Roots: The Mighty Moran Clan

The Moran coat of arms

By Maeve Molloy, Editorial Assistant
April / May 2008

The anglicized “Moran” can be traced to multiple distinct Irish names, and though commonly linked to County Mayo, forms of the name originated throughout middle Ireland in Counties Leitrim, Galway, Kildare, Offaly, and more. Moran is so heavily anglicized – from the French “Morrin” to the Irish “Moran” – that exact knowledge of each Moran’s lineage may be hard to trace. Most Morans will find it helpful in tracing their roots if they can determine the particular county or region of Ireland to which their family belongs.
The ancient form of Moran is the Gaelic Ó Moráin, from a diminutive of mór, meaning “big.” Roughly translated, Ó Moráin means descendant of the “Great One” or “little big man.” The Ó Moráins hailed from Mayo, notably in the northwestern area of the modern town of Ballina where the ancient kingdom of the Ó Móráin sept is believed to have been. After the Norman invasion of 1169, the Ó Móráins lost control of their territory to the Burkes and Barretts. Today Morans are located mainly in the southern region of Mayo and Galway, suggesting that the Ó Móráins migrated southward after their defeat.

Among the many different spelling variations of the name is O Moghrain, which was earlier O Mughrain, and connected to O Mughriain of Ui Maine, who was chief of Criffon in Co. Galway, which explains the presence of the Moran name in this area.

A third ancient form of the Moran name is Ó Murcháin, from the Gaelic “murchadha,” meaning “sea-warrior.” In modern times, Ó Murcháin is most often translated as Morgan or Moran (as a contraction of Morgan) though it has also taken the forms “Morahan” and “Morrin.”  The ancient Ó Murcháin family hailed from eastern Offaly, near Kildare.

The Morans have distinguished themselves as statesmen, artists, athletes, businessmen and performers. Among notable Morans is the well-known folk-history figure Michael Moran (1794-1856), better known as Zozimus. A blind musician, Michael made his living on the streets performing ballads and recitations of famous works. A monument stands in his honor in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.
Daniel Keys Moran, a prolific American writer and author of The Tales of the Continuing Time series, is well known in the contemporary science fiction literary community, and has had several short essays and stories featured on National Public Radio.

The Morans have had influence on gender equality as well: Frances Moran (1893-1977) was the first woman Professor at Trinity College Dublin, and the first woman on the board of the college. She is also remembered as the first Irishwoman to become a senior counsel, and for blazing a trail for Irishwomen in academia and politics.

American actress Erin Moran holds a place in the hearts of classic television enthusiasts for her role as Joannie Cunningham on the sitcom Happy Days.  Erin Moran followed the sitcom with her own series Joannie Loves Chachi as well as appearances on Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote.

Irish footballer Kevin Moran (born 1954) is the only sports player to have won both an All-Ireland Gaelic Football Medal and an English FA Cup Medal. He played Gaelic football with the Dublin team from 1975 to 1977 and won two All-Ireland medals before joining Manchester United and winning the FA Cup in 1983 and 1985. The dual star played for the Irish national soccer team 71 times.

Morans also distinguished themselves in the artistic field. The work of American landscape painter Thomas Moran (English-born, American Hudson River School 1837-1926) can be seen in museums throughout the country, including the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco. One of his most famous images is of the Grand Canyon.

During the American Civil War, Union soldier Lt. Charles H. Moran took part in a daring escape from a Confederate prison in Richmond, Virginia. He was one of 109 escapees who crawled through a rat-infested tunnel to make their getaway. Fifty-nine succeeded in reaching Union lines, 48 were recaptured, including Moran, and two drowned in the nearby James River. Moran later wrote, “No tongue can tell how the poor fellows passed among the squealing rats, enduring the sickening air, the deathly chill, the horrible interminable darkness.”
Another member of the clan who made a great escape – from the porn industry – is Cissy Moran, the former Playboy and Hustler centerfold who embraced Christ and became a social worker.

On the other end of the community service scale, we have Father Moran, a Jesuit missionary from Chicago who went to India in 1919 and befriended Mahatma Gandhi.

And finally, the most famous Moran in Irish-American circles today is Thomas Moran who has managed to have a hugely successful career in corporate America while still finding time for many humanitarian and community causes. We are proud to name Tom as Irish America’s  “Irish-American of the Year, 2008.”

33 Responses to “Roots: The Mighty Moran Clan”

  1. Kayla Moran says:

    Do you guys know when the Moran family traveled to Ecuador?

  2. Salvador Moran says:

    “Love been a Moran’

  3. Jessica Moran says:

    When did the Moran’s travel to the US? I’ve been told many different time periods from all the family I’ve spoken to.

    • Eme Moran says:

      I have our family tree from 1670’s until my nephews. This branch came from county Claire in the late1670’s to the USA.

      • Phil Moran says:

        If during your extensive research on your family you run into a HUGO MORAN who settled in Elsberry, MO in the early 1900’s I would very much appreciate a reply.
        Warm regards,
        Phi Moran

  4. Kieran Moran says:

    Some of my relationship went to America after 1911.

  5. Patrick Moran says:

    Patrick Go Lucky : )

  6. Edward Moran , but known as Eamon says:

    UNCLE FRANK( FRANCIS) WENTto the usa , new york circ 1927 at the agre of circ 19, his brother Martin either went before him of just after, all contact with his side has been lost, anyone out there related to a Martin Moran who went to the U.S AROUND THE SAME TIME AS FRANK ?

    • Regina Christmas says:

      My family has the same names but Francis Patrick, (my grandfather) was born in the US. His father Thomas came here as well as Thomas’ brother Martin. My grandfather Frank also had a brother named Martin. Thomas Moran married Mary Stevens. I also believe (from the uncanny resemblance in photos) that my great grandfather Thomas Moran is related to Paddy (Patrick) Moran, who is one of the forgotten ten. I have not been back to Ireland since his body was exhumed and given a proper burial but I do plan on making the cemetery in Dublin where he was properly laid to rest so many decades after his execution and prison burial a priority. I’m sure if I do my research, I’ll find other Moran’s from my family line that now live there too. I know I still have (now distant) relatives in Birr and I hope to connect with them more than anything!

  7. Gino Alvear says:

    I’m not hold the last name Moran . But I’m the grand-grand-grandson of Antonio Moran Ballester. Who burn early 19 century in Leon Spain. I did a DNA test and shows that I’m still carrying in my genes a 4% of Ireland &Scotland blood. 🙂

  8. Jose Adolfo Moran Montequin says:

    Los Moran que procedieron de Irlanda, llegaron a Gijon, España en los 700 dc. Y de alli se repartieron por toda España. Primero en Asturias y luego en Leon. Tambien un Moran se caso con una Buitron de Vizcaya y su descendencia, los Moran Buitron son los que fueron a Ecuador y luego Peru y Chile.

  9. Hali M Moran says:

    With all the different Morans here, I wonder if we all pronounce our last names differently considering how many times I’ve heard someone butcher it in regards to my last name lol.

  10. Joel C Moran says:

    I’ve been told that we were black Irish has anyone ever heard that term before?

    • Brenda Moran says:

      The black Irish referred to those with black hair and dark eyes; thought to be
      decedents of the Spanish. I don’t think the term is used in Ireland.

      • Sid Meyer says:

        I was told by a Moran that they were Black Irish, descendants of Spanish sailors washed up on Irish shores from the destruction of the Spanish Armada. The Irish hid the “Morenos” from the English. The Spanish had no way to get back home and therefore many stayed and married Irish girls. Moran is also said to come from a form of Irish dialect meaning sea warrior. Both stories would validate the Irish/Spanish roots of at least some of those carrying the Moran name. There are other roots for the name as well, bit this would explain the Black Irish with their darker features from the Spanish.

      • Neil Moran says:

        My grand father from Athea Co. Limerick lreland was known as black Con (Cornelius)

    • Sèan ò mòràin ( JOHN MORAN ) says:

      We are not black Irish from the Spanish armada fleet. We were here in Ireland from BC and is recorded in myths and legends of Celts..the first known Moran was a judge from pre Roman times. Christianised history destroyed,changed and wiped away our country’s history when the Roman English Patrius or st.pateick as he’s now known came in there ships and forced there beliefs onto us as they did with the rest of the world. The snakes he so called removed from Ireland referes to our true heritage and druid and Celtic beliefs. Our true god’s and ppl of Ireland came in 5 waves. The first were the gods of the sea the fo moraine, then the dagda then the human who joined with the dagda and went to war against the fo moraine. The fo moraine were driven back to the sea untill the second war where the fo morains won but sick of war left to protect the seas and left the dagda gods to rule over the human. Then the forth wave of human came and finally the fith being the pre Roman times. Eventually the Christian cult after taking most of the world came to our lands and led by the bishop patrius or st.oatrick as he’s now known led the Roman Brits and done here what they done to the rest of the world. Killed those who opposed and wiped out the so called snakes the Christian version of history teaches which were our true beliefs and heritage. We believed in the druid and Celtic gods but being seen as barbarians we were raped murdered and pillaged into surrendering our beliefs and every year now we celebrate the foreign invasion and killing if our heritage as if it was a good thing. Centuries past and the old ways being list to time; so the now all we know is the Christianised version of our history and the world for that matter. Since 1200BC we have been here and remain maybe the last Celtic country; but the people have forgotten what being Celtic actually is. They associate Celt with Christianity, that’s what the Christian version of history has done. It was only when the Leinster king after being usurped and fled Eire ran to the new found land if the Anglo Saxon Brian who too were Celt,pikt and Celt untill the Romans came saw divided but couldn’t conquer. When that Leinster king received the help of the Welsh lord that married his daughter to secure an alliance that opened the door for the British to come and create a strong hold along the eastern sea line creating war and genecide for over 1000yrs. Using us as slaves, taxing our people after taking our lands and then taxing the poor for being poor. Also the so called black famine was no such thing. It was genecide. As they taxed the poor and took there homes millions of Irish died if hunger while millions of tons of food farmed by Irish hands was being sent across the world to feed the British troops in the Afghan wars. But! Christianised history won’t teach you that. The same as they won’t teach you how they nearly wiped out the aborigines and kidnapped there children in the name of God and Christianised them. As they did in the Americas and Europe. Christian pope’s whispering war into the kings ears to go on conquests and invasions so they could fill the pope’s treasury and gain lands and wealth for themselves..The Jewish tree of relegion grew its branches of Christianity and Islam but Islam broke off and became the Jews biggest rivals so they used the relegion of Christianity to crusade and conquer and destabalize and convert or die. You won’t learn that in school history books around the world. I was born Catholic but researched my roots and I’m Celt to the core. Being Celtic is not being Christian or protestant or any other form of relegion. Being Celt is being free to choose, being free to live and fighting for kin and fellow Celt..relegion distorted it to create its own version of global history.

  11. Colin Donnelly says:

    Does anyone have any connections to a Eugene Moran who married a Mary Kaine in Drumrainey, Magherafelt. Their daughter Sarah Moran 1834-1899 was my great-great grandmother.
    The name Moran has been confused with Murphy, Morgan, Moore and even Morris down the centuries so it is difficult to distinguish my ancestor.
    Also the name Eugene is Latin for John or Owen which further complicates my search in baptismal and marriage registers.
    So if any Moran has ancestors from south Derry in Ulster, it would be great to hear form you.


    Colin Donnelly

  12. Colin Donnelly says:

    Does anyone share ancestry with a Eugene/Owen/John Moran/Morrin from Drumrainey, Magherafelt in Northern Ireland? He was my great-great-great grandfather. His daughter Sarah 1834-1899 married John Donnelly from Dunronan, Moneymore.

  13. Magaly Moran says:

    I’m from Guayaquil-Ecuador. I don’t know much about my father’s family, he was 60 years old when I born. His name was Bolivar Moran Jimenez. If sonebody us relative to this name, please let me know. Thank you.

    • Tatiana says:

      Hi Magaly. My Moran family is from Guayaquil. I’ve been doing my family tree so I will see if I find that name on it.

  14. Kris Moran says:

    Moran from Massachusetts only 3 generations from here. I’m told great grandpa was Tennessee or Kentucky. Anyone have any info be great.

    • Jess Moran says:

      I was told that my grandad’s grandparents were the ones that settled in KY. I’d be 5th gen for KY.

    • kirt moran says:

      my grandfather was from kentucky, i never met him, one of his wives divorced him, margeret moran by marriage of corse, moved to virginia with 4 boys, jerry, bruce, sonny, kent my father, he kicked her out of a car doing 55 mph when he found out she was pregnant with my father kent moran trying to abort him, i am the only son from 4 boys born in 72, i dont know my grandfather name but i listened to the horror stories my father and uncles told me about their childhood in kentucky, granddad was shot and killed by police for pulling a gun on 2 black kids sitting on his car when he came out of a convenient store, he was an abusive, alcaholic, wonenizer, nothing but trouble, he had 15 different families in kentucky, couldnt keep it in his pants, he was 100 percent irish, i asked for info about our family in kentucky and was told “DO NOT GO THERE, DO NOT REACH OUT, YOU WILL BE VERY DISSAPOINTED” i never did, i do regret this decision later in life

  15. Kieran Moran says:

    5 of my father’s family went to New York in the 1950’s .
    A number of my grandfathers family had gone around 1900
    I live in Kiltimagh Co Mayo.

  16. David Moran says:

    Hi all, my family majority are in Stockport.
    I’m looking to trace routes back to Ireland

    Can anyone help

  17. Jacqueline Waldron says:

    I am 4th generation Irish-American. My maternal grandfather was from James D. Weller of Clan Murphy, County Leitrim, and My maternal grandmother Mary Helen Moran Weller cam from Clan Moran, County Mayo, Ballina, Ireland. I have dates and ship name just not with me at the moment. Would appreciate any information on possible family still in Ireland. My grandmother often wrote to a cousin still living in Ireland in the 1970-1990’s. Thanks.

  18. Thomas Skoblicki says:

    I have an ancestor on my Mothers side, Edward Moran who was a Coach Gig & Car builder. I believe this was mid 1800’s. He had a shop on what was then Great Brunswick Street in Dublin.

  19. Dennis ‘Michael’ Moran says:

    Michael Moran was the host of the American Hotrodder and Hot Rod Magazine TV shows and the voice of Marine Voyager, Beach Patrol, and a huge host of other TV shows and specials. In addition, Moran is a licensed judge and course designer, equestrian sports TV producer, equestrian sports commentator and analyst. Moran has bred a World Champion American Quarter Horse at his farm in Oklahoma. He continues his equestrian career across the country.

  20. Andrea Odom says:

    My maiden name is Moran, my family lives in Virginia. I tried to go back on a family tree, but it stops at my great great grandfather Ernest Moran, I know he married a woman by the name Cuma, she is said to be Native American.

  21. Janna Richey says:

    I’m the great grand daughter of wade and Dora-bell Moran they just called her Moran. Her husband was the jailer of my town Glasgow Kentucky when it was a one room jail, like Mayberry. On the Andy Griffith show. They loved this little town. My mom knows more but that’s the just of the situation. Their daughter Dorothy Moran my favorite person my grandma had a sister named Evelyn, she had 10 kids who are Ronnie Connie Bonnie Doug Beverly Larry Shirley and that’s all I’ve got I’m missing a few I did good to get that many lol. I’ve met them but I can’t remember.

  22. Christopher Moran says:

    Anyone know about anything about the Irish being in Latin America? My grandfather born in El Salvador was originally supposed to have the last name of Castro but my great-grandmother whos maiden name was Moran changed it and now my dad and I have that last name, I never met her but from what my dad remembers was that she was very light skinned, any info please let me know, much appreciated.

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