Select Gorman Surname Genealogy

The Irish name is Mac Gormain, derived from the Gaelic gorm meanng "dark blue" or possibly "noble."  Early Celtic warfare entailed painting the face or body to intimidate the enemy.  It is conjectured that Mac Gormain warriors might have picked up this nomenclature in battle and it was handed down to their offspring.  Under English rule this surname became Gorman.

Gorman is an interesting example of a surname which, having lost its Gaelic prefix under English rule, put back the wrong one, O'Gorman, after the restoration of national consciousness.  The person probably responsible for the "O" for "Mac" was Tomas Chevalier O'Gorman, an exiled vineyard owner in France in the 18th century.

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Select Gorman Ancestry

Ireland.  The Mac Gormains were originally a sept established in Meath and in Slieve Margy in the southeast corner of present-day Laios, although they were driven from here to Clare and Monaghan by the Anglo-Norman incursions of the late 12th century.

The first of the family to settle in Munster was Murtagh, son of Donogh, who died there in 1124.  The chiefs of the family held lands in Ibrickan and Moyarta in county Clare that was under the control of the O'Briens, the Princes of Thomond.  A branch of the family acted as hereditary marshall for the O'Briens.  In the 15th century the Mac Gormains of Ibrickan were known for their wealth, hospitality, and patronage of Gaelic poets.

"In 1484 Donald Mac Gormain of Ibrickan died, one of O'Brien's servants of trust.  He kept a house of general hospitality and was the richest man in Ireland in livestock."

Many Mac Gormains lost their lands in Meath in the 16th century
and many in Clare suffered the same indignities at the time of Cromwell.  Denis Mac Gormain, captain of the confederate armies in Clare, was captured and executed by Cromwell's forces in 1652.  Gormans did remain in Clare during the penal years and later some Gormans migrated east into Tipperary.

France.  Thomas Gorman of Inchiquin in Clare was one of the "wild geese" who fled Ireland for France in the early 1700's.  He settled in Burgundy.  His grandson Tomas Chevalier O'Gorman owned vineyards in Burgundy, promoted the O'Gorman name back in Clare, but lost everything during the French Revolution.  He returned to Ireland where he died in 1810.

South America.  Miguel O'Gorman from Ennis in county Clare had studied medicine in Spain and practiced as a physician at the Spanish Court.  This status and position made him popular with the elite at Spain's River Plate colony when he arrived there in 1777.  The O'Gormans remained well-connected in post-colonial Argentina.  But this did not prevent the tragic death of the young Camila O'Gorman, shot by a military firing squad, occurring in 1848.

Charles O'Gorman was appointed the first British consul to Mexico City in 1826.  Charles and his Mexican wife Anita returned to the Britain with their eldest son John, who married his Mexican cousin and went back to Mexico.  Charles's grandson Cecil was a mining engineer and painter who arrived in Mexico in 1895.  His two sons distinguished themselves in Mexico, Juan as an architect and Edmundo as a writer and historian.

America.  The first Gorman in America may well have been John Gorman, recorded among the Scots Irish settlers in Augusta county, Virginia in 1748.  He was next in Botetourt county and descendants moved to Ohio and Missouri.  Another early Gorman was Christopher Gorman, found in Lunenburg and Pittsylvania counties, Virginia in the 1750s and 1760s.  Simpson Gorman, born in South Carolina in 1805, migrated to Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and finally to Arkansas.  From him, it is thought, came the Bradley county Gormans in  Mississippi.

Later Gormans in America from Ireland included:
  • John Gorman who came around 1794 and settled in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where he engaged in the cattle trade.   His grandson Arthur Pue Gorman was one of the early developers of the game of baseball and later served for more than twenty years as the US Senator from Maryland. 
  • David and Elizabeth Gorman who arrived sometime later and settled in Kentucky.  Elizabeth died in the cholera epidemic of 1833.  Their son Willis fought in the war against Mexico and went on to be Governor of Minnesota and a Union general during the Civil War.
  • and Richard O'Gorman, an Irish nationalist who faced the death penalty in 1848, escaped to America, and became a High Court Judge in New York.
CanadaDaniel O'Gorman married Catherine Power in Prospect, Nova Scotia in 1829.  Gormans from Dromore in county Tyrone were recorded in St. John, New Brunswick by the 1830's. 

Larry Gorman, the son of Irish immigrants Thomas and Ann Gorman from Kilkenny, was born in Prince Edward Island, Canada in 1846.  He was a wandering laborer throughout his life, first in New Brunswick and then across the border in Maine, but is best remembered for the songs he composed, often of a satirical nature, which he brought with him on his travels.  

Richard and Mary Gorman came to Ottawa via Quebec in the 1860s.  Another Mary Gorman was the mother of the great sports promoter Tommy Gorman, born in Ottawa in 1886 (his father had died soon after the birth).  The house on Euclid Avenue where she raised him stayed with the Gorman family until 1971.

Select Gorman Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Gorman Names

Maelmuire Mac Gormain was Abbot of Knock and he composed the Calendar of Marianus in 1171.
Charles Gorman was from New Brunswick and known as the human dynamo.  He was a North American speed skating star of the 1920s.
Tommy Gorman
was well-known in Canada as a sports and entertainment promoter.  He was a founder of the National Hockey League and managed seven clubs to Stanley Cup Championships between the 1920s and 1940's.

Select Gormans Today
  • 10,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lanarkshire)
  • 12,000 in America (most numerous in New York) 
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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