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The Ryans are directly descended from Drona, who was fourth in descent from Cathair Mor, the founder of the Drona trible. The O’Riains, or anglicized Ryans, were chiefs of the tribe of Ui Drona and settled in Carlow and Kilkenney where they gave their name to the area.

In the 11th century, the Chief of Ui Drona took the surnamme of O’Ryan, and the clan continued to possess the original stronghold of the family Ui Idrone which is composed of much of the present day County Carlow and westward into Kilkenny in the vicinity of Graiguenamanagh.

In the late 12th century, Dermot O’Ryan of Idrone granted land for the building of an abbey at Graiguenamanagh, called the Cistercian Duiske Abbey. It is one of the oldest buildings associated with the Ryan family and is still intact and beautifully restored. Today it is used as the parish church.

The historian, Georffrey Keating, describes the Ryans as follows: "A Sept most free and hospitable." For their constant opposition to the English colonists, their possessions were confiscated in the Cromwellian and Williamites periods.

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