Show ContentsBrian History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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

Early Origins of the Brian family

The surname Brian was 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.

Early History of the Brian family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Brian research. Another 187 words (13 lines of text) covering the years 1369, 1400, 1551, 1577, 1600, 1614, 1640, 1642, 1651, 1663, 1674, 1678, 1690, 1692, 1699, 1714, 1717 and 1771 are included under the topic Early Brian History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Brian Spelling Variations

During the Middle Ages, exact spellings for people's name did not exist. It was up to the literate scribe that was recording a person's name to decide how to spell his name. Names, therefore, often had many spelling variations. The variations of the name Brian include: O'Brien, OBrine, O'Brion, O'Bryan, O'Bryen, McBrien, McBrine, Brian, Briand, Briant, Brine, Brines, Briens and many more.

Early Notables of the Brian family

Notable amongst the family name at this time was

  • Brian Sreamhach MacMathghamhna O'Brien, king of the Irish region of Thomond (1369-1400)

Brian Ranking

In the United States, the name Brian is the 6,239th most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [1]

United States Brian migration to the United States +

A great wave of Irish migration occurred during the 19th century as a direct result of English colonial rule and tight-fisted absentee landlords. Many of these Irish immigrants boarded passenger ships bound for North America. Those who migrated early enough were given land in either British North America or the United States; those who came in the late 19th century were typically employed in industrial centers as laborers. At whatever age they undertook the dangerous passage to North America, those Irish immigrants were essential to the speedy development of the two infant nations to which they arrived, whether they broke and settled land, helped build canals, bridges, and railroads, or produced products for consumer consumption. An examination of immigration and passenger lists has uncovered a large number of immigrants bearing the name Brian or one of its variants:

Brian Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • William Brian, who was aboard the ship "Sea Venture" who wrecked in Bermudas in 1609, they managed to build a new ship to continue to Jamestown in 1610. [2]
  • Robert Brian, aged 27, who landed in Virginia in 1635 [2]
  • Walter Brian, who arrived in Maryland in 1655 [2]
  • Margaret Brian, who landed in Maryland in 1665 [2]
Brian Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Darby Brian, who arrived in Virginia in 1706 [2]
  • Alain Brian, aged 22, who arrived in Louisiana in 1719 [2]
  • Timothy Brian, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1746 [2]
  • Archibald Brian, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1772 [2]
  • Archd Brian, aged 24, who arrived in Virginia in 1773 [2]
Brian Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Michael Brian, aged 32, who arrived in New York in 1812 [2]
  • John Brian, who landed in Tippecanoe County, Ind in 1843 [2]
  • Edmund Brian, who arrived in Maryland in 1847 [2]
  • James Brian, who arrived in Mississippi in 1847 [2]
  • Catherine Brian, aged 22, who landed in New York in 1854 [2]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Brian migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Brian Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • John Brian, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1827
  • Eleanor Brian, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1827

Australia Brian migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Brian Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Miss Caroline Brian who was convicted in Middlesex, England for 14 years, transported aboard the "Edward" on 23rd April 1834, arriving in Tasmania, (Van Diemen's Land) [3]
  • Mr. Patrick Brian, (Duncan, Campbell), (b. 1807), aged 28, Scottish solider born in Perth, Scotland who was convicted in Galway, Ireland for life for stealing, transported aboard the "Blackwell" on 29th September 1835, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [4]
  • John Brian, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Hooghly" in 1846 [5]
  • Miss Sarah Brian who was convicted in Manchester, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Cadet" on 4th September 1847, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [6]
  • Judy Brian, aged 16, who arrived in South Australia in 1849 aboard the ship "Elgin" [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Brian (post 1700) +

  • Frank Sands Brian (1923-2017), American professional basketball player
  • Walter Leslie Brian (1918-2004), nicknamed "Salty Brine", an American well-known broadcaster in Rhode Island
  • Morgan Paige Brian (b. 1993), American soccer player for the Houston Dash
  • Mary Brian (1906-2002), born Louise Byrdie Dantzler, an American actress and movie star, nicknamed "The Sweetest Girl in Pictures," awarded a Star on the Walk of Fame
  • Donald Brian (1877-1948), Newfoundland actor, Broadway dancer and singer who taught Frank Sinatra to dance and entertained American troops in England with Bob Hope
  • Denis Brian (b. 1923), Welsh journalist and author, best known for his 1996 biography Einstein: a life
  • Havergal Brian (1876-1972), born William Brian, an English composer and writer
  • Merrick Brian Garland (b. 1952), American lawyer, jurist, 86th United States Attorney General
  • Peter Brian Gabriel (b. 1950), British singer, musician, and songwriter, original lead singer of the progressive rock band Genesis, perhaps best known for his solo "Solsbury Hill," recipient of numerous awards including six Grammy Awards, thirteen MTV Video Music Awards, the first Pioneer Award at the BT Digital Music Awards, the Q magazine Lifetime Achievement, the Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Polar Music Prize and the Man of Peace award from the Nobel Peace Prize laureates in 2006, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Genesis in 2010
  • Joseph Brian Gullett (b. 1980), American politician who is a Georgia State Representative

The Brian Motto +

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.

  1. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  2. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  3. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 25th January 2022). Retrieved from
  4. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 14th October 2020). Retrieved from
  5. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) HOOGHLY 1846. Retrieved from
  6. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 17th November 2020). Retrieved from
  7. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) ELGIN 1849. Retrieved from on Facebook