Clans and Families
of Ireland and Scotland V. Tribal Nomenclature
or by phonetic approximation (e.g., "0 Cearnaigh" in Gaelic became
"O’Carney" in English), or by "attraction," in which case a
family’s name was translated (by them or for them) by using a common English name of
roughly similar sound (e.g., "0 hUiginn"—O’Higgin—became
Regarding tribal and clan names, these also
indicate descent: "cineal," "clann" and "corca" generally
translate as meaning the progeny or kindred of the ancestor whose name follows. Similarly,
"dal" means "tribe of," "muintear" means "family
of," "siol," seed or progeny, "ui," grandsons or descendants, and
so forth. Likewise, terminal affixes such as "-acht," "-na,"
"-ne," "-raighe" in. dicate descent from the name which precedes.
"Fir" or "feara" means "men of," and is used in clan names
which make reference to territories.
As for the families and the area and time
covered, with the exception of a few merchant families, and some Anglo-Norman families
around Dublin, the entirety of Gaeldom in 1500 was under the political dominance of the
families dealt with in Part 11. As a genealogical note, it should be stated that descent
from these families is a thing to be particularly proud of, for these were the chiefly
families whose actions molded the history of Ireland and Scotland. For such families, a
code of honor went hand-in-hand with their royal or noble status, and was a major force in
the Gaelic ethos, though there were of course exceptions. Family standards of ability and
conduct were set generation by generation, and such kin groups were expected, as a matter
of blood, to live up to the precedents set by their ancestors and maintain or advance the
family’s honor and position within the Gaelic tribal aristocracy. Such is the stuff
These Gaelic aristocratic families tended to
be very prolific, having large families and often producing children by mistresses as
well. As a result, there tends to be a redundancy of patrilineally-traced royal blood in
Gaeldom, as men of the commoner sort tended to lose out in the numerical contest of
fatherhood, especially over time.
The next five chapters (each beginning with a genealogical
chart) provide concise histories of the individual families and of their respective
sub-tribal and clan groups. Appendix I lists the coats of arms of the families dealt with
in these five chapters, and Appendix 11 contains a list of comprehensive surnames.
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