A Brief Summary, and Directions to be Taken

Posted by Seoirse on 2/28/2011 in Commentary | Genaology | Ireland

Creation of the new Ferriter Family website moved me to a review of certain items that I had in hand, for inclusion on the site. A number of these are now posted as blog entries, including the following. None of these observations, speculations, and theories have been altered by the time that has passed between having been written and now…enjoy reading, and comment, please!


I have been exploring the very early and early period of Ferriter Family activity in Ireland, with a goal of illuminating aspects of our common history in that place.

The principal source for early references has been the various Calendars that exist. These Calendars are summary abstracts of various legal documents and court records extending forward from the earliest period of the English conquest in Ireland.

There are several types of these Calendars, each relating to a different type of “roll”, or official record. There exist Calendars of Plea Rolls, Justiciary Records, State Papers, Chancery, Exchequer, and Ecclesiastical Rolls.  Since the original documents (the rolls themselves) were in some cases later destroyed (mostly by fire – the Four Courts fire in 1922 was not the only fire), the Calendars are invaluable source material.

While it is very clear that Paul MacCotter did a wonderful research job, and before him, Father Michael Manning, and historian Thomas Westropp, an absolutely thorough investigation is not yet complete. While I will summarize in general terms what I am doing, it is important to keep in mind that there are document collections that have never been cataloged or calendared, and that while well preserved (mostly) are not yet explored.

As I have previously noted, quite a bit of the source material has been placed on-line. Google, the British Archives, and a number of other “free source” efforts have digitized a lot of material. Where I have not found something available in full text on-line, I have found on-line guidance to library locations, or purchase points. I am doubly fortunate to live within easy driving distance of the University of Wisconsin Memorial Library, which is a world – class repository.

So, what have I learned? Probably not much more than we already knew, but there certainly have been some tantalizing suggestions as to which way to go for greater enlightenment!

Ferriters arrived in Ireland as Le Furetur, in the second generation following the initial Anglo-Norman intrusion.  This early reference comes from the “Liber Niger Alani” , or The Black Book of Alan, which is ecclesiastical in nature. In this citation, both a Walter and a William are identified, with the Walter deceased, but having held property then left to his son William. This suggests that Walter was established as a Episcopal tenant on the Manor of Swords (near Dublin).

Within a very short time (perhaps two years), we find another Walter le Furetur in Kerry. For the next several decades, there are parallel citations appearing in the sources involving the family both in or near Dublin, and in West Kerry, in Ossurys Cantred, which includes Dunurlan, Marhin, and Dunquin. Within a generation, the lands long noted as associated with the Ferriter Family appear increasingly as being held by Ferriters.
Having become familiar with Paul MacCotter’s work, you will know that the early Ferriter Chiefs (family heads) filled the socio-economic niche of “knight of the shire”. In this capacity they held lands in return for various types of rent from the liege lord. There are a number of source documents that show le Fureter/le Fereter  (the name is used interchangeably, sometimes within the same document) as being as being of knightly rank – serving on Juries, having liberty of the gallows, and holding sizeable tracts of sub-tenanted land.

On the various entries on the rolls, the name Ferriter (in its several variations), appears alongside the names FitzGerald, Trant, Hussey, Cantillon, Barry, and others, all names that figure largely in the history of Munster, and some of whom became large and powerful families as time progressed.

There are on the order of 15 discrete citations found for the period 1240 – 1300,  with perhaps 10 in the period 1300 – 1380 and only a half-dozen or so covering the period from 1380 – 1550. I am not fixing hard numbers because I am not finished yet, but this is how it is shaping up. That’s only 30 or so informational artifacts coving three hundred years of time, and over half of those fall within the first century. There are about twenty different names involved, with three exceptions they are men.

I have reason to regard the earliest Walter le Furetur as the “prototypical Ferriter”, or the first immigrant (possibly the only immigrant).

I also have developed a pretty keen appreciation as to why the frequency of citations falls off. The principal reasons are the falling away of central authority, and the associated “hibernicization” of the Norman families, coupled with the eventual destruction of the House of Desmond in the 1570s. Since I am now aware of how much data was brought forward by the House of Ormond, I can only realize that it mimics what was lost when Desmond fell, and all of the abbeys, monasteries and strong houses were destroyed, along with their contents. As I pointed out before, the Four Courts fire in 1922 was certainly a tragedy, but thanks to the activities of the “calendarists”, we have some data. What was lost with the Desmonds can only be imagined.

I have come across some very intriguing things associated with the Nicholas Ferriter of the late 1300s. He probably was a hero of some sort, although the details of his deeds long ago went up in smoke. There is just enough of an outline, just a hint of a shadow as cast by this man such that I am continuing on with a focus specifically on this one individual.

Of that, more later.

There is a grand history here – one of struggle, success, decline, and adventure. The tale has two parts: this first coming to a close amidst bloodshed, chaos and loss, with the second still playing out.

And of that, also more later.

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Know Your Ancestors

Catherine Ferriter

photo b. 1840
d. 11 Jan 1913

Catherine Ferriter was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in about 1840. She was the daughter of John and Honora (Fitzgerald) Ferriter. The family moved to Tioga County, Pennsylvania, soon after her birth, and she lived the rest of her life in that area. She married Edward Mitchell, originally from Dublin, Ireland, around 1856, and they lived in the Morris Run and Fallbrook, Pennsylvania, area.  My mother's notes have her described as a redhead, with a great sense of humor. Edward and Catherine were the parents of at least eleven children, many of whom passed away fairly young. One of those children was my grandfather, Michael Mitchell.... Read More