The Moylans of Kilkenny

[ Trees | Family name ]

My own Moylan family came from the Irish county of Kilkenny. This page is devoted to the genealogical information I have collected from that region, together with a bit of background information.

The trees

Since it is not always clear, from the available records, which individuals belong to which family, what I have on this page is a number of different Moylan families, all from the same area. As time goes on I hope to link some of them together; but in fact it's almost impossible to find records earlier than 1800.

The family name

The original family name was Ó Maoláin, also written as Ó Maoileáin, which literally means "grandson of the bald one". "Bald" could mean "tonsured", so it's likely that I'm descended from a monk or friar. The pronunciation is approximately "oh mwailan" or "oh mweelyin" in English spelling rules. We can't be certain because the Irish language has a lot of regional variation, and in particular the pronunciation of "ao" has a lot of regional variation. The feminine version is Ní Mhaoláin, which in English spelling would be "knee vwailan". The name is found mostly in the west coast counties such as Galway and Clare, where it is also found in the anglicised forms Mullins, Mullin, or Mullen. In the region around Kilkenny where my own family comes from, the spellings Mylan and Meylan appear in the early 1800s, but the spelling seems to have settled down to Moylan well before 1850. (Before that it would have been arbitrary anyway, because few people could read or write.) The name Mullins also occurs in Kilkenny, and is presumably descended from the same original name.

I am inclined to believe that the Kilkenny Moylans are unrelated to the west coast Moylans, because the Irish did not travel great distances until recently, and it seems that there have been Moylans in the county of Kilkenny for a long time. There is a tombstone set into the floor of St Canice's Cathedral in Kilkenny - the cathedral after which the city of Kilkenny is named - whose inscription in Latin says that it is the tomb of "Johes Moghlande de Monte" (John Moghlande of the Mountain), who died in 1508. Which mountain could this be? Well, one of the peaks in the county of Kilkenny just happens to be called Knockmoylan, and "cnoc" is the Irish word for "mountain". (There is also a village of the same name.) This tends to suggest that the family has been in Kilkenny since before 1500.

There is, however, a story that the Moylans were driven out of Cork by Oliver Cromwell. Under this theory, most of the Moylans moved west to places like Clare, while a smaller group moved east to Kilkenny.

This page last updated 1 December 2020.