The Osraige Tribal Genealogy

The names in these seven genealogical tables were taken from the Osraige Tribal Genealogy [CGH 101-116; see the discussion on the main Kings of Osraige page; see that page for bibliographic references], except for the pedigree of St. Ciarán of Saigir ["Ciaran Saigri m. Luaigne m. Ruanaind Duach m. Conaill m. Corpre Niad m. Buain ..." CGSH #288], and the suggested placement of king Máel Dúin mac Cummascaig (d. 790) as a son of the Cummascach who appears in Table 2. Of the more than five hundred individuals who appear in the Osraige Tribal Genealogy, a dozen or so cannot be connected to more than one or two other individuals, and these names have been left out of the tables. Two groups which cannot be connected to the main connected group appear at the far right of Table 1 and in Table 6. Individuals in the Osraige Tribal Genealogy who have been identified (or possibly identified) in the annals are listed on the main Kings of Osraige page, and are briefly mentioned below at the appropriate place. In what we might call the "royal" branch of the genealogy (which is given on the Kings of Osraige page), a significant percentage of individuals in the genealogies can be identified in the annals and king lists, and this allows us to say with some confidence that the "royal" part of the genealogy is largely correct from the late seventh century to the twelfth century.

In contrast, in the remaining "nonroyal" part, only a very small percentage of the individuals can be plausibly identified in other records, and it is not certain that all of the suggested identifications are correct. Since the vast majority are no more than names, and since the earliest manuscripts recording these names are several centuries later than many of these individuals are alleged to have lived, it is fair to ask how many of these names record the actual genealogical relationships of real individuals. If we take the earliest individual on the "royal" branch of the genealogy who can be securely dated, we can note that from Óengus Osrithe to Cú Chercca (main Osraige page, Table 1), d. 712×3, king of Osraige, there were 16 generations. Thus, if we assume that this genealogy is accurate, and allow an average of three generations per century, this would place the floruit of Óengus Osrithe at the end of the second century. However, if we count from Óengus Osrithe to Uargus mac Fachna (Table 2), possibly to be identified with an individual who died in 746, there are only 12 generations. From Óengus Osrithe to Sluagadach mac Duib Chonnacht (Table 3), possibly Sluagadach Ua Raithnén, abbot of Saigir, who died in 888×9, there are only 15 generations. From Óengus Osrithe to Cináed mac Duinecha (Table 4), d. 804, there are 16 generations. It is at least arguable that these numbers of generations are not contradictory, even if we accept the uncertain identifications, for if it were conjectured that Óengus Osrithe died in the last half of the third century, then the average generations in the different lines would range from about 28 years to about 40 years.

Nevertheless, it would be wrong to argue that these early generations can be trusted. The name Óengus Osrithe reeks of invention. The Osraige got their name because they called themselves (or were called) the "deer people", not because of the nickname of some supposed ancestor. Óengus Osrithe's supposed floruit would lie well before Ireland became Christian, and therefore well before written records. As with many other Irish genealogies, the Osraige Tribal Genealogy shows an artificial convergence at the top layers, with virtually all branches converging just a few generations after Óengus Osrithe. There is ample cause for believing that the first several generations are pseudohistorical in nature. Thus, there is no good reason to believe that these tables show the correct relationship between the kings of Osraige and other individuals on the tables on this page, so that the "generation" averages mentioned in the previous paragraph mean nothing. As a pseudohistorical figure, Óengus Osrithe has no floruit. Added to the fact that we can very rarely identify these individuals in the annals, this means that we often know little about the chronology of the men who appear on these tables, even in cases when they did exist. Consider, for example, the Fáelán mac Cellaig who appears in the lower left part of Table 1. Neither he nor his ancestors have been identified in other sources, and his chronology remains uncertain. We cannot get a reasonable estimate of Fáelán's floruit by counting generations down from Óengus Osrithe.

On the other hand, there is little reason to doubt that most of the names appearing on the lower reaches of the charts were historical individuals, for there would be no apparent motive for falsifying so many distant relatives. Indeed, in Tables 2, 3, 4, and 6, we have plausible identifications of individuals in the annals, giving us a consistent chronological estimate that in each of those four tables, the latest individuals lived at roughly the same time, in the tenth century. The branch descended from Bran mac Colmáin Móir on Table 1 of the Kings of Osraige page fits the same pattern. Thus, it appears that the Osraige Tribal Genealogy was last updated in the tenth century. When was it first composed? Information was no doubt often lost when the genealogies were updated, but traces of earlier versions can be found. As noted on the Kings of Osraige page, there are clear indications that a version was composed in the late eighth century during the reign of the second Tuaim Snáma, and the fact that a pedigree starting with Cerball mac Dúngaile appears suggests that an update occurred in the late ninth century during his reign. In the Clann Dubthaig genealogy on this page (Table 2), a wife of Dúngal mac Fothaid (ca. 700?) is recorded, along with the fact that she was mother of only four of his nine sons, and this is unlikely to have been first written down later than the eighth century. The genealogy of Máelgarb mac Tuaimmíne, a cadet of the ruling line who probably lived in the late seventh century (see Table 1 on the Kings of Osraige page), for whom no descendants are shown, possibly indicates that a version of the genealogy already existed at that time. One notable feature of the Osraige Tribal Genealogy is the disappointing amount of detail on the ruling family itself, a feature that is known in other Irish genealogies as well. The most likely explanation for this is deliberate suppression by the ruling dynasty, which would be reluctant to document the genealogy of rival claimants.

[Sources for Table 1: Earlier generations: CGH 101-116 passim (R 128b25-130b2; LL 339a1-341a31; Lec. 98rd1-100rb23); Genealogy of Fáelán mac Cellaig: CGH 104 (R 129a14-16; LL 339b7-19; Lec. 98vc-98vd2); Descendants of Doborchú mac Fergusa: CGH 102, 105 (R 128b43-7, 129a19-29; LL 339bb14-339bc39; Lec. 98vb30-45, 98vd6-23); Descendants of Trécdáire mac Eircc: CGH 107-8 (R129b3-10; LL 340a28-37; Lec. 99rb12-42); Pedigree of Fergus mac Fináin: CGH 110 (R 129b40-1; LL 340ba40-7; Lec. 99va6-13)]

Table 1 includes the first few generations from Óengus Osríthe, plus as much from the later generations as can be fit on the chart without making it any wider than it already is. One small disconnected segment which evidently does not connect to the main stem is also included on this chart (far right). Also included on Table 1 is the alleged descent of St. Ciaran, but he and his three immediate ancestors are not a part of the Osraige Tribal Genealogy. In particular, Rumand Duach, whom most of the later genealogies make the father of Laignech Fáelad, is not in the Osraige Tribal Genealogy.

For the next group to the right, descended from Doborchú mac Fergusa, there is an interesting possibility. Several of the annals show king Scandlán Mór mac Cind Fáelad dying about 643 [see the main Kings of Osraige page]. If we accept the identification of this king with the Scandlán mac Cind Fáelad of the Osraige Tribal Genealogy, then we would get an approximate chronology for his close relatives on the chart. Since we see no descendant of Doborchú who was more than three generations later than Scandlán, we can see that if this identification is correct, then the descendants of Doborchú we probably not updated past the middle of the eighth century. However, there is another possible identification which should be mentioned. Findchad mac Donngaile appears as Fínnachta in the Book of Leinster [CGH 105]. This of interest because the Annals of the Four Masters mention the death of a Fínnachta mac Donngaile under the year 800 (=805) ["... & Fionnachta, mac Donnghaile, décc." AFM, s.a. 800]. Thus, if the genealogies are right, then Fínnachta could not be dying in 805 if his relative one generation later, Scandlán, died about 643. Thus, of the two possible identifications (identifying the two Scandláns, or identifying the two Fínnachtas), at least one must be wrong. Perhaps neither identification is correct.

Moving to the right on Table, we have the genealogy of Uí Eircc, named after one of the three Erccs who appear in the pedigree (probably the earliest one). According to a topographical poem written by O'Heerin, who died in 1420, Uí Eircc was ruled by members of the Ua Bruatair family ["Rí Ó-n-Eirc na n-eachradh seang, / O'Bruadair, bile díleann, / ..." O'Donovan (1849-51), 252-3 (8-9)], likely named after the Bruatur who appears in the pedigree.

At the far right of the table, the father of Comgall is apparently not given in the genealogies. The possibility that this Comgall is to be identified with the Comgall mac Lachtchair of Table 6 is significantly diminished by the fact that Daigre is not included in a list of sons of Comgall mac Lachtchair ["Da mac Comgaill .i. Cróneni & Colmán" LL 340b1; "Da mac Comgaill .i. Croimine & Colman" Lec. 99rc47; "Dá mac Comgaill mac [sic] Cromíne & Colmán" R 129b24, CGH 109].

[Sources for Table 2: CGH 105-7 (R129a32-129b2; LL 339bc47-340b28; Lec. 98vd29-99rb12)]

Clann Dubthaig was a large segment, claiming descent from Dubthach mac Fothaid meic Droído [R129a32-129b2, LL 339b43, Lec. 98vd30, CGH 105-7]. The focal point of this group of genealogies is a certain Dúngal mac Fothaid, who is given nine sons, each of whom has a descendant listed in the third to fifth generation, and the genealogies even name the mother of four of his sons. This Dúngal was evidently an individual of note in Osraige, but he apparently does not appear in other sources. Dúngal's nephew, Uargus mac Fachtna, may have been the same as the Uargus mac Fachtna who was killed in 746 by king Anmchaid mac Con Cercca according to the Annals of the Four Masters ["Iomairecc Ratha cúile ria nAnmchaidh, i ttorcair hUargus, mac Fachtna." ("The battle of Rath-cuile, by Anmchadh, in which Uargus, son of Fachtna, was slain.") AFM, s.a. 741], although the Annals of Tigernach make this Uargus a son of Fiachra Enboth of the Déisi ["Cath Ratha Cuili ria h-Anmcadh, h-i torchair Uargus mac Fiachrach Enboth na n-Desi i n-Aird Maic Uidhir." ("The Battle of Ráith Cuile gained by Anmchad, wherein fell Uargus, son of Fiachra Enboth of the Déisi in Ard Maic Uidir.") AT 746.11]. Also noteworthy is that this chart provides the only Cummascach who is known from the Osraige Tribal Genealogy, thus providing the possible parentage of Máel Dúin mac Cummascaig, d. 790, king of Osraige, whose parentage is otherwise unknown. Note that this placement would be very consistent with the possible death date of 746 for Uargus mac Fachtna. The latest generations on this chart are three to five generations after Uargus, or one to three generations after Máel Dúin's conjectured placement on the chart, so if one or both of the suggested identifications is true, then this portion of the Osraige Tribal Genealogy would probably have been last updated in the late ninth or early tenth century.

[Sources for Table 3: CGH 108 (R 129b10-22; LL 340a38-51; Lec. 99b43-c43)]

I have found three men with the surname of Ua Raithnén in the Annales of the Four Masters (there may be others listed in the index by their first name), of whom two, Sluagadach Ua Raithnén, d. 888×9, abbot of Saigir, and Áed Ua Raithnén, d. 922, a sage and wise man, have plausible placements on the Ua Raithnén chart of the Osraige Tribal Genealogy. The third is Uargus Ua Raithnén, d. 852, abbot of Leithglinn. This suggests that the Ua Raithnéns may have been an ecclesiastical dynasty. If the identifications made on the chart are correct, it would suggest that this part of the genealogy was last updated in the late tenth century. In both Rawl. B.502 and Lec., the genealogy of Muiredach mac Cormaic omits Diarmait, but the genealogy of Áed mac Flaithnén includes him (as does the genealogy of Muiredach in LL).

[Sources for Table 4: CGH 112-3 (R 130a8-29; LL 341a2-33; Lec. 99vb39-d23)]

On Table 4, one individual can be found in the annals, Cináed mac Duinechda ["Cinaedh mac Duineachda, ..., dég." AFM, s.a. 799 (=804)]. The later individuals on this table are two to five generations after Cináed, suggesting that the last update occurred in the tenth century.

[Sources for Table 5: CGH 101-2 (R 128b33-128b39; LL 339ba7-34; Lec. 98va44-98vb18), 104 (R 129a12-13, 129a16-19; LL 339b5-6, 339b48-58; Lec. 98vc44-7, 98vd3-5)]

There are some significant problems with the genealogy shown on Table 5. Rawlinson B.502 makes Daig the son of Buan, while the Book of Leinster makes him the son of Droído mac Buain, and the Book of Lecan makes him the son of Mál mac Drodai [CGH 101]. I have opted for the last of these, on the basis of Rawl. B.502, fol. 128b40, which makes Daig mac Máil the ancestor of Uí Dega. More seriously, in the retrogade pedigrees, Sárán is made the father of Ossán, Aicclech, and Ildánach (Laisriu, LL) [CGH 101-2, 104], while in Rawl. and Lec. Bróccéne mac Sáráin is made the father of Laisriu, Ossán, Onchú, and Aicclech [CGH 104; Sárán is their father in LL]. Here, LL is the only one of the three to be consistent: it omits Bróccéne but keeps Laisriu (which seems most likely to be correct). For the descendants of Aicclech, Rawl. extends only to Donngal (who is a son of Fínachta), while LL includes all of the generations (with Donngal as a son of Fiannachtach). Lec. extends only to Donngal, and omits Fínachta/Fiannachtach. None of the individuals on Table 5 has been identified in the annals.

[Sources for Table 6: CGH 109-110 (R 129b23-40; LL 340a52-ba39; Lec. 99rc44-99va5)]

If the generations in Table 6 ever connected to the main Osraige stem, that connection has been lost. As it currently survives, the genealogy goes back to a certain Lachtchar, whose parentage is not given. One individual has been identified in the annals, Óengus mac Néill, king of Uí Berchon, who died in 853. Various branches are followed to between one and four generations after Óengus, suggesting that the genealogy was last updated in the tenth century. Since a Daigre is not included in a list of sons of Comgall mac Lachtchair ["Da mac Comgaill .i. Cróneni & Colmán" LL 340b1; "Da mac Comgaill .i. Croimine & Colman" Lec. 99rc47; "Dá mac Comgaill mac [sic] Cromíne & Colmán" R 129b24, CGH 109], the descendants of a certain Daigre mac Comgaill have not been included on this table [see the far right of Table 1].

[Sources for Table 7: CGH 115-6 (R 130a46-b3; Lec. 100ra24-b23)]

There are a couple of reasons why the Uí Bairrche segment of the Osraige Tribal Genealogy stands out. One is that it is textually separated from the rest of the Osraige Tribal Genealogy by some unrelated (Airgialla) genealogies in Rawl. and Lec., and is absent from LL. This suggests the possibility that the Uí Bairrche genealogies were not originally a part of the Osraige Tribal Genealogy. Also, Uí Bairrche was the name of a prominent sept in Leinster, so there is a natural suspicion that the individuals on this table were actually a branch of the Leinster sept, with a genealogy fabricated to make them appear to be of the Osraige. In addition, it is worth noting that this branch is one of the only branches not traced back to Droído mac Buain (the "royal" branch descended from Laignech Fáelad being the other exception). I have not identified any individual on Table 7 in the annals.

Compiled by Stewart Baldwin

Version 1, uploaded 7 February 2011.

See the Kings of Osraige page for the bibliography and further discussion.