My research into the genealogy and history of the Magennises is ongoing. To date I have managed to find the graves of my great-grandparents, William and Elizabeth McGuinness, who are buried in Newtown cemetery at Trim, County Meath, and whose headstone is inscribed in the Irish language. My own branch of the family has its origins in county Meath, and the reasons for this, as far as I am aware, are as follows: It appears that in the year 1690, one of my ancestors left the Magennis territory of Iveagh in County Down, and travelled southward to Oldbridge, in County Meath, to fight on the side of the Catholic king James against his Protestant nephew William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne. For one reason or another, following the battle, he did not return to the ancient patrimony of the Mournes, but settled somewhere in the area, and there are still quite a few McGuinnesses to be found there today. Another as yet unnamed ancestor is said to have been killed at the battle of Tara in 1798, during the United Irish Rebellion of 1798 against English rule.
The history of my family is a great personal interest of mine,and I am constantly trying to find out more regarding my ancestors as time and the availability of relevant documents allows. In 1996 I had the privilege of meeting a young lady by the name of Maria del Mar Servet-Magenis, a direct descendant of one of the Magennis chieftains who left Ireland during what is called "The Flight of the Earls" in the early 17th century, when many heads of the old Gaelic families chose military service with the kingdoms of various European countries, rather than remain in Ireland having been dispossessed by the English of much of their land. As you can see, the original spelling of Maria's name has changed somewhat with the passage of time, being possessed of just one "n", and it also includes her matriarchal family name, which is the custom in Spain. She had come to Ireland with a friend of hers to visit the same sites in County Down which I had seen just a year before. She told me that there is a small graveyard close to where she lives which contains only the remains of Magennises. To realise that we were distant relatives, separated by time and geography, yet members of the same illustrious clan whose ancestors may have migrated across the wide ocean to Ireland from Spain in the remote past, was truly fascinating.
With our meeting, it seems as if Magennis history has, in a sense, completed a long and circuitous journey, from the time the Milesians , the Celts of Spain, first gazed from their lofty tower of Breoghan, at Carunna, (the modern-day city of La Coruña, in Galicia) towards the distant horizon to the north, and dreamed of a time when they would set out in search of the fabled island of Inisfáil...The Isle of Destiny...The Ireland in which I live today.
The document below is a page from the 12th-century "Leabhar Laighin", or Book of Leinster, detailing the genealogy of the clan Magennis (Mac Aonghusa) and tracing its descent back to Conall Cearnach , chief of the Knights of the Red Branch, at Eamhain Macha, the ancient capital of Ulster, in the first century A.D. The caption at the head of the page is written in an archaic dialect of the Irish language, unknown to many modern-day students, as I found out while trying to have it deciphered. It was eventually translated into English by a native Irish speaker from the Aran Islands, a Mr. Fitzgerald, for whose assistance I remain most grateful. The text reads as follows:
Two descendants of Ir principally have descendants in Ireland;
That is, Conall Cearnach and Féargus Mac Róigh.
From Conall Cearnach are descended Mac Aonghusa (Mc Guinness)
and Ó'Mórdha (O'More or Moore). From Féargus are descended
Ó'Connchúbhair (O'Connor) of Ciarraí (County Kerry)
and Ó'Connchúbhair of Corcomroe, and the descendants of Ferghal
and all their genealogical branches.
The genealogy of Mac Aonghusa, lords of Uíbh Eachach (Iveagh),
down to whom we will give here the descendants of Conall Cearnach:"
I am grateful to the staff of Trinity College Library in Dublin for the copy of the document above.
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