Byrne Surname Genealogy

Irish clan O’Byrne claims descent from Bran, the king of Leinster in
the 11th century.  Their name was more properly O’Broin (from bron meaning “raven”).  The
sept originated in county Kildare but were driven east to the mountains
of south Wicklow by
the Anglo-Norman invaders under Strongbow in the 1170’s.
The English influence made O’Byrnes Byrnes.  And Byrnes also took
on other Irish names such as O’Beirne and Beirne in Connacht.
When the Byrnes left Ireland, their names
might subtly change from Byrne
– to Byrns, Byrnes and the
Scottish-looking Burn or Burns.

Resources on

Byrne Ancestry

The O’Byrnes
were – with their allies
the O’Tooles – for three hundred years the most powerful forces in the
country south of
Dublin.  From their seat at Ballinacor in county Wicklow the
O’Byrnes held
sway over a territory between Ruthdrum and Shillelagh known as Crioch

They particularly distinguished
themselves by their persistent and largely successful resistance to
incursions.  This reached a culmination with Feagh MacHugh
defeat of English forces at Glenmalure in 1580, a feat celebrated in
song in Follow Me Up to Carlow.
Feagh was later
killed in a skirmish in 1597.

The O’Byrnes started
losing their lands through legal shenanigans in 1628.  The
celebrated Leabhar
 or Book
of the O’Byrnes
a collection of Gaelic poetry written in the 1660’s to recount the old
story.  After the Jacobite defeat in 1689 many O’Byrnes departed
France as part of the Irish International Brigade known as the Wild

In the next century the O’Byrnes were prominent in the 1798
insurrection, notably the Ballymanus brothers Garrett Byrne (who was
exiled) and Billy
.(who was hanged).  Other Byrnes were banished to
Australia as a result of their

Not all the Byrnes were anti-English.  Daniel Byrne took the English
shilling and clothed Cromwell’s army in Ireland.  From the
proceeds he was able to buy an English baronetcy.  And many Byrnes
stood by the English in 1798, such as Matthew
Byrne of Knockatomcoyle in county Wicklow.

“Matthew Byrne was a Protestant and was
named as church warden along with Edward Byrne, Murtough Byrne and
Richard Byrne for the Coolkenna Church of Ireland church in 1793.”

Matthew was a tenant farmer with a large land lease which was inherited
by his son Hugh.

Byrnes were also to be found in south Wexford, Kildare, and
Dublin.  John O’Byrne
established himself at Cabinteely near Dublin in the 1660’s and this
estate remained with
the family until its loss in the late 19th century.  An O’Byrne of
Cabinteely wrote the first reminiscences of the O’Byrne clan in
1843.  A more substantive tome The
Byrnes and The O’Byrnes
in three volumes were published by
Byrne-Rothwell in 2009.

Today the surname Byrne is to be found throughout Ireland but is
particularly prevalent in Dublin and county Wicklow.  Some five
percent of families in Ireland have reverted to the older O’Byrne.

England and Scotland.  Many Byrnes crossed the Irish Sea
for industrial Lancashire and the shipyards along the Clyde.  A
number came to Liverpool, including the following whose families have
traced their history:

  • James and Esther Byrne from
    Dublin who arrived in the 1840’s
  • Michael and Catherine Byrne from
    county Kildare who came in the 1860’s
  • Michael Byrne, a seaman from
    Wexford, and his wife Mary Ann who married there in 1904.

Denis Byrne started his specialist grocery store in Clitheroe,
Lancashire in the 1870’s and it still flourishes today.

America.  An early arrival
was George Byrne who came from Wicklow in 1720 and settled in what is
now Washington DC.  Later Byrnes were to be found in Bulltown,
West Virginia.  William Byrnen arrived as a young man from Dublin
in 1785 and ended up in Putnam county, Tennessee.  His descendants
migrated to Texas. Another William Byrne, a patriot in 1798, left
Wicklow as a Roman Catholic missionary and settled in Kentucky.

More Byrnes entered via New York and some contributed to the physical
development of the city.  Edward Byrne oversaw the building of
many of
the city’s bridges, most notably the Triborough, during the
1920’s.  At the same time, another Byrne, James, was constructing
several of Brookyn’s municipal buildings (Byrne Park in Brookyn is
named after him).  Many Byrnes joined the New York police and fire
departments.  Edward Byrne, a policeman murdered in 1988 while on
duty, is remembered by a street and a park in Queens named in his honor.

Moses Byrne
was one of the early settlers in the West, having arrived in Utah in
1854 after converting to Mormonism in England.  He and his wife
Catherine subsequently left the church and were pioneers in western
Wyoming while it was still Indian territory.  Another Byrne
(Frank), born of Irish immigrants in Iowa, pushed onto South Dakota and
rose to become Governor of that state in 1913.

Australia.  Hugh Byrne of
Ballyrogan was one of the Wicklow outlaws who were pardoned and
exiled to Australia.  He and his wife Sarah settled in
Campbelltown, NSW and raised fifteen children.  Another political
exile with many descendants was Andrew Byrne, also from Wicklow, who
arrived in 1800.   A third exile who came at the
same time was James Byrne from Annamoe in Wicklow.

Joseph Byrne from Dublin was an early traveller in Australia in the
1830’s.  He subsequently returned to England and promoted
emigration schemes.  His Byrne settlers left England for Natal in
South Africa in the late 1840’s.  The scheme bankrupted him but he
made another fortune in the Victoria goldfields before involving
himself in a South Sea island resettlement plan.

Byrne Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Byrne Names

Feagh MacHugh O’Byrne defeated
English forces at Glenmalure in 1580 but was then killed in a skirmish
seventeen years later.  He is commemorated as an early
nationalist hero.
Garrett Byrne was one of the
leaders of the Irish rebellion of 1798.
was ten times Lord Mayor of Dublin in the 1930’s.  He
was known as “the shaking hand” of Dublin.
Roger Byrne, captain of
Manchester United, was one of the eight footballers of the team who
lost their lives in the 1958 Munich air disaster
Gay Byrne, born and raised in
Dublin, was presenter of the Late
Late Show
on Irish TV from 1962 to 1999. He is credited with
helping the social transformation of Ireland in the latter half of the
20th century.

Select Byrnes Today

  • 32,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 18,000 in America (most numerous
    in New York).
  • 71,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland).




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