Ancient Clans

Walk in the footsteps of our heritage

Our aim is to share heritage sites to encourage people to visit and understand our rich shared history, heritage and culture.

The Ancient Clan website is the result of a cross border project between Mid Ulster District Council and Donegal County Council funded through EU PEACE IV funding. We began by sharing heritage sites in Donegal and Mid Ulster and are now extending it to include heritage sites connected to our ancient history and heritage.

Contact us if you would like to share information and images about a heritage site.

Ancient Clans and Plantation

The system of clans was the basis of society in Ireland up to the 17th Century and included powerful clans such as Ó Neill of Tir Eógain in Ulster, Ó Conor in Connacht, Ó Brien in Thomond, MacCarthy in Desmond, and Kavanagh in Leinster.

Each clan was led by its own head of the family or Ceann Fine. The bigger clans had a Taoiseach or Chief and the smaller clans had Chieftains. Although clans were mostly blood related the size and power of each clan could change over time as other clans were absorbed into more powerful clans for economic as well as political reasons. Whatever the reason for joining all members took the same clan name.

The early 17th century and the Plantation of Ulster had a major impact on the power of the ancient clans. Irish owned lands were taken by the English Crown and given to settlers from Great Britain to manage.

In an attempt to recruit support from Spain to re-establish their position, Hugh O’Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone, and Rory O’Donnell, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, and about ninety followers, left from Rathmullen, Donegal in September 1607. This event became known as the ‘Flight of the Earls’.

The chiefs remained exiled from Ireland bringing an end to the Gaelic order. O’Donnell died, in 1608, and was buried in the church of San Pietro di Montorio. Hugh O’Neill died  of fever in 1616 in his sixties and was interred beside O’Donnell.

English common law was introduced throughout Ireland, along with a centralised royal administration and county with sheriff replaced the country and the Clan Chief.

Many of the History Heritage Forum members involved in this project share their Irish and Ulster-Scots history, genealogy and culture locally and across the world.

About the Ancient Clans Project