|Part 3: The Origins of the Gorman Family||<< Back to Contents|
The Gorman family dates back nearly as far as the history of Ireland itself, and the twists and travails of it’s own history mirror that of Ireland. If the Irish genealogists of the Middle Ages (namely the Catholic monks in monasteries throughout the country) are to be believed, at the root of every Irish family name lies royalty. Similarly, at the root of all royalty lies the origin of man itself, Adam and Eve. At its heart, his may seem like reason enough to document family histories, but they had others. In a patriarchic social structure as was Ireland at that time, an heir’s right to land and property hinged on a well preserved and recorded family genealogy to prove his birthright. As a consequence, most families had their own Shanachy, or historian, who recorded the family genealogy and historic events into an annal. These annals would later be transcribed and compiled into larger volumes by the monks as a record of noble families in their area. The most significant of these are:
Occasionally, comprehensive compilations were produced which encompassed the genealogies and histories of a much larger area, if not all of Ireland. In the third century AD, Cormac Mac Art, 115th monarch of Ireland, commissioned just such a compilation, the Psalter of Tara. Saints Patrick, Benignus, Carioch, and others executed another in the fifth century. Cormac Mac Cullinan produced another, the Psalter of Cashel, in the ninth century. Finally, the Franciscan monk Michael O’Clery, with brothers Conary, Cucogry and Ferfesa O'Mulconry, executed the largest work in 1632. Known as the Annals of the Four Masters, it attempted to draw together previous genealogies into a single, complete history and genealogy of the Irish nation. It was translated into English and combined with other genealogies by O’Ferrall in 1709, in what is known as the Linea Antiqua. In general, all modern Irish genealogies reference some combination of all these.
In seeking out the royalty in our past, it helps that the farther back in time, the fewer people there were. The likelihood that an ancestor may have ruled something, be it a tribe of dirt farmers or a country of millions, becomes greater. But logic tells us that not everyone can be king. Additionally, not all family genealogies are likely to have survived down through the ages. Many of the great literary works undertaken by the monks of the middle ages were destroyed or stolen by the marauding Vikings, including the Psalter of Cashel, of which there is no copy today. The work of compiling what fragments remain would have been a daunting task, especially for genealogists working with a largely illiterate and dispersed population. Finally, if the task was to show a genealogical line of succession from Adam and Eve to the present day, it would have been impossible, for many of the biblical figures (depending on your beliefs) are purely mythological. As a result, it is thought that many of the genealogies written contain a large number of mythical characters as bridges between the biblical periods and more recent history. The authenticity of many sections must be treated with some skepticism. According to Michael R. Davidson, a genealogist and historian from Edinburgh. Scotland:
"From the seventh century onwards, Irish monks were involved in manufacturing a history for themselves to fill the gap between biblical history and (their) modern history. As a result, any competent medieval Irish historian could trace the supposed genealogy of any of the modern kings of Irish descent back to Adam, through fabulous, then biblical antecedents. "
A true and complete Gorman family genealogy is, in fact, an impossibility. Even if one could separate one’s self from any biblical trappings, he would have to extend the lineage many thousands of years into human prehistory. By definition, there is no history in pre-history. Geneticists trace the origin of the human species through the mutation of mitochondrial DNA to a common maternal ancestor said to have branched from chimpanzees some 222,000 years ago. Needless to say, the likelihood that any written record of family lineage that far back is remote.
I am presenting here the biblical lineage of the Gorman family line, partially as defined by monks some 1500 years ago. This list is compiled from a number of different sources, the most significant of which is O’Hart (2). He contends that, based on the ancient texts, the ancestry of the Gorman noble line descends from one of the primary royal lineages in Ireland, the Faley O’Connors. They in turn are descended through a long succession of kings, from Noah. According to some accounts, all names preceding #95 in this list are entirely mythical. We can assume that many more are as well.
Biblical/Mythical/Historical Lineage Of the MacGormain/O’Gorman/Gorman Family to Nicholas O'Gorman
Notes on Family Lineage:
1. An alternative genealogy indicates that the lineage from #12 Magog to #27 Febric Glas actually should follow the lineage of Magog’s brother Gomer as follows:
13. Riphath Scot
16. Srú (Iara)
17. Ára (Aoth)
18. Abuith (Ecthech)
19. Aurthacht (Ethach)
29. Fóenius Farsaid
30. Nél Nemnach
31. Gáedal Glas (Gathelus)
32. Éber Scot
33. Nenuall, etc.
2. The Gorman family exists on what is known as the "Line of Heremon (Eremon)". According to legend, the leader of the fourth and final wave of Celtic settlers in Ireland, Milesius, had three sons – Heremon, Heber, and Ir, each of which founded the three primary family branches on which every family descended from Celtic blood in Ireland lies. Heremon was supposedly to have killed his brother Heber and ruled Ireland singly. Some other families on the Line of Heremon are the Muldoon, Kavanagh, and O’Connor. Some families on the Heber line are O’Neill, O’Sullivan, and O’Brien. Some Ir line families are Healy, Mulcahy, and Reynolds.
3. The Gorman family is a branch of the family O’Connor Faley, whose ancestral lands are in Offaley. This family branch extends from the primary Line of Heremon starting at #60 Leghaire Lorc, 68th Monarch of Ireland.
4. #90 Daire Barraig, second son of Cathair Mór, King of Leinster and 109th Monarch of Ireland, is considered the first chief of the Ui Bairrche (sometimes Hy Bairrche, named for him). He is presumed to have died around A.D. 487. The genealogy of the Uí Bairrche as exerpted from The Annals of the Four Masters can be found in Appendix 1.
Map of Ireland showing the location of the clan Uí Bairrche around AD 500. View the full-size map here.
|The Uí Bairrche was the original designation given to the family or tribe, thought to be of Firbolg origin, that became Gorman as well as a number of other families (including O’Bracken, Mooney, and Mead). The territory of the Ui Bairche was known as Crioch mBairce, what is now the barony of Slievmargy, County Laois (Leix, or Queen’s County), near County Carlow (see map). The original Uí Bairrche are said to be related to the Brigantes tribe of northern Britain. They ruled southern Leinster from the earliest centuries A.D. until the Uí Cheinnselaig (the family line of Daire Barraig’s brother, Fiachu Ba h-Aiccid), broke their power. Presumeably, this occurred after Crimthann mac Endai Cheinnselaig, king of the Ui' Cheinnselaig, was killed by #94 O'engus mac Ercae of the Ui' Bairrche in AD 492. At that time they were split into at least two major groups, the Uí Bairrche of northern Carlow (Ui Bairrche Maighe, which the above lineage follows) and those of southern Wexford (Ui Bairrche Tire).|
|The original ancestral land of the Uí Bairrche in southern Leinster was occupied from the early Middle Ages until the Norman Invasion in 1169. Following the Norman invasion, the clan MacGormáin (which the Uí Bairrche adopted as their family surname) was evicted from its lands due to their proximity to Dublin, the Norman stronghold at that time. These lands were given over to the Preston family of England. The O’Briens, who ruled the western province of Thomond (now County Clare), granted the MacGormáins land in the Barony of Ibrickan, a rocky and generally treeless coastal area south of the cliffs of Moher. Here, they became marshals in the O’Brien’s army. They purportedly prospered for four centuries and became known for their generosity in supporting artists, poets and the general poor of the area. It was at this time that the family adopted its coat of arms: an azure field, with a lion passing between three erect swords. Its crest is an armored arm, with the hand grasping a sword with a wavy blade. Their motto: First and Last in War (in Gaelic Tosac cata a’s deire áir, or in Latin Primi et ultimi in bello).||The MacGormáin family Crest and Coat of Arms|
It was common before the use of surnames for sons to append their father’s name after theirs as a means of denoting paternity. As an example, in some texts, #91 Feicc will be seen as Feicc Mac Dairé Barraig (Feicc, son of Dairé Barraig). Surnames as we know them today did not come into common usage until the rule of Brian Boru, A.D. 1002 – 1014. The original Gaelic surname for the Gorman family was MacGormáin, Mac being the Gaelic equivalent to son of and Gormáin denoting the color blue. It is thought that family members would have worn blue tunics or cloaks, just as Scots are known to wear tartans to denote family affiliation.
The Cliffs of Moher in west County Clare
The first documented MacGormáin to use his surname was #111 Murtach (also Muireadach), whose death is recorded by the Four Masters as being in A.D. 1124. It is possible that the surname began being used some generations before, possibly by #105 Dunagan, for he was the first son of a Gorman at the time when surnames came into general use.
After the Act of Settlement of Ireland of 1661, all lands held by Mac Gormáins in County Clare were given over to English landholders and the formerly powerful Mac Gormáin family was reduced to serfdom on their own lands. Charles II, King of England gave 1100 acres owned by Malachy Mac Gormáin to Captain William Hamilton, presumably as a reward for service to the crown.
During the era of the Penal Laws, it became illegal for the Irish to use the Mac prefix in their surnames, so it was dropped and the name was anglicized. Every Mac Gormáin in County Clare became a Gorman. As restrictions on the native Irish began to ease leading up to the Catholic Emancipation in 1829, Gormans began to migrate east, mainly into County Tipperary. After emancipation, most Clare Gormans chose to add the prefix O’ to their surname, as knowledge of the original Mac prefix had been lost. O’ is an anglicized version of the Gaelic prefix Ui, as in Ui Bairrche, which means "descended from" or "in the family of". Most Gormans in County Tipperary retained the use of the Gorman surname. Currently, the only place in Ireland where the surname MacGorman is used is in a small area of County Monaghan, where they chose the correct prefix, but kept the anglicized Gorman, rather than the Gaelic Gormáin.
|< Previous: A Brief History of the Irish||Next: The Gorman Family in Ireland and America >|