Descended from Bran, King of Leinster, who died in 1052, this great Irish sept originated in County Kildare where they held extensive territory; however, soon after the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169 - 1170, the sept migrated southwards and settled in Wicklow where they occupied the country between Rathdrum and Shillelagh. Their name in Irish is O'Broin, the Gaelic prefix "O" indicating "male descendant of", plus the personal byname Bron i.e. Bran, raven. The O'Broins, like their neighbours the O'Tooles, were particularly noteworthy for their resistance to foreign aggression, and they continued to inaugurate native chiefs up to the end of the 16th Century. The seat of their chiefs was at Ballinacor, County Wicklow, and the territory over which they held sway was known as Crioch Branach. The celebrated "Leabhar Branach" or "Book of the O'Byrnes" deals with the exploits of the clan in the 16th Century. Alderman Alfred Byrne (1882 - 1956), a distinguished recent member of the clan, was ten times Lord Mayor of Dublin. The Byrne Coat of Arms is a red shield with a chevron between three silver dexter hands couped at the wrist, the Crest being a mermaid with comb and mirror proper. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Fiacha Mac Hugh O'Byrne, military leader, which was dated 1544 - 1595, in the "Historical Records of Dublin", during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1 of England, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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