Are you descended from any of Ireland's hundreds of hereditary ecclesiastical families? Many of us can point to our warrior and royal ancestors. But how many of us know about our ecclesiastical ancestors?
That's right. Our ecclesiastical ancestors married, had children, maintained the church's properties, and staffed the church with priests, nuns, monks, librarians, scribes, teachers, masters of canon and secular law, administrators, and more. Celibacy was a highly regarded option. Usually, however, marriage was the norm. Those in holy orders were expected to have only one spouse. But is it possible that the rest, the lay ecclesiastics called airchinnigh ('erenaghs' / heads of church foundations), comharba ('coarbs' / heirs to saints), and manaig ('monks', but actually ecclesiastical tenants in lay orders) practiced polygamy and serial polyandry as permitted under Féineachas / 'Brehon Law'?
Either way, Ireland wasn't the "Isle of Saints and Scholars" by accident. Side by side with the hereditary learned families, the hereditary ecclesiastical families helped form and maintain the foundation of Irish society from about the 7th century to the beginning of the 17th century.
I'm writing a book about this and doing my dissertation on it. Are you descended from any of Ireland's hundreds of hereditary ecclesiastical families? If so, I'd love to hear the whole scoop - who, what, when, and where.
Le gach dea-ghuí / Best,
Gearóid / Jerry