Bernard Family of Carlow, Laois and Offaly, Ireland


Introduction to the Bernard Family of  Carlow, Laois and Offaly, Ireland

Charles Bernard of Carlow  born circa 1638 - died 1668 (Children: Thomas John and Philip)

Thomas Bernard and Deborah Franks (Children: Charles, Franks, Elizabeth, Joseph and Anne)

Philip Bernard (1668-1721)

Charles Bernard of Laois (Queen’s Co). (Eldest son of Thomas and Deborah)

Franks Bernard of Carlow (Second son of Thomas and Deborah)

Joseph Bernard of Carlow (youngest son of Thomas and Deborah)

Thomas Bernard of Castletown, Offaly (Son of Joseph and Mary)

John Bernard of Carlow (Son of Joseph and Mary)

William Bernard of Carlow (Son of Joseph and Mary)

Thomas Bernard of Carlow (Son of William and Mary)

Arthur O’Brien Bernard of Carlow and the Isle of Man (son of Thomas and Anne)

Bernards of Tullow, Aghade, Newstowne and Rathrush, Co Carlow



IN THE BEGINNING - THE 1600s and before

In volume I of Irish Pedigrees; or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation, the name Bernard is stated to be the anglicized version of O'Briain of Thomond (along with O'Brien, Brien, Bryan and Bryant). In volume II of the same publication it suggests that the Bernards, were Huguenots arriving from France prior to the reign of Louis XIV i.e. before 1638. I cannot confirm which hypothesis fits my Bernard family however, I have found Bernard's in Ireland in the 1300's so the name deriving from O'Briain is probably more likley.

The Bernards appear to have been settled in the county of Carlow, Ireland since at least the beginning of the 1600s, although, it is possible that they were in another Irish county before that time. In the "History and Antiquities of the County of Carlow" by John Ryan I found a reference to John Bernard of Tinriland Catherlough [now Carlow] in 1619. I assume that John was an adult and would therefore have been born before in the late 1500s and probably married with children before 1619.

“… By another grant, dated 1st July, 1619, demised John Bernard the

lands of Tinriland, for the term of thirty-one years, annual rent, fourteen pounds".


The Tinriland lease must have stayed in the family as, several generations later, in the will of another John Bernard (son of Joseph) of Carlow, dated 1791, John Bernard mentions leaving the land leases of Tinriland to his son Joseph. [Modern spelling is Tinryland].

I have found references to other male Bernards in Carlow in the early to mid-1600s:

John Bernard. A John Bernard was mentioned in the Common Pleas in 1663 and 1666. He would have been an adult at this time. It is possible that he was son of John and I have estimated his birth to be about 1610. I have no other records of another John Bernard until 1666 (when a John was born to Charles Bernard). It is also unlikely that the John mentioned in the Common Pleas was the first John born in the late 1500s.

In the Court of Chancery Records, 1633-1851 there are bills for John Bernard in 1668, 1669 and 1670. There are no other Bernards mentioned in these Irish Court records during this period except for Anne Bernard (a widow) in 1673. It is plausible that she was the wife of John Bernard. If she was then John died prior to 1673.

Joseph Bernard. The next record of a Bernard in Carlow with a reliable date is that of Joseph Bernard. The inscription in Lorum Old Church Cemetry, Clonmulsh ( the death of Joseph in  1704 aged  70 (born in  1634). The inscription indicates he had a son Joseph (the younger). The inscription also names Mary as his wife however, it impossible for Mary to be the older Joseph's wife as she was born in 1732, 28 years after Joseph died.

If Joseph (the elder) was born in 1634 it was likely that he married between the ages of 20 and 30 i.e. between 1654 and 1664. His son Joseph (the younger) was most likely his first or second born son as he was named after his father. I have concluded that the younger Joseph would have been born about 1660.  Joseph (the younger) would also have married between the ages of 20 and 30 i.e. approximately 1680-1690. It is therefore highly unlikely that the Mary, mentioned on the inscription was his wife. She was probably the wife of one of Joseph (the elder’s) grandsons or great grandsons.  I have  been unable to determine which of the Bernards in Carlow are the elder Joseph's descendants. 

JB inscription

William Bernard  The next record of another Bernard in Carlow is found in the Census of Ireland 1659, a William  Bernard, Gent. is living in Catherlough (Carlow). Based on the dates in the following documents it is obvious that William was an adult by 1659 and had children by 1667. I have estimated that he was probably born about 1636. and assumed that he was the son of John.

  • A William Bernard is listed as a Sheriff for the County of Catherlough in the 1659 census of Ireland
  • Thomas King in “Carlow the Manor and Town 1674-1721” comments that

the so-called 1659 census was really a tax return which excluded several categories of the
population like those under fifteen years.”

  • Then, in 1677

a lease for ye lives of Thomas  Bernard,  Charles Bernard, William Bernard. The towne and lands of Mortellstowne containing 120 acres, and ye Martlands of ye Burren containing 40 acres” (King)


  • Mortlestown Farm was one of the larger farms in the Manor of Carlow being 223 acres.
  • There  is a further record that –
 "In 1689 and in 1695, William Bernard waived his lease to the 120-acre Mortlestown  farm.
He refused to 'intermeddle therewith because of the depredations of the army'.
It had lain waste for a number of years until Baron Worth set it for 35 in 1695".  (King)

  • In a 1681 record of tenants in the old walled town of Carlow (Spaight’s Survey 1681, also in King) there is a William Bernard and his children: Thomas, Charles and William.
  • In the Court of Chancery Records, 1633-1851 there is a bill in 1695  for a Charles Bernard,  with defendants named as William Bernard and Thomas Bernard, among others.
  • In 1699 William Bernard’s name appears in the record of Common Pleas. This may be William (the younger) rather than his father.

  • A  John Bernard (circa 1700) is claiming a property (deed) "term for three lives renewable for ever after the death of Tho., C. and W. Bernard". (Ryan) The three lives are: Thomas, Charles and William Bernard sons of William Bernard mentioned in the 1659 Census.  It is not known who John Bernard was but he was possibly the fourth son of William. 
  • In the Court of Chancery Records, 1633-1851 there are bills for William Bernard in 1674, 1680, 1690 

Charles Bernard Burke, in  the Genealogical And Heraldic History Of The Landed Gentry Of Ireland (1912), claimed that my ancester Charles Bernard came to Ireland with Oliver Cromwell during the Conquest of Ireland in 1649. All the records I have found show that the name Bernard existed in Ireland long before Oliver Cromwell arrived there and that the repetition of first names found in the Bernard family of Co. Carlow led me to conclude that Burke was mistaken and that Charles Bernard descended from Bernard ancestors already resident in Ireland.

Further research confirms that Burke was mistaken in his claim that Charles Bernard came from England and that his wife was Elizabeth Sheppherd although he did provide what appears to be an accurate description of his three sons: Thomas John and Philip all born in the 1660s.

Charles was possibly the youngest son of John, born about 1638. Charles died in 1668, he would have been about 30 year's old at the time of his death. That may explain why there is no documentary evidence regarding Charles and his family until the 1700s. Although the description of his children is accurate, many other sources name his wife as Mary Shepherd, not Elizabeth.

The information in the following pages is based on both historical records and intuitive inferences. The Bernard family of Co. Carlow, and later of Co. Laois (Queens) and Co. Offaly (Kings), repeatedly used the same names throughout the generations.  Male names were John, William, Thomas and Charles. Female names were Elizabeth, Mary, Anne and Deborah.

As there are very few records to confirm the relationships of these Bernards in Carlow most of my assumptions are speculative until they can be proven.

The chart below is based on my personal concept of the early Bernard's in Co. Carlow. It is not based on birth marriage or burial records as there are none.  Most dates have been estimated, based on events or documents where names have been found.  There are no records to substantiate most of these dates.

1600s chart

Earlier references to Bernards in Ireland 
There are two references to a John Bernard in the Calendar of Ormond Deeds 1350-1413. 
Vol II  p. 46, Jan. 1359 - from the Assizes in Clonmel, Tipperary
“ John Bernard of Balykrydan accused that when Edmund son of Geoffrey Hacket Nicholas Potyn Robert fitzGeoffrey 
and Walter son of Adam Purcell on Monday next after St. Nicholas’ Day in the 30th year at Coulmayn robbed
Matthew de Loundres of twenty cows, each worth a half mark, said Edmund etc. after the felony was done were
received by said John, he knowing of the felony. He comes and asks for a jury. The jury finds he is not guilty and
so he may go quit”

Vol II  p263. Dec 20th 1404    Estreats, fines and amercements before the same Barons of the Exchequer for Trinity Term in the 5th year at the King’s Pleas:

“From Peter Loundrys because when summoned he did not come… So with  John Barnard, David Bretenagh, John Hamond, John Becket, Philip Dowy, Maurice   Hacket    each ….”

A William Bernard, attorney, is also mentioned in the Calendar of Ormond Deeds, 1413-1509, Vol III. P. 353.  
“ Being asked the damages they said they amounted to two hundred pounds; and because the court was not ready to give 
judgement a day was appointed one month from Easter for the parties to appear before the Justicar. On which day the said
William [le Botiller] by William Bernard his attorney came before the Justicar at Cloneyn……”

NOTE: In searching early records it must be noted that the spelling of names was inconsistent. The spelling may be Bernard, Bernarde, Barnard, Barnarde or even Banard.  Most documents were transcribed from old English script or Latin, and the transcriber may have transcribed the name incorrectly or it may have been written as seen. As the predominant spelling is Bernard, that is what I have used throughout unless it is a direct quotation from a document.  In the sample of an Ormond Deed (below) one can see the difficulty transcribers had in reading names.

Ormond Deed

There are several references to a Thomas Bernard in the Calender of the Patent and Close Rolls of Chancery in Ireland Vol 1 -

Presentation of James Tobyn to the Rectory of Olde Rosse in the diocese of Ferns, vacation by the resignation of Thomas Bernarde ..... Nov 10th 1545; 
December 7th 1545 Presentation of Thomas Barnarde to the Vicarage of Kinsale ‘upon the backe of Yoghull’ in the Diocese of Limerick, in the presentation of the Crown ‘pleno jure’ ” ;“Presentation of Thomas Barnard to the vicarageof Ballynestellock, in the diocese of Kildare. — Aug. 1st 1558” and  “Presentation of Thomas Barnard to the vicarage of Saint Nicholas, of Clonyne, in the diocese of Ferns. — Sept. 5, 1562.

Also, an interesting court case in 1308 in Dublin, found in the Medieval Plea Rolls

William Bernard against John McCorcan, of a plea of trespass. It is found by the jury that, whereas William, on the Sunday after the Nativity of St John Baptist last, in the town of New Castle of Lyons[Dublin], was playing at ball with men of that town, and the ball was struck in the direction of John, who was standing near to watch the game. John ran towards the ball, which William was following in pursuit, and met him so swiftly that he wounded William in the upper part of his right leg with a knife which he, John, had upon him, which knife unfortunately without John's knowledge pierced its sheath and so injured William, to his damage of five shillings. And the jurors, being asked if John did this from ill-timed zeal or ran against William from malice aforethought, say that it was not so, but that it was for the purpose of playing that he ran towards him to hit the ball. Therefore it is considered that William recover against him his said damages. And John is in mercy, which is pardoned him afterwards by the justiciar, because the jurors testify that William and John at the said time and before that were fast friends, and that John did not wound William knowingly”

There were several other families named Bernard in Ireland in the 17th and 18th centuries, besides the Bernards of Carlow:  The Bernards of Co. Cork (according to Burke) originated in Westmoreland, arriving in Ireland with Oliver Cromwell (mid 1600s). There names do not appear in Court documents until the end of the 17th century.  This Bernard also repeated family names but they used Francis, Roger, Arthur and Stephen; and, in Northern Ireland, a Rev. Thomas Bernard who became Bishop of Limerick in 1794. He was born in England in 1726. In Co. Kerry, John Bernard born about 1705, he was a descendant of Epaphroditus Bernard. His children’s names were: Mary, Isaac, Robert, William and John

There does not appear to be any connection between these Bernard families. The Carlow Bernards having settled in Ireland long before the Bernards of Cork and there being no apparent relationship with the Bernards in Northern Ireland or Kerry.  

Co. Carlow, or "Catherlough" is in the province of Leinster. There are seven historic baronies in the county: Carlow, Forth, Idrone East, Idrone west, Rathvilly, St Mullin's Lower and St Mullin's Upper. Co. Carlow is the second smallest county in Ireland. 

Carlow the town is the County Town it is 85 km from Dublin. The River Barrow flows through the town, and forms the historic boundary between countiesLaois (Queens) and Carlow.


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