O'Hart: Irish Pedigrees or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation

Pdf O'Hart, John, Irish Pedigrees or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation, 5th edition, Vol II, James Duffy and Co. Ltd., 1892
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Irish Pedigrees or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation by John O'Hart (1824-1902), an Irish nationalist and self-taught genealogist, was originally published in 1876. It was revised and republished numerous times and remained popular decades after his death. O'Hart's believed in the literal truth of Gaelic myth and Bible. He claimed that the Irish race traced their ancestry back to Milesius, a legendary Spanish king and his sons and that Milesius himself was allegedly the 36th descendent of Adam, the first man created by God in the Book of Genesis.

John O'Hart was born in Crossmilina, County Mayo in 1824. He was educated toward joining the Roman Catholic priesthood but instead joined the Royal Irish Constabulary and later worked for the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland after 1845. Mayo was especially hard hit by the traumatic Great Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s which would influence the formation of O'Hart's and his contemporaries' ardent Irish nationalism and staunch Irish Catholicism. O'Hart was an Associate in Arts at Queen's University and joined several scholarly societies that sparked his interest in history and genealogy.

After centuries of Gaelic Irish defeat, Penal Laws and Protestant Ascendancy, Irish identity was under threat as the Gaelic language declined and Ireland became subsumed into the British imperial system. While physical force Irish nationalists plotted rebellion, Irish cultural nationalists sought to revive Irish self-confidence and rediscover and re-imagine a highly idealised pre-Norman Gaelic past.

O'Hart therefore tried to find or manufacture a link with the ancient Hebrews and the ancient Celts, fusing together a fragmentary and incomplete Gaelic tradition with his devout Roman Catholicism based on Biblical literalism. He based his work on numerous sources ancient and modern to 'reconstruct' a genealogy of Irish families from the Creation until the 19th century.

In the 19th century classical Greek, ancient Roman and medieval Arthurian legends were hugely popular in a devoutly Protestant British society. They inspired global imperial expansion and created a template for a cult of British heroism and self-less sacrifice. British aristocrats especially were fiercely proud of hundreds of years of unbroken tradition.

Irish nationalists like O'Hart and others looked instead to Celtic myth and heroes like Fionn and Cuchulainn and Brian Boru as examples to inspire patriots seeking Irish political independence. The activities of the Land League and the success of the Irish Parliamentary Party in the late 19th and early 20th century led to the creation of a Catholic rural bourgeois. Many among this rising middle class were devout Roman Catholics and anxious to establish their links with defunct Gaelic aristocratic pedigrees hence the popularity of O'Hart's work.

John O'Hart died in 1902.

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