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Statement by the Irish Genealogical Office

August 1999


Genealogical Office
2 Kildare Street
Dublin 2

Tel. 01-603 0200



Arising from the publication and circulation of various statements, letters etc. which contain inaccurate and misleading information in relation to recent decisions and the reasons therefor, this statement has been prepared in the Genealogical Office for issue to those who have contacted the Office about these matters.

In 1944, the Genealogical Office established a system under which "courtesy recognition" was granted to the senior descendants, by primogeniture, of the last inaugurated or de facto Gaelic chieftains.  Some additional "chiefs of the name" were recognised by the Office in subsequent years, bringing the total to about twenty.  Under these general arrangements, Mr. Terence McCarthy, a native of Belfast, was formally recognised as MacCarthy Mór in 1992.

A review of Mr. McCarthy's right to continue to be recognised as chief of the name was initiated in 1997-98, following receipt by the Genealogical Office of a claim for recognition from a Barry Trant McCarthy, resident in England.

Having carefully considered submissions made by or on behalf of Mr. Terence McCarthy in the past 18 months and having reviewed the correspondence dating from 1977 between Mr. McCarthy and the Genealogical Office, it was decided that:

     (i)  the 1992 decision to grant courtesy recognition to Mr. McCarthy as MacCarthy Mór must be regarded as null and void;
     (ii)  the decision in 1979 to ratify and confirm arms to Mr. McCarthy must be regarded as invalid; and
     (iii)  the pedigree registered for Mr. McCarthy in 1980 is without genealogical integrity.

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Notice of these decisions was sent to Mr. McCarthy's solicitor on 13 July last.

Recognition as MacCarthy Mór

It is accepted that Mr. McCarthy advised the Office in the 1980s of his view that tanistry (selection from within a limited family group i.e. the deirbhfhine) rather than primogeniture was the appropriate basis for recognition.  The Office accepts that it might be considered to be inappropriate at this stage to set aside courtesy recognition in his case simply because it involved a departure from primogeniture; no such decision has in fact been made.

In making application for courtesy recognition in 1985, and in subsequent correspondence with the Genealogical Office, Mr. McCarthy advanced a particular set of facts and statements on the basis of which recognition was formally granted in 1992.  Central to this case was the assertion that Samuel Trant McCarthy revived the style and title of MacCarthy Mór in 1921, and that Terence McCarthy's grandfather succeeded, by tanistry, on the death of Samuel Trant McCarthy in 1927.  An entirely different set of facts has been relied on by Terence McCarthy in more recent times as the basis of his claim to be known as MacCarthy Mór.  He now asserts that Samuel Trant McCarthy was never entitled to recognition, that his claim was "entirely fictitious", and was based on the suppression and falsification of genealogical facts.  In conjunction with this, he asserts that his own grandfather (Thomas) was invested as MacCarthy Mór in 1905.

Mr. McCarthy has not denied that, up to the time of his formal recognition by the Genealogical Office in 1992 and, apparently, for some years afterwards, he openly acknowledged Samuel Trant McCarthy's assumption of the MacCarthy Mór chiefship and based his own case for recognition on succession from that gentleman, via his grandfather and father.  It was not until February 1998 that he advised the Genealogical Office that the basis for his claim had been completely changed.  The Office finds the reasons given by Mr. McCarthy for his decision to base his original claim on succession

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from Samuel Trant McCarthy, and for deciding in more recent times to advance a different set of facts, to be entirely unconvincing.

In these circumstances, the real issue which arises in the case of Terence McCarthy is not whether recognition should be based on primogeniture or on tanistry.  The fact is that he has declared that the factual basis on which he sought courtesy recognition, and was granted recognition in 1992, was false.  By doing so, he has clearly invalidated the decision to grant him that recognition.  The records of the Genealogical Office have, therefore, been amended accordingly and the decision made in 1992 has been declared null and void.

The Office has also advised Mr. McCarthy that it finds the evidence submitted by him in 1998 in support of the alternative basis for recognition to be unconvincing.  There is no record in the Office of a pedigree which, Mr. McCarthy states, was sent to his grandfather by Sir Arthur Vicars, Ulster King of Arms, with a letter dated 30 October 1905.  No reliable evidence has been adduced to support the claim by Mr. McCarthy that his grandfather was invested as MacCarthy Mór in 1905, and no independent evidence has been submitted to show that an alleged "pacte de famille" ever existed, or as to the personalities who took part in the alleged pact.

Confirmation of Arms

Other issues in relation to Mr. McCarthy's dealings with the Genealogical Office since 1977 have been reviewed arising from statements made to the Office by him or on his behalf in 1998.  It has now become evident that the genealogical information submitted by him in 1979 in connection with a formal application for a confirmation of arms was incomplete and misleading in a number of important respects and that he failed at that time to produce to the Office all of the information which is now stated to have been in his possession at the time.  The net effect was to induce the Genealogical Office to grant a confirmation of arms in December 1979 based on, and actually incorporating, incomplete and/or inaccurate information.  That confirmation of arms must therefore be regarded as invalid, and the records of this Office have been amended accordingly.

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It might be noted that, in applying for a confirmation of arms in 1979, Mr. McCarthy made no mention of the use of the style or title MacCarthy Mór by his father or grandfather, a fact which would have been of crucial importance in dealing with his application.

Registration of Pedigree

In 1980, when making a submission to the Genealogical Office for the purpose of having a pedigree registered, Mr. McCarthy presented a set of facts in relation to the early generations of his family which differed considerably from those contained in his 1979 application for a confirmation of arms.  The discrepancies do not appear to have been detected and pursued with him at the time.  In addition, serious gaps and inconsistencies exist in the chain of evidence in relation to that pedigree and, while Mr. McCarthy has made detailed submissions in relation to these, the gaps and the inconsistencies still are not explained satisfactorily.

The Office has therefore advised Mr. McCarthy of its belief that the information supplied by him in 1980 in requesting registration of his pedigree was seriously deficient and insufficient to warrant registration of the pedigree.  It appears that reliance was placed at that time to an excessive degree on uncorroborated statements and uncertified copies, transcriptions, or summaries of documents, the originals of which were not produced or were said to have been destroyed by fire, flood or explosion.  The Office takes the view, therefore, that the registered pedigree is without genealogical integrity and a notation to that effect has been made in the records of the Office.

Alternative claim for recognition as MacCarthy Mór

The claim of Mr. Barry Trant McCarthy to be granted courtesy recognition as MacCarthy Mór requires considerable further investigation before a decision can be made.

August 1999

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