Brady Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Brady Meaning

The Irish name Brady is derived from the Gaelic name MacBradaigh, which means “spirited.”

Brady Resources on

Brady Ancestry

The original Irish name for Brady was MacBradaigh and they were a
powerful sept located in East Breifne, their chief holding sway over a
territory lying a few miles east of Cavan town in county Cavan.

The first use of the name Bradaigh occurred in the Annals of the Four Masters in 1256
in reference to the death of Tighearan MacBradaigh in a battle against
the neighboring O’Rourkes. The earliest recorded namebearer was
Gilbert MacBrady, the bishop of Ardagh from 1396 to 1400. There
followed other MacBrady
bishops and poets.

Bradys are mostly to be found in Ireland in Cavan and nearby Monaghan today. John Brady of Johnstown was a magistrate in Monaghan in the 1870’s and was recorded as holding land in counties Monaghan, Cavan and Leitrim.

There were Bradys who had once been O’Gradys in Clare, many of whom were from Limerick and descended from the Rev. Hugh Brady, the post-Reformation bishop of Meath.

America. Early
Bradys came to Pennsylvania.

Hugh and
Hannah Brady were probably the first Bradys in America, arriving in
1732 and settling in the Cumberland valley. The old Brady homestead
there has survived. Many
of their descendants fought in the Revolutionary War. Hugh Brady
a Brigadier General in the War of 1812 and Captain Sam Brady was a
well-known Indian scout. The Brady Genealogy,
begun by William Young Brady, has documented the large number of
descendants of Hugh
and Hannah Brady.

Michael and Rose

arrived from Cavan in the 1830’s. Their son Terence was a
shipowner in Bristol, Pennsylvania but died at a young age.
Another Brady family in Pennsylvania
headed west in the 1860’s and settled in Kansas. James Brady
moved further west to Idaho in 1895 and became Governor of that state
in 1909.

Elsewhere. Peter
Brady, an Irish immigrant, was a prominent local politician in
Washington, D.C in the early 1800’s. His son Peter joined the
Texas Rangers and fought in the Mexican War. He later became one
of the first settlers in Arizona.

Anthony Brady had come to upstate New York as a young boy in
1857 from northern France where his Irish parents had temporarily
settled. He became a highly successful investor in railroads and
lighting companies and left a fortune on his death in 1913.
His sons James and Nicholas carried on his business empire. Brady
was the great grandfather of Nicholas F. Brady, a former Senator from
New Jersey who became US Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan and

Philip Brady was born in Massachusetts in 1860, the son of Irish
immigrants from Ulster who had escaped the potato famine. He
moved to California in the 1890’s. His descendant Tom Brady has
been the star football quarterback for the New England Patriots,
winning the Super Bowl no fewer than five times.

Australia. Matthew
Brady was a celebrated bushranger
in Tasmania in the early
1800’s, sometimes known as “the gentleman bushranger.” After two
years on the loose he was finally captured by a bounty hunter in 1826
and hanged at Hobart.

John Brady was a Catholic priest from Cavan who came out to Western
Australia in 1843. However, he was not able to withstand the
stresses of founding a diocese in a new and unsympathetic environment.
Eventually he withdrew to his native diocese of Kilmore in Ireland and
spent his last years as a hermit in France.

Another John Brady stayed. He had been apprehended for robbery in
Liverpool in 1854 and transported to Western Australia. His
descendants are still there.


Select Brady Miscellany

MacBrady Bishops and Poets.  Gilbert
was Bishop of Ardagh from 1396 to 1400 and there were three MacBrady
bishops of
Kilmore in the 15th and 16th centuries.
In 1454 Andrew MacBrady, the bishop of Kilmore, provided a
church for the diocese.  The
Cavan Crosier, staff of the early
MacBrady bishops, was one of the few Irish crosiers to have survived
Reformation and is now in the National Museum in Dublin.

In the 18th century three MacBradys
distinguished themselves as Gaelic poets in the 18th century.  They were Fiachra MacBrady, Rev. Philip
MacBrady, and Phelim Brady, the last-named usually referred to as “bold
Phelim Brady the bard of Armagh.”

Bradys from County Limerick.  The Rev.
Hugh Brady, born around 1520, was the fourth son of Donough O’Grady of
Kilballyowen in Limerick, alias Sir Denis O’Grady alias O’Brady.  Sir Denis had taken the English side, was
granted lands in county Clare by Henry VIII, and had adopted the Brady
name.  Hugh was Protestant Bishop of
Meath from 1563 to 1584.

have included: the Rev. Nicholas Brady who published with Nahum Tate,
the Poet
Laureate, a version of the Psalms that was included in the Book of
Prayer in 1698; Sir Maziere Brady, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland from
1846 to
1866; and E.J. Brady, a Catholic descendant in Australia who was a poet
and the
writer of some popular sea ballads.

The Old Brady Homestead.  In 1997, after
discovering a copy of The Brady Annals
in the Tennessee State Library, Dick Brady was intrigued with the
wealth of
family history he had just found.  His
interest was particularly ignited by a photograph taken in 1909.  This photograph included a group of unknown
ancestors gathered at the grounds of the family pioneer patriarch –
Hugh Brady
who had immigrated from Ireland in 1732 and settled in
Pennsylvania.  Behind the group of people
stood a two story
structure known as the Old Brady Homestead.

he knew that he had to find out whether it was still
standing or not.  The fact that the house
had survived the constant threat of Indian attacks during the early
years to be
still standing in 1909 was miracle enough; but what could the
possibility that
it had withstood the threats of nature and urban sprawl to be still
standing in

A trip to Pennsylvania was
immediately planned.  After exploring all
of the country roads near and around the Conodquinet creek, the
discovery was
made. Thanks to Dick Brady, the Old Brady Homestead was saved.

General Hugh Brady.  General Hugh
Brady served in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Black
War.  He was presented with a gold saber
encrusted with diamonds and pearls from the state of Pennsylvania for
bravery at the battle of Falling Timbers.

He later was instrumental in the establishment of Fort Brady in
which was at that time at the outer edges of the old Northwest
Territory.  He is accredited for making a
settlement between the military and the Indian tribes of the area.

Bradys from Cavan to Bristol, Pennsylvania.  Michael and Rose Brady were to be found in Lavey in
county Cavan in the 1821 census.  Michael
was recorded at that time as a tenant farmer and his wife as a flax

The Bradys left Ireland for America around
1832 (the date given for their arrival by their eldest son Terence when
he was
applying for a carpenter’s certificate).
The Brady family moved first to New York City and then in the
1830’s to Bristol in Bucks county, Pennsylvania.

Bristol was an important port for the
transportation of coal.  Coal was barged
Easton via the Delaware canal to Bristol where it could be loaded on
ships and transported to market.   Son
Terence became involved in the building and
ownership of coal ships for this trade, including the schooner George Washington.  In 1852
however, the vessel ran aground near
Cape island off New Jersey and both ship and cargo were lost.

Two years later Terence contracted typhoid
fever and died at the age of forty three.
Later Bradys of this family went west to farm in Nauvoo,

The Brady Genealogy.  William Young
Brady, born in 1869, devoted his life to documenting the descendants of
and Hannah Brady until his death in 1959.

He started contacting the eldest first to get their
recollections of our
pioneer ancestors so that he could record their memories of them and
the ones
that had been passed down to them from their parents. This information
the links to very legitimate information about Brady ancestors in the
1700’s.  This kind of first and second hand
would have been impossible to document if William had not taken on the
task at
that time and left it for future generations to figure out. He knew the
importance of the families history and the duty of preserving it for
generations to come.

Since then, through
the works of Donna Cuillard and others to bridge the gaps since 1959
until and
beyond the new millennium, thousands of Brady descendants have been
The Brady Genealogy now boasts of
approximately 7,000 descendants in a massive database diligently
maintained by
Bill Kleinecke.

Matthew Brady the Gentleman Bushranger.  
Matthew Brady was born of Irish parents in Manchester in 1799.  He
grew into a good looking man who had
received some level of education as he was able to read and write.  He was employed as a groom when he forged his
master’s name on a cheque to pay off a debt.
In 1820 he was tried for the crime and sentenced to
transportation to Tasmania
for seven years.

He was anything but a model convict in
Tasmania, recording many punishments for his misdemeanors, but this did
deter his resolve to escape. In June 1824, while working on a vegetable
Brady and six other convicts escaped and seizing a boat from Macquarie
got clean away.

The gang was on the
loose for almost two years, committing innumerable robberies.  But he was sometimes called the
“Gentleman Bushranger,” due to his good treatment and fine manners
when robbing his victims.

In March 1826
Brady was shot through the leg on one of his raids and it would not
heal.  Two of his accomplices then turned
and led the police to where he and his gang were hiding out.  Brady escaped the ensuing gun battle, but was
captured soon after by the bounty hunter John Batman.

He was brought to the gallows at the old
Hobart jail on May 4, 1826 and hanged.
Brady’s cell had been filled with flowers from the ladies of
Hobart town,
which tended to support his claim to be a “Gentleman Bushranger.”


Select Brady Names

  • Andrew MacBrady was the first bishop of Kilmure in Cavan to provide a cathedral church for the diocese. That was in 1454.
  • Rev. Philip MacBrady was a 17th century Gaelic satirical poet and Protestant clergyman in county Cavan.
  • Matthew Brady was the Irish-American photographer who documented the American Civil War.
  • Diamond Jim Brady, born in New York, became a hugely wealthy and flamboyant businessman and financier
    of the late 19th century.
  • Jim Brady was the American White House press secretary who survived the assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981.
  • Tom Brady has been the star football quarterback for the New England Patriots, winning the Super Bowl no fewer than five times.

Select Brady Numbers Today

  • 22,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Glasgow)
  • 29,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 24,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)


Select Brady and Like Surnames 

The Irish clan or sept names come through the mists of time until they were found in Irish records such as The Annals of the Four Masters.  The names were Gaelic and this Gaelic order was preserved until it was battered down by the English in the 1600’s.

Some made peace with the English.  “Wild geese” fled to fight abroad.  But most stayed and suffered, losing land and even the use of their language.  Irish names became anglicized, although sometimes in a mishmash of spellings.  Mass emigration happened after the potato famine of the 1840’s.

Some surnames – such as Kelly, Murphy and O’Connor – span all parts of Ireland.  But most will have a territorial focus in one of the four Irish provinces – Leinster, Munster, Ulster, and Connacht.

Ulster in NE Ireland covers the counties of Derry, Antrim, Down, Tyrone, Armagh, Fermanagh, Cavan, Monaghan, and Donegal.  Here are some of the Ulster surnames (excluding the Scots Irish surnames) that you can check out.




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