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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Origins Available: Irish-Alt, Irish

Where did the Irish Brennan family come from? What is the Irish Brennan family crest and coat of arms? When did the Brennan family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Brennan family history?

Many variations of the name Brennan have evolved since the time of its initial creation. In Gaelic it appeared as "O Braondin," from the word "braon," which has several meanings, possibly meaning "sorrow" in this case.


Before widespread literacy came to Ireland, a name was often recorded under several different variations during the life of its bearer. Accordingly, numerous spelling variations were revealed in the search for the origin of the name Brennan family name. Variations found include Brennan, McBrennan, Brannon, Brannan, Brannen, Brannin, Brennyn, Brannyn, MacBrennan, Brenan, Branon, Branan, Branen and many more.

First found in County Kilkenny (Irish: Cill Chainnigh), the former Kingdom of Osraige (Ossory), located in Southeastern Ireland in the province of Leinster, where the family claim descent from Braonan, an Irish Prince, brother of Ceallach, 17th King of Ossory. Braonan later became the King of Ossory, and also King of the Danes of Dublin, and was known as the Prince of Idough. His son, Conglach, in a dispute over the throne of Ossory, was killed near Three Castles, County Kilkenny. At this point in time the Brennans were in conflict with Brian Boru (1014), and most historians believe that the family was on the wrong side as allies of the Danish King. After Clontarf, they retained only the principality of Idough, but Anne, daughter of Guidhelgedh, three generations later, married the King of Ossory (Donogh), and the title was still extant even after the Anglo Norman invasion of 1172.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Brennan research. Another 247 words(18 lines of text) covering the years 1395, 1520, 1600, 1832, 1625, 1693, 1768, 1830 and 1794 are included under the topic Early Brennan History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 99 words(7 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Brennan Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Thousands of Irish families left for North American shores in the 19th century. These people were searching for a life unencumbered with poverty, hunger, and racial discrimination. Many arrived to eventually find such conditions, but many others simply did not arrive: victims of the diseased, overcrowded ships in which they traveled to the New World. Those who lived to see North American shores were instrumental in the development of the growing nations of Canada and the United States. A thorough examination of passenger and immigration lists has disclosed evidence of many early immigrants of the name Brennan:

Brennan Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century

  • James Brennan, a bonded passenger, who arrived in Potomac in 1731
  • David Brennan, who arrived in Maryland in 1774

Brennan Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • John Brennan, who arrived on a ship at New York in 1810 at age 27
  • Bernard Brennan, who landed in New York, NY in 1812
  • Margaret Brennan, who landed in New York, NY in 1812
  • Unity Brennan, who arrived in New York, NY in 1816
  • Bridget Brennan, who landed in New York, NY in 1816


  • J Keirn Brennan (1873-1948), American songwriter, who co-wrote the song "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" in 1912
  • William Joseph Brennan Jr. (1906-1997), American jurist, a Supreme Court justice from 1956-1990 and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Walter Andrew Brennan (1894-1974), American actor, won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor three times, acting in more than 230 film and television roles
  • John Owen Brennan (b. 1955), American Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, former chief counterterrorism advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama
  • Kathleen Patricia Brennan, American musician, songwriter, record producer and artist
  • Thomas Martin "Tom" Brennan (b. 1952), American former Major League Baseball pitcher
  • William Raymond Brennan (b. 1963), American former Major League Baseball pitcher
  • Neal Brennan (b. 1974), American three-time Primetime Emmy nominated writer, stand-up comedian, actor, director and producer, best known for co-creating and co-writing the Comedy Central series
  • Michael F. Brennan, American politician, 87th Mayor of Portland, Maine
  • Thomas Francis Brennan (1855-1916), American Catholic bishop, 1st Catholic bishop of Dallas 18911893



  • A History of the Brennans of Idough, County Kilkenny by Thomas A. Brennan.
  • I Thank God for All My Memories by Mary Zacchaeus Ryan.

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  1. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  2. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X).
  3. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  4. Donovan, George Francis. The Pre-Revolutionary Irish in Massachusetts 1620-1775. Menasha, WI: Geroge Banta Publsihing Co., 1932. Print.
  5. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  6. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  7. MacLysaght, Edward. The Surnames of Ireland 3rd Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1978. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2278-0).
  8. Kennedy, Patrick. Kennedy's Book of Arms. Canterbury: Achievements, 1967. Print.
  9. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  10. O'Hart, John. Irish Pedigress 5th Edition in 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0737-4).
  11. ...

The Brennan Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Brennan Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 21 September 2014 at 06:03.

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