Joyce (No. 1.) family genealogy

Of Joyces Country, County Galway

Arms: Ar. an eagle displ. gu. charged on the breast with a bar gemel erm. Crest: A demi wolf ducally gorged ppr. Motto: Mors aut honorabilis vita.

A very curious pedigree of this family is recorded in the Office of Arms,[1] Dublin; which agrees with MacFirbis in tracing the descent of this family from a King of Britain. Other genealogists assert that Joyce and Joy are of Anglo-Norman descent, and were originally called De Jorse. But all admit that they were an ancient, honourable, and nobly descended race; of tall and manly stature;[2] and were allied to the Welsh and British Princes.

Thomas de Jorse, who (according to the History of Galway, &c.) was the first of the name that came to Ireland, sailed from Wales in the reign of King Edward I., immediately after that Monarch had, A.D. 1282, defeated the Welsh prince Lewyllen, and added Wales to England. He arrived with his fleet at Thomond, in Ireland, where, it is said, he married Nora O’Brien, daughter of the then Prince of that Principality. He afterwards put to sea, steered for West Connaught, and landed in the barony of Tyrawley, in the county of Mayo, where the sept had a temporary stay, and founded the Abbey of Rosserk,[3] on the banks of the river Moy. Thence he re-embarked, and reached Connacht (or the north-western part of the county Galway), where he established a colony and acquired extensive tracts of territory contiguous to Killery Bay, adjacent to the county Mayo; and extending from Cong river to the river Glenbrickeen, near Clifden, in the county Galway, in which some of his posterity now reside. While on his voyage to Iar Connaught, his wife was delivered of a son, whom he named MacMara (or “the son of the sea”), who was subsequently called Edmond, This Edmond (MacMara) Joyce was first married to the daughter of O’Flaherty, prince of Iar Connaught, by whom be acquired the territory comprising the present Parish of Ballinakill, and other districts; from him are descended the Joyces of ‘‘Joyces’ Country,” called after their name Duthaidh Seoigheoch, now forming the Barony of Ross, the parish of Ballinakill, etc., in the west of the county Galway.

The Joyces were a brave and warlike race, and great commanders of gallowglasses, particularly Tioboid na Caislein (Toby or Theobald of the Castles), who is No. 11 on the subjoined list of the chiefs of the Joyce family. This Theobald and the neighbouring chiefs were frequently at war. One of his most remarkable battles was with Tioboid na Luinge (or Toby of the Ships), who is No. 28 on “The Bourkes, lords viscount Mayo” pedigree; which was fought in Partry, on the boundary of the Bourkes’ territory and Joyces’ country, in which the Joyces were victorious, and Theobald Bourke made prisoner. As the result of that battle, Tioboid na Luinge gave the Joyces a part of his territory, extending from the battlefield (the original boundary; and to this day known as Sraith na Luinge, indicating where Tioboid na Luinge was captured) to Owenbrin. The Joyces were frequently at war with the O’Flahertys, who, during almost the whole of the sixteenth century, strenuously endeavoured to regain the territories which Edmond (MacMara) Joyce received with the daughter of O’Flaherty, as above mentioned. In those sanguinary battles the bravest and dearest kinsmen fell on both sides.

In 1587 the Clan Joyce, with great valour, opposed Bingham, governor of Connaught, and assisted by other tribes of the province, defeated him at Caislean na Cailighe (“cailleach;” Irish, an old woman; Heb. “chelach,” old age), on Lough Mask.

Of this family are the Joyces of Joyce Grove, county Galway; of Oxford, near Doonamoona, in Mayo; of Woodquay, in the town of Galway; and of Merview, near the town. Other collateral branches of the family settled in Leinster and Munster—a descendant of one of whom, it is said, was the Irish Judge, Chief Baron Joy.[4] The Joyces of Joyces’ country held their possessions until the middle of the seventeenth century up to the Cromwellian confiscation; but some of the family are still in possession of extensive property.

The O’Hallorans, MacConroys, and O’Kynes (or O’Heneys), possessed, before the Joyces, the territory known as “Joyces’ Country,” which was anciently called Hy-Orbsen.

Thomas de Jorse had a brother Walter, and another, Roland.

2. Edmond, called “Edmond MacMara;” son of Thomas de Jorse. Had four sons: I. Walter, of whom presently; II. Richard; III. Edward; IV. Rickard; Edward and Rickard settled in Leinster.

3. Walter: eldest son of Edmond; had:

4. Ulick,[5] who had:

5. Thomas (2), who had:

6. Tioboid (or Theobold), who had:

7. Giollo (or Gill), who had:

8. Theobald (2), who had:

9. Edmond (2), who had:

10. Ulick (2), who had:

11. Theobald (called Tioboid na Caislein[6]), who lived in the Castle of Renvyle, and d. 1600.

This Theobald had:

  1. Edmond, of whom presently.
  2. Miles, who also lived in Renvyle Castle.[7]

12. Edmund (3): son of Theobald; had:

13. Thomas (3), who had:

14. Ulick (3), who had:

15. Ulick (4), who had:

16. Ulick (5), who had:

17. Gill (2), who had:

18. Theobald (4), who had:

19. Giolla (or Gill) Dubh, who d. 1774. This Gill Dubh was an extensive landed proprietor, and lived in the beautiful Vale of Glanglas, which is (in 1888) in the possession of his successors.

20. Theobald: son of Gill Dubh; had:

  1. Gill, of whom presently.
  2. Edward,[8] who was remarkable for his incredible strength and gigantic stature.

21. Gill (4): son of Theobald; had:

22. Patrick, who had:

23. Shane Bán (or John the Fair), his only son, who d. in 1856.

This Shane had, besides a daughter Mary, four sons:[9]

  1. Patrick, of whom presently.
  2. Theobald.
  3. John. (See “Joyce,” No. 2.)
  4. Thomas.

24. Patrick[10] Joyce, of Mounterowen House, Leenane: eldest son of Shane Bán. Had five sons living in 1883:

  1. John.
  2. Peter.
  3. Patrick.
  4. Theobald (or Tobias).
  5. Thomas Francis.

And five daughters.

25. John (3): eldest son of Patrick; living in Greggins in 1888.

26. Patrick Joyce (3): his eldest son; b. in 1858, and living in 1888, in Joyce’s Country.


[1] Office of Arms: That pedigree was professionally compiled by Daniel Molyneux, King-of-Arms in the Kingdom of Ireland, for a Mr. Gregory Joyes (now Joyce), who died at Madrid, A.D. 1745; and runs thus: “Pernobilis et Pervatusta Joyseorum familia veteri et honorabili, atque a Regibus Walliæ, ut colligitur ex antiquis monumentis approbatis a Domino Daniele Molineux, Armorum Rege in regno Hiberniæ.” … But of that pedigree Hardiman, in his West Connaught, p. 247, says … “This family did not stand in need of this account of its origin and descent, which will be found faithfully detailed in MacFirbis’s great collection of Irish genealogies preserved in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin … To this day the Joyces retain some of the characteristics of the ancient Irish.”

[2] Stature: Of them Ussher says, in his Primord., p. 726, “Populus magnus sicut Gigantes, proceræ homines staturæ, et fortissimi.”

[3] Rosserk: The following interesting extract from The Rise and Fall of the Franciscan Monasteries in Ireland, by the Rev. G. P. Meehan, Dublin, is here given:

“A few miles south-east of Killalla, Rosserrick, another of our Monasteries, sees itself reflected in the waters of the Moy. It was founded, early in the fifteenth century, by a chieftain of the Joyces, a potent family of Welsh extraction, singularly remarkable for their gigantic stature, who settled in west Connaught, in the thirteenth century. Rosserick occupies the site of a primitive Irish oratory; and the place derives its name from Searca, a holy woman, who is said to have blessed the Ros or promontory that runs out into the river. The site indeed was happily chosen, and the entire edifice is an exquisite specimen of the architect’s skill. The church and monastery are built of a compact blueish stone, and the former is surmounted by a graceful square bell tower, so peculiar to all our Irish Franciscan houses. The view from the summit of that campanile is truly enchanting; and, as for the external requirements of such an establishment—its cloisters, library, dormitory, refectory, and schools—the munificence of the Joyces left nothing to be desired.”

[4] Joy: Writing to the author, a friend of this family in Pennsylvania, United States, America, says that the late Chief Baron Joy was a native of Belfast: that all the members of his family have held a prominent place in that town for many generations; that they are descendants of a French Huguenot who settled in Ireland, being obliged to leave France in consequence of religious intolerance; that it was the “Joy” family who introduced the manufacture of paper in Belfast; and that the establishment of The Belfast News Letter—the oldest provincial Newspaper except one in Ireland—is to be traced to their intelligence and energy.

Other eminent authorities say that De Jorse, Joes, Jorsey, Jose, Josse, Joy, Joyes, Shoey, Joyce, Yoe, Yoes are all different forms of sirname for the one family, named in Irish, Seoaigh, whom MacFirbis mentions as of “The Welshmen of Ireland.” The name Josse may still be traced in “Villera Saint Josse,” and “Josse-Sur-Mer,” in that part of France anciently called Armoric Gaul.

[5] Ulick: This name implies a marriage alliance with the “Bourke” family.—See the origin of the name Ulick, in note, 1 (3) William, p. 58, ante.

[6] Tioboid na Caislein: This Theobald was so called because of the castles and strongholds he had built, viz.: Doon Castle, near Clifden; and Castle Kirk, on an island of Lough Corrib, commanding the entrance to his territory in that direction. He also built a stronghold near Clonbur, on the eastern boundary of his territory, and, it is believed, the Abbey of Ross Hill, adjacent thereto. He ruled from 1570 to 1600.

Renvyle (or Rinvile) Castle, which commands the entrance to Killery Bay, and which originally belonged to the O’Hallorans of West Connaught, afterwards became the property of the Joyces; and was once unsuccessfully attacked by the famous Grace O’Malley, the mother of Toby Bourke (or Tioboid na Luinge), above mentioned who (see p. 62, ante) is No. 28 on “The Bourkes, Lords Viscount Mayo” genealogy.

[7] Castle: See O’Flaherty’s Iar Connacht (or “West Connaught”), p. 119, Note a. According to the same authority (p. 309, Note e), the Joyces assumed the name MacThomas, after Thomas who is No. 1 on this Genealogy; and, ibid., p. 45, MacThomas Joyce inhabited Castlekirk, in 1586.

[8] Edward: Blake, in his Letters from the Irish Highlands (1823), says of this Edward, or “Big Ned,” as he was called: … “Big Ned Joyce being between six and seven feet in height and large in proportion; from the roof (of his house) hung down stores of smoked geese and mutton, instruments of fishing, and other articles which showed the remains of former prosperity.”

[9] Sons: These four sons had twenty-five male children, of whom twenty-one were living in 1877; varying in stature from 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet 6 inches. Henry D. Inglis, in his work on Ireland, written in 1837, says:

“The Joyces are a magnificent race of men; the biggest, and stoutest, and tallest I have seen in Ireland … but Jack Joyce (No. 23 on this Genealogy) is huge even among them. He is as near akin to a giant as a man can well be, without being every bit a giant. In breadth, height, muscle, and general aspect, he is like a man— if not of another race—the descendant of another race. He looks upon himself as a sort of King of that country—Joyces’ Country—as indeed he is.”

[10] Patrick: We are pleased to find by the report of the Land Court, presided over by Judge Ormsby, that, in November, 1882, this Patrick Joyce, of Mounterowen House, was declared the purchaser in fee of the townland of Mounterowen West, upon which he (in 1888) resides; and also the adjoining village of Culloghbeg. And we congratulate Mr. Patrick Joyce upon his thus regaining even a part of the once vast patrimony of his ancestors, of which they were deprived by the Cromwellian Confiscations in Ireland.