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Origins of O'Molloy name


In the book “The History of Ballyboy, Kilcormac and Killoughy" (by Rev. Andrew Shaw) it is written that the surname O’Molloy appears for the first time in the Irish Annals in the year 1018: ‘Maelmuad hUa Maeilmuaid, King of Firceall was forcibly taken out of the stone church of Durrow by Muirchertach Ua Carraigh, and slain in Magh Lena’.

A surname is a family name, common to all members of the family and their descendants, and their use became general in Ireland between 900 and 1000 A.D. Up until that period, people had only a personal name or, as we would say, a Christian name. A man’s name, for example, would be simply John. If there were two or more Johns in the neighbourhood, then his father’s name was also given - John, son of James, and if necessary his grandfather’s name was added.

About 900 A.D., however, due perhaps to the expanding population, people began to select the name of some distinguished ancestor, such as a king or a chief, and make that the family name of themselves and their descendants. For example, the Kings of Tara were descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages and so, when some of their descendants adopted a surname they called themselves O Neill - the ‘ O ‘ (Ui) standing for ‘ of the race of’ or descendants of’ Niall.

The chiefs of Firceall could have also chosen O Neill as their family name, as they too were descendants of Niall. Instead they chose a more immediate ancestor: Maelmuad (noble chieftain), a name which appears in the list of the chiefs of Firceall in the year 918 A.D. The second Maelmuad was a grandson of the first and he is referred to in the Annals as Maelmuad 0 Maelmhuaid - ‘Molloy grandson of Molloy.’

From then onwards the surname of the chiefs of Firceall was O Molloy, the ‘ O ‘ standing for descendant of’; and Firceall itself was known to the English when they came as ‘O Molloy’s Country.’ Originally the second m ‘in the Irish version of the name was pronounced, but in the English version it was dropped.

Today there are many derivations of the O’Molloy name including Molloy, Malloy, Mulloy, Maloy, Molloye, Mulloye, Milloy, Miloy, Melloy, Meloy, Miley, Millea, Molwye, Molley, Moloy, Muloy and others.

O'Molloy Clan Association - Molloy Family Tree
Firceall, County Offaly, Midlands, Ireland.
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