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Eustace Families of County Clare

By: Terry Shiely Diebel & Ronald F. Eustice

The Eustace families of County Clare most likely descend from the Eustace family of Confey, County Kildare. The castle and lands of Confey in the extreme north-east corner of Co. Kildare were held for several centuries by a branch of the Eustace family, which seems to have originated from a Nicholas FitzEustace of Dublin. He bought in 1401 the head-rent of Dowdenstown and Tipperkevin. His son (or grandson) Henry was the father of James Eustace of Confey who married Elizabeth FitzLeons and died in 1506. His elder son John Eustace married Elizabeth daughter of Christopher Chivers of Macetown, Co. Meath. (The other son was Sir Robert, a priest.) He also inherited property in Dublin including an almshouse and a house and grounds in St. Sepulchre parish, which he presented to the Vicar. In 1532 he still held Dowdenstown, and died in 1552, leaving by his wife Joan, daughter of John Peppard of Ballyroan, a son Nicholas. Nicholas Eustace married Maud, daughter of Sir Thomas Luttrell, and died in 1582 leaving a son John Eustace, who married Mary, daughter of Richard Fagan, an Alderman of Dublin. John Eustace died in 1598, both he and his son Nicholas being included in a list of important men in the County. (James Eustace, the elder son of John Eustace and Mary Fagan, predeceased the father).

Nicholas Eustace married Margaret, daughter of John Sarsfield of Lucan, and secondly Margaret Bath. (Nicholas had a daughter, Catherine, who married Thomas Chivers.) His son James Eustace married a daughter of Sir Nicholas Whyte of Leixlip Castle and his wife Lady Ursula Moore, daughter of 1st Viscount Drogheda.

In 1641, a rebellion broke out in Ulster and was followed by nine years of almost continuous fighting throughout Ireland. In the wake of the Irish Uprising of 1641, an Act of Parliament was passed in March 1642 promising land to "Adventurers" who advanced money to finance the reconquest of Ireland. The Uprising escalated into the Confederate War (1642-53) and it was ten years before the English government was in a position to consider the claims of the Adventurers. Oliver Cromwell arrived in Dublin on 15 August 1649 with a fleet of thirty-five ships. At the end of May 1650, Cromwell returned to England in order to deal with the growing threat from the Royalists and Covenanters in Scotland. In February 1652, with the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland virtually complete, Parliament instructed its commissioners in Ireland to begin planning the settlement of Irish land. As well as the claims of the Adventurers, the commissioners were also to grant land to disbanded Parliamentarian soldiers who had been promised Irish land in lieu of arrears of pay. The Commonwealth government envisaged a large-scale redistribution of land in Ireland, with Catholics and native Irish making way for Protestant settlers and landlords. Catholics suffered greatly during the years of conflict and under the Commonwealth that followed from 1649-60, when large numbers of Protestant Non-Conformists arrived to claim the lands of Catholics, who were called "Papists" by the English.

Both James Eustace of Confey and one of his sons, Nicholas were declared "outlaws" by the British government soon after 1641 and their lands were forfeited a decade later. James Eustace owned 396 acres in Confey and Newtowne Townlands, Confey Parish and 21 acres in Ballingorne Townland, Larabrine Parish. At the time of the forfeiture James had two sons Nicholas and Thomas, and in 1664, Thomas the survivor regained all the property (which had been entailed) by stating that his father had died before the forfeiture. This was later proved to be false and Thomas Eustace lost all the lands except part of Confey, with Balscott and Eyersland just south of it in Donoghcumpter parish. Of the other lands, Ballycorne (west of Confey in Laraghbryan parish) went to Benedict Arthur and William Fitzgerald, and the property near Clongowes Wood to Richard Reynolds.

According to Irish Landed Gentry, When Cromwell Came to Ireland by John O’Hart published in 1887, the members of the Eustace who received Certificates of Transplantation to Connaught between 1653 and 1654 were Anne Eustace, John Eustace, Martha  Eustace, Francis Eustace and Cisly Eustace.  In The History and Topography of the County of Clare by James Frost, it is noted in the Book of Forfeitures and Distributions that Annie and Martha Eustace were transplanted to Drumelihy, Parish of Kilmacduane in the Barony of Moyarta.  At this point in time, it is unclear how John, Francis and Cisly Eustace were related to Annie and Martha Eustace. 

Five members of the Eustace family of Confey (most probably the immediate family of James and Nicholas) were allotted lands in Kilmacduane Parish, County Clare during the 1654 Cromwellian Transplantation. The Books of Surveys & Distributions (1636-1703) record that Anne and Martha Eustace were allocated land at Drumillehy Townland, Kilmacduane Parish, County Clare. The townland of Drumillehy was the property of  Daniel O'Gorman, Caher O'Gorman and Daniel O'Brien. During the next 150 years the Eustace family in County Clare grew in numbers and expanded into the nearby parishes of  Kilmihil, Kilrush and Kilmaley. Based on Y-chromosome DNA evidence gathered from the Eustace Families Association DNA project, it seems highly likely that all Clare namesakes trace back to the same Eustace ancestor and that person was one of the males transplanted in 1654.

The 18th Century was a very difficult time for Irish Catholics and few records exist. Catholics were severely oppressed and subject to what became known as the Penal Laws.  In 1695 harsh penal laws were enforced, known as the 'popery code'. Catholics were prohibited from buying land, bringing their children up as Catholics, and from entering the forces or the law. Catholics could no longer run for elected office, purchase land, or own property (such as horses) valued at more than 5 pounds. In the early years of the 18th century the ruling Protestants in Ireland passed these laws designed to strip the "backwards" Catholic population of remaining land, positions of influence and civil rights.

Officially called the Laws for the Suppression of Popery, the Penal Laws were a series of  statutes passed by the Protestant Parliament which regulated Roman Catholics to an inferior status through most of the eighteenth century. The declared purpose of the Irish Penal Laws, was to disenfranchise the native majority from all power, both political and economic.  The ideal was to entice the colonized Irish into wholesale conversion to Protestantism. A Catholic could avoid the oppressive effects of these laws by conversion, although the statutes went to great lengths to ferret out insincere conversions and backsliders. By deliberately defining the haves and the have-nots, the politically powerful and the oppressed, on the basis of religion, these statutes had a profound effect, not only on the eighteenth century, but on the subsequent history of Ireland.

By 1778 Irish Catholics owned a meager 5% of Irish land. Furthermore, the Catholic educational system was outlawed and priests who did not conform to the laws could be branded on the face or castrated. As a result, much of Catholic church services and education and record keeping was forced underground, to operate only under extreme secrecy. The religion and culture were kept alive by secret open-air masses and illegal outdoor schools, known as 'hedge' schools. All Irish culture, music and education was banned. By the time of the census of 1841 the Irish were impoverished, landless and leaderless by the eve of the famine.

It is not until the County Clare Tithe Applotment Records dated 1824-1826 that we find public records of the descendants of the Eustace families in County Clare.  The Tithe Applotment was compiled between 1823 and 1837 for the purpose of establishing how much each landowner should pay for the upkeep of the Church of Ireland.  The renters were assessed on the amount and quality of the acreage they rented.  If someone was “landless” or lived in a settlement, they were not included.  Only two branches of the Eustace family appear in these records in Clare.  According to the 1826 Tithe Applotment Record of the Townland of Cahermurphy, in the Parish of Kilmihil, one of the branch families includes Edmond and John Eustace.  They were renting land in Cahermurphy. 

The second branch of the Eustace family lived in the Townland of Gowerhass, Parish of Kilrush.  This branch includes Simon, John and Patrick Eustace who are renting land in Gowerhass.  Michael Eustace (presumably their brother) is renting land in the neighboring Townland of Knockerry East in the Parish of Kilrush (Michael is also noted to be renting land in the bordering Townland of Knocknahooan).

The relationship of Edmond to John from the Parish of Kilmihil or Simon, John, Patrick and Michael from the Parish of Kilrush to each other cannot be exactly determined.  But one can surmise that because they are listed (except Michael) one after the other in their respective Tithe Applotment record that they farmed next to each other and are directly related. 

During the famine years of 1848-1849, we can see where some of the Eustace families in Clare reappear in the Clare records.  An Edmond Eustace is evicted from his house in the Townland of Rhineagonnought, Parish of Killard.  Michael and Richard Eustace are evicted from their homes in the Townland of Querin, Parish of Moyarta.    It is unclear how they fit into the two branches of the Eustace family.  Could this Edmond be the same Edmond Eustace mentioned above in Kilmihil? 

Nonetheless, only six years later in the 1855 Griffith’s Valuation which was a survey of every landowner and householder for the purpose of determining the primary valuation of Ireland, the two Eustace branches recorded in the Tithe Applotment Records of the 1820’s are recorded in the 1855 Griffith’s Valuation once again in their original townlands and parishes.    However in the 1855 Griffith’s Valuation, a new generation of the Eustace family emerges in other areas of County Clare.

Griffith’s Valuation (1855) for the Parish of Kilmihil shows the following:

Cahermurphy Patrick, John, Walter and Robert Eustace

Castlepark Bridget, Patrick and John Eustace

LeitrimJohn Eustace

Kiltumper- Mary Eustace.


Griffith’s Valuation (1855) for the Parish of Kilrush shows the following:

Gowerhass - Simon, Michael, John and Mary Eustace

Town of Kilrush, Chapel Street - Thomas Eustace

However by 1855, the Eustace families appear to be expanding outside their original townlands.  According to the 1855 Griffith’s Valuation, a third Eustace branch is living in the Townland of Furroor, Parish of Kilmaley.  The head of this family is Michael Eustace originally from the parish of Kilrush who was born about 1813.  Michael Eustace married Catherine Gleeson whose father farmed in Furroor, Kilmaley.  After their marriage, Michael and Catherine farmed on this land.  They had three sons, Michael Eustace born in 1848, John Eustace born about 1850, and Patrick Eustace born about 1852.  One daughter, Bridget Eustace, was born about 1846.  This Eustace family seems to be the first family of Eustaces to live in Kilmaley.

In 1855, the Griffith’s Valuation records another John Eustace living with his nephew Patrick Eustace in the Parish of Kilfiddane. 

In 1855, there is Bridget Eustace who is the widow of a Patrick Eustace who is living in Breaghva (Breaffa) Knock, Parish of Kilmurry.  A Margaret Eustace (likely widowed) is also listed as living in this parish.

An index of some of the Eustace marriages and baptisms exist for the Parish of Kilmihil, for the Church of St. Senan’s in Kilrush and for the Parish of Kilmaley.  Usually marriages occurred in the bride’s parish church so the marriage indexes are not wholly inclusive of all Eustaces who married, but they give some indication of the Eustace families in Kilmihil, Kilrush and Kilmaley.   Also, the baptisms and marriages only cover some years and should not be taken as inclusive of all baptisms and marriages in these parishes for these Eustace families.

By the mid nineteenth century, County Clare had the largest concentration of Eustace households in all Ireland as listed on Griffith's Valuation 1845-63. Eighteen Eustace households are listed in Griffith's Survey of household heads. Eustace Family in County Clare listed in Griffith's Valuation

Eustace Families of Kilmihil

Eustace Families of Kilrush

Eustace Families of Kilmaley

Other Clare Eustace Families

These pages Ronald Eustice, 2008