“The O’Nolan Clan is one of the oldest families in Ireland, so old in fact that our origins are lost in the mist of time. But the old Druid genealogists preserved our lineages back to Eocaidh Fionn of Fothart, the son of Feidhlimidh Reachtmhar, King of Ireland in 164-174 AD, and even further back to Cobhthach Carol mBreagh, a King of Ireland who ruled from 591 to 541 BC. The ancient Irish annalists referred to our family as Ó Nualláin Forharta Laighean, or the ‘ancient ones of Leinster’. It is believed that the O’Nolans were settled in Leinster long before the Milesian Celts ever arrived, and are probably descended from the mythical De Danaans. Our roots are deep indeed penetrating to the very soul of Ireland.” (words from Tom Nolan, first Chief of the modern-day O’Nolan Clan, taken from a brochure prepared for the 1998 O`Nolan Clan Gathering).
In pre-Norman days, the Nolan Clan Chiefs held high office under the Kings of Leinster, acting as organizers for large events, such Gaelic summer games or the investiture of a new King for Leinster. Their territory extended over parts of current-day Carlow and Wexford counties. In Norman times, this became known as the barony of Forth. However, as Norman presence and influence in Ireland increased, territories controlled by the Nolan Chief diminished. By the mid-1600’s, when Cromwell came, the Nolans had lost much of their lands mostly through sale of their lands to other families such as the Kavanaghs. At the time, however, there were still a few large Nolan landowners most notably the Ballykealy Nolans (Ballon area) and the Shangary Nolans (Drumphea area). The Ballykealy Nolans lost their lands through confiscation in 1652-1653 but the Shangarry Nolans of the Drumphea area seem to have hung on to their lands for much longer, apparently surviving the confiscations. It was also at this time that displaced Nolan families, having lost their lands, made their way to counties Galway and Mayo to start anew.
Over the next 200 years, as troubles of all sorts mounted in the homeland, Irish families began to emigrate, first in small numbers then finally peaking in the mid-1800’s with the potato famine.
For a more extensive review of Nolan family history and stories from around the world you are invited to browse through the knowledge bases of Nolan-related information found at the NolanFamilies.org Website and maintained by Roger Nowlan, a long-time clan member and newsletter editor (2004-2018).