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Le Brun - Norman French, Gaelicised to De Brún, and anglicised to Browne. Meaning 'brown haired or complexioned'.
The most well known family of the name in Ireland, was one of the 'Tribes of Galway', a city fraternity of Norman tribes, which included just one Gaelic Irish family.
The Mayo Brownes are probably related to the above, though bearing distinct arms. They became very influential, collecting titles: Barons of Kilmaine, Earls of Altamount and Marquises of Sligo.
The Brownes of Killarney, the Earls of Kenmare, are descended from a later Elizabethan English settler; they again bear distinct arms. An earlier, probably Norman, family of Browne in Co Kerry should be given precedence, however; the place name Dunbrowne being named after them.
The Brownes of Co Limerick were an old Norman family, who distinguished themselves in the military sphere, serving as high ranking soldiers in the armies of Great Britain and Continental Europe (see below).
Browne of Co Wexford, were of ancient lineage; their lands were forfeited after the 1641 Rising.
However, it should be noted that there is also the Gaelic surname, Mac an Bhreithiún, which is given in English as 'Brown' in 'An Sloinnteoir Gaeilge' (Muiris Ó Droighneáin, 2001 etc) The surname means 'son of the brehon (judge)' .Woulfe in 'Irish Names and Surnames' (1923) says that the name was common in Connacht and west Ulster. There is also a Scottish Gaelic surname with the same derivation, according to Woulfe, which is anglicised as Browne. This is borne out in the '1659 Census' returns for Co Down, below, where the forms are clearly Gaelic.
In Petty's '1659 Census' Browne is found as a 'Principal Irish Name' in the following counties (numbers in brackets): Co Galway and Mayo returns missing; Limerick, Costlea Barony, Browne (9); Wexford, Bargie Barony, Browne (12); Bantry Barony, Browne (7): Shelburne Barony, Browne (10): Donegal, Raphoe Barony, Browne (9): County of Down, McBruine (7); Iveagh Barony, McBryne (12) and McBrin (10); Lower Iveagh, McBrinn (20).
By the mid 19th century, Browne is recorded in Griffith's 'Primary Valuation' with highest numbers in the following counties: Mayo (264) Down (263) Cork (208) Wexford (203) Tyrone (198) Derry (191) Limerick (166) Galway (160).
Brown occurs highest in counties: Down (224) Cork (122) and Tyrone (110)
Two Famous Brownes:
George (1698-1792) Count von Browne of the Holy Roman Empire, was a Field Marshall in the Russian Service. He was a Limerick man.
Dominick Browne (b. 1929, 5th Baron Oranmore and Browne, Lord Mereworth, is a poet and member of the Bah'ai faith
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