Family History and Genealogy
The Mag Raghnaills of Muinter Eolais
Where glides by Leitrim’s
The Shannon’s lordly flood,
Upon a lofty – sloping hill
MacRannall’s castle stood.
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, a great number of native Irish farmers were tenants-at-will. Various and comparatively recent conquests, were followed by the expulsion of the old Gaelic proprietors, from their estates and the investiture of new lords and masters. Consequently, nine tenths of the country became the property of families of English descent.
Traditionally, ancient genuine Irish families, the old Gaelic proprietors, derived their pedigrees from Milesius the conqueror of Ireland, the second son of Heremon, King of Spain.
The Celts migrated from central Europe and settled in most of Western Europe, including Spain and Britain. By the first century AD various Celtic tribes were well established in Ireland. Their culture and language became dominant throughout the island.
Medieval Ireland was a society of clans or linage-based societies. An Irish clan could be described as a patrilineal descent group forming a definite corporate entity with political and legal functions. Usually clans occupied particular territories the ownership of these lands being the key corporate function of the group. In linage-based societies the keeping of genealogies is of great importance. The keeping of these genealogies was entrusted to professional scribes or chroniclers. The clan system functioned only for those with property and influence.
One of the most extensive sources of information on Gaelic genealogy is William Bentham’s transcript of Roger O’Ferrall’s ‘Linea Antiqua, a collation of earlier genealogies compiled in 1709.
According to O’Ferrall’s pedigree Cathal Mór was the first of his clan to assume the surname of MacRannell. He married the King of Conaught’s daughter and was Lord of Muinter Eolais for sixty-three years.
The MacRagnalls, Rennalls, or Reynold’s derive their descent and surname from Raghnall, son of Muirceardaig Maol of the race of Conmac, son of Fergus.
According to the Annals of the Four Masters (AFM) the O’Farrell’s of Annaly, in the county of Longford and the MacRannal’s of Muinter Eolus, in the county of Leitrim are two families descended from ‘Cormac, the illigitamate son of Fergus, the dethroned King of Ulster, by Maeve, Queen of Connaught, in the first century’.
The territory of the Mag Raghnaills was known as Muinter Eolus. O’Farrell’s pedigree records that Eolus was the son of Biobhisagh and ‘that his part of the territory of Conmaicne Rhen, was called Muinter Eolus, now divided into three upper Baronies of the county of Leitrim viz:- Leitrim, Mohill and Carriggallen’.
These baronies, together with the parish of Killow, Co. Longford, made up what the Elizabethans called, MacGrannells country. The Mac Raghnaills held this extensive territory for 600 years, until the O’Rourkes supplanted them. In all the area covered approximately ten thousand acres.
State Papers in 1591 record that out of , ‘the five baronies in O’Rourke’s country viz:- in Mynterolles, two baronies called Leitrim and Moyhell, the M’Grannells enjoy the two baronies as their proper lands, until of late O’Rourke further supplanted them with a strong hand, and since that time they have lived under the spendings and tyranny of O’Rourke’.
‘The chief freeholders in the county are two M’Grannells, in Mynterolles, M’Glannough in the Darty, the O’Rourke’s of Carrig Allen, the O’Rourke’s of the Carrhy and the M’Gawrans’.
Later in the same year, Sir Richard Bingham writing to Lord Burghley stated that O’Rourkes Lordship had been shired as Co. Leitrim and that ‘all the people are in good subjection, to her majesty’. Although he adds that the county ‘is bordered upon by evil subjects, as any in all the realm’. He goes on to admit that ‘there has been and is some contentions, now and then, between the O’Rourkes and the MacGrannells for the seignory of the county’. This contentious situation he informs us was ‘ because the traitor O’Rourke, had by composition, a mark, out of every quarter of land in the whole county, yet there is not one acre that is owned properly by one or the other, and each man knows what belongs to himself’’.
In 1583, Sir Henry Sidney, once Lord Deputy in Ireland, recalled on passing through the province of Connaught, ‘there met me O’Rourke, a potentate of Connaught, with certain petty lords of his country and whose names I have forgotten saving two MacGranylles’.
The MacGrannells, who were later described by William Candem, Queen Elizabeth’s official historian in Ireland, along with the O’Rourkes, ‘as downright Irish’, were to remain influential as long as the old Gaelic order survived.
MagRaghnaill to Reynolds
The change in surname was first made during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Thomas, ‘being the first in his family that left out the addition of Mac and instead of Rannell, called himself Reynolds, pursuant to an Act of Parliament, made in Queen Elizabeth’s reign for which and his civilising his family and bringing his country to the obedience of the crown of England, and introducing English customs and fashions amongst them, he was called MacRannell Galda, or the English MaGranell’. At a later date, John Reynolds of Loughscur, was to become the first in his family to join the Established Church.
Two centuries later and it is interesting to note the distribution of the Grannell and Reynolds surname. According to Griffith’s Valuation (1847-64) the following household numbers were recorded.
Table A – distribution of the Grannell surname from Griffith’s Valuation
Of the 29 Grannell households recorded in the 1850’s, 24 are located in Co. Wexford.
The MacGrannells and McReynolds households are all located in the Province of Ulster. The McReynolds concentrated in Tryone and the MacGrannells in Co. Derry.
The Granals are located in county Carlow.
The majority of the Reynolds households recorded in the Valuation are, interestingly located in the area once known as MacGrannells country of Muinter Eolais.
Table B – distribution of Reynolds from Griffiths Valuation
Of the 336 households listed in Co. Leitrim, 316 are located in the baronies of Mohill and Leitrim. Of the 75 in Longford, 29 are located in the parish of Killow. That gives a total of 345 households in the district once known as Muinter Eolais.
Only 5 households with the variant Reynolds occur in Co. Wexford. As Reynolds is a common English name and these may be of English origin.
Leitrim & Wexford
What would explain the concentration of Grannell’s in Co. Wexford? Does it indicate a Leitrim and Wexford connection, in the past? Unfortunately the interconnections between the two counties are numerous and stretch over a period of a thousand years.
This study is intended to be a beginning of an attempt to establish what are the connections. My current belief, is that the 1860’s distribution of names is similar to that which existed in the 16th century i.e. the majority of MacGrannell’s to be found in the Leitrim and Longford area and minor groups in Co. Wexford and elsewhere.
The Grannell Surname
Dr. Edward McLysaght, the first Chief Herald of Ireland and a leading authority on Irish surnames, has this to say on the surname of Mac Rannall.
‘Mac Raghnaill (Raghnal is equated with Reynolds) its synonym, the English name Reynolds. After which the prefix Mac in Ulster, has to a very extent displaced the older Mac Rannall. The chief of the name was called MacGrannill of Moynish, a form of the surname survives as Grannell in Co. Wexford. see Olis’
‘Olis, Olice, Olasagh, Eolgasach, very rare but extant in Cos. Leitrim and Roscommon. Their territory was Muinter Eolais, Co. Leitrim, the chiefs of which assumed the name Mac Raghnaill. The Fiants record the name as Olase in Co. Wexford in 1566.’
John Grenham records Ó’ h-Eoluis as a variant of the Olis surname.
Fiants made during the reign of Queen Elizabeth contain the following variants of this rare surname, Olase. O’Lasie, O’Lasse, O’Lassy and O’Lacy.
Griffiths Valuation lists only three households in the entire country with the surname, Olis or Ollice. All three are located in Co. Roscommon.
It may be significant that major concentration of households with the surname Lacy in 1853, occurs in Co. Wexford, 179 households, from a total of 372.The next highest concentration occurs in Co. Kilkenny with 35 households. Further research is required to establish the significance of this record.
 NLI Ms 145, Linea Antiqua, ‘A genealogical,Chronical and Historical account of the Gathelian, Milesian, Scottish and Irish people or, nation from the beginning of time, to this year of our Lord 1709’.
 Cronnelly, R.F., Irish Family History,NLI Ir 9292 c 11.
 The Baronies of Co. Leitrim are Carrigallen, Dromahaire, Leitrim, Mohill and Rossclogher.
 Cal. SP, 1591, Feb, 43
 Cal. SP, 1591, 51
 Sidney, Henry, memoir of service in Ireland, 1556-78, PRO, SP, Domestic SP12, vol 159.
 Linea Antiqua
 McLysaght, E., Irish Families