O'Doherty family

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O'Doherty family
Ó Dochartaigh
Region Ireland
District Inishowen
Ancestry Northern Uí Néill
Ethnicity Irish
O'Doherty family has no chief, and is an armigerous clan
Historic seat Carrickabraghy Castle

The Doherty family (Irish: Clann Ua Dochartaig[1] (also Ó Dochartaigh and Ní Dhochartaigh)) is an Irish clan based in County Donegal in the north of the island of Ireland.

Like clans in other cultures, Irish clans such as the Dohertys are divided into many septs and regional families. In the modern day, there are 140 noted variations in spelling of the name Ó Dochartaigh, of which Doherty (with or without the "Ó") is the most common anglicisation.[2]

Naming conventions[edit]

Male Daughter Wife (Long) Wife (Short)
Ó Dochartaigh[3] Ní Dhochartaigh Bean Uí Dhochartaigh Uí Dhochartaigh


The Dohertys are named after Dochartach (fl. 10th century), a member of the Cenél Conaill dynasty which in medieval Irish genealogy traced itself to Niall of the Nine Hostages (see Uí Néill). [2]

The later chiefs of the clan, elected by tanistry under the Brehon Laws, were called the Lords of Inishowen as they were pushed from their original territory in the Laggan valley area of present-day Donegal, into the vacuum left by the end of Meic Lochlainn rule in the northernmost peninsula of the island of Ireland.

Modern history[edit]

Newgate, Dublin. 1608. Displaying the heads of Irish rebels Felim Riabhach McDavitt (left) and his foster-son Cahir O'Doherty (right).

Following the Flight of the Earls in 1607, the chief of the Dohertys, Sir Cahir O'Doherty, rose up in the following year against English domination in Ireland and the plantation of Protestant settlers in what is known as O'Doherty's Rebellion. Provoked by the English Governor George Paulet,[4] Cahir and his followers attacked and destroyed Derry and burned several castles before ultimately being defeated at the Battle of Kilmacrennan. After this loss the family lost much of its power and influence. By 1784, the leading branch of the family fled the country. The chiefs have been absent from Ireland ever since.

During the 1990s, the Irish government offered some limited recognition to the Chiefs of the most ancient clans, calling them the Chiefs of the Name and operating under primogeniture rather than tanistry. The chieftainship of the Dohertys was claimed by Ramon Ó Doherty of Spain.

After a scandal[5] involving bogus claims of Terence MacCarthy, to be the chief of that clan, the status of the chiefs in Ireland is now uncertain.

Today there are Doherty families in many parts of Ireland, with primary concentration in their homeland of the Inishowen Peninsula, Co. Donegal and the vicinity of Derry. The Doherty's are an important part of the Irish diaspora. To this end, the family continues through voluntary organisations, exploring family and Irish history and hosting regular family reunions.[6] The genealogy of historical O'Doherty's are under research by this organisation.[7] A Doherty (O'Dochartaigh) surname project at Family Tree DNA is using the latest tools in genetic genealogy by examining the Y chromosome in living male O'Dochartaigh and variant spelling testers.[8] The Doherty Surname Group's continuing goal is "to break through brick walls in our research and ultimately discover the origins of our ancestors and relationships with others bearing the Doherty (and variants) surname."[8]

The Ó Dochartaigh Clann Association was formed in the 1980s by a collaboration of American and Canadian clanfolk with its base in Michigan.[9] It operated from Inch Island, Co, Donegal from 1985 until 1999, and from Buncrana from 1999 until 2007. The association is now based in Michigan again, offering international membership and a newsletter.

Doherty reunions have been hosted in Ireland every five years since 1985, by the Ó Dochartaigh Irish Reunion Committee (an amalgamation of the reunion committees from Inishowen and Derry). A special reunion was held in July 2008, commemorating the 1608 death of Cahir Ó Doherty. The next reunion is scheduled for 23-28 July 2020.[10] In 2005 the reunion hosted the film premiere of Roots of a Man – "A Journey Through The Land of the Clan O'Doherty".[11][12]

A number of castles in Inishowen Donegal are considered "O' Doherty castles" as they were, at one time, in the possession of a Doherty, such as Carrickabraghy Castle.[13]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]