O’Mulligan DNA Research In Ireland
Earliest References to the Surname
The earliest authenticated reference to the surname O’Mulligan/Mulligan in Ireland is found in the Annals of Ulster, which records the names of Muirchertach Ua Maelagain and Eoin (John), his son. In 1207, Muirchertach was elected chief lector of the abbey of Derry of St. Columcille, after the death of the late lector, Domnall Ua Muiredaigh. A lector was a monk entrusted with the reading of the sacred scriptures in the church or abbey refectory. In 1220, following a dispute over the election of Flann Ua Brolcháin, abbot and successor of St. Columcille, Muirchertach was elected to replace him. It is unclear from the annals why the clergy of Derry were in dispute over the succession of Flann Ua Brolcháin, but it seems the choice of Muirchertach was agreeable to both the clergy of Derry and the chief council of the Cenél Eogain.
Next, we are told that for about a year or so, Muirchertach held both the office of chief lector and as abbot, the successorship of St. Columcille, before his right to hold both offices were challenged by Geoffrey Ua Daighri, herenagh of Derry. The matter was only settled after an appeal to the archbishop of Armagh, who chose Muirchertach’s son, Eoin, to the lectorship, a judgement that seems to have been favourable to both Muirchertach and the community of Derry. It would appear the office of lector might have been hereditary. The Ua Daighri (O’Deery) sept were hereditary herenaghs of Derry, and the names of four are recorded in the annals, MacCraith (d.1180), Amhlaim (d.1188), Mael-
Further south in the Wicklow Mountains at Castle Kevin, sometime between 1257 and 1263, an inquisition was held to inquire into the temporal jurisdiction exercised in the manorial courts of the archbishop of Dublin under the first three English prelates promoted to the see through the influence of the kings of England. John Cumin, the first of them, was ordained in 1181, and succeeded by Henry de London in 1213 and Luke in 1229. The inquisition was held during the time of Fulk de Stanford, bishop of Dublin 1257 to 1271. Castle Kevin was located in the old medieval diocese of Glendalough, which was united with the diocese of Dublin in 1214. It was originally built by the O’Tooles probably in the twelfth century. Amongst the list of jurors who gave evidence to the inquisition was ‘Molior Omolegane’, whose appearance at the court suggests he had local knowledge of the matters being heard and lived in the bishop’s manor.
The personal name of Molior Omolegane is shared with Maoilire O’Maolagain, chief poet and bard to the O’Reillys of East Breifne, which today covers most of Co. Cavan. In 1293, the celebrated Giolla Iosa Roe O’Reilly succeeded his brother Matthew O’Reilly, as prince of East Breifne. During his reign Maoilire O’Maolagain flourished as Giolla Iosa’s chief poet. One of Maoilire’s poems has survived and celebrates the deeds of this chief in the poem entitled “We went on a hosting with Giolla Iosa the valiant”. This poem with others, appears to be the source of O’Hart’s claim that the O’Mulligan/Mulligan family of Breifne were hereditary bards to the O’Reillys.
The Gaelic variants Molior and Maoilire carry a similar meaning to the Welsh personal name Meilyr, also spelt as Meyler and Maylor. The Welsh form Meilyr is traditionally derived from Maglorix, which comprised the elements maglos, meaning ‘chief’ and rix, ‘king’. However, with the exception of the personal name Maoilir, at present, there appears to be no obvious historical or genealogical connection between Molior Omolegane and Maoilire O’Maolagain. On the other hand, the chief poet might well have been early associated with a branch of the Conmaicne Rein in Co. Leitrim or Co. Cavan, which is discussed below. The personal name ‘Maelagan’ appears in the Book of Fenagh, which takes its name from the old Abbey of Fenagh in West Breifne, generally associated with County Leitrim.
Medieval Genealogies of Ireland
In Irish Genealogical tradition, several O’Mulligan families have pedigrees attached to them. The oldest are the O’Mulligans in Co. Donegal, who are associated with the Cenél Moain, a branch of the Cenél Eogain. The ancestor of this cenél, Eogain, is reputed to be one of the sons of the legendry Niall of the Nine Hostages. The pedigree of the sept of the Ua Maelagain is given in the Book of Ballymote compiled either in 1390 or 1391, and the Book of Lecan compiled between 1397 and 1418.
Book of Ballymote (Unpublished Genealogies, folio. 44 v a 15)
Niall .ix. ghiallaig > Eogain > Muiredhaigh > Muain > Colmain > Faelain > Edalaigh > Tendalaig > Ferrdalach > Cathanigh > Uí Maelagan.
Book of Lecan (Unpublished Genealogies, folio. 54 v a 38)
The Ua Maelagain are given as a branch of the Clann Cathánigh (Keany or Keane) of the Cenél Moain and are akin to the Ua Gormghaile (O’Gormleys) and the Ua Luinigh (O’Lonney). In the following pedigrees, they are compared alongside the pedigree of the Ua Maelagain and the Ua Lochlainn (McLaughlin) kings of the Cenél Eogain. The Ua Gormghaile pedigree is taken form Cú Choigríche O Cléirigh’s (O’Clery) genealogies.
The genealogy of the Cenél Moain appears in three sections: ‘Minegud sencais Ceniel Moain’ (Explanation of the history of the Cenel Moain), Genelach Cenél Moain Ichturach (Lower) and ‘Genelach Cenél Moain Uachtarach’ (Upper), from whom came a number of other family surnames, some now obsolete. According to the Books of Ballymote and Lecan, from Cathanigh came three other family surnames, including Ua Faelain and Ua Oirc, possibly Coric, the personal name “Corc”. It forms part of the patronymic name McGurk, found in both Ireland Scotland.
In Search of the Sept of O’Mulligan in Co. Donegal
Two important references to the sept O’Mulligan appear in a late fourteenth century topographical poem of Ireland by John O'Dubhagain, an Irish poet, and the Ceart Uí Néill (the Rights of O’Neill) compiled in the sixteenth century. In the former, they are called the ‘Siol Maolagain’ and were chiefs of the people of ‘Tir Mac Carthainn’, that is, the ‘territory of the son of Carthainn’. In the poem, they are listed under that section headed “Tir Chonaill”, which was later renamed ‘County Donegal’. Of the sept, O'Dubhagain writes:
Tir MacCarthainn of plundering slaughters
Belongs to the high-
To put them in our poem it is our judgement
There was a time when we would not repent of it.
Siol meaning ‘seed’ of Maolagain appear to have been at the height of their power in the thirteenth and fourteenth century and had a fearless reputation for plundering in Donegal and beyond. The editor of O'Dubhagain’s poem, John O’Donovan, suggested Tir MacCarthainn takes its name from Caerthann, son of Fergus, son of Conaill (who gave his name to Tír Conaill and the Cenél Conaill). He then notes, ‘the Abbe MacGeoghegan places this district to the east of Boylagh, but on what authority O’Donovan did not know, as the pedigree of this race is lost. He goes on to say ‘neither MacFirbis nor O'Clery was able to supply the chasm in the Books of Lecan and Ballymote’. I take this to refer to the MacCarthainn genealogies rather than the Ua Maelagan, which is mentioned by MacFirbis, but omitted by O’Clery.
In the Ceart Uí Néill, which recites the obligations, tributes and provisions due to the Ó Néill kings from the other kings of Ulster, the O’Mulligans are called ‘Ó Maoilegáin of Magh gCaoroind’. Their chief was one of at least 13 minor lords who were obliged to provide military service under the O’Donnells, when called to muster the men of Tir Conaill. Although the present copy of the Ceart Uí Néill is only dated from the sixteenth century, it is believed to have been based on earlier copies compiled after the defeat of the Mac Lochlainn kings at the battle of Cameirghe in 1241, when the O’Neills emerged as the victors and for the next three hundred years, successively ruled the northern Uí Néill. Coupled with O'Dubhagain’s poem, the Ceart Uí Néill sheds more light on the Siol Maolagain’, who were evidently still regarded in the sixteenth century, as one of the leading septs in Tir Conaill able to provide fighting men for the O’Donnells and O’Neills.
In 1593, they were followers of the O’Donnells, when Hugh Roe O’Donnell, lord of Tir Conaill, led a rebellion against Turlough Luineach O’Néill and in the following year, the English Government in what became known as the Nine-
In 1608, another rebellion erupted and its leader Sir Cahir O’Doherty, lord of Inishowen, was killed in a skirmish against government forces near Letterkenny in Co. Donegal. Amongst those pardoned the following year for their part in the rebellion were Shane O'Molligan, Donnogh Ballagh O'Molligan and Swine O’Moligan, whose names are listed in the company of Owen O’Gallagher of CoolemscItrian, pardoned on 10 March, 1609. In September, 1610, King James I granted to Cuthbert Cunningham, a native of Scotland, a patent of naturalisation, and the land and manor of CoolemscItrien in All Saints Parish, which had belonged to Owen O’Gallagher in the barony of Raphoe. It seems very likely then that Shane O'Molligan, Donnogh Ballagh O'Molligan and Swine O’Molligan were members of the Siol Maolagain and after the rebellion some may have been dispossessed of their lands in Co. Donegal.
Where then was the territory of Tir MacCarthainn? In their books on Irish Surnames, Edward MacLysaght and John Grenham place the ‘Ua Maolagain’ chiefs as lords of Tir MacCaerthain in the baronies of Boylagh and Raphoe. Patrick Woulfe makes the ‘O Maolagain’ a ‘Tirconnell family who were chiefs of Tir MacCarthain in the east of the barony of Boylagh, but seem to have been disposed and dispersed at an early period’. Michael O’Laughlin in his Families of County Donegal hopelessly confuses his sources for the ‘O’Maelagain’ by asserting Geoffrey Keating’s History of Ireland makes them ‘chief of Tir Mac Caerthain, a territory included in the baronies of Raphoe and Boylagh’, and then notes O’Dubhagain (O’Dugan) also gives them as a ‘clan of Moy Ith in the 12th century and well settled in Tyrone at the time’.
In his article on the Coarbs and Erenaghs of County Donegal, Patrick Gallachair suggested the ‘Siol Maelagain were evidently the ‘Mointermolligan’ (Muinter-
The term herenagh or erenagh is the anglicised form of airchinnech, which originally signified the head or superior of an early Irish ecclesiastical community called a monasterium, translated as monastery. The smaller monasteria were more familial and in early medieval times, the herenagh was usually a cleric, who might or might not proceed to priestly or episcopal orders. After the twelfth century Reform, their estates and lands were transferred to the bishops, and they became primarily the chief tenants of episcopal land. The hereagh still continued to retain their sense of being ‘ecclesiastics’ and were bound by the ancient monastic obligation of providing hospitality to pilgrims, strangers and travellers. The herenagh became a sort of manager or chief of the church land. He was elected by the local coarb or herenagh sept, and if suitable, was then approved in office by the bishop. The herenagh’s duties were to provide from his revenue for the support of the clergy and the maintenance of religious service, churches and chapels.
Map 1 Baronies of Co. Donegal
Very little is known about the ancient monastery of Tullyfern, Gaelic Tulach-
As already noted, the lands occupied by the Muinter-
With two references placing the Siol Maolagain amongst the people who lived in the old barony of Kilmacrenan, it raises new questions about the origins of the O’Mulligan in Co. Donegal. For example, could there have been two distinct families bearing this surname, one associated with Tir Conaill and the other with the Cenél Eogain? Or had the Muinter-
Fig. 2 Tirkeeran in County Donegal
The civil parish of Clonleigh was one of three parishes embracing that part of the territory of Magh Itha located in Co. Donegal, the rest of Magh Itha extended into Co. Tyrone. The other two parishes are Donaghmore and Urney, and all three parishes lay in the diocese of Derry. The old abbey of Derry of St. Columcille also came within the diocese of Derry and the influence of the Cenél Eogain; as already noted above Muirchertach Ua Maelagain was elected with the consent of the Cenél Eogain. It seems therefore he might well have belonged to the Cenél Moain, who considered themselves to be part of the Cenél Eogain. Two further pieces of evidence point to a family descending from the Cenél Moain. In the parish of Donaghmore, we find the townland name of Lisnamulligan, which means ‘Maelagain’s fort’. This townland may well have taken its name the Ua Maelagain, for as late as 1665, the name of John O’Mulligan is listed in the Hearth Tax rolls covering the Castlefin estate in Donaghmore. With the place-
Book of Ballymote, folio. 44 v a 15
Book of Lecan, folio. 54 v a 38
Niall .ix. ghiallaig
m. Gairmleadaigh a quo
m. Néll (Niall)
Book of Ballymote
m. Niall .ix. ghiallaig
a quo Ua Luineigh
Gilla Críst ua Luinig (1090)
Book of Ballymote
m. Niall .ix. ghiallaig
a quo Ua Maelagan
The Ua Gormaghaile and Ua Luinigh are first mentioned in the Annals on the following dates:
1084: Domnall ua Gailmredaigh was killed by Domnall ua Lochlainn, king of the Cenél Eogain.
1090: Gilla Críst ua Luinig, chief of Cenél Moain was treacherously killed by Domnall ua Lochlainn.
Book of Leinster
Neill .ix. giallaig
m. Domnaill, d. 566
m. Aed Allan, d. 612
m. Fergaile, d. 722
m. Neill Frossach, d. 788
m. Aeda Oirdnide, d. 819
m. Neill Kaillie, d. 846
m. Aeda Findleith, d. 879
m. Domnaill, d. 915
m. Flaind, d. 906
m. Mael ruanaidh, d. 940
m. Mael Sechnaill, d. 997
m. Niall, d. 1061
m. Aed, d. 1083
In the Milligan/Milliken DNA Project, there are about five different STR haplotypes within four SNP haplogroups that appear to be Irish’s clades, rather than Scottish. The four SNP clades are: R-
Genetic Research and the O’Mulligan Y-
Only one ‘O’Mulligan’ in the Milligan/Milliken DNA Project, who gives his ancestry as Co. Donegal, has been tested with 37 Y-
In Irish genetic-
There is another member confirmed I-
The plantation of Ulster introduced to Co. Donegal, Milligans and Millikens of Scottish ancestry, who appear in seventeenth century records as Mulligan and seem to belong to the M222>DF106> DF104>DF105>FGC4133 subclade. One family are known to have settled in barony of Banagh, and their names appear in the c.1630 muster roll of James Murray, earl of Annandale in Dumfriesshire, Scotland.
His arms and men -
Molligan, George, no arms, f. 195a.
Jackson, David, younger, no arms, f. 196a.
Shankeland, Gilbert, no armsn f. 196a.
Milligan, John, younger, no arms, f. 196a.
John Murray, earl of Annandale, acquired a number of proprieties in the baronies of Boylagh and Banagh belonging to Scottish planters, such as, William Stewart of Garlies, Sir Patrick Vaus of Barnbarroch, Sir Patrick McKee of Larg and George Murray of Broughton. In the barony of Banagh, the Earl owned the whole of the parish of Killybegs and the townlands of Aighan, Ballybedonnell, Ballyloughan, Croagh, Darney, Druminiscal and Rahan in the parish of Killaghtee. The 1665 Hearth Money Rolls of County Donegal lists the names of Robert Shanklan and Widow Milikin, who immediately follows Shanklan, in the parish Killaghtee. The widow might well have been the spouse of “John Mulligan” of Ballyloughan, who was one of 14 jurors at a Coroner's Inquest held at Dunkineely on 15 September, 1660, into the death of Alexander and John Murray were found dead.
Counties Fermanagh, Monaghan and Mayo
In his book ‘The Fermanagh Story’, Peadar Livingstone claimed the O’Maolagains were an Aileach family and chiefs of Boylagh and Raphoe, before coming to Fermanagh. Here they settled in the baronies of Magherastephana and Clankelly, and probably gave their names to Mullowulligan, otherwise Milligans, and Eshywulligan townlands in the parish of Clones from Co. Donegal. Robert Bell in his ‘The Book of Ulster Surnames’, goes one step further and notes that they lost their lands during the plantation of Ulster and migrated to Counties Fermanagh, Monaghan and Mayo. According to the same author, in Fermanagh the O’Mulligans settled in Magherasteffany and Clankelly, and in Monaghan, in the northwest and centre of the county. This cannot be entirely correct, as the O’Mulligans in Magherasteffany and Clankelly were already there in the 1400s. If in fact they came from Co. Donegal, it is much more likely, they came from the baronies of Kilmacrenan and/or Raphoe and might well have been settled at an earlier date near Clones, possibly about the time the Ua Luinig of the Cenél Moain settled in the same county.
There are two further Northern genealogical retention’s that might well have a bearing on the Irish O’Mulligan/Mulligan genetic research and are briefly outlined below. The first pedigree, which is a late tradition and probably a fabrication, associates a family of O’Mulligan/Mulligan with the O’Daimhin lords in Co. Fermanagh and their ancestor, Cairbre an Daimh-
1. Cairbre an Daimh-
2. Brian, his son
3. Fergus Garbhgeill (a quo O’Garbhgeill), his son
4. Hugh, his son
5. Faolan, his son
6. Mactigh, his son
7. Cuborin, his son
8. Cumagan, his son
9. Maolagan (a quo O’Maolagain), his son
10. Muireadach O’Garvaly
O’Hart’s pedigree claims to trace an O’Mulligan family back to the legendry Cairbre an Daimh-
Map 3 County Fermanagh
The Ua Daimhin or O’Daimin chiefs also claimed to share the same ancestral history with the McGuire kings of Co. Fermanagh, and McMahon kings of Co. Monaghan. In 1485, the Annals of Ulster record the slaying of ‘Gilla-
The association of the Muinter-
To Be continued.
Created 6th January, 2018.
Gallachair makes another interesting suggestion, ‘Tir Mac Carthain may have been represented by the Tirkeeran near Lifford, where there was later a settlement of MacSweeneys, who may have displaced the O’Mulligans, as they did the O’Boyles and a number of other septs of Tir Conaill’. Tirkeeran means ‘Tir Mac Carthainn’ and a townland with this name is located in the civil parish of Clonleigh in East Donegal. ‘