The Casey family
by Col. Donald E. Casey ret.
Names can lead you down many false
trails, and, by the same token, names can be overlooked as a related source
of information. Our Anglized name and its traditional Gaelic form may stand
for one, two, or sometimes more variations. The names can be very confusing!
From O`Cathasaigh to Casey may appear as Casey, O`Casey, MacCasey, Casie,
O`Casie, Cahasy and O`Cahassey! There are probably others too.
The pedigrees of our Irish anscestors have been traced down through the ages from Adam, the Red Man, as described by ancient Irish historians -- the Four Masters and others. Where fact leaves off and fiction begins is a matter of conecture, and is really of no concequence. From the genealogy of the Bible in Genesis, First and Second Kings, Second Chronicles, and others, the genealogist can trace the relationship of families of the present genreation to ancestors of much earlier times. The delightful Irish Philosophy lends itself readily to the approach as we like to believe we go back to the Beginning, as all people do.
There are fifty generations from Adam to Dedekiah, the last King of Judah, whose daughter, Princess Tamar Tephi madde the blood connection to the direct line of King David the First. She married King Heremon, second Monarch of Ireland, the Milesian line, 580 B.C. The generations of Irish Kings, then continuing through to America is 153 generations.
The family name in Gaelic is O`Cathasaigh, which has been Anglicized Casey and O`Casey.
The Casey family is decended from Milesius, King of Spain, son og Bile and Scota, daughter of Pharoah Nectonieus, King of Egypt, throught the line of his son Heremon. The founder of the family was Kiann, SOn of Olliol, King of Munster, A.D. 177, and Sabia, daughter off Conn of the Hundred battles, King of Ireland, A.D. 148, thus uniting the blood of Heber and Heremon in this family.
The ancient name was Cathasach, which means the "Vigilant One". Cathaich is an example of the beginning of a surname. The Gaelic surname "O`Cathasaich" which has been Anglized. We can assume this family excercied conciderable authority due to the fact that the "O" was retained by most branches during times of political and religious pressures which induced many Irish families to Anglicize their names by dropping the "O". Another indication of their power is the fact that, until fairly recent times, they remained mostly in the County Cork.
The O`Caseys were, however, in no less than seven counties; Fermanagh, Mayo, Roscommon, Dublin, Kerry, Cork and Limerick.
Cormac, a brother of Connia, was our eppnymous ancestor, and the ancestor of O`Cathasaigh, the Vigilant One. He reigned somewhere about 100 A.D. As early as 800 A.D., the O`Caseys were Lords of Saithne, CO. Dublin (a territory which was co-extensive with the Barony of Balrothery, West) of which thery were dispossessed by DeLacy at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion.
The O`Caseys were also styled Lords of Magh Breath or Bregia, which comprised five of the thirteen Triocha Ceads of the anciant Principality of Meath.
There were originally at least six distinct and unrelated septs of O`Cathasaigh; the most impotant of these in early times were respectively Saithne, mentioned above, and erenaughs of Devenish, Co. Fermanagh; both of these, however, have long been dispersed though the name is not uncommon in the former of these places. It is now found chiefly in the southwest of Munste, and also, in smaller numbers, in north Connacht. These two aereas correspond with the locations of four of the seots mentioned above; one of these was Dalcassian and was seated at Liscannon near Bruff in Co. Limerick, and another near Mitchelstown, Co. COrkk, while the third and fourth were in Tirawleh, Co. Mayo, where erenaghs of CLondara were in the Barony of Athelone.
The interesting archeological remains called "Casey`s Lios" at Ballygunnermore indicate the residence of Caseys near Waterford. The so-called census of 1659 indicates that the name was quite common in that county, but mainly in the southwestern corner of it; from the same source we learn that the O`Caseys or, as they were then usually called, the O`Cahassys were, at that time principally found in Co. Limerick and adjacent areas- The best known perople of the name are Admaril Joseph Gregorn O`Casey of a Co. Limerick family, Minister of Marine in the French government, John Keegan Casey, poet and Fenian, and Seam O`Casey, Dublin labourer and famous playwright. Five minor poets of the nineteenth century, as well as John Keegan Casey, are included in L`Conhue`s Poets of Ireland.
In addition to the O`Caseys dealt with above there was also a sept of MacCaseys, located in Oriel; few survivors of this sept are to be found today, but in medieval period it was numerous in CO. Monaghan and three bishops named MacCasey occupied the see of Clogher in the fourteenth century.
The Casey (O`Casey) sept held possession in the present counties of Cor, Kerry, Clare and Tipperary. The Caseys were also chiefs of Rathconian, in the Barony of Pubblebrien, in Co. Limerick. In Co. Cork, they were chiefs if a terrutory near Mitchelstown. A branch of this family of the race of Ir, fifth son of Milesius, and founded by Laoiseach Kean. More of the Clanna Rory tribe were chiefs of Saithe, now Sonagh, in Westhmeath, where htey had settled since the third century. Their lands were seized by Hugh DeLacy after the Anglo-Norman invasion. He afterwards sold them to the Tuite family.
DeLacy, at the Anglo-Norman invasion dispossessed and virtually destroyed the Casey and O`Casey holdings (called by early historians the Terra Okadesi or Okathesi, i.e. the "Land of O`Cathasaigh." ) For the O`Caseys, Chiefs of Coillte Maibineacha (O`Brien`s Irish Dictionary and Connellan`s Four Masters). In the Civil War of the 17th century, members of the sept took oposite sides; Robert, Charles and John were Royalist officers in the army of King Charles, in Ireland and beyond the seas; Charles was paid out of property confiscated in the Co. Cork; Michael joined the Catholic Confederation, and came under forfeiture, noen of them were Parliamentarians. Besides the townlands mentioned, menbers of the family held in the same baronies fifteen other townlands, in whole or part, for varying periods.
A later note contributed on the origin on this family, states there may be a controversy whether the O`Caseys of Coillte Maibineacha were descended from Cian, third son of Oilioll Olum, or (through Brian Beroihme`s family) from Cormac Cas, the second son of Oilioll Olum. If from the former, they were a Cianacht family, and a branch of the O`Caseys of Saithne. If from the latter, thery were a Dalcassian family, of the same stock as the O`Caseys of Pubble-Brien and Rothconan, Co. Limerick. The Dalcassian O`Caseys deduce their decent from Cathasach, son or grandson of Mahon, King of Munster, son of Kennedy, and brother of Brian Boroihme, or Boru, Ar-righ or Monarch of all Ireland, who crushed the Danish power, and died on the field of battle at Clomtarf in 1013 A.D. They owned an estate in the district of Pubble-Brien, which gives name to a barony in Co. Limerick; also a cantred in the district lying around Rathconan, in the barony of Coshma, where they erected a strong castel in the 16th century. The former view, that they (the O`Caseys of Coillthe Maibineacha) came from Cian seems to be the correct one.
They were, in early days, a numerous tribe in Co. Cork, wherase; the Dalcassian O`Caseys were, according to Professor O`Curry in his Reasearches and Lectures, entirely confined to Co. Limerick. Again, the arms they have borne for generations are the arms ascribed to a branch of the O`Caseys of Saithne, located in Munster.
It is true that family legend and tradition derives the family from Brian Boroihme`s nephew, but tradition is not always a faithful guide, and in this case the tradition can be easily accoundted for. The Rathconan Caseys kept their high estates as chiefs and lords of the manor, untill a later date than did their namesakes of COillte Maibineacha in Co. Cork -- they would therefore come to be looked upon as the leading family of the name, and the less fortunate namesakes in the adjoining county would gradually claim kinship, elevate them into heads of a clan of Munster Caseys, and accept their traditions.
This family decends form the O`Caseys, Chiefs of Coilite Maibineacha, a territory near Michelstown, Co. Cork -- who were a branch of the O`Caseys, Lords of Saithe and Fingal. The Sept derives its decent and surname fron Cathasach (in Irish: brave, stout, valiant) or "Cathfeasach" (in Irish: skillful in battle; and a quo`O`Cathasaigh, anglicized O`Casey, O`Casie, Casey, Casy, Cahasie, etc.) twelwth in decent from Glasradh, grandson of Cormac, Galeng, son of Tadgh, son of Cian, son of Olioll Olum (of the Royal house of Herber).
This family name frequently occurs, as far back as 300 years, among the gentry in Co. Cork; but the incernecine wars and devastations of the 17th century, and the deliberately-planned destruction by the English of the Irish genalogies, manuscripts and documents in general, swept away som many Irish recordsm that a continuous account of the family can only be given from the close of that turbulent period.
For 150 years, dating form A.D. 1575, many members of the family were "Middlemen" and holders of a number of townlands in the baronies of Garrycloyne, East Muskerry, Cork and Barrymore in Co. Cork, within thirty miles of their ancient territory.
Thomas, John and Richard Casey were settled in the parish of St. Mary, Shandon, in Co. Cork in the end of the 1500s. One of these were the grandfather of Richard Casey, born ca. 1613-16, the first Casey ancestor in America.