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Over the last few years I've made friends with several wonderful people on Facebook and Windows Live. The following women contributed input and support to my story of THE THOMAS MEEHAN FAMILY . Their support has helped my dream to be fullfullment. If you are interested in helping me please contact me via the E Mail Address at the bottom of this page. Their support has helped my dream to be fullfullment. If you are interested in helping me please contact me via the E Mail Address at the bottom of this page.

  • Cailin Meehan
  • Maureen Meehan
  • Julie Millington-Meehan
  • Kevin Meehan
  • Gina Deen
  • Theresa Meehan-Currie
  • Elizabeth Anne Donovan
  • Mel O'Connor
  • Gary O'Connor
  • Michele Kerrigan
  • My Meehan ancestors immigrated from Kilkee, County Clare, Ireland. Other Meehans immigrated from other parts of Ireland e.g., Cork, Limerick, Kilkenny, Dublin, Galway, Ballindine and Donegal. Meehan-Currie's ancestors are from Donegal. The Gary and Mel O'Connor Ancestors are from County Cork. Other Meehan's immigrated to Australia and others to Europe and South America. Others stayed in Ireland e.g., Cailin Meehan (Claremorris); Maureen Meehan (Claremorris); Gina Deen lives in County Clare after moving to Ireland from the United Kingdom; Elizabeth Anne Donovan lives in the City of Cork, County of Cork; and Michele Kerrigan is from the north side of Dublin.

    Cailin Meehan was my first supporter on Facebook and represents the future of Ireland. Cailin, is a gorgeous young lady, who believes in enjoying life to the fullest and has been a source of inspiration to me. Cailin is currently going to school in the UK but is proud to be a Meehan.

    Maureen Meehan's maiden name was Ryan and she was from Castlebar which is 22 miles from Claremorris. Maureen was christened Mary but called Maureen. Her father is Paddy Ryan and her mother is Margaret (Baby) Ryan. Maureen is helping in my effort to learn about Ireland and document both Ireland and the Irish people. Maureen’s husband, Pat Meehan, is from Ballindine, County Mayo, Ireland which is 5 miles from Claremorris his Dad (Johnny) still lives there. Ballindine is their ancestral home. Johnny's brothers immigrated to the USA in the 1950’s and are now living in St Louis, Boston and New York. The population of Ballindine was 233 in 1996 and was 249 in 2006. Folklore tells us that Ballindine got its name from this fort - "Baile an Daingin" meaning "Town of the Fortress" and that the Souterrain, just outside it, was connected underground to the ruins of the old Church in Cloonmore about two miles away to the east and also to the ruins of the old church in Garryduff, three miles west. Maureen wrote a blog on the Claremorris, County Mayo, Ireland that started my blogging on Ireland. This is a fantastic Blog.

    Julie Millington-Meehan was my first supporter on Facebook and Windows Live for many years. Julie is a loving mother, wife with a full time job in Dublin, Ireland.

    Kevin Meehan is working with me to document the Meehan Family, at the current time there is no known ties between our families. Kevin's family was one of many Irish families who in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s left Dublin for a better life. Initially they moved to Milton Keynes in the UK and then to Woolwich a suburb in the East of London.

    Gina Deen is from England (UK) and has been a source of information on County Clare. She is a blogger and photographer and I've used many of her photos in my blogs. Please visit her Blog Site at BT - The Crafty Gardener, I promise you will enjoy her blogs.

    Theresa Meehan-Currie lives in Augusta Georgia and has been helping me research the Meehan Family. Her branch is from County Donegal, Ireland.

    Elizabeth Anne Donovan is from the City of Cork, County Cork, Ireland and was one of the first to help me blog about Ireland. Please read her blog - The City of Cork I promise you will enjoy learning about the City of Cork..

    Mel O'Connor is from Sturgeon Bay, Ontario, Canada and has been a friend on Windows Live and Facebook for several years. She and her father Gary have helped me by adding their branch of the O’Connor Family to my Genealogy WEB Site.

    Gary O'Connor is from Sturgeon Bay, Ontario, Canada and has shared information on his branch of the O’Connor Family.

    Michele Kerrigan is the Chief Executive for GROW in Ireland, which is a mental health organisation. Michele is also working on her Masters in Voluntary and Community Sector. Grow is also in America, New Zealand, Australia and the Philippines. Michele is currently working on establishing GROW in Northern Ireland and have it constituted as a charity in the North. Michele lives in north Dublin and is currently working on her Masters.

    The Great Famine (An Gorta Mor) which ocurred between 1846 and 1848 resulted in over 1 million Irish people perished from starvation and disease, while another 1 million left Ireland. Many Canadian immigrants from Ireland (including, no doubt, some Meehans) boarded what were called "Coffin Ships" and travelled to Canada. These ships were filled with tragedy and disease. Many of the passengers died, and others were not allowed off the ship. Those who did survive settled in the Eastern Provinces of Canada. For a period of time, perhaps from the late 1700s through the mid-1800s, there were also many Irish who were "transported" mostly to Australia and New Zealand. Some of these had been accused of such trivial offenses and stealing a shirt, or pick-pocketing. Others may have been involved in what were considered "political" crimes, or were perhaps involved in the Whiteboys or Ribbonmen. A few also would have been transported to South Africa. The practice stopped in about 1860.

    Records indicate that the name Meehan came from in several spellings. The surname is of early medieval Irish origin. It derives from the Gaelic O'Miadhachain, meaning the male descendant of the son of the honourable one! Traditionally, Gaelic family names are taken from the heads of tribes, and were usually prefixed by O' in Ireland, and sometimes Mac, the latter denoting "son of". The main O' Meehan sept was a branch of the illustrious MacCarthys of Munster, but by the end of the 11th Century, they had migrated to County Leitrim, at Ballaghmeehin in the parish of Rossinber. From there they spread into the adjacent counties of Sligo, Fermanagh and Clare. Early nameholders were Thomas and Denis O'Meehan, successively the bishops of Achonry, County Sligo, between the years 1251 and 1285, and from early times the sept were erenaghs of Devenish, County Fermanagh. Erenaghs were hereditary holders of church property. The family also preserved a manuscript of the 6th Century St. Molaise of Devenish for over a thousand years: the document is now in the National Museum of Ireland. Now generally recorded as Meehan, Meegan, Meighan, and others, the first recorded spelling of the family name and one of the earliest on record, is that of Edru O'Meighan. This was dated 1152, in Ecclesiastical Records of Kells, County Meath, during the reign of Turlough Mor O'Conor, High King of Ireland, 1119 - 1156. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was som,etimes known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling."

    Theresa Meehan-Currie shared the following from, written by a Ted Meehan: "The best information I have is that the first Meehan appears to have been a younger son of Fiachaidh Muillethan, probably > born about the middle of the third century AD, who – not sharing in the succession – was instead given chieftainship under the designation MAOTH-MIADHACHAIN (may mee’-ach-awn) and made head of a sept as liege to the reigning member of his line. [Miadhachain is an Irish word meaning “honorable”.] By gradual changes occurring mainly after invasions of the 12th Century, the name was first slightly enlarged, and then contracted, from Maoth-Miadhachain to O’Maoth-Miadhachain, to O’Miadhachain, to O’Meghegan, to O’Mehegan, to O’Meighan, to Meighan, to the current form – MEEHAN, which has been in general use since the latter part of the 18th Century.

    The earliest home for the sept was at an earthen castle-fort in Tipperary known as Knockgraffon. A migration seems to have taken place for the bulk of our sept from about the time of Patrick, since the sept settled > in Ballymeehan by the mid-5th century. One branch apparently settled in Clare during this migration, and another seems to have continued on across the kingdom of Dal Riata into what is presently Scotland. The Scottish branch today has several variations of the name - most common of which is McMeekin."

    Early recordings of the surname date back to thirteenth century when Thomas and Denis O Miachan were successively bishops of Achoney. Notable bearers of the surname include the historian Reverend Charles Patrick Meehan (1812-1890). Two further members of the sept distinguished themselves in France: Count James Anthony Mehegan, alias Meehan (1719-1792), son of Chevalier O'Megan, as a most notable fact relating to the sept is of a religious character: a metal case containing a manuscript of St. Molaise of Devenish (sixth century) was for over a thousand years preserved by successive generations of O'Meehans and is now in the National Museum of Ireland.
    - - This is from The National Research Center.

    TED MEEHAN wrote the following:

    The other great movements of Irish people would have come in the wake of the wars of the 17th Century (and even perhaps in the late 1500s). Henry VIII had instituted a program called "surrender and regrant", by which an Irish Chieftain could surrender his ancestral lands, and his Gaelic title, and then receive from the King of England a grant of those same lands, and an English title. This practice had a few drawbacks.

    First, it required taking the Oath of Apostasy, which essentially was a denial of the Catholic faith and a recognition of the King of England as the Head of the Church. Some Chieftains who did take the Oath believed it wasn't binding since they swore on a Protestant bible. Another problem was that the "surrender" of land was a violation of Brehon Law, the source of their authority in the first place. According to Brehon Law, the Chief was given authority as sort of the CEO of the corporation, with the clan members being stockholders. In other words, the lands belonged to the clan members as a whole, and the Chieftain was recognized as the leader of the clan - and afforded some suitable priveleges. But, he would not have had authority to "surrender" any property that belonged to the clan.

    When these types of Oaths were taken, there was often internal battles, and many clan members refused to recognize either the "surrender" or the previous authority of the Chieftain, let alone his English title. So, open hostility between clan members often resulted. It would also be looked upon by many clan members as a betrayal of their trust, and an attempt to profit oneself with the stolen property.

    At any rate, no evidence exists that there was ever any such "surrender and regrant" by one of The O'Meighans. But, our clan would have been drawn into battles among neighboring clans where such treachery had ocurred.

    The "Flight of the Earls" in 1608 saw two of the most renowned Chieftains, Hugh O'Neill (Earl of Tyrone) and Cathbar O'Donnell (Earl of Tyrconnell) leave Ireland. Several more minor chiefs also would have left. There is reason to believe that some of the O'Meighans may have accompanied these to Louvain. The record shows a Dermott O'Meighan serving in the Spanish Army in Louvain in this period, and a Father Bonaventura O'Meighan became Guarian of St. Anthony's College in the lat 1640s. Several other O'Meighans were educated at St. Anthony's. So, there is reason to believe that some Meighans may be in Spain or the Netherlands dating back to this period.

    Around Ballaghameighan (our ancestral homeland), a confiscation of land was occuring in the early 1600s through about the 1620s. The Stuart Kings (James I and his son Charles I) had sent administrators into Ireland to maximize the value of the Irish colony to the English King. There followed many regulations which had the effect of depriving Catholics of their land. Meanwhile grants were given to Protestant planters. The one who became the local devil for our forebears was named Sir Frederick Hamilton, for whom the present day Manorhamilton is named. His custom was to hang at least one local inhabitant on his front lawn each day "preferably a local chieftain or a popish priest". History shows that he commemorated holidays like Christmas by slaughtering convents filled with nuns or monasteries filled with friars.

    His reign, while terrible, was mercifully short. He received his grant in the early 1630s, and he was run out of the area in the mid-1640s by the forces of Owen Roe O'Neill. Of interest is that Nicholas The O'Meighan was then commanding the local "Army of O'Rourke", and may well have been involved in the expulsion of this villain.

    Unfortunately, Owen Roe O'Neill died in 1649 just before the arrival of Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell's bloody campaign of slaughter through Ireland is well documented. But in the wake of this rampage, he also sought to drive the native Irish out of all of the best land. Many were sent to Barbados to become slaves, and those from more fertile areas were pushed into Connaught, with the locals losing their own claim to the land.

    Cromwell's execution of Charles I brought him the enmity of the Stuart dynasty. And, after Cromwell's death the Stuarts were returned to the throne of England in the person of Charles II. The new king recognized the contributions of those who fought his father's enemy - Cromwell - by restoring their lands. This allowed Christopher The O'Meighan to reacquire the ancestral homeland once again.

    While the land was being reacquired, we must also recognize that the upheavals of the previous 50 years had probably caused a number of the O'Meighan branches to seek safer dwellings in neighboring parts of Ireland. Since Leitrim is almost in the center, the dispersal pattern of O'Meighans left some of our forebears in virtually every county in Ireland. But, still a remnant remained in Ballagh.

    Optimism must have soared when, after Charles' death, James II - a Catholic - inherited the throne. However, his reign was quickly challenged by William of Orange resulting in the Battle of the Boyne and later the Battle of Aughrim and the Treaty of Limerick. Christopher The O'Meighan was killed at the Boyne in 1690, and the ancestral lands were again confiscated by the English - this time forever. The resulting confiscations saw the scattering of the remnant members of our clan to wherever they ended up. Some, who fought through to the Treaty of Limerick, were transported to France and served in the Irish Brigade of Louis XIV. Their name was often changed from O'Meighan ro de Mehegan. Over the next century, most clan members dropped the "O", and many spelled the name "Meehan", while some held to the more ancient spelling "Meighan".

    The best article that I could find on the THE ORIGINS OF THE MEEHAN SURNAME. was compiled by Anne Smith based on input from Aidan Meehan. The following is a copy of that article.

    According to “Devenish, its History and Antiquities”, published by the Clogher Historical Society, the Meehan family were originally “herenachs” of Devinish Island, Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. “Herenach” is a term used to denote a family with a hereditary title to a church property. They are usually descendants of the family of the founder of the monastery or church, and caretakers of any relics or artifacts pertaining to the original founder.

    The Meehan’s originated as the hereditary kinsfolk of St. Laserian, better known as St. Molaise of Devenish. This Molaise is reputed to be a relative of the legendary St. Columcille and, as his confessor, was instrumental in the latter's choice of Iona as a place of exile from Ireland. St. Molaise is the patron of Devenish Island, which he founded in the 6th century, and, in 543 A.D., the year of Columcille's exile, he is recorded as an aged hermit. The relic left to the custodianship of the Meehan’s is a manuscript, known as the Soiscel Molaise or St. Molaise's Gospels.

    Most countries in the world that have produced the codex-form book have had a few highly valued and special examples, often holy books of saints or royal books of kings. These prized volumes would have received protective coverings created by skilled craftsmen and decorated with elaborate artwork. Almost all countries apply this attention to the book itself, the paper and the binding: all save one. Ireland seems to be the only country to have used book shrines extensively; a few shrines have been found in other countries, mainly of Irish workmanship during the middle ages when these shrines were popular in Ireland, and but a few that pre-date this period and have no Irish connection. These book shrines were known as “cumdrachs”.

    Thus the Meehan family originated as the guardians of the box, or cumdrach, of his manuscript of the gospels. This cumdrach is one of the greatest treasures of Ireland and the Meehan family was its custodians until the 19th century when the last Meehan of the hereditary line, a Protestant minister named Thomas, donated it to the Royal Academy, which later became the National Museum of Dublin.

    The book shrine of the Soiscel Molaise is the second oldest existing cumdrach and bears an inscription that allows it to be dated within twenty-four years (1001-1025 A.D.) A description of the box in 1973 noted that one narrow side is missing and openwork silver plates are riveted to the remaining sides. That on the front contains a series of small panels forming an equal-armed ringed cross. Between the arms are four large panels depicting the symbols of the evangelists and around the edge there is a row of narrow panels” (Lucas 1973: 127).

    As herenachs, the family had hereditary rights in perpetuity to land on the island and the monastery supported the family in return for access to the cumdrach of the patron on special feast days such as the Devinish Patron Day on 12th September. This was a local holiday, lasting all weekend, and endured until the 19th century, when, at the behest of a puritanical official guardian of morality, it was terminated as an occasion of rowdy drunkenness and debauchery.

    The Meehan’s moved off the island to a domain of their own in Co. Leitrim and this they called Ballymeehan or the Town of the Meehans, a little south-west of Upper Lough Erne. At some point, a part of this large family moved off into the regions of Sligo and Donegal, where they remain to this day.

    There are a number of legends associated with the Molasie cumdrach and various Meehans down the centuries. One such relates how the shrine was lost, and later found by a humble parish priest, who was given a vision of angels descending and opening the well of Molaise on the island, in the wall of which was hidden the box. He brought it to church, before the assembled members of two feuding factions, and made each swear peace on it under pain of insanity. It is reported that not a few left the church as raving lunatics!

    Such was the hold of this tale on the imagination of succeeding generations, it is related by a local judge of the19th century, that the cumdrach was often hired by the courts to swear in a Roman Catholic miscreant, who otherwise might have no trouble perjuring himself on the English King James' version of the Bible. In the 13th century there was a dispute between three Meehans - the abbot of Devenish, the bishop of the diocese of Devenish, and the local parish priest. The priest had the box in his possession but the other two were claiming priority to the precious object by way of status. The story highlights the differences between the traditional rule of the abbey versus the diocesan authority of the Irish church. Abhorring the scandal of two princes of the church engaged in public conflagration, the priest burnt the contents of the box to protect the tender consciences of his flock! The tale may be told as a guise to cover the reality of a manuscript that has been lost.

    The box of the bookshrine is a classical house-shaped box. Made of yew, the original of which was covered in gold and silver, with a Celtic cross on the front, it is inscribed with the evangelists' symbols and a prayer request for the abbot who instigated its application in the 11th or 12th century. A side panel contains a small figure of an ecclesiastic with forked beard and holding a holy water sprinkler in his hand. Its lid is missing but would have been roof-shaped. Some side panels are also missing. One is reported as having been prised off by a current custodian and sold to a watchmaker in Sligo.

    There is a coat of arms for the Meehans: a shield divided by a chevron and three bucks. It was granted to a Meehan by King James for his part in the Battle of the Boyne. The newly ennobled Meehan then fled to France to enjoy his new status and, as a consequence, there are probably French Meehans to add to the clans' world-wide dispersion.

    Meehan, along with its variant Meighan, comes from the Irish O'Miadhachain and is a derivative of the word “miadhach” - meaning “honourable”. Alternatively, it may derive from O'Maoithain and comes from the Gaelic word “maoth” which means “tender”. While the name is prolific in east Connaught, Donegal and Fermanagh areas, it appears that a separate family adopted the name in the late Clare and Galway times. In Monaghan, and there alone, it has been anglicized to Meegan.

    ©Copyright Aidan Meehan 1996 - 2000


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    This Web Site was created 05 April 2010 by John J. Meehan