Brien History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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

Early Origins of the Brien family

The surname Brien 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 Brien family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Brien research. Another 187 words (13 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 Brien History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Brien Spelling Variations

Official documents, crafted by early scribes and church officials, primarily contained names that were spelled according to their pronunciation. This lead to the problem of one name being recorded under several different variations, creating an illusion that a single person was many people. Among the many spelling variations of the surname Brien that are preserved in the archival documents of the time are O'Brien, OBrine, O'Brion, O'Bryan, O'Bryen, McBrien, McBrine, Brian, Briand, Briant, Brine, Brines, Briens and many more.

Early Notables of the Brien family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the family name at this time was Brian Sreamhach MacMathghamhna O'Brien, king of the Irish region of Thomond (1369-1400); Daniel O'Brien (1577-1663), member of the Supreme Council of Catholic Confederates; Daniel O'Brien (d. 1690), founder of the Irish Brigade known as Clare's Dragoons; Murrough McDermod O'Brien, 1st Earl of Inchiquin and 6th Baron Inchiquin (1614-1674); Henry O'Brien, Lord Ibrackan or Lord...
Another 63 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Brien Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Brien migration to the United States +

In the 18th and 19th centuries hundreds of thousands of Irish people immigrated to North American shores. The early settlers were enticed by the promise of their own land, but they were moderately well off in Ireland when they decided to emigrate. Therefore, they were merely carrying out a long and carefully thought out decision. The 1840s saw the emergence of a very different trend: thousands of extremely desperate people crammed into passenger boats hoping to find any type of opportunity. The Irish of this decade had seen their homeland severely stricken by crop failures which resulted in widespread disease and starvation. At whatever time the Irish immigrants came to North America, they were instrumental in the rapid development of the emerging nations of the United States and what would become known as Canada. An exhaustive search of passenger and immigration lists has revealed many persons bearing the name Brien, or one of its variants:

Brien Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Cormick Brien, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1745 [1]
  • A Lucie Brien, who arrived in South Carolina in 1755-1756 [1]
  • Isabelle Brien, who landed in South Carolina in 1755-1756 [1]
  • Magdeleine Brien, who landed in South Carolina in 1755-1756 [1]
  • Elizabeth Brien, who arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1767 [1]
Brien Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • William Brien, who landed in America in 1800 [1]
  • Thomas Brien, aged 23, who arrived in New York, NY in 1804 [1]
  • Christophe Brien, who arrived in Louisiana in 1805-1809 [1]
  • Jos Brien, who arrived in America in 1805 [1]
  • Hugh Brien, who landed in New York, NY in 1812 [1]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Brien migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Brien Settlers in Canada in the 17th Century
  • Louis Brien, who arrived in Quebec from Brittany in 1676
  • Louis Brien, son of Julien and Jeanne, who married Suzanne Bouvier, daughter of Michel and Mathurin, in Montreal, Quebec on 16th April 1681 [2]
Brien Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Louis Brien, son of Louis and Suzanne, who married Catherine Desrochers, daughter of Nicolas and Jeanne, in Rivière-des-Prairies, Quebec on 20th July 1711 [2]
  • Pierre Brien, son of Louis and Suzanne, who married Élisabeth Desrochers, daughter of Jean and Marie, in Rivière-des-Prairies, Quebec on 20th July 1711 [2]
  • Urbain Brien, son of Louis and Suzanne, who married Marguerite Desroches, daughter of Jean and Marie, in Rivière-des-Prairies, Quebec on 25th April 1711 [2]
  • Isaac Brien, son of Louis and Suzanne, who married Marie Valiquet, daughter of Jean and Renée, in Varennes, Quebec on 12th March 1713 [2]
  • François-Marie Brien, son of Louis and Suzanne, who married Marguerite-Louise Lemire, daughter of Joseph and Jeanne, in Varennes, Quebec on 22nd November 1716 [2]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Brien Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Anne Brien, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1813
  • Elysia Brien, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1815
  • Eleanor Brien, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1819
  • Elenor Brien, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1821
  • Julia Brien, aged 2, who landed in Canada in 1823
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Brien migration to Australia +

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

Brien Settlers in Australia in the 18th Century
  • Miss Mary Brien, (b. 1776), aged 17, Irish convict who was convicted in Dublin, Ireland for life for receiving stolen goods, transported aboard the "Boddingtons" on 15th February 1793, arriving in New South Wales, Australia, she died in 1853 [3]
Brien Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Christopher Brien, a watch-maker, who arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • Joseph Brien, a shoemaker, who arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • Thomas Brien, a carpenter, who arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • Edward Brien, a coach-smith, who arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • Mr. Richard Brien, (b. 1811), aged 23, English labourer born in Yorkshire, England who was convicted in Cork, Ireland for 7 years for stealing, transported aboard the "Blenheim" on 27th July 1834, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [4]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Brien migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Brien Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. John Brien, Scottish settler travelling from Leith aboard the ship 'Melbourne' arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 18th March 1861 [5]
  • Miss Mary Brien, (b. 1840), aged 22, British dairymaid travelling from London aboard the ship 'Mermaid' arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 26th December 1862 [5]
  • Miss Elizabeth Brien, (b. 1842), aged 20, British dairymaid travelling from London aboard the ship 'Mermaid' arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 26th December 1862 [5]
  • Hannah Brien, aged 26, who arrived in Lyttelton, New Zealand aboard the ship "Accrington" in 1863
  • Mr. Thomas Brien, (b. 1837), aged 28, British carpenter travelling from Gravesend aboard the ship "Indian Empire" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 23rd July 1865 [5]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Brien (post 1700) +

  • William "Willie" Warren Brien, American Executive Vice Chairman of the Department of Surgery, Director of the Cedars-Sinai Orthopaedic Center and past Chief of Staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
  • Douglas Robert Zachariah Brien (b. 1970), former American NFL football placekicker who played from 1994 to 2005
  • Pierre Brien (b. 1970), Canadian politician, Member of the Canadian House of Commons from 1993 to 2003
  • John Wesley Brien (1864-1949), Canadian politician and physician, Member of the Canadian Parliament for Essex South (1917-1921)
  • Alan Brien (1925-2008), English journalist and author, best known for his novel Lenin
  • William Roy Brien (1930-1987), English footballer
  • Don Brien (b. 1959), Canadian bronze medalist sprint canoer at the 1985 World Championships
  • Robert C. Brien (b. 1944), Australian tennis player
  • James Brien Comey (b. 1960), American lawyer and former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (2013-2017), Deputy Attorney General of the United States during President George W. Bush's administration, 7th Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; he was fired on May 9,2017
  • Brien Singleton Wygle (1924-2020), American pilot from Seattle, Washington, co-pilot of the first Boeing 747 flight


The Brien 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. ^ 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)
  2. ^ Internoscia, Arthur E., and Claire Chevrier. Dictionnaire National des Canadiens Français 1608-1760. Vol. 1, Institut Drouin, 1958.
  3. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 25th October 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/boddingtons
  4. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 14th October 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/blenheim
  5. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html


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