400 Years of Mayo Family History, Is your family from MAYO?

Is your name EGAN?

In 1905, my great-granduncle, John Egan of Castlebar, wrote a letter to his son, Joseph in New Jersey, detailing the history of our family back to 1600, including various Mayo relatives through the centuries.

This was the inspiration for our 3 novels on the Famine in Mayo.

Regards, Charles www.charlesegan.ie

From John Egan
Turlough Cottage,
Townland of Knockanour,
Co. Mayo,

to his eldest Son

Joseph Bernard Egan .
Of 507 Monroe Avenue
Elizabeth, New Jersey
United States of America
13th November, 1905

My Dear Joseph,

As I am now in my seventy first year, having been born on the 27th May 1835, and am the only living representative of my father’s family I consider it my duty to put on paper all I have learned from the lips of my father about the traditions of our family. As I am the only one of four brothers who up to this date have never left the shores of Ireland, and was more at home with my father than the other brothers, I had ample opportunity of learning from him all the traditions of our family in the days of my boyhood and youth. My father was seventy-six years of age, when he died in 1859. He was therefore born in 1783, and was fifteen years of age in the eventful year of 1798. His father and grandfather were both alive in that year. His grandfather was then a hale old man and lived for some years afterwards. My father had therefore an opportunity of learning from his grandfather the history and traditions of the family from the time his ancestors first came to the County of Mayo.

As my father’s grandfather was only the fourth in descent from his great grandfather, who was the first of the race that settled in Mayo Co., you can regard these traditions as quite accurate for my father was very particular in relating them to me without any additions or subtractions or embellishments of his own of any kind. It has cost me some trouble to fix the date of our ancestor’s coming first to Mayo, but as his eldest son fought at the battle of Aughrim on the Catholic side, history comes to our aid in deciding the date as the war of James and William took place in the years 1689-90, or about that date. It follows therefore that the father of the Aughrim warrior must have come to Mayo about the year 1654 which was the year of the Cromwellian disturbances as otherwise his eldest son would not be old enough to carry arms during the war of James II and William III. The father of the Aughrim warrior was Brian MacEgan (MacAodhagáin) although I am not certain whether the Mac was used in English, but it always was in Irish and Irish was then the language of the whole country. The father of this Brian was Boes (Latin Boetius, Irish Buaitheallach, the word is sometimes spelt with one l) but Boes never came to Mayo County.

There was a tradition that the family had some lands or property in Maghaire Chonnacht, which would correspond with the “Plains of Boyle” of the present day but the family resided in the district or Parish Céis (Keash) usually called Céis-Corran in the County of Sligo at the time Brian came to Mayo Co. This parish of Keash is convenient to Ballymote, but whether there are any Egans there at present, or not I don’t know. Brian was accompanied by a brother Boes (Boetius) when he came to Mayo Co., and this Boes settled at Newport and from him are descended several families of the name in Westport, and along the Western Seaboard including the families of John Egan, late Clerk of Union at Westport, and the family of Mrs. Conroy, whom you knew here in Turlough, before you left for America. Francis Egan of Westport at present Clerk of Petty Sessions there is the son of the above named John, and descendant of Boes, but he is far removed by consanguinity from our family at the present time.

Boetius was a name belonging to the Sept in the past, and there were three Bishops of that name in Ireland in the days of Cromwell. Two of these suffered martyrdom for the faith at the hands of the Cromwellian party as history attests, Bishop Boetius MacEgan of Ross in Cork Co., and Bishop Boetius MacEgan of Kerry, while Bishop Boetius MacEgan of Elphin, who more immediately belonged to our own people survived the persecution. There was also a Bishop Boetius Egan or MacEgan, Archbishop of Tuam about one hundred years ago. He was translated from Elphin to Tuam and was Archbishop of Tuam at the time the British Government gave the grant for Maynooth College. I have met with a likeness of his. He was possessed of very noble features and bore a strong likeness to some members of our own family.
Brian, above mentioned, settled in the townland of Clogher in the parish of Bohola, and to this day the site of his residence is pointed out somewhere near where Mr. Tim Doyle lives at the present time. It appears that Brian found an Asylum on the property of the Browns of Brownstown (near Ballinrobe) who managed in the general confiscations that took place at the time to save that position of their property that was situated in Bohola and Killeden Parishes, even though they were Catholics. Several other Catholic families settled on the Brown property at the same time, and most of the people of Killeden and Kiltimagh of the present day are descended from those settlers of the days of the Cromwellian persecution. Brian had three sons whose names were Murty, Carabre, and Andrew. Murty fought at Aughrim, and from him our family are descended. There were in the days of my boyhood some families of the name living in Kiltimagh, who were descended from Carabre, and Father Brian Egan, and his people were descended from Andrew. Mr. Bernard Egan of Ballina is the present representative of that family in this County.

Murty generally spelled Murtagh (in Irish Muircheartach) lived in his father’s place after the Williamite war was over, and had several sons the eldest of whom was Pat or Patrick, our ancestor, who died young leaving only one son Murtyroe from whom all our near relatives of the name are descended. Patt our ancestor had at least two brothers but I cannot give their names. I know however, that one of them went northward to the Parish of Bellaghy or Charlestown and settled there, and even at the present day there are several families of the name, who are distant relatives of ours, residing in that district. The first of these had among them a Murty Egan of Lavy near Charlestown who is buried in the grave beside our family graves in Killeden. My father frequently referred to him, and his funeral and burial, as being a near relative of his. Patt had another brother who was the ancestor of Michael Egan, who lived in the upper end of Kiltimagh and was the father of Mr. Thos Egan, a Custom House Officer, and of the wife of Mr. Bernard Egan of Ballina. This Michael Egan had a second son Michael who went to Liverpool and resided there. There were also several other members of this family, who are all distantly related to our people, but are scattered all over several countries at the present time like many other Irish families.

Murtyroe (Muircheartach Ruadh MacAodhagáin) was my father’s grandfather. He was a trader and farmer and was very much respected in Killeden. His funeral was one of the largest ever seen in that Parish, although the country was not so thickly peopled then as now. He was the first of the race to come to live in Corohore (Currach fhuar). As his father died young leaving him his only child, and his mother a young widow, his father’s farm in Clogher passed out of his hands his mother having married secondly a man named Lavin. By this second marriage of his mother to Lavin, Murty had a number of stepsisters who were all fine looking women and got good matches among the respectable farmers of the district, so that in course of time most of the people of the district were distantly related to our family. Murty was called roe (ruadh) on account of his hair being rather like the color of your uncle Thomas’s hair, his skin being quite fair. He was physically a find type of manhood and did some brave deeds in his time. His wife was a woman named O’Brien and by her he got a good farm in Corohore, part of which is still occupied by Mrs. Walsh’s daughter, and her family. In course of time he got a second farm around where your cousin Thos. Egan now lives. On this second farm he built a good house which was used as a store, before there was even a single shop or store in the town of Kiltimagh. That old house no longer exists. The site of it was where Thos. Egan had his cabbage plot.

Murty had two sons Patt and Tom. Patt was my grandfather. Tom was Mr. Joseph Ismay’s maternal grandfather. Tom had no sons and his daughter Anne was the only one of four daughters who married. Anne was married to the father of Mr. Joseph Ismay. Thus you see that Mr. Ismay was a second cousin of mine and his son is your third cousin or eight-a-Kin. Your children and Mr. Ismay’s grandchildren are separated in kindred to the tenth degree. Thus you see how rapidly kindred branches off to a remote degree. My grandfather Patt was alive when my parents were married in 1825 but he died a few years after that date so that I never saw him. He had four sons and two daughters. His sons were Michael, Murtagh, Martin and Thomas. His daughters were Anne (Mrs. Benson) and Mary (Mrs. Walsh). I should have stated that Murtyroe had one daughter who was married to a man named Egan of the race of Andrew, heretofore mentioned, and from this marriage the family who live near Thos. Egan in Corohore are descended.

Michael, my father had four sons, Michael, Patt, John (myself) and Thomas and five daughters Norah (Onney) who died an infant, Bridget who died at 20, Anne (Mrs. Mannion), Kate (Mrs. Kelly) and Mary the eldest (Mrs. Murtagh). Mary died after being married one year and left no family. Mrs. Kelly, and Mrs. Mannion left families, as you are aware. I must now abridge a little. Murtagh my uncle went to Bradford (England) and his family settled there. He had three sons and one daughter. His sons Thomas and Patt are settled in Bradford are still living, and their families are all doing well. Michael, the third son was married but left no children. Mary was never married. My uncle Martin left two children Martin and Anne. They emigrated to America and settled in Hartford in Connecticut, but I have not heard about them for many years. Anne had married a man named Turner. My uncle Thomas was never married. He was a splendid classical scholar and was a contemporary of the illustrious Dr. MacHale, Archbishop of Tuam. My uncle and Dr. McHale commenced their Latin studies together at a school which was then taught at Bohola by a man named Kilgallen, and the Doctor when a boy came to stay one night at my grandfather’s house with my uncle Tom.
My eldest brother Michael emigrated to America about the year 1858. His family afterwards followed. He had four sons Patrick, Thomas, Luke and Michael; and five daughters, Maria (Mrs. Dixon), Anne (Mrs. Hoban), Bridget (Mrs. Sullivan), Kate (Mrs. Boland) and Sarah (Mrs. Coyle). I need not give particulars of your uncle Michael’s grandchildren and great grandchildren as you know them yourself better than I do, and you can add an account of them at some future date, should you see some necessity for doing so. My brother Patt had six sons and six daughters. The sons are Michael, Patrick, John, Thomas, Bernard and Murty; and the daughters are Mary (Mrs. Price), Anne, Margaret, Bridget, Kate and Ellen. Thomas, the fourth son, lives in the home of my parents in Corohore. The house in which he lives was built by my father before his marriage. As you are aware, our family consisted of five sons and seven daughters. The sons are Joseph, John, Michael, Thomas and Patrick; the daughters are Mary (Mrs.Tierney), Jane (Mrs. Doherty), Lizzie (Mrs. Hughes), Cecilia (Mrs. Killian), Teresa, Alicia and Norah. As you are aware, Jane is dead and her child is at present living with us. My brother Thomas had four sons, Father John who is in California, Michael, Patrick and Bernard; and three daughters at present living including Sister Berchmans, who is a Sister of Mercy in Castlebar Convent. There were three other daughters who are dead including Sister Clare late of the Ballina Convent.

I will say nothing here of our grandchildren or of the grandchildren of your uncles Patt and Thomas, as you can add an account of them yourself at some future date should you think proper to do so. You can also get a more minute account of your Bradford cousins from Agnes Egan if you wish, as her address was given on her letter which I lately sent you. Thomas Egan of Bradford has six sons, all in good positions, and one daughter who is a Carmelite nun in Enniscorthy in Wexford County. In religion she is called Sister Clare, but her name before she entered the convent was Mary Agatha. I formerly corresponded with her, and encouraged her in her vocation, as she was good and holy, and highly educated. She once wrote me a very accomplished letter in French, at my own request. Patt Egan of Bradford has four sons, and some four or five daughters including Mary Anne, whom you met and Agnes, who visited here a few years ago. You can get from Agnes if you wish a more minute account of these families.
I will now give you a brief account of the collateral relatives. My mother was Flanagan and had only one brother, Martin. His son Martin teaches the Cloonfallagh school. My father’s mother was Brennan, and he had a number of relatives of that name. My grandfather’s name was O’Brien and my great-grandfather’s mother was O’Beirne. My mother’s mother was Costello and her mother was Tuohy. Your maternal grandmother was Kelly and her mother was Higgins. Your maternal grandfather was Michael O’Grady and his mother was D’Alton. If you wish I can give you a more minute account of your mother’s relatives on some future occasion.

(Signed) John Egan, otherwise “John Joseph MacEgan.” In Irish “Seán Seóiseph MacAodhagáin.” Note – as teacher and science teacher my name was recorded as John Egan; but I used my full name in taking the parchment I took from the Queen’s University in 1864. J.E.

Gerald’s ancestry traced in direct line for a period of 250 years: – Gerald son of Joseph, Joseph son of John, John son of Michael, Michael son of Patrick, Patrick son of Murtagh, Murtagh son of Patrick, Patrick son of Murtagh, Murtagh son of Brian, Brian son of Boes or Boetius, who was a contemporary and kinsman of Bishop Boetius MacEgan of Elphin of the Cromwellian period whose name occurs in history in connexion with the many important events of that disturbed period.

Origin of Egan – The original form of the ancient name is Aodhogán, pronounced (Eegawn); it is also written Aedhagán, and in one inscription it appears as Aeducan, the gutterals g & c being originally represented by the same character. It was formerly used as a proper name in some families. The word is formed from Aedh or Aodh, which means fire, and ogán which means a noble youth, the work ogánach being the usual term for a young person. Therefore Aedhogán means the firy noble youth. In course of time the spelling was changed to Aodhagán or Aedhagán, and when Mac comes before this name, it must be put in the genitive case – the surname therefore takes i before the last n and the name takes the form MacAodhagáin. Aodhogán, the prince or chief from whom the sept took their surname flourished about the year 950. Surnames became general in Ireland during the reign of Brian Boru (Boroimhe) and each sept took the name of some ancestor of that or the preceding generation. Either Mac or O was prefixed to all the names of Milesian descent. Some writers say that the MacEgans were the senior race of Hymany which included the greater parts of Galway and Roscommon; but in the course of time the kindred sept of the O’Kellys became Kings or princes of Hymany, and the MacEgans became the hereditary Brehons of Connaught, Desmond in Munster and Ormond. Some writers say they were also the Brehons of Breffni. They were in fact the most literary and learned sept in Ireland for several centuries and some writers assert that all the manuscript Books of Ancient Ireland were written by them or for them. The kingdom of Hymany was founded in the third century. There were seven septs in it, the three principal septs being the O’Kelly, the O’Maddens and the MacEgans. The MacEgans had their seat at Duniry near Loughrea. J.E.

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