Moran Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Moran Meaning
is the anglicized form of two distinct Irish Gaelic sept
names –
O’Morain and O’Moghrain – in Connacht.  The
root here is the personal byname Morain or Morann, from mor
meaning “great” or “large.”  The
first Morann
appeared at a very early stage in Irish history.

Morán, based on a place-name, is also a Spanish surname (some 20,000 Morans in Spain today).  Andres Morán de Butron brought the name to Ecuador in the 16th century and it is now found in South America from Mexico to Argentina.  Morin is a French and Acadian name that became Moran in Mississippi.

Moran Resources on

Moran Ancestry

Morans in county Mayo are descended from the O’Morain sept whose
kingdom was in north Mayo, surrounding the modern town of Ballina.  It appears that Moran-Mor first established
the O’Morains at Ardnaree on the Moy riverbank opposite Ballina in the
the 12th century they were known as the
O’Morains of

The abandoned church cemetery at Cong on the Mayo/Galway border is
reportedly full of O’Morain tombstones dating back to the 14th century.

Following the Norman invasion, their territory
was usurped by the Barretts and Burkes and the sept lost its central
organization.  The modern distribution of
the surname within Mayo suggests that the Morans spread southwards and
today are
chiefly found in the central area of the county, particularly in the
barony of

Moran is a Connacht name
and was found elsewhere in Connacht,
notably around Elphin in north Roscommon where they were first known as
O’Moghrain.  Today the main Moran presence is to be
found in Mayo,
Roscommon and Leitrim.

Morans were among the “wild
geese” that fled Ireland after the old Gaelic order crashed.  William Moran had arrived in France as early
as 1641; while Captain Patrick Moran was recorded with Count Mahoney’s
of the Irish Brigade in 1712.  But the
most famous example was that of James O’Moran from Roscommon who had
joined the
Irish Brigade in the 1760’s.

the famous defence of Dunkirk in 1793, when 3.000 French army troops
successfully resisted the 35,000 English and allies under the Duke of
General O’Moran played a conspicuous role.”

Sadly he fell out with the French revolutionaries of the
time and was guillotined a year later.
Many more Morans departed Ireland in the 19th century,
particularly at
the time of the potato famine.  Barney
Moran and his family, for instance, left Mayo for Boston in 1847.  They moved to Marilla in upstate New York
nine years later.

Morans later were
conspicuous in the struggle for Irish independence:

  • D.P. Moran from Waterford founded The Leader, a
    newspaper which he
    published from 1900 until 1910 and had a strong influence on the Irish
    nationalist cause.
  • Paddy Moran from
    Roscommon joined the IRA’s Dublin Brigade and was imprisoned after the
    Easter Uprising.  Four years later he was
    caught up in the sweeps following Bloody Sunday and was executed for
    killing of a British agent he probably did not do (his story was told
    in May
    Moran’s 2011 book Executed for Ireland).
    There is a park in the Dublin area at Dun
    Laoghaire named Moran Park in his honor.  
  • Jim Moran from
    Mayo joined
    the IRA locally around 1917 when he was just eighteen.
    Five years later he was shot dead during the
    Irish Civil War. 
  • while Micheal O’Morain, born in 1912, came from a
    strong Republican family in Mayo that had fought in the Irish War of
    Independence and in the Irish Civil War on the pro-treaty side.  He became a Fianna Fail politician who served
    in several Irish Cabinet positions between 1957 and 1970.

England.  Many Morans sought
refuge in England and in particular in Lancashire which accounted for
half of the Morans in England in the 1881 census.

However, two early Moran families were more
noteworthy for having left Lancashire:

  • James Moran was a Frankist Jewish rabbi who had come to
    Liverpool in the
    1790’s.  Both his sons left –
    Simon Moran to Wicklow in Ireland in the 1830’s and John Moran to Australia in 1841.  His
    grandson Patrick Moran in Wicklow became a Catholic bishop
    in South Africa and New Zealand.
  • while Thomas and Mary Moran were descendants of a long
    line of handloom
    weavers in Bolton.  Desperate times for
    weavers there forced the family to emigrate to Philadelphia in 1844.  Three of their sons excelled as
    painters.  One son Thomas Moran became famous as a painter of the
    American West. 

Some Morans from Ireland worked as farm
laborers in Lancashire, such as William Moran and his family who came
Ormskirk around 1850.  But Liverpool was
a major draw and many more settled there.
Ronnie Moran, born in the Liverpool suburb of Crosby in 1934,
became a
fixture at Liverpool football club for fifty years – as a player, coach
twice as a stand-in manager.


Gabriel Moran was an early Moran in America.
His family line was covered in Patrick
Moran’s 1995 book Moran Exodus from
.  Gabriel came to Maryland,
first appearing in Charles county records in 1714, and prospered there
as a
tobacco planter.

His son William and James, possibly a cousin, had settled in
North Carolina by the 1770’s, William in Halifax county and James in
Hanover county where he was a Justice of the Peace.
Descendants were to be found in Tennessee,
Georgia, and Alabama.

Thomas Henry Moran from Irish Morans who had settled in
France came to Virginia sometime in the 1770’s.He
became a circuit-riding Baptist minister in North Carolina.  His son Marmaduke followed him in his
ministry.  He was very active in Arkansas
and was the progenitor of Moran families in Arkansas, Tennessee and

Later Arrivals.  The
19th century saw two Morans who built business empires in America.

Michael Moran arrived in Brooklyn in
1863.  From the money he saved while
working on the Erie Canal, he started out running two tugboats in New
harbor.  Moran Towing &
Transportation Company is now the largest tugboat company in the world.  Michael’s descendants, mainly those through
his son Eugene, held a family reunion in Brooklyn in 2010.

“Eugene Moran
known as the Dean of the Harbor during his long career running the
company.  He was described as “the
Elegant Tugman” by a New Yorker magazine

Robert Moran was born in
New York City in 1857, the grandson of Irish immigrants who had arrived
in the
1820’s and worked as machinists.  He was
just eighteen when he departed New York in 1875 almost penniless for
then a frontier outpost of the Pacific Northwest.  He
started there a ship repair business which
turned into a major shipbuilding operation as shipping demand grew
after the
Yukon gold rush.

other Morans who arrived around that time were:

  • James Moran who came to
    county, Illinois in the 1850’s. 
    He helped to build the Illinois and Michigan Canal and
    Rock Island
    Railroad and later farmed.  He died in
    Grundy county in 1914 at the age of a hundred and eleven, possibly the
    man in America at that time.
  • the brothers James and John Moran who came to
    Pennsylvania from county
    Mayo in the 1860’s to work in the coal mines.  James Moran departed to
    farm in western
    in 1879, although it proved a struggle.
  • the
    Anthony and James
    Moran who also arrived in Pennsylvania from Mayo in the 1860’s and also
    work in the coal mines.  Both they and
    their wives were illiterate.  By 1880
    they had moved to Iowa, apparently preferring the farming life.
  • and
    Mike Moran who arrived in New York from Leitrim in 1903 and found work
    there as
    a bricklayer.  Around 1914 he heard about
    free land in Montana and moved to stake a claim.  There
    met a beautiful Irish lass whom he
    married.  He worked as a house builder in
    Montana and later in Oklahoma City.

There was one Moran family not from
Ireland.  They were French-Canadian
who had been exiled by the British in 1755.
A Morin family had ended up in the 1770’s at Biloxi in
Mississippi where
they became Moran.  Jean Baptiste Moran
made his home on Cat Island, Joseph Moran on the back bay of Biloxi.

Matthias Moran was the progenitor of the Moran shipbuilding
family in
New Brunswick.  He was a Loyalist soldier
from New York state who in 1783 was one of the original settlers of St.
Martin’s, New Brunswick.  He started
building small ships there.  The business
expanded under his son James Moran and his grandson James H. Moran.

village of St. Martin’s was to become the third largest producer of
sailing vessels on the eastern seaboard of North America.
And t
he Morans had one of Atlantic Canada’s largest
fleets by the 1870’s.”

Various Moran families from
Ireland were to be found in Leeds county, Ontario by the 1850’s and
1860’s.  Anthony Moran, a farmer, was
recorded there in 1852 but had moved to Simcoe county by 1861.  John Moran, probably his brother, had
remained in Leeds county, however.

Australia.  Michael
Moran had come to Sydney from Ireland in 1877 and, after some early
struggles, was
a successful baker there.  His son Herbert Moran, better known as
became renowned as a sportsman and later for his medical practice and
speaking.  His son Patrick was a
distinguished academic.


Moran Miscellany

The First Morann.  Morann from Connacht was recorded as the son of the 101st ruler of Ireland, Carbri Cinn Cait, at around the time of Christ.  During his father’s reign he became known as a great Brehon (lawgiver), eventually serving as the Chief Justice of Ireland.  His work was in direct contrast to his father’s brutal and harsh rule.

Known as the Just Judge, Morann was renowned for the wisdom in his judgments.  He wore something known as the Iodhan Moran (Moran’s Collar).  It was an ornamental collar made of gold.  Chief Justices through the ages wore the collar which it was said would choke the wearer if were about to give an unjust decision.

Morann was also known in Irish history as the first to believe in a single all-powerful god, before the arrival of Christianity.  When Saint Patrick codified Irish law in about 400 AD in a work known as the Senchus Mor (The Great Law), Morann was mentioned very favorably.

However, the efforts by the Irish historian John O’Hart in his 1876 book Irish Pedigrees to link this first Morann with the Morans who became prominent in Mayo around the year 800 are considered rather fanciful today..

The Moran Presence in Connacht.  Moran is an anglicized Connacht
name, with its main presence in county Mayo.
But the name has cropped up elsewhere in Connacht as well.

The Morans of
Roscommon reportedly date back to Mughron, the progenitor of five
chiefs named
O’Moghrain, who was born in 841.  They
were based near the modern
village of Elphin in north Roscommon.  Lough
Moran near Elphin was named for this family.

was also the chief at Criffon in Galway.
The Galway sept was a minor branch of Ui Maine, an ancient
group of mid Galway and south Roscommon.

Then there were the MacMoruinn of Fermanagh, whose name
was anglicised
as MacMoran and later to Moran; while an Offaly clan, O’Murchain (sea warriors), anglicized their
name to
Morahan, Morrin and Moran.

Reader Feedback – Simon Moran in Wicklow.  I am from county Wicklow and have for some time been researching the Moran families that lived around my part of Wicklow.  One of these families were the family of Simon Moran, whose son Patrick became a Catholic bishop in Cape Town and New Zealand.

Although the first record I have for Simon Moran was his marriage in Rathdrum in 1818 I have always been of the belief he was part of the Moran family that had lived in the area from at least 1750’s. He was buried in Glendalough beside an earlier generation of the local Moran family.  However, earlier this year I became aware of a reference to Simon’s father James being a Frankist Jewish Rabbi who had been living in Liverpool.

Margaret Connolly (

Jim Moran – Our Little Hero.  Jim Moran was shot down during the Irish Civil War in 1923 at the age of twenty-four.

When his coffin was brought into Newport they opened it for his mother.  She mopped his brow with her handkerchief and
kept it till the day she died.  She also
asked to talk to the young soldier who shot him so she could forgive
him.  She
was proud of her family’s stand for freedom and was often heard singing
The Tricoloured Ribbon O while spinning
and weaving.

His requiem mass took place in St. Patrick’s Parish Church in
Newport, Mayo.  The Mayo News
for March 24, 1923 reported:

“His funeral to the family burial ground in
historic Burrishoole was an impressive one.
The coffin draped in the tri-colour was borne on the shoulders
of the
young men of the district.  Considering
the disturbing -times a surprisingly large number of young men marched
to the
graveside, followed by a large number of ladies carrying wreaths with
Little Hero’ written on them.  Several
rosaries were recited on the way.”

He was buried in the grave with his
grandparents Tom Timothy Moran and Honor Heverin looking out on the
river.  Neither the members of the family
or the priest who officiated were named in the Mayo News
article, a sign of the troubled times.

The Thomas Moran House on Long Island.  The Thomas Moran House was the East Hampton home
of Thomas Moran, an American painter of the Hudson River School, best
known for
his landscape paintings in the American West.

Moran’s watercolor paintings from
the 1871 first survey of Yellowstone are credited with leading to
creation of the first National Park.  His
landscape paintings of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and
others have
hung in the US Capitol building and in the Oval Office of the

The Thomas Moran House was constructed in 1884.  It was declared a National Historic
Landmark in

James Moran’s Farming Travails in Kansas.  In 1879
James Moran had decided to leave the coal mines of Pennsylvania for a newer and
freer life on the open Kansas prairies.
Leaving the railroad at Hays City, he homesteaded with his
family in a
place two miles north of Nekoma in Brookdale township.
He had secured there a small stone house,
built in the style of a dugout with a single room and a dirt floor and

James Moran had a cash capital of perhaps $50 when he
arrived in Rush
county.  He remembered how in Ireland the
small farmers spaded up patches of ground and planted garden stuff and
determined to try the same methods in Kansas.
Nothing came of his efforts, and failing in that direction he
next hired
a man to break the sod.  Even in that he was bent on having his
own way.  He
commanded the plowman to follow him with the team and plow.  He started off and soon began to circle, and
after two days of such circle plowing the man rebelled and quit, saying
would not plow after that fashion notwithstanding he was being paid for

About that time necessity compelled him to leave his
agricultural experimenting
and he decided to resume his trade as a coal miner.  He first went
to the coal
fields of Colorado and also worked in the mines of Eastern Kansas,
several winters in that way.

Around 1885 he was able to buy some cattle.
But it was a number of years before he had
any success as a farmer. Yet in one area he
did have a conspicuous success – in the raising of chickens.  It was said he was able to get more eggs from
his chickens than anyone else in the county. This was accounted for by
reason that he gave them a meat diet of boiled jack rabbits.

In the course
of some twenty years he seemed to have reformed and adapted his methods
so as
to get crops from his land and in time he became a very successful
raiser.  By 1903 he harvested a banner

Herbert Moran Better Known as Paddy.  Herbert Moran,
better known as Paddy, grew up in Sydney and was educated at Darlington
School, St Aloysius’ College and St Joseph’s.  He studied medicine
at Sydney
University, graduating in 1907 and later acquiring a master’s degree in

He played virtually no football at school and began
seriously only when
he was shamed into it for being “slack” when a third-year medical
Within a few years he was captain of the first Wallabies rugby team to
Britain in 1908/09.  He also was a
competitor in the 1908 Olympic Games held in London.

He fought at Gallipoli
during World War One and survived.
Afterwards he wrote a book, Viewless
, about his war experience.

Moran had a notable
surgical career.  His great interest lay
in cancer research and the then new use of gamma irradiation through
the medium
of metallic radium.  In this he was far
ahead of his time.  He travelled widely,
published in journals, and studied and lectured in many parts of the



Moran Names

  • Michael Moran, better known by his
    nickname of Zozimus, was blinded in infancy and made his living on the streets of Dublin in the early 19th century with his recitations and ballads. 
  • Thomas Moran who arrived in America in 1844 became famous as a painter of the American West. 
  • Robert Moran was a prominent Seattle shipbuilder who
    served as the city’s mayor from 1888 to 1890. 
  • Bugs Moran, born Adelard Cunin, was a Chicago
    gangster rival to Al Capone who narrowly escaped death in the 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.   
  • Kevin Moran is the only sportsperson ever to win both All-Ireland Gaelic football medals (with Dublin in 1976 and 1977) and English FA cup medals (with Manchester United in 1983 and 1985).

Select Moran Numbers Today

  • 20,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 27,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 23,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)




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