The Breen Family

Breen family crest

(Crest No. 253. Plate 25.)

THE Breen family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of Heremon, eighth son of that monarch. The founder of the family was Fiacha Baiceada, son of Cathire More, or Cathire the Great, King of Ireland, A. D. 144.

The ancient name was Brianna and signifies “Composer.” The title of the chief was Lord of Iverk, and the possessions of the sept were located in Queens County. The O’Breens were also chiefs of Luighne, now the parish of Leney, in the barony of Corcaree, Westmeath, and of Breaghmani, now the parish of Brawney, in the same county.

The “Annals of the Four Masters” inform us that, at the instigation of the Sionnach O’Ceatharnaidh and O’Braon of Teffia, a man of fierce disposition called the Giolla-gan Jonnachair, signifying “Fellow without Bowels,” O’Miaidh (O’Meyey) slew the elder Hugh de Lacy, one of the most infamous of the Anglo-Norman invaders, murderers, and despoilers, A. D. 1186.

The surname O’Miaidh is now rendered Mead or May, the name or title Sionnach rendered Fox by translation, O’Ceatharnaidh rendered O’Kearney or Kearney, and O’Braon modernized Breen. These men, by whom O’Miaidh was urged to kill De Lacy, were chiefs of families in that part of the country now called the County of Westmeath.

There have been families of the name of O’Braon, or Breen, in different parts of Ireland. Persons can be found on both sides of Queens County bearing the name, from Wexford on the one side to the hills and fields of Tyrone on the other. Braon, an eminent ecclesiastic of this family, is mentioned in the “Annals of the Four Masters.” The Breens are still numerous in the barony of Brawney, Westmeath, but have changed the name to O’Brien.

There are many of this name in the United States, among whom may be mentioned Mr. Matthew P. Breen, the well-known lawyer of New York, and the late James Howard Breen of Brooklyn, N. Y.