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You have arrived at an ancient Irish fortress containing the information of which you seek. Behind these stone walls are the names of the original forefathers of the McLaughlin family.

The McLaughlin and the O'Neill families have been denoted by historians to be "the oldest traceable families in Europe." How did this come about? By the passing down, recording, and preservation of oral and written records by Irish "filads", Christian monks, and annalists.

Most early cultures start out relying on the art of speech to convey, and with certain memory tricks such as rhythm, to preserve its messages. Our ancestors' beginnings were no different. At the very beginning of Irish history, it would seem, there was already nostalgia for an earlier time. There was a strong sense that current events could be justified -- or explained -- by knowledge of past events. Therefore, the passing down of each generation's oral history was done with resolve as it was considered very important, and accuracy was emphasized. Before writing was widespread in Ireland, a class of men was trained to memorize the hereditary history of their clan and all the descendants from the founder or progenitor without error or omission. They were called "filads".

After Christianity came to Ireland in the 5th century, monks and scribes recorded all of the oral and written history and pedigrees they could find. After the Roman Empire fell during this period and the rest of Europe went into the Dark Ages, Irish Monasteries flourished. Thanks to the work of the monks in the following three centuries, the history and written treasures of Western civilization that were lost from the European continent were recorded, preserved, and than reintroduced back into a more stable European culture following the rise of Charlemagne.

Irish monks supported claims to kingship or property -- and gratified the egos of their noble patrons -- by plotting their line of descent from Adam and Eve. Thus, the genealogies in the Irish annals were created in the pattern of genealogies of the Old Testament.

Over the centuries, many annals of early Irish history have been compiled. A good framework of names, dates, and chronologies, of these times is the Annala Rioghacta Eireann, or the Annals of the Four Masters. The chief compiler of the work was Michael O'Clery, a brother of the Order of St. Francis, who was born in 1580. He was sent to Ireland to gather material for a history of the country. He was not a priest, and apparently was allowed access, among other repositories of history, to the library of Archbishop James Ussher of the Church of Ireland. Ussher had earned an international reputation as a meticulous scholar in biblical chronology and church history.

O'Clery's three collaborators were Farfassa O'Mulconry, Peregrine O'Duigenan, and Peregrine O'Clery. After a search of fifteen years throughout the country for the most important of the Irish documents, in 1632 these "four masters" settled in the Franciscan convent of Drowes, County Donegal and produced their Annals. The great Irish scholar, John O'Donovan, made a classic translation of the Annals in which the Irish text is translated into English.

Thanks to the Irish "filads", monks, and annalists, the information about our McLaughlin forefathers has survived the centuries.

Search for our McLaughlin Ancestors . . .