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created: Aug.2003
updated: 27-Oct-2011
BYRN Family Links
BYRN is an unusual spelling (see note!) — How many of us are there?

The Burke's Peerage World Book of Byrns (1994), with its flattering reference to 'The Old and Distinguished Byrn Family', identifies us (like all the rest of the BYRNEs) as descendants of BRAN but, whilst it gives a wealth of addresses for presentday BYRNs, there is no specific BYRN family history.

Much the same goes for Our Name in History: The BYRN Name (Ancestry.com, 2006).
(Click for a review of the book.)

When this page was first put up a decade ago, my point of departure was narrow — our particular family history. In the meantime however there has been an explosion of research into Byrne/ Burns/ O'Byrne history on two fronts: documentary and genetics.
On the documentary front Daniel Byrne-Rothwell has published two studies so far as part of a planned trilogy under the general title The Byrnes and the O'Byrnes; volume 1 is sub-titled A New Insight upon Irish History, and volume 2 is sub-titled A Social History of the Clan (both appeared in 2010); this major undertaking provides an uptodate survey of all that is known about the clan: vol.1 to the 17th century, vol.2 to the present.
On the genetics front, a DNA project launched by two co-administrators in the USA, Nic Burns (documents) and Paul Burns (DNA), has attracted 234 participants to date. What the project is discovering is of special interest to all who know that they are of Byrn(e) ancestry but are not clear how they fit in. Fascinating though it is, however, it can only complement (and at times certainly correct) what families have believed about their descent, but it cannot actually fill the holes in the historical record. http://www.familytreedna.com/public/Byrne/default.aspx

Developments since putting this page on the web:

  • (10/2011) DNA tested! Having taken part in the Byrne/Burns/Beirne family DNA project, the main discovery for me is that our Byrn branch does indeed belong to the wider Leinster Byrne clan; we are not immigrant Scottish Borderers who adopted the name and spelling Byrn. Much more information should emerge in time. The project has two co-administrators: pabloburns@comcast.net and NicBurns44@hotmail.com
  • (02/2009) In Australia Phillip Benstead, a descendant of Archdall Byrn's wife (she was Elizabeth Benstead) has done major work on Archdall Byrn's descendants. That account will be available soon.
  • (09/2007) Added a review of "Our Name in History: The BYRN Name" (Ancestry.com, 2006).
  • America has easily the largest number of Byrn families: upwards of 285 households and 750 individuals. My thanks to those who have got in touch. Special thanks to "Dreamer" for alerting me to the account of the Byrn graves in the Pioneer cemetery at Byrnville, Indiana, posted on USGENWEB by Sandi Evilsizer Koscak (of Byrn descent). I have now (09/2007) added a commentary on the Byrneville Cemetery document, but am little nearer to having a clear picture of Byrn family relationships in the USA. One Byrn line, I learn, has changed their name to BYRNS, another to BYRNE. Maybe we'll get some answers eventually.
  • Incidentally, if you haven't visited the website of Anne Byrn "The Cake Mix Doctor" (Tennessee) , try it now: her chocolate cakes are all a knockout.
  • Substantial progress has been made on the New Zealand and Australian branches of the descendants of Robert Byrn (c.1796-c.1855, Co.Carlow) — with full thanks to, respectively, a colateral fourth cousin in North Island and most recently (11/2009) another 4th cousin, plus an interested researcher from Brisbane and, more recently (04/2007), a Byrn descendant in New South Wales.
  • (02/2007) A note on Robert's sister Augusta Burtchaell (née Byrn, c.1794-1867), with many thanks to a third cousin once removed in British Colombia.
  • The Mulroney connection — a tale of contrasting family fortunes (Canada).
  • Added the note below on spelling.
  • For another webpage on O'Byrne family researches see Neil O'Byrne's homepage

During all the years I was growing up in Ireland on the borders of Dublin and Wicklow, there was never any doubt within our acquaintance that ours was the only family in the country that spelt its surname BYRN. There were, of course, thousands of BYRNEs and O'BYRNEs but, again, there was never any doubt in our minds that they were all (Roman) Catholics whereas we were Church of Ireland Protestants. We did not mix.

We BYRNs were not many. In my grandfather's generation there had been five BYRN brothers, of whom four married, but only two produced descendants in my generation. True, I did hear a tale about a family bust-up back in 1824, resulting in some BYRNs leaving the country, and in 1948 a distant relation in New Zealand got in touch, but by the 1950s nobody else in our acquaintance had any idea what had become of such other BYRNs, so, since our family were the only BYRNs in Ireland & England (as we thought), there was also a tacit assumption that we were the only BYRNs in the world. — Little did we know!

DNA testing has established that our BYRN family belonged to the Leinster branch of the great BYRNE/O'BYRNE clan, so we were once certainly Catholic. It must have been sometime early in the 18th century, and under pressure of the Penal Laws (though documentary confirmation for our family is lacking), that our particular branch conformed to the Church of England in Ireland and threw in its lot with the Protestant Ascendancy. I suspect, without being able to prove it, that it was then too that we dropped the final E from our surname to signal our conformity. But today of course, some 300 years later, Ireland has altered radically. The Protestant Ascendancy is a distant memory. The particular family property (at Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow) which those 18th century ancestors of ours had tried to preserve by conforming ceased to be the family home within four generations. It is hard now to imagine even my grandparents' generation in presentday Irish society.

Himself the son of a Church of Ireland clergyman, my grandfather (who, along with three of his brothers, was also ordained into the C. of I.), would have found it very difficult, for example, to imagine the following two developments which are but a small reflection of big socio-religious changes: in 1989 a Revd Matthew BYRNE was appointed Church of Ireland Dean of Kildare; and conversely, a presentday BYRN second cousin was recently received into the Roman Catholic Church. — What matters, plainly, is the Faith itself ("Jesus is Lord") and not the social group or particular denomination of one's birth.

But apart from general social changes, the biggest family eye-opener for us came when my uncle (who by now had also left Ireland for England) obtained a copy of The Burke's Peerage World Book of Byrns. It was no surprise to find no BYRNs listed in Ireland any more (our particular family had all gone to their rest, or emigrated), but it was a revelation to discover that in various parts of the English-speaking world there was a total estimated population of BYRNs amounting to 877 (some entries turn out to be duplicates, but even so ...). Most of these BYRNs — 770 — are in the United States, with a further 37 in Australia and 13 in New Zealand.
(And now, thanks to GOOGLE, I discover that I am not the only living RICHARD BYRN either — there are at least two others in the USA.)

When, I wonder, did their forefathers emigrate from Ireland? Are they descendants of the John Byrn who died in 1781, and/or of the James Byrn who died in 1824? (see Robert Byrn's descendants)

And where amongst the BYRNs do the "J. and R. Byrn Printers of 18 Sycamore Alley, Dublin", active during the 1780s, fit in? (See their volume entitled The Beauties of Swift ).

Any answers will be received with great interest: contact.

note on the spelling BYRN / BYRNE

I have to observe that during the 18th and 19th centuries there was little fixity of spelling. My family was certainly using BYRN in the 18th century (e.g. in Charles Byrn's will of 1741), but even as late as 1882 the clerk who wrote out an indenture relating to Richard Archdall Byrn (1825-1896) reproduces his name once as Byrne (though Byrn is given on the outside and elsewhere within the document).
Further, an American correspondent lets me know that his Gr-gr-gr-gr-gr grandfather George Byrn (born 1708) came from Ireland to the USA where he had three children and they changed their spelling to Byrne at that time.
Another American correspondent retains the name but now spelt Byrns.
(To my regret I have not yet been able to establish relationship links.)

Richard F. M. Byrn (b.1940)
Brother of
Rosamund A. M. Anthony, née Byrn,
and of

Diana M. M. Reid, née Byrn
6th Great Grandson of
James Byrn (d. 1727) (Co. Carlow)
Father of Charles
5th Great Grandson of
Charles Byrn (d. 1742, intestate) (of Ballyknockan, Co. Carlow)
In addition to his sons James (who was "cut off with a shilling") and John, he had four daughters: Jane, Margaret, Elizabeth and Mary.
 4th Great Grandson of John Byrn (d. 1781) (Co. Carlow)
Father of James, Charles, William, Anne and Elizabeth.
3rd Great Grandson of James Byrn (of Park, Co. Carlow, d. March 1824), and (married 1777) Catherine, née Montgomery-Archdall
They had five sons: John (d.1814), Richard, Nicholas, Henry and Robert; and two daughters: Sarah and Augusta.
2nd Great Grandson of Richard Byrn (of Co. Carlow, Surgeon, R.N., d. May 1825), and (married 1824) Catherine Olivia, née Wright
This Richard Byrn died before his son & heir Richard was born, and, according to my grandfather's account, that was the point at which the family fortunes declined dramatically.
Great Grandson of (The Rev) Richard Archdall Byrn (d. 1896) (Rector of Broomfield, Castleblaney), and (married 1860) Marie Wetzlar, née Swift
They had five sons: Richard (Dick), Meade, Robert (Bob), M.Benjamin (Ben) and Francis (Frank), all destined for Holy Orders by their mother; also three daughters: Maria, Olivia and Margaretta, none of whom was encouraged to even think of marrying.
Grandson of (Canon) Francis E. Byrn (1877-1970) (Rector of Kilternan), and
Katherine Anna, née Drury (1877-1962)
Parents of Dermot, Sheila and Mervyn.
and of
Thomas W. H. Mason, and Alice, née Patterson (of Cork and Dublin) Their daughter Nancy was an only child.
Great nephew of (The Rev) Richard A. Byrn (Rector of Santry, father of William and Mai, neither of whom had children), and of
Meade Swift Byrn (died in his early 20s), and of
(The Rev) Robert T. W. Byrn (Rector of Mellifont, father of Robin, Arthur, Jonathan and Marie), and of
(The Rev) M. Benjamin A. Byrn (Rector of Enniskerry, no issue)
Son of (Colonel) F. MacD. (Dermot) Byrn (late RAMC, 1912-1985), and
M. Nancy S. Byrn, née Mason (1914-2003) (of Co. Wicklow)

Parents also of Rosamund and Diana.
Nephew of Sheila G. Newman, née Byrn (1915-1989), (of Sussex)
and of
Mervyn A. Byrn (1920-2002) (of Kent, no issue)
Brother of
Rosamund A. M. Anthony, née Byrn, and
Diana M. M. Reid, née Byrn
Married to Lilias W. Byrn, née Brebner
Father of Francis J. Byrn, and
(Gogs) Godfrey W. Byrn
First cousin of Patrick M. Newman, and
K. Joy Browning, née Newman
Second cousin once removed of Thomas Newman, and
Michael Newman
Second cousin of Fionna Stewart Butler, née Byrn, and
(Alec) Alasdair Byrn
children of Revd Robin D'E. S. Byrn, son of the Revd Robert T. W. Byrn (above)
Second cousin once removed of Katinka Lucy Byrn, and
Robin Patrick Byrn
Uncle of A. Jennifer Anthony, and
Thomas O. Anthony
and of
Katherine M. Walker, née Reid, and
Rosemary J. Reid
Great-Uncle of

Arianne J. Walker
Benjamin Walker, and

Genevieve L. Walker
and of
James K. McPherson, and
Arianwen M. McPherson
and of
Ruairi C. Anthony, and

Callan F. Anthony

Grandfather of

Honor Echo Byrn

"Wherever I lay my hat, that's my home."