Forward to Grant Family in Ireland Genealogy & History

4 generations of Grants - Stephen b1810, Thomas b1851, Charles b1881, Alan b1918

I became interested in genealogy in 1966. I had been brought up in Ireland, but knew nothing about the origins of the Grant family. My father was an only child, and my grandfather had two unmarried sisters, whom I never really knew; so we appeared to have had no relations in Ireland. The name "Grant" would presume Scottish roots. So where had the family come from, and what were they doing in Ireland?

My father knew very little about the preceding generations, and my grandfather was either unable, or unwilling, to tell me very much (he was 84 years old at the time). So started a search that led me back through Irish history and to one of the boats that was the vanguard of the Norman conquest of Ireland in the 12th century. And even back beyond that to the family in Europe before the Norman conquest of England. In many ways the family could be used as a barometer for following the ups and downs of Irish history. Nearly every generation has been affected by the momentous, and usually violent, changes that have taken place in Ireland with monotonous regularity. Generation after generation has been forced to move or emigrate because of political or economic changes in the country. Irish history is a vast roller coaster, changes have taken place in the past, they are taking place today with the troubles in the North of Ireland, and it appears inevitable that they will continue into the future.

I have followed the trail of the Grant family first as Norman lords (the Barons of Iverk), then as landed gentry within a small area of Southern Kilkenny and Waterford City through to the Cromwellian confiscations, when in common with majority of the Irish nation they lost all of their land. Following this, I trace their progress as small peasant farmers in Co Tipperary and Co Offaly in the 18th century, and follow the splitting up of the family with the famine and the land wars of the 19th century.

Some then went to the United States, to Canada, to Australia and to England. A few stayed in Ireland. It has been fascinating following the descendants of these people as I have come across other genealogists in other countries who have collected data on their Grant ancestors, who started life in their new countries in such diverse situations as a coal miner in England, a policeman Chicago, or a convict in Australia.

In my case the family choose to stay in Ireland, my great-great-grandfather, Stephen Grant, went to Co Galway, after the Famine, as a gatekeeper on an estate in Kilconnel, and I found his grave in the abandoned Protestant graveyard there. His son Thomas, my great- grandfather, joined the police and rose up through the ranks to become a Superintendent in Dublin. He was able to afford to educate my grandfather, Charles, who became a civil servant in Dublin, and moved to Belfast in 1922 following Irish independence. I was brought up in Northern Ireland, and left when I was eighteen to go to university in England. Like many Irish I never returned to live in Ireland

The influence of England on Irish history has been both strong and continuous since the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169. The English have been seeking the solution to the "Irish problem" ever since then, and the solution is as elusive today as it was nine hundred years ago. First there was the problem of completely colonising the country, which was not achieved until 1603. Then there was the effort to de-colonise it and integrate it into the United Kingdom. And that was followed by the partition of the country when union did not work out. The results of partition are still with us today. But the "troubles" are not a new phenomenon, they are something that has effected nearly every generation in Ireland for a thousand years. I am the 25th generation of a family that came to Ireland in 1169, the fact that an Irish nationalist would probably not consider me to be really Irish perhaps indicates the depth of the problems that face Ireland today.

I have deliberately interwoven this genealogical account with what was happening with Irish history. It is essential to understand what was happening to the country at any point in time, in order to understand what was happening to an individual family. No history can be completely  impartial, and certainly no history of Ireland ever is, so it is inevitable that this history of the Grant family is told from their point of view. They were Norman landowners, dispossessed by Cromwell, became struggling farmers and were scattered by the famine. The ones from whom I am descended were Protestant, but some of the family did become Catholic, and there are both Catholics and Protestant Grants in Tipperary today. Few, if any, made a major mark on Irish history, but they are the stuff that Irish history is made of, a family recording various ups and downs as events took place about them, plus the inevitable emigration that is part of the Irish way of life.

A genealogy is never complete, more evidence is always turning up. But I felt that this history represented the main story of the Grants in Ireland. I had hoped that one day I could fill in the small gaps that remained.

Then just when I thought that I had it all sorted and explained, along comes something completely unexpected. I had gone on and did a dna test which shows that I am certainly Irish, and not Scottish. However it does point incontrovertibly to a direct male ancestor from North West Ireland - say within a 50 mile circle of Omagh, rather than from Kilkenny or the Normans. I am fairly sure that what is called in the dna trade "a non paternal event" has occurred somewhere along my direct line. In other words, there is no way that my dna could have come from north-west Ireland, unless a non-paternal event had occurred, so the intriguing question is to find how and where. Such events, which include name changes of children with second marriage, illegitimacy, adoption, are relatively common. Even if one assumes a 4% or 5% chance of it occurring in any one generation, the maths means that over 12 generations (around 350years back) there is a 50/50 chance that any family's surname and dna name will have diverged. My current theory is that one of O'Neill's Ulster Army did the deed around 1650 when it was on the loose in the Kilkenny area. There are two surnames that are prime suspects at the moment - Fannon or Byrnes and their variant spellings. More work is needed to see whether the field can be narrowed.

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