Bryan, Brian, (O')Brien


Surnames, in one or more of the preceding variants, of England, Scotland, Ireland and France, from a Breton personal name containing the element bri - height, dignity, esteem (Dauzat, Black), or from a " Keltic (Old Welsh/Irish) name containing the element bre - hill" (Cottle), of similar form and significance. See also BRYNE. (MacLysaght, Reaney). As a baptismal name "Brian or Bryan has from early times been a favorite in Ireland on account of the national hero Brian Boroimhe; but it was, during the Middle Ages, equally popular in England... [when] for several centuries it was a favorite, as the many common surnames derived from it testify.... it survived in Yorks [hire] Westmoreland, Cheshire, Lanc [ashire] until the 18th century, but gradually fell into disuse and came to be regarded as exclusively Irish name. It is still used in Brittany and has come back into use in England during the present century" (Withycomb). As a family name in England, Reaney, who gives twelve variants, maintains that in the south it is a Breton personal name introduced by the Normans, and, according to Black, "by Bretons who among the Normans in the invasion of England", but in the north "it is O[ld] Ir [ish] Brian, bought by Norsemen from Iceland... to Cumberland and across the Pennines into Yorkshire." In Scotland, Black cites the forms Brian, Brien and Bryan, and ascribes the Breton origin to them, as does Dauzat for the French forms Brian, Briand, Briant, Briend.

In Ireland, MacLysaght sees the family O'Brien, Ó Briain "deriving from the family of King Brian Boru", but notices that O'Brien may also be a synonym of O' Bryne (SEE BRYNE), of Bryan, and of MacBryan, Mac Braoin. Guppy traced Bryan widespread, especially in Leicestershire and Rutlandshire and Oxfordshire, Bryant especially in Somerset and Wiltshire. Spiegalehalter traced Brian, Bryan(t) in Devon. Matthews traced Brien, Bryan in Ireland, Devon and Dorset. Briant and Bryant in Devon. MacLysaght found O'Brien "now very numerous in other provinces as well as Munster, being the fifth most numerous name in Ireland", Bryan " The name of a prominent Anglo-Norman family settled in Co. Kilkenny", and MacBryan, sometimes changed to O'Brien in Cos. Fermanagh and Cavan.



At Ferryland: 1800 Census - Ferryland: Timothy Bryan, wife Catharine, sons Mortaugh - 30, William - 25, John - 24, Teague - 15, dau. Catharine - 19.
  A list of names of all Masters, Servants, and Dieters residing in the District of Ferryland for the Winter of 1799 & Spring 1800:
Master: Timothy Bryan, dieters: Mortaugh Bryan, William Bryan, John Bryan, Teague Bryan;
Master: John Hill & Co., servants: William Bryan, Denis Bryan;
Master: Thomas Welsh, dieter: John Bryan;
Master: Rev. Thomas Ewer, servants: John Bryan, Cuddy Bryan.
Of Caplin Bay Surrogate Court Records: Nov. 16, 1815 - Dennis and Murth Bryan, Caplin Bay residents, mentioned as owing money to Matthew Morry and Co.
  Supreme Court Records: Nov. 4, 1830 - Elizabeth Finn sued John O'Brien to obtain payment for an outstanding debt. O'Brien lost the suit, and on Nov. 9, 1830, the Deputy Sheriff sold off some of John O'Brien's property "in a certain Plantation situated at the head of Caplin Bay commonly called Bawn More" to satisfy the debt.
At Caplin Bay: Voter's List for Caplin Bay 1840 - John O. Brien - Riverhead.
  Journal of the House of Assembly - Newfoundland - 1848, Page A335 - "A Return specifying the number of persons relieved in the Southern division of the District of Ferryland, between the 1st day of October 1847, and the 14th day of December 1848: ...... Caplin Bay... Mrs. Rossiter and Bryan ... Amount labor per day - £1 4 0 ...... Widows.
  Journal of the House of Assembly - Newfoundland - 1862, Page 114 - Shipwrecked Crews Relief: 1861 April 12: Swift, Callahan master, lost at Point of Feather, on 7th April: Thomas Foley, Andrew Haley and Michael Brian to go home to Caplin Bay from St. John's. £0 15 0.
  Ferryland - Holy Trinity Marriages: Apr. 25, 1877 - Michael Brien married Bridget Aspwell (Aspell). Witnesses: James Kavanagh and Kate Hynes - Caplin Bay.
  Ferryland - Holy Trinity Baptisms: May 5, 1886 - bap. Denis John Brien, son of Michael Brien and Bridget Aspel. Sponsors: John Foley and Bridget Rossiter.
  McAlpine's 1898 Directory: Bridget Bryan - wid. Michael.
  Southern Shore Death Records: Nov. 9, 1910 - Bridget Brien - Caplin Bay - Consumption - Age 58.
  Ferryland RC Cemetery: Michael O' Brien aged 45 years - Bridget O'Brien aged 52 years.
Family History: It has been hard to determine the origins of the (O')Brien family of Caplin Bay. Various records indicate the occurrence of this surname and its variants there in several intervals of the 1800s. However, there is no continuity to the existing family surname until late in the nineteenth century. One of the earliest Ferryland Court references to John O'Brien indicates, in 1830, he was living "in a certain Plantation situated at the head of Caplin Bay, commonly called Bawn More." A subsequent listing for John O. Brien in the 1840 Caplin Bay Voter's List shows his 'place of abode' as Riverhead. After that, there was no (O')Brien listings in the Voter's Lists for 1841 - 1859. While there was a reference to "Mrs. Bryne, widow," who lived at Caplin Bay in 1847/1848, I suspect that this entry should read "Mrs. Byrne, widow" (in 1846).

In April 1862, the Journal of the House of Assembly of Newfoundland noted a Government expenditure to send Michael Brian (sic) and two other men (Andrew Haley (sic) and Thomas Foley, also from the south side of Caplin Bay, home from St. John's after a shipwreck. This Michael 'Brian' appears to be the Michael (O') Brien, who married Bridget Aspell in 1877. Bridget Aspell was born in Harbour Grace. Her family moved to Tar Cove (near Admiral's Cove), Cape Broyle, in the 1850s.

Another part of the family lore regarding Michael (O') Brien is that he could have been born in the Aquaforte/Fermeuse area rather than Caplin Bay. The inference came from a chance meeting in the United States between Michael's grandson, Eugene O'Brien, and Robert O'Brien, born in Aquaforte. During this meeting, Robert O'Brien, who had moved to the United States in 1922, told Eugene that "if you're an O'Brien from Calvert, then you're related to me." This purported kinship went unexplored, but other research suggests the (O')Brien families of Ferryland, Aquaforte, Caplin Bay, and possibly Fermeuse may all descend from the O'Briens enumerated at Ferryland in 1799/1800. Some records and family lore suggest that the O'Brien, Barry and Maher families of Caplin Bay had a close relationship. While Denis O'Brien's descendant's claim there was an heirloom, 'Mick Barry's mug,' in his house, I was unable to prove any kinship. While the Barry and Maher families were related, the proximity that neighbours shared in the area known as Wren's Nest in the latter decades of the 1800s may have led to that perception.
Present Status: Denis John, the only son of Michael and Bridget (O')Brien, married Mary Johnston abt. 1917 and raised a large family at Caplin Bay. Denis and Mary had two sons to carry on the family surname. Eugene O'Brien eventually married and moved to Cape Broyle. So the Calvert surname of O'Brien was now blended with the Cape Broyle O'Brien's, to whom there is no known relationship. Michael O'Brien married and lived at Calvert, and some of his family still lives there today. There are many descendants of Michael (O')Brien and Bridget Aspell living at Calvert, throughout Newfoundland, the rest of Canada, and the U.S.A.

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