The Gorman and Doepker Genealogies
The Ancestry, Decendency, and History of the Families of
Thomas Leo Gorman and Hildegarde Doepker

A Brief History of Ireland

The Celts
The Vikings
The English Take Over
Revolution, Civil War and Independence

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In order to understand and appreciate the origins of the Gorman family, it is important to view it within the context of the entire history of Ireland. For that reason, I include this section. Ireland is like a fairy tale, and in many respects its history makes it so. The soul of the Irish people is a blend of many different races and cultures, and each has it’s own role in making us who we are.

According to legend and mythology, the first inhabitants of Ireland were the Fomorians, a supposedly misshapen race of people of unknown origin. Following these were the Partholonians, who were, as the story goes, entirely wiped out by a plague. The Partholonians were followed by the Nemedians, who also were said to have died of a plague or had been driven off the island by the Fomorians.

What is known from the archaeological evidence is that the first inhabitants arrived in Ireland approximately 9000 years ago, about 1000 years after the end of the last ice age, in what is known as the Mesolithic period. In all likelihood, they came from England or Scotland, bringing with them stone-age technology and a generally hunting-gathering way of life. During the Neolithic period, between 4000 and 2000 BC, another group arrived, introducing agriculture, domesticated livestock, and handcrafts such as basket making and pottery. They also began the practice of burying their dead in large ceremonial tombs made from stone slabs, indicating a rich spiritual life. The most active time of tomb building was during this period. Bronze Age peoples arrived around 2000 BC, bringing with them metalworking technology and more advanced agricultural and construction techniques. Their tombs were characterized by long passages or chambers lined with stones, similar to the famous tomb in Newgrange.

The Celts

The next four incursions of peoples into Ireland were all of Celtic origin. Though only loosely confederated, the Celts were one of the most powerful nations in Europe from the 2nd millennium BC and throughout the Greco-Roman period. Their empire encompassed most of central Europe between the Rhine and Danube rivers. The first Celts in Ireland were the Priteni, who arrived after 600 BC. They were followed by the Euerni (sometimes called Firbolgs), who came from northern Gaul (now Belgium) around 500 BC. Certain legends had it that they came from Greece, where they had been enslaved and, having escaped in the captured ships of their masters, conquered Ireland. The origins of the word Ireland are derived from the word Euerni (or Erin).

The Laghinians, or Tuatha De Danann, arrived from the area of Gaul that is now Normandy and settled in Leinster (from Laighi) around 300 B.C., forcing the Firbolgs into the northern and western parts of the island. In a famous battle at Southern Moytura (on the Mayo-Galway border), the Tuatha De Danann defeated the Firbolgs to cement their dominance on the island. Unlike the Firbolgs, the Tuatha De Danann were highly civilized and skilled in the crafts.

The fourth Celtic peoples to arrive in Ireland were the Gaodhail (or Gaedhal, from which the word Gaelic is derived), or Milesians, named after their fabled leader, Milish or Mile or Milesius. They arrived from Southern Gaul, in Spain, around 150 B.C., fleeing Roman advances in that area. The Firbolgs and Tuatha De Danann were not exterminated by the Gaodhail but were dominated by the less numerous but more powerful Milesian aristocracy and soldiers with superior weapons of iron. The Milesians brought the Gaelic language and soon were intermarrying with the native peoples. According to myth, the sons of Milesius, (H)Eber and (H)Eremon, defeated the Tuatha De Danann at the battle of Taillte, dividing the rulership of Ireland between them, Eremon getting the northern half of the island, Eber the south, and their brother Ir, the northeastern corner. The latter’s name has occassionally been proposed as an alternative source of the word Ireland - Ir’s land.

These various Celtic groups ruled Ireland throughout the first millennium as a patchwork of more-or-less feudal states. The country began to be heavily Christianized, starting in the early fifth century and accelerated starting in AD 432 with the arrival of St. Patrick. St. Patrick was a christianized slave of the Romans in Britain who brought Christianity with him when he escaped his captors. Two centuries later, virtually the entire island was rid of pagan religions. The Irish became the most christianized people in Europe as the hills proliferated with churches and monasteries. These centers of learning are often credited with helping preserve western thought and learning through the Middle Ages following the fall of the Roman Empire. The primary holders of this information, the monks and abbots of the monastic orders, often carried this knowledge to other parts of Europe.

The Vikings

The Vikings arrived in Ireland in roughly AD 795, raiding shore-lying communities in the southeast and west, finally establishing settlements, primarily in Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, and Wexford. They continued increasing the size of their settlements until the middle of the tenth century, first by Vikings from Norway, and then from Denmark. Slowly, Viking culture and the native Celtic culture intertwined but did not entirely merge. Inter-tribal feuding continued amongst the Celtic peoples, finally culminating in the triumph of Brian Boru as the first High King of Ireland. By the battle of Clontarf, in AD 1014, his power had coalesced and, backed by alliances with Viking armies from Waterford and Limerick, succeeded in the unification of the Irish tribes, though at the cost of his own life. The following century saw the rulership of Ireland destabilized as a result, passing between members of the O’Brien, O’Neill, and O’Connor families.

When Rory O’Connor, king of Connacht, was challenged by an alliance of the O’Neills, led by Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn, and Dermot MacMurrough (Diarmait Murchadha), king of Leinster, the O’Neills once again held power in Ireland. Following Mac Lochlainn’s death in 1166, O’Connor drove MacMurrough from Ireland. MacMurrough, wishing to regain power, went to England, where he petitioned the Norman King Henry II of England for assistance in regaining his territories. He struck a bargain with Richard fitz Gilbert de Clare, earl of Pembroke (also known as Strongbow), Robert FitzStephen, and others in exchange for land and his daughter’s hand to Strongbow.

The English Take Over

The Norman forces of Strongbow landed in 1169 and succeeded in capturing Leinster. In 1171, Henry II landed more troops in Waterford, initiating the long-term occupation of Ireland. By 1200, Henry and his successor, John, had parceled out and granted pieces of the island to their nobles and followers. Over the next two centuries, a series of English barons and governors and a number of Irish families would rule Ireland, including the O’Neills, O’Briens, O’Donnells, and O’Connors. A brief invasion by the Scots Edward and Robert Bruce in 1315 to 1318 did little to change the status quo. Like all other invaders before them, the Normans began to blend into the Irish – speaking Irish and intermarrying, despite the issuance of the Statutes of Kilkenny in 1366 which forbade such activities. By 1500, the area controlled by the English crown had shrunk to a small area around Dublin known as The Pale, with the rest of Ireland dominated by either Anglo-Irish earls or the various Irish families in their native districts.

In 1534 Henry VIII of England began a campaign to subjugate the Irish and bring them more under the control of the crown. He established English laws, confiscated lands belonging to Irish and Norman lords, replaced persons in governing positions with those loyal to him, and declared the Catholic religion, to which most Irish belonged, unlawful. Finally, he began a policy of creating plantations of English and Scottish natives in Ireland, especially in the north, which would continue for the next 100 years. Henry’s successor, Elizabeth, as well as her successor, James 1, continued Henry’s policy of handing over Irish lands to English landowners and reducing the Irish populace to relative serfdom. The Nine Years War, an uprising led by Hugh O’Neill in an attempt to wrest control of Irish lands from the English, lasted from 1594 to 1603 and ended in a crushing defeat at the battle of Kinsale, despite help from the Spanish. When O’Neill and a hundred other Irish barons fled Ireland in 1607, virtually all hope for an Irish state left with them. In their absence, most of the lands of Ulster were confiscated and a flood of English and Scottish Protestant settlers moved in, with the blessing of James I. Known as the "Ulster Plantation", the results of this act can still be felt today.

The Irish rose in revolt again in 1641, led at first by Rory O’Moore and later by Owen Roe O’Neill. They had success in forcing the Protestant English off their lands in much of Ireland, especially in Ulster. The fighting continued through most of the next eight years until the arrival of Oliver Cromwell, in 1649. Sent by Charles I with a mandate to subdue the Irish at all cost, he used whatever means necessary. Cromwell left a path of death and destruction across Ireland not seen there before or since. Cromwell’s scorched earth policy left, by some estimates, between half and two-thirds of the populace of Ireland dead over the course of the next five years, either by starvation, disease, or wholesale executions undertaken by Cromwell and his successors. Following this, virtually all Irish-held land was given to English Protestants. By 1665, only twenty percent of Irish land was owned by the Irish themselves, with less that five percent in Ulster. The Irish were not allowed to live east of the river Shannon.

When the Catholic James II became king of England in 1685, and deposed three years later, the Irish people had recovered sufficiently to start another revolt, and asked James to lead them. They were defeated in 1690 at the battle of the Boyne and later at Aughrim, ending the revolt. What followed were the years of the "Penal Laws". Under these acts, decreed by the Treaty of Limerick, Irish Catholics were not allowed to vote, own or lease land, bear arms, have a profession, live in a town, or own a horse worth more than five pounds. They were denied the rights of education, practicing their faith, or even passing their own laws. This was followed by a famine in 1739 which killed an estimated 400,000. Many of the penal laws remained in force until the 1790’s.

Spurred on by successful revolts in the United States and France, the Irish attempted once again to throw off their English yoke in 1798 and 1802. Both were aborted attempts that never got off the ground when promised help from France never materialized in force. The result was the Act of Union of 1801 that essentially stated that Ireland and England were a single country, with the English parliament making laws for both countries. The Irish themselves were not allowed to hold office in that parliament until 1829. Another insult was the requirement that all landholders and lessors to pay a portion of their income as tithing to the Protestant church, whether they were Protestant or not. A stipulation in the law held that only land that was cultivated was subject to tithing so, in effect, the wealthy English landowners became exempt.

Despite severe repression during the first half of the nineteenth century, the population of the country exploded, nearly doubling in size in that period to 7 million people. The populace had become dependent on a single crop – the potato – as a means of sustenance as virtually all others were grown for export by the landowners. The first potato blight occurred in 1845, followed by similar blights in 1846, and 1847, all cause by a fungus that caused the potatoes to wither and turn black in the ground. Inaction on the part of the English government in the face of the crisis, whether intentional or not, sealed the fate of the Irish people. An estimated one million people died of starvation and disease as badly needed foods like grain were exported from Ireland in an effort by the landholders to offset the losses they incurred as a result of the declines in their labor force. Evictions were common, as landowners were ill-equipped to handle either the economic or human suffering brought on by the famine. American corn of little nutritive value was imported to Ireland and sold to the starving populace, but it was too little, too late. During and following the famine, nearly 2 million people left Ireland for the United States and other countries. The population of the country has never recovered.

Revolution, Civil War and Independence

The last half of the nineteenth century through the early part of the twentieth saw Ireland attempting at least economic recovery. Primarily through political means, many worked to have the laws changed that had put them in their predicament. The economy had been completely shattered and would take considerable effort to repair and some were willing to take action by more violent means. Taking advantage of perceived weakness in the English military due to the First World War, a number of Irish revolutionaries occupied government buildings in Dublin on Easter Monday, April 24th 1916. The so-called "Easter Uprising" was squashed by British forces in less than a week, but the action had galvanized the people to the cause of nationhood. Ireland declared itself a republic and began to set up a government. After the end of the First World War, Britain found its army freed up and so troops and munitions began pouring into Ireland to restore British rule. To counter this, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) formed as a guerilla army to harass the British troops who were harassing the Irish people.

A treaty was ratified on January 7, 1922 that gave Ireland limited autonomy within the British Commonwealth and the county of Ulster it’s own parliament, as a separate state. However, members of the Irish government split over terms of the treaty, some accepting autonomy with others pushing for a full republic. As the British army began it’s evacuation, forces for and against the treaty took up positions in Dublin and other cities. The IRA occupied the Four Courts building in April and was routed by pro-treaty forces soon after, completely destroying the building and the irreplaceable records held within. Fighting remained sporadic through the remainder of 1922 and into 1923 until an agreement was singed in April putting an end to the fighting. A constitution was drawn up and over the next two decades, Ireland evolved into the self-governing republic it had desired for the previous 750 years. It became a state in 1949.


Entrance to the passage tomb at Newgrange
Donore, County Meath, constructed approximately 5000 years ago.

St. Patrick


Oliver Cromwell


Illustration of a family being evicted
From The Illustrated London News, 1849.


Flag of the Republic of Ireland


Coat of Arms of the Republic of Ireland
Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

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