Recorded as Dignam, Dignum, Dignan, Duigenam, Deignan, and others, this is an Irish surname. It originates from the ancient pre 9th century Gaelic name O'Duibhgeannain, tanslating as 'The descendant of the sons of the black haired chief' (or similar), and it is claimed that the clan were the poets and bards to the leading clans of the counties Leitrim, Roscommon, and Longford. Their principle place of residence was the village of Kilronan, County Roscommon, where they were the 'erenaghs'. This was a hereditary position and can be described as the keepers of the church lands, and collectors of tithes. It is also claimed that the clan maintained a school of bards at Castle Fore, Leitrim, where they were resident in 1636, Peregrine O'Duigenan who died in 1664 being one of the Four Masters. Many of the clan served in King James 11's Catholic Army of 1690 which failed to defeat William 111 of Orange and England at the battle of the Boyne. In consequence the clan was dispossessed of its lands, the prefix O' was also dropped after the defeat, and in this case it has never been replaced. Although the clan has produced many members of the Catholic clergy, it still suffered widely during the Irish Famine of 1846 - 1848. Amongst the name holders that emigrated were Catholine Dignan, who is recorded in the shipping registers as 'nought years old' and who left Ireland on July 13th 1846, on the ship 'Charles Humberton of Liverpool', bound for New York. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Magnus O'Duigenan, which was dated 1415. He was the compiler of 'The book of Ballymote'. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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