The Geraghty Family: Early History in Ireland

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the geraghty family
early history in ireland


The history of the Geraghty family is closely entwined with the history of Ireland in general and more particularly the province of Connaught. The earliest history of Ireland is couched in the mists of myth, legend and folk lore. Lacking any native tradition of writing, all the information regarding the period prior to introduction of Christianity stems form an oral tradition passed from generation to generation. History in this context becomes a mixture of folk memory blended with tribal religious beliefs.

Based upon this tradition, it appears that early Ireland was populated by several different peoples each with its own language, beliefs and traditions. These groups included the Picts and the Ulaidh in the north and far west of Ireland, the Erranin which occupied much of the south east and the Gaels which were relitive newcomers in the south and west. By the begining of the chistian era, the culture and language of the Gaels came to predominate over the whole of Ireland. Nonetheless, Ireland continued to be to be a patchwork of seperate tribal divisions well into the historic period.


The Geraghty [ MagOireachtaigh] family name appears to have originated in what is now County Roscommon Ireland in about the 12th century. It was a branch of the Sil Muiredaigh clan closely related to the O'Connor kings of Connaught through a common ancestry. Medeaval geneological tracts have this family decended from Cathal Mac Muirgius, king of Connaught who died 839 AD, This Cathal being the uncle of Conchobhar ( d.882 AD) from whom the "O'Connors" are decended. The ancestry of this Cathal is traditionally traced back 12 generations (give or take a few depending on the source) to one Brian Mag Eochaidh Muigh Meadhoin, a half brother to Niall Naoighiallach (Niall of the Nine Hostages), the first historic king of Ireland at Tara, who it is said first brought St. Patrick to Ireland as a hostage from Britain. This Niall's son Laeghaire was the first christian high king of Ireland.

John O' Hart ( Irish Pedegrees 1910 Vol.1 p 468 ) provides the following geneology from Cathal Mac Muirgius:

Cathal * Hugh Manus
Aodh Malachi Manus McOiraghty
Morough Tumaltach
Duncath Morogh
Oireachta * Donall
Duncath Mor * Morough Oireachta Connor
Duncath Oge * Timothy *
Duncath * Malachi *

( * Known from other historic referances - See Below)

Although this appears to have been compiled from early geneological tracts and contains a grain of truth, it appears fundumentally flawed. This is particularly notable in the beginning where the four generations between Cathal and Duncath Mor cover an unlikely time period of roughly 300 years ! The apparent ommision of intervening generations renders the remaining generations suspect.

Based upon historical references form the mideaval annals, the Geraghty name appears to be derived from one Oireachta O' Raduibh chief of Sil Murray. This is probably the same Oireachta that is mentioned in 1176 as being granted one of the sureties of Ballybetagh (Toomagh) by the last high king of Ireland, Rory O'Connor. Oireachta apparently died with a son, Hugh in 1190 in a storm on Lough Ree after attempting to mediate between rival claimants to the kingship of Connaught. A year later in 1191 the annals record the death of his wife, a daughter of Regan Mulrooney.

Several references are made to various sons of Oireachta. The earliest reference of 1153 notes the death of Donach MagOireachtaigh This id followed in 1181 by a record of the death of one Gillchrist MagOireachta who was slain in 1181 at the battle of Carbury and who was said to be buried at the abby of Clonmacnois. In 1224 the Annals of Connacht record the death of Donn Cathaigh MagOireachtaigh while on pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick in 1224 AD (Conn. 1224.4). This Donn Cathaigh is styled as lord of the Clann Tomaltaigh, which occupied a territory in County Roscommon roughtly between the modern towns of Ballintober and Tulsk. An early English account of the Norman invasion referances a chief named McGorathie (McOireachtiahgh ?) as assisting the high king Rodrick O'Connor in an attack and distruction of Hugh DeLacy's castle at Trim in 1174. This may be reference to either Donn Cathaigh or some other son of Oireachta O'Raduibh..

This same year (Loch Ce 1224) there is a reference to a Diarmaid MagOireachtaigh serving as Coarbh (abbot) of the monastery of Achadh-Fabhair Umaill [Aghagower] in County Mayo. If the reference is taken litereally, this Diarmaid may be another brother or close relative of Donn Cathaigh. It is worth noting that several subsequent enties in the annals refer to various MagOireachtaighs as Coarbhs or Erenaghs of Aghagower. The term Erenagh indicating that the abbacy was hereditary. One abbot named Donn Cathaigh (apparently not the same as refered to above ) died Dec. 15 1233 AD . The last entry in this regard refers to the murder of Benedictus MagOireachtaigh on May 3. 1247 AD by a son of Conchobhar Ruad O'Connor and a son of Magnus O'Connor. This Benedictus was apparently the last Erenagh of Aghagower, because the monestary was supposedly destroyed in 1248 AD by the Normans under Jordan DeExter and John Butler. With the death of Benedictus, the estate of the manor of Aghegower passed first to his son Adam and after Adams death to his son Mathew. This Mathew was dispossessed of his inheritance by William Birmingham, Archbishop of Tuam. This dispossession was contested by Matthew's sister Joan, wife of one John Stanton who claimed two parts of the estate as rightful heiress to Matthew under Irish law (Cal. Plea laws, 25 Ed I R 38 M 21 pp 301-302) . It is not clear how this case was ultimately settled. John Stanton apparently died in battle in 1316 against Feilim O'Connor King of Connaught and the subsequent status of the estate of Aghagower is unclear.

With regard to Roscommon branch, the next historic reference is for the year 1225 AD when it is recorded that Donn Oc MagOireachtaigh son of Donn Cathaigh and styled as a royal chieftain of the Sil Muiredhaigh led a revolt against Hugh O'Connor, a pupet king installed by the Norman invaders. Reference is also made to a grandson of one Amlaibh MacOireachtaigh who was slain in this revolt near the town of Ardrahan. This same Donn Oc died in battle at Fincarn in Slieve Anierin Co. Leitrim in 1230 AD while defending Hugh's successer against the invading Normans under Richard Burke. The lengthy reference describes how he and a handfull of foot soldiers attempted to defend the hill against a masive Norman cavalry contingent which had encircled them and in so doing cut them off from their main army. Donn Oc is also recorded as having a son named Donn Cathaigh who was blinded by Hugh O'Connor in 1266 AD.

The following additional references were recorded in the Annals of Connaught

1241 AD The death of Sitric MagOireachtaig Chief of Clann Tomaltaig. 1256 AD Flann MagOireachtaigh and yet another Donn Oc MagOireachtaigh supported Felim O'Connor king of Connaught at the battle of Mag Slecht against the Normans led by Walter Burke and his allies the O'Riellys.
1260 AD Magnus son of Aedh MagOireachtaigh slain by Domnall O'Flaithim 1260 AD Sitric Mag Senalich slain at Athlone by Dunncatha MagOireachtaigh and Tomaltach MagOireachtaigh.
1268 AD The death or Magnus MagOireachtaigh Chief of Clann Tomaltaigh. 1274 AD Aedh O'Connor King of Connaught killed by Tomaltach MagOireaghtaigh at Grainsech Sruthra.
1278 AD Tomaltach MagOireachtaigh of Cagal (possibly Coggalbeg Co. Roscommon) King- Chieftain of Sil Murry was killed the people of the Tuatha.
1287 AD Maelsechlainn son ot Tomaltach MagOireachtaigh was Killed by Torrdelbach son of Eoghan O'Connor in revenge for abandoning Eoghan to his enemies, the grandsons of Aedh O'Connor.
1297 AD The death of Henry MagOireachtaigh, Bishop of Connor.
1307 AD The death of Magnus MagOireachtaigh.
1346 AD The death of David MagOireachtaigh Archbishop and Coarb of Patrick (Armagh ?) 1348 AD The death of Maelsechlainn MagOireachtaigh Chieftain of Muinter Ruduibh.
1362 AD The death of Muirchertach Donn MagOireachtaigh.
1385 AD The grandsons of Felim O'Connor attacked MagOireachtaigh chief of Calry burned the residence captured MagOireachtaigh himself.
1404 AD The death of Maelsechlainn McOireachtaigh, Chief of Muinter Raduibh on the middle sunday of lent. He was buried at Roscommon.
1585 AD Connor MacGerraugh (MagOireachtaigh ??) was granted 33 quarters of land in the Baroney of Athlone by Queen Elizabeth I .

No additional references to this family have been found after 1585, However, the Geraghty family appears to have mainained some degree of prominance in central Roscommon until sometime in the 16th century when it is said they were deprived of their land and title by the English. While there are still some Geraghtys in Roscommon to this day, the majority moved west into Galway and Mayo. A large number of Geraghty families continue to reside in Mayo in and around the Westport area where they may be decended from the old Errenachs of Agengower. There are also a number of Geraghty families scattered throughout Galway.

It is worth noting in regard to this short history that the name Tomaltach figures prominantly in the records first in the person of one Tomaltach, an ancester of Cathal McMuigius from whom Clann Tomaltaigh was named. It occures subsequently as the name of several persons bearing the MagOireachtaigh surname. The gealic name Tomaltach is rendered in English as Timothy, a name still in common usage amoung the Geraghty families in southeast County Mayo. (top)

For family data, see Geraghty Family.

This family file contains the research notes of Mr. Kevin Geraghty as of March 1999. Mr. Geraghty is researching the families and descendants of those buried at the Highland Cemetery. For more information or to contribute to Mr. Geraghty's research, please send him e-mail at


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