Select Moran Surname Genealogy

Moran is the anglicized form of two distinct Irish Gaelic sept names - O'Morain and O'Moghrain - in Connacht.  The root here is the personal byname Morain or Morann, from mor meaning “great” or “large.”  The first Morann appeared at a very early stage in Irish history.

Morán, based on a place-name,
 is also a Spanish surname (some 20,000 Morans in Spain today).  Andres Morán de Butron brought the name to Ecuador in the 16th century and it is now found in South America from Mexico to Argentina.  Morin is a French and Acadian name that became Moran in Mississippi

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IrelandMost Morans in county Mayo are descended from the O’Morain sept whose ancient kingdom was in north Mayo, surrounding the modern town of Ballina.  It appears that Moran-Mor first established the O’Morains at Ardnaree on the Moy riverbank opposite Ballina in the early 800’s.   By the 12th century they were known as the O’Morains of Ardnaree.

The abandoned church cemetery at Cong on the Mayo/Galway border is reportedly full of O’Morain tombstones dating back to the 14th century.

Following the Norman invasion, their territory was usurped by the Barretts and Burkes and the sept lost its central organization.  The modern distribution of the surname within Mayo suggests that the Morans spread southwards and today are chiefly found in the central area of the county, particularly in the barony of Carra.

Moran is a Connacht name and was found elsewhere in Connacht, notably around Elphin in north Roscommon where they were first known as
O'Moghrain.  Today the main Moran presence is to be found in Mayo, Roscommon and Leitrim.

Morans were among the “wild geese” that fled Ireland after the old Gaelic order crashed.  William Moran had arrived in France as early as 1641; while Captain Patrick Moran was recorded with Count Mahoney’s Regiment of the Irish Brigade in 1712.  But the most famous example was that of James O’Moran from Roscommon who had joined the Irish Brigade in the 1760’s. 

“In the famous defence of Dunkirk in 1793, when 3.000 French army troops successfully resisted the 35,000 English and allies under the Duke of York, General O'Moran played a conspicuous role.” 

Sadly he fell out with the French revolutionaries of the time and was guillotined a year later.  Many more Morans departed Ireland in the 19th century, particularly at the time of the potato famine.  Barney Moran and his family, for instance, left Mayo for Boston in 1847.  They moved to Marilla in upstate New York nine years later. 

Morans later were conspicuous in the struggle for Irish independence:  
  • D.P. Moran from Waterford founded The Leader, a newspaper which he published from 1900 until 1910 and had a strong influence on the Irish nationalist cause.
  • Paddy Moran from Roscommon joined the IRA’s Dublin Brigade and was imprisoned after the 1916 Easter Uprising.  Four years later he was caught up in the sweeps following Bloody Sunday and was executed for the killing of a British agent he probably did not do (his story was told in May Moran’s 2011 book Executed for Ireland).  There is a park in the Dublin area at Dun Laoghaire named Moran Park in his honor.  
  • Jim Moran from Mayo joined the IRA locally around 1917 when he was just eighteen.  Five years later he was shot dead during the Irish Civil War. 
  • while Micheal O’Morain, born in 1912, came from a strong Republican family in Mayo that had fought in the Irish War of Independence and in the Irish Civil War on the pro-treaty side.  He became a Fianna Fail politician who served in several Irish Cabinet positions between 1957 and 1970.
England.  Many Morans sought refuge in England and in particular in Lancashire which accounted for almost half of the Morans in England in the 1881 census. 

However, two early Moran families were more noteworthy for having left Lancashire: 
  • James Moran was a Frankist Jewish rabbi who had come to Liverpool in the 1790’s.  Both his sons left – Simon to Wicklow in Ireland in the 1830’s and John to Australia in 1841.  His grandson Patrick in Wicklow became a Catholic bishop in South Africa and New Zealand.
  • while Thomas and Mary Moran were descendants of a long line of handloom weavers in Bolton.  Desperate times for weavers there forced the family to emigrate to Philadelphia in 1844.  Three of their sons excelled as painters.  One son Thomas Moran became famous as a painter of the American West. 
Some Morans from Ireland worked as farm laborers in Lancashire, such as William Moran and his family who came to Ormskirk around 1850.  But Liverpool was a major draw and many more settled there.  Ronnie Moran, born in the Liverpool suburb of Crosby in 1934, became a fixture at Liverpool football club for fifty years – as a player, coach and twice as a stand-in manager.

  Gabriel Moran was an early Moran in America.  His family line was covered in Patrick Moran’s 1995 book Moran Exodus from Offaly.  Gabriel came to Maryland, first appearing in Charles county records in 1714, and prospered there as a tobacco planter.

His son William and James, possibly a cousin, had settled in North Carolina by the 1770’s, William in Halifax county and James in New Hanover county where he was a Justice of the Peace.  Descendants were to be found in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama.

Thomas Henry Moran from Irish Morans who had settled in France came to Virginia sometime in the 1770’s.
He became a circuit-riding Baptist minister in North Carolina.  His son Marmaduke followed him in his ministry.  He was very active in Arkansas and was the progenitor of Moran families in Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas.

Later Arrivals
.  The 19th century saw two Morans who built business empires in America. 

Michael Moran arrived in Brooklyn in 1863.  From the money he saved while working on the Erie Canal, he started out running two tugboats in New York harbor.  Moran Towing & Transportation Company is now the largest tugboat company in the world.  Michael’s descendants, mainly those through his son Eugene, held a family reunion in Brooklyn in 2010.

“Eugene Moran became known as the Dean of the Harbor during his long career running the company.  He was described as “the Elegant Tugman” by a New Yorker magazine writer.”

Robert Moran was born in New York City in 1857, the grandson of Irish immigrants who had arrived in the 1820’s and worked as machinists.  He was just eighteen when he departed New York in 1875 almost penniless for Seattle, then a frontier outpost of the Pacific Northwest.  He started there a ship repair business which turned into a major shipbuilding operation as shipping demand grew after the Yukon gold rush.

Among other Morans who arrived around that time were:
  • James Moran who came to Grundy county, Illinois in the 1850’s.  He helped to build the Illinois and Michigan Canal and Rock Island Railroad and later farmed.  He died in Grundy county in 1914 at the age of a hundred and eleven, possibly the oldest man in America at that time.
  • the brothers Anthony and James Moran who also arrived in Pennsylvania from Mayo in the 1860’s and also found work in the coal mines.  Both they and their wives were illiterate.  By 1880 they had moved to Iowa, apparently preferring the farming life.
  • and Mike Moran who arrived in New York from Leitrim in 1903 and found work there as a bricklayer.  Around 1914 he heard about free land in Montana and moved to stake a claim.  There he met a beautiful Irish lass whom he married.  He worked as a house builder in Montana and later in Oklahoma City.
There was one Moran family not from Ireland.  They were French-Canadian Acadians who had been exiled by the British in 1755.  A Morin family had ended up in the 1770’s at Biloxi in Mississippi where they became Moran.  Jean Baptiste Moran made his home on Cat Island, Joseph Moran on the back bay of Biloxi.

.  Matthias Moran was the progenitor of the Moran shipbuilding family in New Brunswick.  He was a Loyalist soldier from New York state who in 1783 was one of the original settlers of St. Martin’s, New Brunswick.  He started building small ships there.  The business expanded under his son James Moran and his grandson James H. Moran.

“The little village of St. Martin’s was to become the third largest producer of wooden sailing vessels on the eastern seaboard of North America.  And the Morans had one of Atlantic Canada’s largest fleets by the 1870’s.”

Various Moran families from Ireland were to be found in Leeds county, Ontario by the 1850’s and 1860’s.  Anthony Moran, a farmer, was recorded there in 1852 but had moved to Simcoe county by 1861.  John Moran, probably his brother, had remained in Leeds county, however.

.  Michael Moran had come to Sydney from Ireland in 1877 and, after some early struggles, was a successful baker there.  His son Herbert Moran, better known as Paddy, became renowned as a sportsman and later for his medical practice and public speaking.  His son Patrick was a distinguished academic. 

Select Moran Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

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Michael Moran, better known by his nickname of Zozimus, was blinded in infancy and made his living on the streets of Dublin in the early 19th century with his recitations and ballads.
Thomas Moran
who arrived in America in 1844 became famous as a painter of the American West.

Robert Moran
was a prominent Seattle shipbuilder who served as the city’s mayor from 1888 to 1890.
Bugs Moran
, born Adelard Cunin, was a Chicago gangster rival to Al Capone who narrowly escaped death in the 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Kevin Moran is the only sportsperson ever to win both All-Ireland Gaelic football medals (with Dublin in 1976 and 1977) and English FA cup medals (with Manchester United in 1983 and 1985).

Select Morans Today
  • 20,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 27,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 23,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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