A Letter from Ireland:
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From the High King of Ireland to South Australia

Did any of your Irish ancestors descend from a High King of Ireland? Many Irish surnames have an association with the family groupings around Ireland’s ancient High Kings – here is the story of just one of them in a reader’s letter.

Céad Míle Fáilte – and you are very welcome to this week’s Letter from Ireland. How are things going in your part of the world today? We’re still experiencing an delay to the Spring here in County Cork – I think the birds are even more confused than we are – but fingers crossed and one morning soon we’ll wake up to a fine sunny morning!

I’m having a cup of Lyon’s tea as I write – and I do hope you’ll join me now with a cup of whatever you fancy as we start into today’s letter.

I received a letter from a member of The Green Room a few weeks back – and I hope you enjoy the following reply.

In Ancient Ireland.

If we go back in time in Ireland – all the way back to about 1,000 years ago – we come to a period when the island of Ireland was occupied by a number of Gaelic “tribes”. These tribes occupied specific areas and their boundaries shifted backwards and forwards as the power of one tribe rose while another’s fell.

One of these tribes were called the “Dal gCais” (pronounced Dal Gash) and became prominent in the area we now know as County Clare. Over the centuries they provided us with many Provincial and High Kings of Ireland – and many surnames that we know today came out of this tribe and rose to prominence.

Probably the most famous member of the Dal gCais tribe was Brian Ború – he became High King of Ireland and the source for the O’Brien surname (meaning “descendants of Brian”) that we know today. But, let’s dive in a little deeper. Brian came from a very specific line inside the Dal gCais known as the “Uí Thairdelbaig” (I know, don’t even try to say it). While those Irish words may not trip off your tongue, maybe you are more more familiar with the following surnames that came from this specific line of the Dal gCais:

O’Brien, Ahearne, Boland, Casey, Considine, Cosgrave, Cramer, Eustace, Kennedy, MacMahon, O’Reagan, MacLysaght, Kelleher, Kearney, Lonergan, Twomey, MacArthur, MacGrath, O’Meara, Scanlan and many others. Are any of your Irish surnames here?

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While some of the above surnames also rose to prominence in other tribes across the island, many of these Dal gCais surnames are still found in quantity today across counties Clare, Tipperary, Limerick and Cork.

However, I left out one surname from the above – and it’s a Dal gCais surname you may have heard of before (or even have in your own family). The surname is “Hogan” and the following reader letter is all about a family who held that name and travelled from County Tipperary to Lancashire in England. Their descendent is Brenda Murray and today she lives in South Australia. Over to you Brenda:

Hi Mike,

My name is Brenda Murray (née Mellor).  I was born in Oldham, Lancashire. I married my husband Dennis, also born in Oldham, in 1962.  We lived in Oldham until 1978 when we emigrated to South Australia with our three sons, Timothy, Mark and Andrew. This was quite an experience in itself as we had never flown before.

Mike: That must have been some experience, Brenda! We recently flew from Ireland to Australia and it is a long way by plane alright, and that’s in this day and age.

Now, I must admit – when I hear mention of “South Australia” I always hear the tune of that name ringing in my ears from the Clancy Brothers (and Clancy being yet another Dal gCais surname – the Clancys came from County Tipperary). So – let’s take a brief musical interlude if you wish – here we have the Clancys with their rendition of “South Australia”:

I hope you all enjoyed that! Now, down to business…

Brenda: I started tracing my family tree in 2003 but I struggled for a while, I got most of my information at the Oldham Studies and Archives in 2007 and 2015. I was in touch with the Waterford Heritage Services who tried to help me, however, I know we have not much to go on and the names they came up with didn’t seem to tie in with the information I have.

Mike: That can be the way – but I always say that it is worthwhile persisting. New information becomes available with each passing year.

Brenda: I have very little information on my Great Great Grandparents who I would like to trace. My Ancestors that I am interested in are MORRIS and BRIDGET HOGAN. I do not know Bridget’s maiden name. Morris and Bridget are on the 1861 British Census and have stated they were born in Ireland. Their three sons and daughter-in-law are on this Census and all are born in Ireland. Daniel aged 17 years, William aged 19 years, James aged 22 years and his wife Mary aged 25 years. The only proof I have is that they put Ireland in the column where born.  In a later Census (1901) Daniel wrote Tipperary, Ireland. I do not know the date when they emigrated but they did settle in Oldham, Lancashire.

Mike: Well, there you have quite a bit of information to go on. It sounds like Tipperary is a definite source for all the Hogans – the main challenge being that there are a lot of Hogans in that County.

Let’s summarise: It sounds like we are looking for a Daniel Hogan – born to Morris and Brigid Hogan somewhere in County Tipperary sometime around 1844. It is likely that his siblings were also born in Tipperary.

So, how do we check for those records? Firstly, Tipperary is a large county – and although most church records were up and going by the 1840s, there can be gaps in what is available online due to sporadic early record keeping, destroyed records and it being the time of the Famine.

However, in this case we got lucky. My record search has uncovered a Daniel Hogan baptised to “Morgan” Hogan and Brigid “no name” specified – on October 8th, 1843. While Morgan appears to be incorrect, this could be an error in transcription. I then checked any further baptisms to this couple and uncovered: Margaret (1837), James (1838), William (1841) and Mary (1846) – so there we have Daniel, William and James all matching the details you provided. I would consider this a strong possibility that this is YOUR Hogan Family.

They lived in area of Ballythomas in the parish of Cloughjordan in the north west of County Tipperary – prime Dal gCais territory! I also found Morgan and Brigid’s marriage record from 1837 – and she was a Collins like myself! The Collins surname also matches with the names of some of the witnesses on their children’s baptisms (witnesses to baptisms and weddings were often close relatives or close neighbours):

MArriage record for Morgan Hogan and Bridget Collins, 5th February, 1837

Brenda: Morris died in 1877 aged 71 and Bridget died in 1881 aged 64. Their son Daniel and his wife Ellen had seven children. My Grandmother Bridget Delia was the youngest and died in December 1962, also buried in Greenacres Cemetery, Oldham.

Mike: How nice to have that local continuity in Oldham – and now I do hope you have made that connection too all the way back to Ballythomas in County Tipperary!

Brenda: My husband and I have been to Ireland twice, the first time in 2007.  We stayed in Tipperary for a few days. As soon as we got to Ireland it was a lovely feeling. I felt like I had come to a place where I belonged.  My husband felt the same and we asked ourselves why had we not visited Ireland before when we lived in England? We visited from the other side of the world! We did visit again in 2015 but this time we went to County Mayo where my husband’s people came from.  We had a lovely time both visits.

I would like to know whereabouts in Tipperary my ancestors come from and to know who their parents were and if they had any siblings.  I would like to delve further of course but it would be interesting to know if there were any relatives, albeit they may be distant relatives but I would love to know of them. I would like to know where their parents and families are buried in Ireland.  I know we shall have to go back. We are getting older now.

Mike: Just like the rest of us, Brenda! I do hope you can turn the above records from “most probable” into a “definite”. This gives you a very definite target location for the next time you visit Ireland. And I look forward to helping you with this journey inside the Green Room.

Brenda: Thank you again for your help.  Take care, Brenda.

I always love it when people have a target “homeland” to visit when they next visit Ireland. It brings so much of the hard-won research to life as you walk the roads, fields and village streets that your Irish ancestors once walked. And I do hope that Ballythomas has an opportunity to welcome Brenda and her husband in the not-so-distant future.

That’s it for now! As always, do feel free to share your Irish surnames – or maybe even a family story or two in the comments section below.

Slán for now,

Mike & Carina.

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