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

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

The old Gaelic name used by the O'Brien family in Ireland was O Briain, which means descendant of Brian.

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Irish names recorded during the Middle Ages are characterized by many spelling variations. This preponderance of variations for common names can be explained by the fact that the scribes and church officials that kept records during that period individually decided how to capture one's name. These recorders primarily based their decisions on how the name was pronounced or what it meant. Research into the name O'Brien revealed many variations, including O'Brien, OBrine, O'Brion, O'Bryan, O'Bryen, McBrien, McBrine, Brian, Briand, Briant, Brine, Brines, Briens and many more.

First found in Thomond, a territory comprised of most of County Clare with adjacent parts of counties Limerick and Tipperary. Prior to the 10th century, the sept was a Dalcassian Clan known as the Ui Toirdealbhaigh and achieved prominence with the rise of their eponymous ancestor, Brian Boru (941-1014), to the High Kingship of Ireland. Brian Boru, by far the most outstanding figure of this family, is widely acknowledged as the greatest of all the ancient Kings of Ireland and is best remembered for driving the Norsemen out of Ireland at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our O'Brien research. Another 373 words(27 lines of text) covering the years 1551, 1369, 1400, 1577, 1663, 1690, 1614, 1674, 1642, 1678, 1640, 1692, 1699, 1771, 1600, 1651, 1642, 1717, 1692 and 1714 are included under the topic Early O'Brien History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 233 words(17 lines of text) are included under the topic Early O'Brien Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Under the rule of England, land ownership in Ireland changed dramatically, and many native Irish families found themselves renting out land to farm from absentee owners. This was one of the prime reasons that immigration to North America began in the late 18th century: Irish farmers dreamed of owning their own parcel of land to work for themselves. At this point, the immigrants were at least of modest means for the passage across the Atlantic was often quite dear. In the 1840s the Great Potato Famine created an exodus of people of quite different means. These people were most often destitute: they either sold anything they had to gain a passage or they were sponsored by philanthropic societies. Many of these immigrants were sick from disease and starvation: as a result many did not survive the long transatlantic journey. Although those settlers that did survive were often despised and discriminated against by people already established in these nations, they were critical to rapid development of the powerful industrial nations of the United States and the country that would later become known as Canada. An examination of immigration and passenger lists shows many persons bearing the name of O'Brien or one of its variants:

O'Brien Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • Andrew, Anne, Bridge, Catherine, Charles, Cornelius, David, Daniel, Denis, Edward, Frank, George, Henry, Hugh, James, John, Martin, Mary, Michael, Patrick, Peter, Thomas, and William O'Brien all arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1870

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  • Laurence Francis "Larry" O'Brien (1917-1990), one of the United States Democratic Party's leading electoral strategists for more than two decades
  • Michael Jon "Mike" O'Brien (b. 1965), American Olympic freestyle and backstroke swimmer
  • Daniel Dion "Dan" O'Brien (b. 1966), American Decathlete who won the gold medal in the 1996 Olympics after winning three consecutive world titles
  • Angela Maxine O'Brien (b. 1937), birth name of Margaret O'Brien, the American film and stage actress who has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • Lieutenant Colonel William J O'Brien (1899-1944), American officer awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1944
  • Pat O'Brien (1899-1983), American film actor
  • Conan Christopher O'Brien (b. 1963), American television host, comedian, writer, producer and performer
  • Edward Joseph O'Brien (1930-2014), American Major League Baseball shortstop, outfielder and pitcher
  • Sir Conor Myles John O'Brien (b. 1943), Chief of the O'Brien Clan, direct descendant of Brian Boru and the latest in an unbroken male line that stretches back 1,000 years
  • Edna O'Brien (b. 1930), Irish Novelist and short story writer appointed adjunct professor of English Literature in University College Dublin

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  • Shamrocks and Fleurs-de-lis: A Louisiana Genealogy of the O'Brien, Mendoza, Verret, de la Chaise, Chauvin, and Allied Families by Leland Dudley O'Brien.
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The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Lamh laidir an Uachtar
Motto Translation: The strong hand from above.

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  1. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  2. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  3. Rasmussen, Louis J. . San Francisco Ship Passenger Lists 4 Volumes Colma, California 1965 Reprint. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1978. Print.
  4. Kennedy, Patrick. Kennedy's Book of Arms. Canterbury: Achievements, 1967. Print.
  5. Fairbairn. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  6. Tepper, Michael Ed & Elizabeth P. Bentley Transcriber. Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Philadelphia 1800-1819. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986. Print.
  7. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  8. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  9. O'Hart, John. Irish Pedigress 5th Edition in 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0737-4).
  10. Leyburn, James Graham. The Scotch-Irish A Social History. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0807842591).
  11. ...

The O'Brien Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The O'Brien 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 18 August 2014 at 08:55.

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