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. Sponsers: 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 very difficult to determine the origins of the (O')Brien family of Caplin Bay. Even though the various records appear to indicate a continuity of the surname there throughout the decades of the 1800s, there is family folklore that Michael Brien (who married Bridget Aspell) was not born there. Two recently discovered articles from the Journal of the Newfoundland House of Assembly suggest that the O'Brien presence at Caplin Bay continued even though John O'Brien's name disappeared from the Voters List after 1840. In the first article we learn that there was a Mrs. Bryan, widow (possibly of John?) residing at Caplin Bay in 1847/1848.The second article identifies a government expenditure to send Michael Brian, and two other men (Andrew Haley (i.e. Healey) and Thomas Foley), also from the south side of Caplin Bay, home from St. John's after they had been shipwrecked in April 1861. This Michael appears to be the Michael Brien who married Bridget Aspell in 1877. Bridget Aspell was born in Harbour Grace. Her family moved to (Tar Cove) Admiral's Cove, Cape Broyle in the 1850s.

Another part of family lore regarding Michael Brien is that he may have been born in the Aquaforte/Fermeuse area. The deduction that Michael Brien may have been born in that area was spawned by a chance meeting in the USA between Michael's grandson, Eugene O'Brien, and Robert O'Brien who was born at Aquaforte. During the course of this meeting, Robert O'Brien, who had moved to the USA in 1922, told Eugene that "if you're an O'Brien from Calvert, then you're related to me". The exact circumstance of this kinship was not explored, but it appears that the (O')Briens of Ferryland, Aquaforte, Caplin Bay, and possibly Fermeuse may all be descended from the O'Briens who were enumerated at Ferryland in 1799/1800.

If indeed Michael and his mother moved to Caplin Bay from another settlement, there is a possibility that she remarried there. Family lore indicates that the O'Brien, Barry and Maher families of Caplin Bay seem to have had a close relationship. O'Brien family members claim that, in Denis O'Brien's house, there was a heirloom, a mug that was always referred to as Mick Barry's mug.
Present Status: Denis John O'Brien, only son of Michael and Bridget, married Mary Johnston abt. 1917 and raised a large family at Caplin Bay. Denis O'Brien had two sons to carry on the family name. Eugene O'Brien, married and moved to Cape Broyle, so the Calvert surname of O'Brien has now blended with the Cape Broyle O'Brien's, to which 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 the rest of Newfoundland, other parts of Canada and the U.S.A.

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