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Brehon Law
Old Celtic, then Irish, system of laws.  They are very comprehensive, and probably the oldest known European laws.  Truth and Justice have always been the code of the Celtic people, and these laws show the fair-minded and common-sense approach they had in law and life in general.  The invading English disdained Brehon Law, preferring their own code of laws, thus Brehon Law went out of active practice around the turn of the 17th century.
See also: Introduction to the Brehon Law by Alix Morgan MacAnTsaoir, on the Clannada na Gadelica website.


Celts, Celtic people    (Celt is pronounced as 'Kelt', not with a soft 'C' like that basketball team.)
Indo-European-speaking tribal groups who dominated central Europe during the Iron Age, developing the La Tène culture.  Mounted raiders with iron weapons, they spread rapidly over Europe in the 6th and 5th cent. B.C. from their home in SW Germany, reaching the British Isles, France, Spain, Italy, Macedonia, and Asia Minor.  Their social hierarchy included kinglike chiefs and priests known as druids.  A richly ornamental art and colorful folklore were their important cultural legacies.  The term Celts also refers to natives of areas where a Celtic language is (or, until the 20th cent., was) spoken, i.e., Ireland, the Scottish Hebrides and Highlands, the Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany.
The Concise Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia Copyright © 1994, Columbia University Press.
See also's encylopedia entry on Celt.


A social group based on a shared common ancestry.  A clan is distinguished from a lineage in that a clan merely claims common ancestry and may have several lineages; a lineage can be traced to a common progenitor.  Several clans may combine into a larger social group called a phratry.


In old times, the Derbhfine consisted of the "family of Princes".  There are several definitions of who makes up the Derbhfine, depending on how far back in the ancestry you go to include the descendants.  In Lt. Col. (USAR-Ret) Leonard M. Keane, Jr's article "Practical Application of Gaelic Irish Tanistic Succession", he defines the Derbhfine as "the kin-group of males descended in unbroken male-line, usually from a common great-grandfather, i.e. relatives up to second cousins."  Another definition includes all the descendants from the last reigning King.


The Gælic name for Ireland.


A poetic name for Ireland.


Erin go Bragh
Means "Up with Ireland" in Irish Gælic.


Freedom of Information Act 1997 (Ireland)
Act passed in 1997 to provide freedom of access to government information.  The Act came into effect in April 1998, and records created before the commencement of the Act are not governed by the Act, thus are not available.  For example, the Office of the Information Commissioner has rejected an appeal to the IGO's decision to not release records prior to April 1998 about the MacCarthy Mór.


The Latin and poetic name for the island of Ireland.


IGO (Irish Genealogical Office)
A part of the Irish National Library responsible for the confirmation of arms, and since 1944, "established a system under which 'courtesy recognition' was granted to the senior descendants, by primogeniture, of the last inaugurated or de facto Gaelic chieftains."
2 Kildare Street
Dublin 2
Tel. 01-603 0200


MacCarthy Mór
The title for the Chieftain of the MacCarthy Clan, and in the past the MacCarthy Mór was the head of the royal dynasty in Desmond (south Munster).


The English law of succession: The right of the eldest son to succeed to the estate of his ancestor to the exclusion of all others.


Abbreviation for "Manuscripts".


A nation that controls another nation in international affairs but allows it domestic sovereignty.  Or, a feudal lord to whom fealty was due.


Tanistry, tanist
A custom among various Celtic tribes--notably in Scotland and Ireland--by which the king or chief of the clan was elected by family heads in full assembly.  He held office for life and was required by custom to be of full age, in possession of all his faculties, and without any remarkable blemish of mind or body.  At the same time and subject to the same conditions, a tanist, or next heir to the chieftaincy, was elected, who, if the king died or became disqualified, at once became king.  Sometimes the king's son became tanist, but not because the system of primogeniture was in any way recognized; indeed, the only principle adopted was that the dignity of chieftainship should descend to the eldest and most worthy of the same blood, who well could be a brother, nephew, or cousin.  This system of succession left the headship open to the ambitious and was a frequent source of strife both in families and between the clans.  Tanistry in Scotland was abolished by a legal decision in the reign of James I (1406-37) and the English system of primogeniture substituted.

See also Practical Application of Gaelic Irish Tanistic Succession by Lt. Col. (USAR-Ret) Leonard M. Keane, Jr.

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