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The Cater name was brought into England in the wake of the Norman Conquest. The names introduced into Britain by the Normans are nearly all territorial in origin. The followers of William the Conqueror included some of them brought the names of their castles and villages in Normandy with them, but others were adventurers possessing no family or territorial names of their own. Those of them who acq.....

Heraldry Database: Mactiernan


Surname:  MacTiernan
Branch:  MacTiernan
Origins:  Irish
More Info:  Ireland

Background:  Recorded as O'Tiernan, MacTiernan, McTiernan, and Tiernan, this notable surname is Irish. It derives from the Old Gaelic name MacTighearnain, meaning the son of Tierna, a name meaning lord or master. Traditionally, Irish family names are taken from the heads of tribes, revered elders, or some illustrious warrior, and are usually prefixed by "Mac", denoting "son of", or "O", grandson, male descendant of. Two separate septs of MacTiernan arose independently in Ireland, the first belonged to the Ulster county of Cavan, and were a branch of the great O'Rourkes, styled Lords of Breffny, whose chieftains ruled territory in Counties Cavan and Leitrim. No less than thirty-three MacTiernans are mentioned in the Annals of the Four masters, several of them Chiefs of Teallach Donnchadha (modern Tullyhunco, in County Cavan). The name is still widely found in the Cavan-Leitrim area, usually without the prefix "Mac". The second sept of MacTiernan belonged to the north-eastern part of County Roscommon, where they held territory in medieval times. This sept was descended from Tiernan, grandson of Turlough Mor O'Connor, High King of Ireland (1119 - 1156). Twenty-six persons of the name are known to have arrived at the port of New York as Irish famine immigrants during the years 1846 - 1851; among them James Tiernan, aged 18 yrs., who embarked from Liverpool on the ship "Queen-of-the-West", on April 11th 1846. A Coat of Arms granted to the Tiernan family is an ermines shield with two red lions passant. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of MacThighearnain, of County Cavan, which was dated circa 1250, in the "Annals of the Four Masters", during the reign of King Henry 111 of England, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272.

Motto:  Serviendo Guberno, I lead by serving.
Arms:  Ermine, two lions passant gules.
Crest:  A griffin statant gules wings erect vert.

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No less than thirty-three MacTiernans are mentioned in the "Annals of the Four Masters", practically all of them Chiefs of Teallach Donnchadha (modern Tullyhunco, in the county of Cavan) or their relatives. Though not much information is given about their exploits, the mere recording of so many obituaries indicates importance of the sept throughout the three centuries from 1250-1550. The name is still found chiefly in the Cavan-Leitrim area but generally without the prefix Mac; when the Mac is retained MacTernan is now the usual form. Another sept of MacTiernan held territory in the north-eastern part of Co. Roscommon in mediaeval times. Their origin is different from the Tullyhunco sept, being descended from Tiernan, grandson of Turlough Mor O'Connor, King of Ireland, while the Cavan sept is a branch of the O'Rourkes. This being so, it is of interest to note that the large estate of Hugh MacTernan of Heapstown House, Boyle, Co. Roscommon, in 1878 lay for the most part in Co. Leitrim.

The name in Irish is Mac Tighernain (derived from tigherna, a lord). It is also spelt with the T aspirated - MacThighearnain - which was phonetically anglicized MacKiernan. The Chiefs of Tullyhunco were occasionally called MacKiernan instead of MacTiernan. To-day the two names, including their variants with and without the Mac, are about equal in numbers, and Kiernan is numerous in the same area as Tiernan. The latter is sometimes confused with Tierney, but there is actually no connection between them.

In his Ordnance Survey letters (Co.Cavan) O'Donovan gives a pedigree of this family. In modern times the two best known people of these names are associated with America: Frances Christine Fisher Tiernan (1846-1920), wife of James Tiernan, Catholic novelist and devoted supporter of the Confederates in the Civil War; and Francis Kernan (1816-1892), Democratic senator (Kernan is also a synonym of Kernaghan). At home Most Rev. Edward Kernan (d. 1844) was Bishop of Clogher for over twenty years.

Name Variations:  O'Tiernan, MacTiernan, McTiernan, Tiernan, Kiernan, O'Kiernan, O'Rourke, Rourke, MacTighearnain, O Tighearnain.

One or more of the following publications has been referenced for this article.
The General Armory; Sir Bernard Burke - 1842.
A Handbook of Mottoes; C.N. Elvin - 1860.
Irish Families, Their Names, Arms & Origins; Edward MacLysaght - 1957.
The Surnames of Ireland; Edward MacLynsaght - 1957.
The Book of Irish Families Great and Small.
Surname Database: http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/McTiernan


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