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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016


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

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The surname Obrien 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.

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 Obrien revealed many variations, including O'Brien, OBrine, O'Brion, O'Bryan, O'Bryen, McBrien, McBrine, Brian, Briand, Briant, Brine, Brines, Briens and many more.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Obrien 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 Obrien 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 Obrien 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 Obrien or one of its variants:

Obrien Settlers in 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

Obrien Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century


  • Henry O'Brien, aged 7, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the brig "Dorcas Savage" from Belfast
  • Peter O'Brien, aged 25, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the brig "Dorcas Savage" from Belfast
  • Ann O'Brien, aged 20, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the brig "Dorcas Savage" from Belfast
  • Daniel O'Brien, aged 50, a tailor, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the brig "Dorcas Savage" from Belfast
  • Mary O'Brien, aged 5, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the brig "Dorcas Savage" from Belfast


Obrien Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • Sarah Ann O'Brien arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Royal Admiral" in 1838
  • Martha O'Brien arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Mary Dugdale" in 1840
  • Rose O'Brien arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Mary Dugdale" in 1840
  • James O'Brien arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Mary Dugdale" in 1840
  • Mary O'Brien arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Mary Dugdale" in 1840


Obrien Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • John O'Brien, aged 22, arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Oriental" in 1840
  • Ellen O'Brien, aged 25, arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Oriental" in 1840
  • Arthur O'Brien, aged 45, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Inchinnan" in 1852
  • Daniel O'Brien, aged 8, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Inchinnan" in 1852
  • Mary O'Brien, aged 5, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Inchinnan" in 1852


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  • Edward Joseph O'Brien (1930-2014), American Major League Baseball shortstop, outfielder and pitcher
  • Conan Christopher O'Brien (b. 1963), American television host, comedian, writer, producer and performer
  • Pat O'Brien (1899-1983), American film actor
  • Lieutenant Colonel William J O'Brien (1899-1944), American officer awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1944
  • 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
  • Michael Jon "Mike" O'Brien (b. 1965), American Olympic freestyle and backstroke swimmer
  • Laurence Francis "Larry" O'Brien (1917-1990), one of the United States Democratic Party's leading electoral strategists for more than two decades
  • Daniel Dion "Dan" O'Brien (b. 1966), American Decathlete who won the gold medal in the 1996 Olympics after winning three consecutive world titles
  • Paddy "Hands" O'Brien (1925-2016), Irish Gaelic footballer for Meath (1944-1955)
  • Mr. Timothy O'Brien (d. 1912), aged 21, Irish Third Class passenger from Drimoleague, Cork who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and died in the sinking

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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. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. 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. Johnson, Daniel F. Irish Emigration to New England Through the Port of Saint John, New Brunswick Canada 1841-1849. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield, 1996. Print.
  4. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  5. Grehan, Ida. Dictionary of Irish Family Names. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, 1997. Print. (ISBN 1-57098-137-X).
  6. MacLysaght, Edward. Mores Irish Familes. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-0126-0).
  7. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  8. Land Owners in Ireland. Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1203-3).
  9. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  10. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  11. ...

The Obrien Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Obrien 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 8 May 2016 at 17:44.

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