Historical Memoir of the O’Briens

February 10th, 2012 by Paul O'Brien

The Origin and History of the O’Brien Clan

O'Brien Clan History BookFirst published in 1860, by John O’Donoghue, A.M. Barrister-at-Law, this very important book deals with the history and fortunes of an Irish family, once High Kings of Ireland, who are now spread around the world.

The book, only a limited number having been printed more than 140 years ago, is now so rare that many libraries in the world are unaware of its existence. Few copies are known to exist today, most of these being in private collections. At a time when many people are interested in finding out more about their ancestry, very few families can boast a book of this stature dedicated to their family name.

The Historical Memoir of the O’Briens tells the story of the O’Brien family from the dawn of history up to the end of the eighteenth century, and the author John O’Donoghue, uses the standard reference works of Irish history to build his story. These include The Annals of the Four Masters, The Annals of Innisfallen, The Annals of Ulster and works by John O’Donovan and other scholars of Irish history. The references used in this book will direct anybody interested in further study of the O’Brien Clan to the best and most scholarly works on the subject.

The O’Briens are credited with building many of the castles in the County of Clare. (A book detailing the history of the castles in Co. Clare, 220 in total, is at present in hand.) The new publication will contain old family photographs, portraits and pedigrees. The original book had only the family pedigrees. Through the kindness of the present owners of the O’Brien family portraits, it is now possible to include likenesses of some of the most noteworthy O’Briens in history. These will include Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, 1002AD to 1014AD, Máire Rua O’Brien and many other famous members of the clan.

Morgan Llywelyn, historical writer, novelist and author of ,”Lion of Ireland”, -the story of Brian Boru, has written the foreword to the new publication. Part of Morgan’s text, which is reproduced here, gives us a good idea of what is in store for its readers:

“The eleventh century Árd Rí of Ireland, Brian, son of Cinnéide, lived a life of mythological greatness. Yet he was absolutely real. His deeds are well documented not only in Ireland but abroad. With an eye always on the future, he married his children into the royal families of Europe. These dynastic marriages insured that Brian’s blood would survive in spite of war and peace, prosperity and famine…
An elderly Maire Rua

When John O’Donoghue undertook to compile what was essentially a family history he attempted to set the O’Briens in context. Their story begins in an era of great antiquity. O’Donoghue’s work is noteworthy for its prodigious historical research. He drew heavily upon the ancient Irish annalists at a time when such irreplaceable knowledge was in danger of being lost through indifference or as a matter of political expedience. He also pored painstakingly through family archives, private letters, state records, even tax rolls, unearthing every detail that might add to the larger picture. Thus O’Donoghue preserved a great family’s heritage for the future…

In describing his work as an historical memoir, O’Donoghue underestimated his achievement. It was a landmark event. Since O’Donoghue’s book was first published in 1860, there have been numerous other works building upon the foundation he laid. Other writers have struggled, not always successfully, to emulate the depth and breadth of his studies. Recent discoveries have verified many of the more obscure details he recounted.

In making this seminal work available once again, Martin Breen has been faithful to the original text while making it more accessible. The advertising copy that helped fund the original publication is included. Illustrations of prominent O’Brien sites and people, not found in the first edition, add a new dimension. ‘Historical Memoir of the O’Briens’ belongs in the library of everyone who is interested in Ireland.”

New O'Brien History BookThe new book also has a dust cover depicting some of the most important buildings associated with the O’Briens in their home county of Clare and Thomond. This new edition has a hard cover with gold lettering on the spine and runs to approx 632 pages. There are a special limited number of leather-bound volumes as required by individuals at a pre-publication price. This book will become a valued family heirloom in years to come.

For anyone bearing the noble name of O’Brien in their family tree, this is a book which would be a must if it were obtainable for love or money. But because it is not, this initiative in reprinting it should be widely supported, and it will hopefully inspire members of the clan to delve further and publish details of their own particular branch of which there are many spread throughout the globe.

Order your copy, as republished by Martin Breen, at his website.

8 Responses to “Historical Memoir of the O’Briens”

  • Peter R O'Brien Says:

    This great historical, well documented book has been very helpful to better understand the importance of being an O’BRIEN. Further it also encouraged us to write three books about our line of the of this outstanding group of people -
    TIMES” has given our members more evidence that we may be a direct line fron KING BRIAN BORU, down through Brian Raudh O’Brien (Mac-I-Brien) and there castles – We are proud to be O’Brien’s -


  • Mike O'Brien Says:

    Good book for O’Brien history. Don’t forget the later book written by Conor’s uncle that carries the O’Brien history from 1860 to about 1946. This continuation book also included extensive family trees from our ancient ancestor Cormac Cas down to present times. Conor gave me a copy of that book which tells of a lot of modern O’brien history.


  • james blocker Says:

    I bought the latest edition of john o’oonoshue a. m., hoping, but to no avail, to find the parents and ancestors of William Bryan, Viscount of Thomond, who married, in 1689, Lady Alice Needham, daughter of Sir Charles Needham, Shropshire, England, leaving for the state of Virginia soon afterwards. i get conflicting reports on the internet and wish someone in the new/old world could tell me who are the parents/ancestors of William Bryan, Viscount of Thomond.
    please, tell me where i can get help in straightening out this confusion.
    thank you, James Blocker, 203 Granville drive, Greenville, NC 27858


    Paul O'Brien Reply:

    James, let me encourage you to share this search here: http://obrienclan.com/community/clan-forum#cid=2 in the forum, where you’re more likely to reach a wider audience of individuals searching for their roots. I’ll do what I can to promote your search to the Clan.


  • LEVEQUE Says:

    Le nom de mon épouse est BRIENS, originaire de Normandie, France. D’aprés son père, maintenant décédé, il se disait descendant de O’BRIEN, sans preuves, par transmission orale. Est-ce possible?

    Merci pour votre réponse,
    Cordiales salutations,
    Pierre LEVEQUE.


    Joshua Ó Briain Reply:

    Chère Pierre LEVEQUE,
    C’est possible que votre épouse soi une O’Brien car après la bataille du Boyne en 1690, une grande partie de l’anicienne nobless Irlandaise se refugia a l’étranger, surtout en france et en espagne. De nos jours il y a plusieurs de ces famille, leurs noms souvant changer par l’administration qui enregistrai une version plus française du nom, par example, le Nom irlandais O’Shea en france fut écrit Chaix et en espagne le nom O’Donohue devint O Donoju.
    Cordiales salutations,
    Joshua o’Brien


  • Joshua Ó Briain Says:

    I would like to know if any one has any information on the O’Briens of Carlow.
    Thank you.
    Joshua O’Brien


  • Tracy O Brien Says:

    Hi Joshua,

    This could be a place to start…


    It is a link to the 1901 census of Ireland for County Carlow..



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