserved in more than a dozen recensions in the principal Irish manuscript-collections (the Books of Leinster, Uí Mhaine, Ballymote, and Lecan, TCD H.2.7, Mac Fhir Bhisigh’s Great Book of Genealogies, etc.).

            • (5) The Ó Cianáin Miscellany – the first part of National Library of Ireland MSS G 2-3 – written, probably in Fermanagh, by Ádhamh Ó Cianáin, in 1344-5.

            • (6) The Ó Dalláin manuscript – TCD 1298 (or H.2.7) – penned in Uí Mhaine (east Co. Galway) by Lúcás Ó Dalláin, around the year 1350.

            • (7) The Book of Uí Mhaine (formerly known as the Book of Ó Dubhagáin) – RIA MS 1225 (or D i 1) – largely compiled (it would appear) towards the end of the 14th century.

            • (8) The Book of Ballymote – RIA MS 536 (or 23 P 12) – also dating from the (early) 1390s.

            • (9) The Book of Lecan – RIA MS 535 (or 23 P 2) – largely compiled between the years 1397 and 1418.

            • (10) Bodleian Laud MS 610, the second part of which (containing the genealogies) was written in the years 1454-5.

            • (11) The two-part Leabhar Donn – RIA MS 1233 (or 23 Q 10) – one part dating from the period 1432-41 and the other from some decades later, 1476-82; apparently penned ‘somewhere on the Sligo-Leitrim border.’

            • (12) The fragmentary King’s Inns MS G 11 compiled c. 1500, although ‘much of the material … seems to be some thirty or forty years earlier.’

• (13) Part of TCD MS 1372 (or H.4.31) containing ‘a valuable collection of c. 1500, especially detailed for the families of MacReynolds, Magauran and MacKiernan.’

            • (14) The (largely) 16th-century family-collections edited by Standish Hayes O Grady (as appendices to Caithréim Thoirdhealbhaigh, 1929) under the titles Senchas Buitlérach, Senchas Búrcach, Senchas Síl Bhriain, and Senchas Geraltach.

            • (15) The Genealogies of Irish Kings and Saints – compiled in 1630 by the Four Masters (Brother Míchél Ó Cléirigh, Fear Feasa Ó Maoil Chonaire, Cú Choigcríche Ó Cléirigh and Cú Choigcríche Ó Duibhgeannáin) in the house of the Franciscan friars of Athlone, situated at Killinure, Co. Westmeath.

• (16) The O Flaherty-O Conor Collection – RIA MS 621 (or E iv 4) – the first 31-leaf portion of which dates from the (early?) 17th century, and which passed successively through the hands of Ruaidhrí Ó Flaithbheartaigh (Roderic O Flaherty) and Charles O Conor.

• (17) The collection of genealogies attached to Séathrún Céitinn’s Foras Feasa ar Éirinn, the earliest manuscript of which dates from c. 1640.

• (18) The so-called ‘Book of the MacDermotts’ (Leabhar Cloinne Maoil Ruanaidh) – RIA MS 539 (or D i 3) – produced by a number of Ó Duibhgeannáin scribes ‘in or around 1644.’

• (19) Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh’s Great Book of Irish Genealogies (including the Abridged version known as the Cuimre) – compiled (principally in Galway) between the years 1645 and 1666 and preserved in the autograph manuscript, UCD Add. Ir. MS 14, and (in the case of the Cuimre) in Maynooth MS B 8 and RIA MS 585 (24 N 2).

• (20) The O Clery Book of Genealogies – RIA MS 790 (or 23 D 17) – compiled by Cú Choigcríche Ó Cléirigh, one of the Four Masters, at some time, as yet undetermined, in the period c. 1630-64.

• (21) The fragmentary paper manuscript at the end of TCD MS 1337 (or H.3.18) which contains a parallel (and, according to Kenneth Nicholls, ‘often better’) version of much of the O Clery work.

• (22) An acephalous genealogical tract (including unique material on the Burkes of Connacht) in a manuscript of uncertain date (but probably 17th-century) and provenance, TCD MS 1393 (or H.5.21).

            • (23) The collection of genealogies found in a number of 17th-century Ulster manuscripts, notably BL MS Eg. 133 and TCD MSS 1366 and 1372 (or H.4.25 and H.4.31).

• (24) The genealogies of Ceinéal Eóghain (An Leabhar Eóghanach) and Oirghialla (Geinealach na gColladh) attached to Leabhar Cloinne Aodha Bhuidhe, a duanaire or ‘poem-book’ compiled in 1680 – RIA MS 1076 (or 24 P 33) – although the original version of the Leabhar Eóghanach appears to date from about a century earlier.

• (25) The bulky collection of Munster genealogies, An Leabhar Muimhneach, preserved in several 18th-century manuscripts (the principal one – RIA MS 756, or  23 E 26 – penned in 1716-17 by the Dublin scribe Richard Tipper) but based on works by two earlier 17th-century Munster scholars, Domhnall Ó Duinnín and Tadhg mac Dáire Mheic Bhruaideadha.

• (26) The  great  Mac Solaidh-Tipper  collection  (incorrectly  ascribed  to  Tipper alone  by  Nicholls), compiled  by  Seán Mac Solaidh in 1714 – RIA MS 153-4 (or 23 M 17-18) – and copied c. 1724 by Richard Tipper – NLI MS G 177.

• (27) The collection in TCD MS 1286 (or H.1.12); in the words of Kenneth Nicholls, ‘a very bad copy by the 18th-century scribe Hugh O Daly of a collection said to have been made by a Seán mac Muiris Uí Maoilchonaire in 1480.’

• (28) An 18th-century manuscript – RIA MS 303 (or 23 L 37) – containing a small collection of MacNamara/Mac Con Mara genealogies originally compiled in the late 14th century and recopied at least twice in the course of the 17th.

• (29) The collection of O Reilly genealogies, based on a manuscript written in 1703 by Eóghan Ó Raghallaigh, and preserved in a later copy – RIA MS 759 (or 23 F 15).

            • (30) The intriguing work known as Linea Antiqua, a great collection of Gaelic genealogies, albeit written in English, and compiled between 1707 and 1712 by Roger O Ferrall – preserved in the Genealogical Office (now part of Nat. Lib. Ireland) as GO MS 155.

• (31) The early-18th-century collection of Fermanagh genealogies which survives only in an inaccurate late transcript, from 1842: St Colman’s College, Fermoy, MS CF 6.

As for printed editions of these texts, a little under half (14) have been edited to date (leaving some seventeen texts – several of them quite substantial – of which editions have yet to be produced); it must be emphasised, however, that the existing editions – notably nos. 1-2, 4, 19, 20 and 25 – include some of the most voluminous collections of Irish genealogies:

• 1 & 2: M.A. O’Brien, Corpus Genealogiarum Hiberniae, 1962.  764 pp. Irish text (i.e. in Old and Middle Irish), and some Latin, without translation, and exhaustive indexes;             very brief (15-line) preface in first printing, but a 7-page introduction by John V.             Kelleher in 1976 and subsequent printings.

• 3: Maighréad ní C. Dobbs, ‘The Ban-shenchus’, Revue Celtique 47 (1930), 282-            339; 48 (1931), 163-234; 49 (1932), 437-89 – metrical text from Book of Leinster with transl., plus 6-pp introduction and detailed indexes of feminine and masculine names.

• 4: Pádraig Ó Riain, Corpus Genealogiarum Hiberniae, 1982.  425 pp.  Irish text with short foreword, 60-page introduction, 36 pp of textual notes and exhaustive indexes.

• 10: Kuno Meyer, ‘The Laud genealogies and tribal histories’, Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie 8 (1911), 291-338; 418-19.  Irish text only.  For commentary, see John             Mac Neill, ‘Notes on the Laud genealogies’, ZCP 8: 411-18.

• 14: Standish O’Grady, Caithréim Thoirdhealbhaigh (1929) – appendices [‘Senchas Búrcach’, ‘Senchas Buitlérach’, ‘Senchas Geraltach’, ‘Senchas Síl Bhriain’], I, 149-92 (Irish text); II, 159-202 (translation).

• 15: Paul Walsh, Genealogiae Regum et Sanctorum Hiberniae, 1918.  167 pp.  Irish text with brief preface, with two appendices (one in Irish, one in English), and index of             saints and index of kings.

• 17: Patrick S. Dinneen, Foras Feasa ar Éirinn, IV (1914), 11-118.  Irish text and transl.

• 19: Nollaig Ó Muraíle, Leabhar Mór na nGenealach, The Great Book of Irish Genealogies, compiled (1645-66) by Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh (2003-4), I-V.  3640 pp.  Irish text, translation; lengthy introduction, exhaustive indexes, miscellaneous appendices.

• 20: Séamus Pender, ‘The O Clery Book of Genealogies’, Analecta Hibernica, 18 (1951). 220 pp.  Irish text, with 22-page introduction and brief (4-page) general index.

• 24: Tadhg Ó Donnchadha, Leabhar Chloinne Aodha Buidhe (1931), 1-40.  Irish text only (as part of an edition of the entire manuscript – most of it consisting of bardic poetry).

• 25: Tadhg Ó Donnchadha, An Leabhar Muimhneach (1940).  574 pp. Irish text and 25 page introduction (in Irish); 94 pp of detailed (but not exhaustive) indexes, and 6 pp of addenda et corrigenda.

• 29: James Carney, A Genealogical History of the O’Reillys (1959).  159 pp.  Irish text and translation; brief introduction, and exhaustive indexes.

• 31: Cormac Ua Cadhla, ‘Geinealaighe Fearmanach’, Analecta Hibernica 3 (1931), 62-150. Irish text and 6-page introduction (the latter apparently by Tadhg Ó Donnchadha, alias Torna).


Dobbs, M.E. 1921: ‘The history of the descendants of Ir. Senchas Síl hIr’ [I]. ZCP 13.308-59.

1923: ‘The history of the descendants of Ir. Senchas Síl hIr’ [II].  ZCP 14.43-144.

1933: ‘The genealogies of the Southern Uí Néill.’ Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie 20.1-29.

Duignan, Michael V. 1934: ‘The Uí Briúin Bréifni genealogies.’ JRSAI 64.90-137, 213-56.

Dumville, David N. 1977: ‘Kingship, genealogies and regnal lists.’ Early Medieval Kingship (ed. P.H. Sawyer & I.N. Wood, Leeds), 72-104.

Graves, James 1853: ‘The ancient tribes and territories of Ossory, No. 1’ JRSAI 1.230-47.

Hayes-McCoy, G.A. 1936: ‘The MacDonalds of Mayo.’ Jn Galway Archaeol. & Hist. Soc. 17.65-82.

Jeffery, L.M. 1963: ‘An account of the family of Wood, Co. Sligo – and their descendants.’  Irish Genealogist 3/8.300-10;  1964: ‘Addendum to the family of Wood, Co. Sligo.’ IG 3/9.364-5.

Kelleher, John V. 1968: ‘The pre-Norman Irish genealogies.’ Irish Historical Studies 16.138-53.

Knox, H.T. 1903-4: ‘The de Burgo clans, the Clann David Burke and the family of William, Sheriff of   Connaught.’  JGAHS 3.46-58.

1917-8: ‘The Bermingham family of Athenry.’  JGAHS 10.139-54.

Macnamara, G.U. 1911-3: ‘The O’Davorens of Cahermacnaughton, Burren, Co. Clare.’ North Munster Antiquarian Journal 2 (Ser. 1).149-64.

Mac Neill, Eóin [al. John] 1906: ‘The ancient genealogies.’ New Ireland Review 26.129-45.

1911: ‘Early Irish population-groups: their nomenclature, classification, and chronology.’ Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 29. C 4.59-114.

Nicholls, Kenneth. 1970: ‘The Fitzmaurices of Kerry.’  Jn Kerry Archaeol Soc. 3.22-37.

1975: ‘The Irish genealogies: their value and defects.’  Irish Genealogist 5.256-61.

2000: ‘Genealogy.’ The Heritage of Ireland (ed. N. Buttimer, C. Rynne & Helen Guerin, Cork),

Ní Maol-Chróin, Caitilín. 1944: ‘Geinealaigh Clainne Aodhagáin A.D. 1400-1500,   \\  156-61.

ollamhain i bhféineachus is i bhfilidheacht.’ Measgra Mhichíl Uí Chléirigh 132-39.

Ó Corráin, Donncha. 1985: ‘Irish origin legends and genealogy: recurrent aetiologies.’  History and Heroic Tale: A Symposium (ed. T. Nyberg et al., Odense) 51-96.

Ó Cuív, Brian. 1964: ‘Bunús Mhuintir Dhíolún.’  Éigse 11.65-6.

O’Donovan, John. 1843: The Tribes and Customs of Hy-Many, commonly called O’Kelly’s Country … from the Book of Lecan. IAS [=Irish Archaeological Society].

1844: The Genealogies, Tribes, and Customs of Hy-Fiachrach, … called O’Dowda’s Country … from the Book of Lecan [and] the Genealogical Manuscript of Duald Mac Firbis. IAS.

1849: ‘The genealogy of Corca Laidhe.’ Miscellany of the Celtic Society 1-144.

1853: ‘Ancient tribes and territories of Ossory, No. 2.’ JRSAI 1.247-57.

1861b: ‘The Fomorians and Lochlanns. Pedigrees of MacCabe of Ireland and MacLeod of Scotland.’  Ulster Journal of Archaeology 9.94-105.

1861c: ‘The family of Gall Burke, of Gallstown, in the County of Kilkenny.’ JRSAI 6.97-120.

1862: The Topographical Poems of John O’Dubhagain and Giolla na Naomh O’Uidhrin. IACS.

Ó Móghráin, Pádraig. 1944: ‘O’Clerys in west Mayo.’ Measgra Mhichíl Uí Chléirigh 70-3.

Ó Muraíle, Nollaig. 1987: ‘The Gaelic personal name (An) Dubhaltach.’ Ainm 2.1-26.

1989a: ‘Leabhar Ua Maine alias Leabhair Uí Dhubhagáin.’ Éigse 23.167-95.

1989b: ‘The Carneys of Connacht.’ Sages, Saints and Storytellers: Celtic Studies in Honour of Professor James Carney (ed. Ó Corráin, Breatnach & McCone, Maynooth), 342-57.

1990: ‘A page from Mac Fhir Bhisigh’s “Genealogies”.’ Celtica 21.533-60.

1992-93: ‘The Irish genealogies as an onomastic source.’  Nomina 16:23-47.

1996: The Celebrated Antiquary, Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh (c. 1600-1671): His Lineage, Life and Learning (Maynooth; 2nd ed., 2002).

2008, 2010: ‘The Ó Ceallaigh rulers of Uí Mhaine – a genealogical fragment, c. 1400.’ Part I: JGAHS 60, 32-77; Part II: JGAHS 62, 51-77.

Ó Murchadha, Diarmuid. 1985: Family Names of County Cork (Blackrock, Dublin).

Ó Riain, Pádraig. 1983: ‘Irish saints’ genealogies.’  Nomina 7.23-9.

Pender, Séamus. 1935: ‘A guide to Irish genealogical collections.’ Analecta Hibernica 7.1-167.

1951: ‘The O Clery Book of Genealogies.’ Analecta Hibernica 18.1-194.

Skene, W.F. 1862: ‘The MacLeods of Scotland.’ Ulster Journal of Archaeology 9.317-20.

Staunton, E. de Lacy 1942: ‘The O’Maolconaire family: a note.’ JGAHS 20.82-8.

Ua Cadhla, Cormac. 1931: ‘Geinealaighe Fearmanach.’ Analecta Hibernica 3.62-150.

Ua Casaide, Séamus. 1912: ‘MacFirbis’s Genealogies.’  Irish Book Lover 3/9.152-3.

Walsh, Paul. 1920: Leabhar Chlainne Suibhne.  Mac Sweeney Families in Ireland, with Pedigrees.

1935: ‘The O Clerys of Tirconnell.’ Studies 24.244-62.

1936a: ‘Scots Clann Domhnaill in Ireland.’ Ir. Ecclesiastical Record (Ser. 5) 48.23-42.

1936b: ‘O Maolmhuaidh of Fir Ceall.’ Irish Book Lover 24.31-3.

1936d: ‘The learned family of O Maelchonaire.’ Catholic Bulletin 26.835-42.

1937: ‘Gaelic genealogies of the Plunkets.’ Irish Book Lover 25.50-7.

1938: ‘The Plunkett genealogies.’ Irish Book Lover 26.17.

1940: ‘Septs of Muintear Ghallchubhair.’  Irish Book Lover 27.194-200.

‘A notable feature of the distribution of genealogies and regnal lists is that the farther west one goes, the more there are.   A massive corpus of medieval Irish genealogies, a sizeable body of Welsh ones, a small but interesting quantity of Anglo-Saxon records …’ – Prof. David N. Dumville.

Most numerous personal names in Great Book of Irish Genealogies: 1. Aodh (768 bearers), 2. Domhnall (613), 3. Donnchadh (401), 4. Tadhg (383), 5. Conchobhar (367), 6. Diarmuid (358), 7. Eochaidh (357), 8. Seán (340), 9. Uilliam/Liam (308), 10. Aonghus (301), 11. Tomás (298).  Total: 6,625 names borne by 30,500 people.