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The McBride Sept

A Tale of Two Families

The name McBride refers to at least two separate families—one Irish and the other Scottish. Genealogist Brian Mitchell in his book, The Surnames of Derry, says the Scots Gaelic branch is a sept of Clan Donald, "descended from Gillebride, father of Somerled, the 12th century Lord of Argyll." ( This Scottish Gillebride was the great grandfather of Dhomhnaill from whence the Scottish Clan Donald takes its name (Clan Donald Heritage).

The Irish McBride family, however, is a sept native to the far northwest region of County Donegal called the "Bloody Foreland" (because of the sunset on the red granite cliffs, see Gary McParland Photography). Early on the family controlled the territory west of the River Glenna, but by the dawn of the 17th century had situated slightly southward near Gweedore (

Ó Dochartaigh Origins of the Donegal McBrides

The O'Clery Genealogies mention that Eachmarcagh oge Ó Dochartaigh, son of Eachmarcagh sronmhaoil Ó Dochartaigh, had a son "Giolla Brighde, from whom are descended the Clann Mac Giolla bride". Thus we see the McBride or "Clann Mac Giolla bride" are a branch of the Ó Dochartaigh being descended from Giolla Brighde Ó Dochartaigh (, wikipedia). To give an idea of the timeframe, the Annals of the Four Masters record that in the year 1197 "Eachmarcach O'Doherty (i.e. Gilla Sron-mael)" assumed the chieftainship of all Tir Conaill (Donegal). Two weeks afterward, John De Courcy invaded Donegal with a numerous army. The Cenél Conaill (descendants of Conall Gulban) under Eachmarcach O'Doherty mounted an opposition, but Eachmarcach and many others were slain, including his son "Gilla-Brighde O'Doherty".

Meaning and Variants of the McBride Name

The name Mac Giolla Bhríghde means "son of Giolla Bhríghde"—Giolla Bhríghde translated as the "servant or devotee of St. Brigid". The spoken name was shortened to "Mac 'a Bhríghde" which was later anglicized "McBride". There are a number of other variants of the name as well: M'Gillebridy, M'Gillvrid, M'Killbridy, M'Elvride, MacGillbride, MacKilbride, Macklebreed, MacBride, Gillbride, Kilbride, and others according to Rev. Patrick Woulfe's 1923 Irish Names and Surnames (Library Ireland).

History of the Family

The first mention of the family in the appears to be in the Annals of Loch Cé where in the year 1401, "Mac Gilla-Brighdi, of the Magh, was killed by a fall." The next mention is of the death of "the son of Brian Mac Gilla-Brighde the Red" in 1508. A prominent ecclesiastical family, they were "hereditary tenants of the church lands of Raymunterdoney" according to Mitchell ( The clan McGinley site says the Mac Giolla Bhríde "were erenaghs and administrators of church lands in Raymunterdoney (an area which includes Tory). Many of the name were bishops in Donegal including Bishop John MacGilbride who died in the year 1440." (

Y-DNA Evidence for the Ó Dochartaigh Connection?

The McBride surname group at FamilyTreeDNA presently has a small number of their McBride men who have explored SNP testing to further refine their haplogroup (their location within the human genetic family tree). As of 2018, Zack Daugherty from the Y-DNA study of the Association of Ó Dochartaighs identified two of these McBride men as falling under the SNP BY470, which is where a large number of the Ó Dochartaigh men tested have also fell. We do not have a sufficient quantity of Donegal McBride Y-DNA testers yet to say for certain, but we are hopeful that genetic evidence may confirm the connection from the historic Irish annals which would make the McBrides of western County Donegal a sept of Clann Ó Dochartaigh.



  • Header Image: "St. Brigid" by David Shane (CC BY 2.0). Taken at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

  • Other Sources COMING SOON.

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