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The Ancient History
of the Distinguished
Ireland has produced many distinguished family names which have greatly
influenced world history, the arts, industry, commerce. literature, religion,
theater, and the movies. Not the least amongst those names is Moriarty.
The history of this great Irish sept Moriarty is woven into the romantic
green fabric of the chronicles of Ireland. Using documentary evidence, flavored
by legend, researchers have isolated historical data using books by O'Hart,
McLysaght and O'Brien, the Four Masters, baptismals, parish records, and ancient
land grants. Despite the loss of records caused by the fire in the Dublin
Records Office in 1922 which was an irreparable disaster to Irish historians,
sufficient evidence is still available to produce a thumb nail sketch of the
Conclusions by these researchers show that the family name Moriarty was first
found in county Kerry.
Spelling variations of the names were found in the archives researched,
particularly when families attempted to translate the name from the Gaelic to
the English. Although the name Moriarty occurred in many references, from time to
time the surname was also officialy recorded as Moriarty, O'Moriarty, Murtagh,
Murtag, McMoriarty, O'Murtagh, and these changes in spelling frequently occured,
even between father and son. Preferences for different spelling variations
usually arose from a division of the family, or for religious reasons, or
sometimes patriotic reasons. Church officials and scribes spelt the name as it
sounded, sometimes several different ways in the lifetime of the same person.
The abbreviations of Mc in front of a name, meaning 'son of' is popular in
Irish names, although this is no guarantee that the name is Irish. Many Scottish
names also prefer Mc instead of Mac. Officially in both countries, the
abbreviation is Mac. In Ireland, frequently O' is also used instead of Mc but
meaning the same, that is, 'son of'.
The ancient kings of Ireland were descended from King Milesius of Spain, the
grandson of Breoghan (Brian), King of Galicia, Andalusia, Murcia, Castile and
Portugal. Milesius, a great general/king, was instrumental in defending Egypt
from the King of Ethiopia. Milesius turned his attention northward to Ireland to
fulfill an ancient Druidic prophecy. He sent an army to explore this fertile
island. On finding that his son had been murdered by the three resident Irish
Kings (the Danans), Milesius gathered another army to take revenge on the Irish.
He died before he embarked on the trip. His eight remaining sons conquered
Heremon, eldest son of Milesius, reigned in Ireland for fourteen years, along
with his brothers Heber, Ir and Ithe. They named the land Scota or Scotia, their
mother's name, the land of the Scots. This name would later be taken by the
Irish King Colla in 357 when he was exiled to Scotland, leaving the name
'Ir-land', land of Ir, youngest of the four sons of Milesius, to the Emerald
Isle. The four Irish kingdoms eventually broke into five nations under the High
King, or Ard Righ. These royal lines would later produce such great kings as the
fourth century King Niall of the Nine Hostages who died in France while cutting
off the retreat of the Romans from Britain, and King Brian Boru who died in the
Battle of Clontarf in 1014, finally expelling the Vikings from Dublin and
The grreat Gaelic family Moriarty emerged in later years in county Kerry.
This distinguished Irish Clann were descended from O'Muirtheataith, who was
descended from Domhnall, King of Munster, and possessed the "Flock abounding
Plain" of Aisde on the river Mang in that county. They also held Castlemaine
Harbour. They lost much of their territories in the Anglo/Norman invasion of
Strongbow in the year 1172 and they were ousted by the Fitzgeralds. They also
branched to Kells in county Meath but this was also confiscated. The Moriartys
were a strong ecclesiastical family and the Rev. David Moriarty was Bishop of
Kerry, but many of them lost their right to preach under the Penal code of 1714.
Notable amongst the family at this time was Father Thady McMoriarty.
During the 12th century, 1172 A.D., Dermott McMurrogh, in his fight for the
position of Ard Righ, requested King Henry II of England for his assistance.
This was the first intrusion onto Ireland of the Anglo/Normans. Many native
Irish families lost their lands and possessions. This was followed by
Cromwell's invasion of 1640, when further loss of the land befell the
unfortunate Irish people. Ulster in the North was seeded with protestant Scottish
and English. And, again many Irish families lost their ancient territories.
In 1845, the great potato famine caused widespread misery and poverty, and
the exodus from Ireland began. Within fifty years the population was reduced to
less than half.
Many Irish joined the armada of sailing ships which sailed from Belfast,
Dublin, Cork, Holyhead, Liverpool, and Glasgow, many bound for the new world,
some to Australia. Some called these ships the White Sails, others, more
realistically, called them the 'Coffin Ships', when 30% to 40% of the passengers
died of Cholera, small pox and the elements.
In North America some of the first migrants which could be considered kinsmen
of the sept Moriarty of that same family were Daniel, Ellen, Eugene, Margaret,
Michael, Thomas Moriarty all settled in Boston in 1849; James, John, Martin,
Maurice, and Michael Moriarty all arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1860.
In the New World the Irish played an important part in building the nation,
the railroads, coal mines, bridges and canals. They lent their culture to the
arts, sciences, commerce, religion and the professions.
They moved westward with the wagon trains, and settled the midwest, some
trekking as far as the west coast.
During the War of independence some were loyal to the cause, others were
loyal to the Crown, and moved north into Canada, becoming known as the United
Empire Loyalists and being granted lands on the banks of the St. Lawrence and
the Niagra Peninsula. During the American Revolution many Irish formed the Irish
Brigades in the great struggle, Union versus South.
Meanwhile, the family name Moriarty produced many prominent people Colonel
Gerald Moriarty, Q.C.
Whilst researching the history of the Irish name Moriarty the researchers
also took the opportunity to probe the references to determine the first, the
most ancient grant of Arms matriculated to the name rather than the many
variations granted to branches of the family name.
The works of McLysaght, the Irish Herald of Dublin Castle, were most helpful
and influential in isolating this history.
- The most ancient grant of a
Arms was: Silver with a black eagle.
- The crest is: An arm holding a dagger
which is entwined with a serpent.