McBRIEN Lineages
M(a)cBrien, M(a)cBrian, M(a)cBryan, M(a)cBryen, M(a)cBrain, M(a)cBreen and M(a)cBrean

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Last update: 31 December 2002
[reorganised by provenance]
Note: (1) Lineages have been grouped by provenance of earliest McBrien progenitor. (2) With research, this may be extended back from say Canada to Ireland, and the lineage moved to that provenance. (3) Most McBrien lineages have been traced back to Ireland, many to the parish of Inishmacsaint in the Lower Lough Erne region of Fermanagh. Another cluster is around the parishes of Dromore and Kilskeery in southwest Tyrone, where Roman Catholic records in particular delineate several families. Some of these lineages may prove connected to others, and combined.
    Taylor, Lieut. P., 1834, Parish of Inishmacsaint, in Ordnance Survey of County Fermanagh
    Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland1844
    Lewis, Samuel, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 2nd. ed.
    Parke, William K.,
1973, Parish of Inishmacsaint, pp. 23-28
    Mitchell, Brian,
1990, A Guide to Irish Churches and Graveyards.
    Parish of Inishmacsaint : BDM compilation [early 1800s]
    Extracts from official indexes: Irish, Australian, Canadian, US
    Photographs: Lower Lough Erne, Slavin; McBriens; Other
  1. Summary Table of the McBrien Lineages - lists the known progenitor of each of the several McBrien lineages, where they lived (their provenance), whether they emigrated, where their known descendants settled, and a link to more detailed information on the lineage. Organised by provenance.
    [As an alternative to the Lineage Summary Table, an Overview of McBrien Lineages lists for each lineage the generations discussed in further detail in the lineage documents].
  2. Notes on the Provenance of the McBrien Lineages - briefly discusses McBrien origins and dispersal, and especially the Parish of Inishmacsaint in County Fermanagh, the provenance of many McBrien lineages.
  3. Resources - McBrien Lineages - lists McBrien resources used by author, with on-line links to some.
  4. See also Notes on the Parish of Inishmacsaint - brief notes on the historic Parish of Inishmacsaint in County Fermanagh. In 1873 parts of the large parish were incorporated into separate parishes or parts thereof (Slawin and Garrison, Finner). Most references to the parish in these McBrien pages predate the segmentation.
      Devenish is adjacent to Inishmacsaint towards Enniskillen. The CassidyClan WebSite has some excellent detail on this region; see especially their Devenish Island page (photographs and information) and their Maps page.
  5. See also Resources - Parish of Inishmacsaint - lists Inishmacsaint resources used by author, with on-line links to some.

Provenance of McBrien Lineages:

Peadar Livingstone (The Fermanagh Story, 1969) wrote :
[Page 421] — "BREEN (Mac Briain) : also McBryan, McBrien, McBreen. This family descends from Brian, grandson of Manus from whom the MacManuses descend. They are thus related to the MacManus family and the Maguires. Their original center was at Baile Mhic Sherraigh or Mullamackervey townland in Aghalurcher. The first McBryan chieftain seems to have been An Giolla Dubh (the Black Servant), who, having led his tribe for eight and a half years, was proclaimed the "Mac Briain" in 1488. He ruled till 1506. After the Plantation the family seems to have multiplied greatly. Some of them became Protestants. In 1751 we see Henry, Robert and William as freeholders in Aghalurcher and Thomas, Denis, John, David and James at Ardees. In 1788 - five years before Catholics got the vote - we find many McBryans on the Fermanagh register, Patrick in Drumbad, Thomas, Richard, James, Noble, John, Robert and Samuel at Ardees; Patrick and Christopher at Drumbadmeen; and William and James at Tierameehan. In 1796, when Catholics were included, we find 30 on the register - many of them at Ardees in Inishmacsaint Parish, which by then was the new centre of the family. Today there are 212 Breen-McBryan voters in Fermanagh and it is the county's seventeenth family."

[Page 441] — "O'BRIEN (O Briain) : The O'Briens were a Munster Dalcassian sept who derived their importance from Brian Boru. In Fermanagh the family may have come from McBryan (see Breen). Some of the McBryans dropped the Mac, becoming Bryans. In the early years of this century they may have taken back the O. There are 53 O'Brien voters in Fermanagh today."

Significantly, many of the known progenitors of the traced lineages lived in one part of Ireland - the parish of Inishmacsaint in County Fermanagh [and, in part, in Donegal] or thereabouts on the western southern shores of Lower Lough Erne in western Ulster. Some McBrien lines (and associated families) emigrated to Australia and some to Canada; in one case to New Zealand via Canada and Australia. Both in Australia and Canada the families tended to cluster geographically, and to assist the emigration of relatives. In Australia, many of the families gathered at Parramatta up-river from Sydney; in Canada, Whitby Ontario appears an early focal point.

Some McBrien emigrants with known links to Inishmacsaint noted their homeplace as Fermanagh's county town Enniskillen, perhaps a generic usage [some merely noted Fermanagh]. These are the dominant families traced in this study. In May 1981 Charlie McBrien of Carigola, Roscor related to Bill Barber that the McBriens came to Co. Fermanagh "with the Black Watch" [this has never been substantiated, and the history of the Black Watch does not mention service in Ireland during the relevant period - perhaps Charlie meant the Black Servant, An Giolla Dubh].

Other emigrant McBrien families hailed from County Cavan, County Donegal or County Limerick. The name is found on ancient O’Brien lineage charts and was known circa 1534 in the southern Irish inland. A map entitled Lordships, c. 1534, by K. W. Nicholls shows three MacBrien lordships in the baronies of ?Abra, Coonagh and ?Amirlow, east of the O’Brien’s Pubblebrien, Limerick. According to one [unidentified] publication:
On the borders of County Limerick and Tipperary were the Bourkes of Clanwilliam. After 1466 the local lords of this area, the Bourkes and MacBriens of Coonagh and Aherlow, appear to have fallen under the overlordship of the O’Briens of Thomond, who occupied directly the district of Onaght in County Tipperary and exercised some sort of authority in this area until they surrendered their rights to the crown in 1542. The O’Briens, having formerly been enemies of the city of Limerick, seem to have developed a working arrangement with it at a later date and after 1456 drew a tribute from it, as they also did from Limerick, or rather its eastern portion. The O’Briens of Thormond were thus, on occasion, able to play an active part in the affairs of Limerick and Tipperary. An exiled branch of the family had settled in the barony of Pubblebrien, to the southwest of the city of Limerick, with which they seem to have been on bad terms.
Most of the traced families from Inishmacsaint were Protestant [though the McBrien name is also found among the Roman Catholic community, for example at Trillick (Kilskerry parish) and Dromore in County Tyrone] and on emigration tended to cluster - at least either at Parramatta in New South Wales, or near Whitby in Ontario. Other McBrien families to emigrate to Australia settled about Lismore, Grafton and Casino in northern NSW, about Maitland in the Hunter Valley on the NSW mid-north coast, on the Illawarra south of Sydney, and about Goulburn in the NSW Southern Highlands; several from Cavan emigrated to Victoria.

While contemporary local documents mention McBrien with almost monotonous regularity, there appeared to be no references to O'Brien. [Although there were a number of Irish names mentioned, Methodist and Presbyterian influences seemed fairly strong in the district. There were many reiver families from Berwickshire, Dumfrieshire and Roxburghshire on the Scottish Borders in the late 16th century represented in the Barony of Magheraboy including Armstrong, Beattie, Bell, Kerr, Nixon, Robinson…]

The McBrien name also occurs in other townlands in the same district. Since a townland is a small village or farm settlement – of on average 350 acres – they would most probably be related families. For example, Jack McBrien lived in Drumadillar, a townland 1km SE from Derrygonnelly, and his house "was a magnet for the scholars of the district, Mills, Nixons, Jack Ward, who was the Clerk of Petty Sessions and the Parish Priest, Father McGirr" [the priest died in 1815 and Mary was born c1810, giving a time relationship on Jack and Mary]. Sam Mills, a school teacher at Drumadillar from 1800 to 1840 taught Jack McBrien surveying. Presumably Jack was an adult pupil, as he had a house pre-1815, and a young pupil would probably not be taught surveying unless apprenticed. McBrien taught his nephew Thomas Nixon, who surveyed the village in 1845 and later emigrated to Australia, apparently becoming "…the Surveyor General of that country".

The Enniskillener of 6 December 1832 records the death of “John McBrien of Derrygonnelly, land surveyor, a confidential under agent of the Archdall family;... he was an old and respected member of the Masonic Institute (in his 84th year)”
— this would suggest he had been born circa 1748. The Impartial Reporter of the same date gives his name as John M'Brine. Thomas Nixon’s name is yet to be traced in Australian records. The Impartial Reporter of 21 July 1870 mentions him: “Thomas Nixon, Government District Surveyor of Benalla, Australia, son of Mr. John Nixon, Derrygonnelly, has obtained leave of absence for twelve months, owing to ill health, and will soon visit his native place, where we trust he will in a short time regain entire convalescence.” [Extracts from The Enniskillener and The Impartial Reporter are pers comm Seamas McCanny of Enniskillen, 11 December 2000.]

A surveyor James McBrien from Enniskillen spent some time in Australia before repatriating and perhaps emigrating to Ontario CAN. In 1823 he reported the first European discovery of gold in Australia (in the Fish River above Bathurst – the first payable deposits were reported by Hargraves at Ophir near Orange, 50 miles to the west, in 1851). James had returned to England by 1826; his wife and children emigrated to Canada in the mid-1800s. [James is discussed McBrien Lineage 4].

The Parish of Inishmacsaint (or Churchill):
now the Parishes of Finner (Co Donegal), Slawin and Garrison and Inishmacsaint (Co Fermanagh)

The historic parish of Inishmacsaint [Inis Muighe Samh] (or Churchill), one of the largest in the diocese of Clogher, embraced the lowlands and southerly uplands at the western extremity of Lower Lough Erne, Co Fermanagh, western Ulster, Ireland. The parish lay partly in the barony of Tyrhugh, County of Donegal, but chiefly in that of Magheraboy. It included the Church of Ireland and civil parish of Beleek, and one local name for the parish was Belleek-Garrison. The McBrien families traced herewith originated predominantly from along the southern shores of the western end of the parish.

Archaeologic evidence indicates human habitation of this region of Ireland since about 3,000BC, and “Stone Age” ringed forts, raths and crannogs are common throughout the area about Lough Erne. Relics have been found on the shores of nearby Carrick Lake and pottery and flint instruments in a court grave at Tully. The arrival of the Celts brought improved methods of farming, together with new laws and customs. In pre-Christian times this area was sparsely populated, generally by pagan druids who worshiped of the old Celtic gods, and were led by their learned classes which included judges, prophets, historians, poets, doctors and teachers.

St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland in 432 A.D.; it reached Fermanagh about a century later when St. Molaise arrived on the Devenish Island and established his church there in 523 A.D.; around the same time St. Ninnidh arrived on Inishmacsaint. Slowly they and others spread their religion throughout Fermanagh, though druidism still held a sway in the remote areas of forest and bog. The Oriel invasion of Fermanagh which took place in the late 8th century was another upheaval; there is little mention of Inishmacsaint for the next hundred years.

Viking raiders entered Donegal Bay and in 837 established a base at Belleek immediately west of Lower Lough Erne, quickly and repeatedly pillaging all the churches on the islands and shores of the Lough. The Vikings may not have been particularly anti-Christian, but raided abbeys and churches because they were the places that housed valuables; nevertheless, they destroyed valuable books and murdered many people. In 923, it is recorded that a “Danish Fleet spent almost a year on Lough Erne”. One reliquary, the Lough Erne shrine dating from the 10th century, probably dropped overboard from a Viking long-boat, was found near Tully Point in the nineteenth century ago. After the defeat of the Vikings in 1014, Christianity, around Lough Erne and in Fermanagh generally, was at a low ebb. Devenish became active again in 1130 and it is reasonable to assume that Inishmacsaint did likewise.

After the death of Elizabeth I in 1603 and the accession of her distant cousin James IV of Scotland to the English throne as James I, Scotland and England were unified under one monarch for the first time. County, parish and diocesan boundaries were established in the early 17th century. Inquisitions in 1609 at Enniskillen delineated the perimeter of the Parish of Inishmacsaint as
… “from the hill at Drumreask, to Rawtomagho on the South, to Abberneleigh and the Droysee river to the sea on the West and Lough Erne on the North”. The hill at Drumreask is situated beside Church Hill, Rawtomagho is probably in the area of the scenic point over-looking the townlands of Magho. Abberneleigh is an area on the Owynefaerand which flows into Lough Melvin near Roskit island on the Fermanagh-Leitrim border. The Droysee is the Drowse which flows from Lough Melvin to the sea. The boundary from Abberneleigh along the river Drowse to the sea was also both the County and Diocesan boundary. The eastern boundary is not mentioned, but it stretched from the townland of Derrygonnelly on the Sillies river to the island of Inishmacsaint. A study on the map of these boundaries will show that vast areas of mountain such as Blackslee and Loughnavar are not included as such land as this was considered useless and therefore ignored. This then is the old Parish of Inishmacsaint, the area covered by St. Ninnidh on his Christian mission. (Parke, 1982, p13)
Thus the parish boundaries were on the north Lough Erne and the River Erne, on the west the Atlantic Ocean from Bundoran to the mouth of the River Drowse, on the southwest the River Drowse and across Lough Melvin to Garrison, and from there roughly linearly to Derrygonnelly, to rejoin Lough Erne at Cosbystown south of Inishmacsaint Island: a sizeable parish indeed.

In 1834 Lieutenant P. Taylor wrote regarding the Parish in the Ordnance Survey Memoirs,
"The central division is composed of a wild, romantic, mountainous, heathy district composing the townlands of Lenaghan, Blackslee, Shean, Bolusky [?Bolusty Beg], Tiernagher and Drumbag [?Drumbad], forming an irregularly connected range with the Boho mountains."
Nearby Derrygonnelly in 1834 boasted, according to Taylor’s report, "about 20 families, 6 of whom are shopkeepers and 12 spirit dealers". Church Hill, another village mentioned in the report, was smaller. Conditions and rentals in the parish were such that, as the report states "nothing but the means of transport prevents a simultaneous emigration to Australia or the Canadas…".

In the report attention is drawn to the fact that the Parish was basically owned by three people, the Marquis of Ely, and two other absentee owners, General Archdale (per Charles I) and Colonel Montgomery (per James I). Another landowner just east of Inishmacsaint (in the parish of Devinish, now called the Parish of Devinish and Boho) was John Dawson Brien, the sheriff of Fermanagh. He had his home at Castletown, Monea, and owned property around Derrygonnelly. Sanders, Styles and Gower (1982) noted regarding to the Parish of Devenish records that in the Census of 1841, John Brien, Esq. was listed as a landowner at Monea and Randleshough living at Castletown, Monea with family Charlotte (his wife), Mary, Wilhelmina and servants Robt. Thompson, Henry Dundas and Jane Thompson. There also appeared to be another "minor" landowner listed for Drumbeggan (Weir and Fiddis). The only other landowners listed in the Census were the Marquis of Ely, Col. Archdale and H. Montgomery; all others listed were freeholders or tenants.

In 1873 parish boundaries were altered, the division and alteration resulting in the area being roughly halved. Several townlands were taken to become parts of the Parish of Finner (in County Donegal) and of the Parish of Slawin and Garrison; townlands incorporated into Slawin and Garrison included Ardees Lower, Ardees Upper, Ardgart, Bar of Bolustymore, Bolusty Beg and Bolusty More [separated by a hedge, these lie between Callagheen, Sruhanure and Drumcrow West], Drumbadmeen, Slawin, Bar of Slawin, Roscor and Roscor Island. [A more complete listing can be found in the extract from Parke (1973). Parke did not list Tiranagher, which is almost surrounded by the above parishes, and is therefore thought by this author likely to have been included in the Parish of Slawin and Garrison as well. However, the newer boundaries are very close to Tiranagher, and Drumcrow East, on the shores of Lough Erne immediately north of Bolusty Beg, remained in Inishmacsaint.]. The Townland Index (c1851) lists Tirangher Beg and Tirangher More as townlands in County Fermanagh, Barony of Magheraboy, Parish of Inishmacsaint, Poor Law Union of Ballyshannon.


Parish of Devenish
Parish records
Devenish is adjacent to Inishmacsaint towards Enniskillen. The CassidyClan WebSite has some excellent detail on this region; see especially their Devenish Island page (photographs and information) and their Maps page.

Parish of Dromore [Tyrone]
Parish records

Parish of Inishmacsaint


      - Parish records

      - Survey Reports :

      - Other Books and Articles :

      - Photographs (unpublished) :

McBrien Information

      - Extracts/Compilations from official sources
List of McBrien / Inishmacsaint researchers on-line.

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This Page was Last Updated on 31st December 2002