We are the living network of the many branches of the Gaelic O'Higgins (Ó hUigín) family. Membership of the O'Higgins is received as a right by birth (ancestry), adoption or marriage into the family. The name "O'Higgins" or "Higgins" is derived originally from Uigín who was a grandson of King Niall of Tara who reigned at the end of the 4th and start of the 5th century.
The O'Higgins today, as in the past, are united in their desire to promote Ireland, Gaelic culture, education and the arts. As a Gaelic sept we also aim to further our genealogical research and fraternity among our cousins in Ireland and around the world.
The O'Higgins are Sept of the Cenél Fiachach a Clan of the Southern O'Neill. They were founded about 1500 years ago from the descendents of Uigín (meaning "viking") who was the grandson of King Niall of Tara, the 126th King of Ireland through his son Fiach. Uigín's cousins fought to control the ancient territories referred to as Mide and Brega, which very roughly equate to the modern counties of Meath and Westmeath respectively. However, his descendents, the Uí hUigín or Ó Higgins, developed into a separate but related aristocratic sept who were based around modern day Meath and Westmeath until the coming of the Cambro-Normans in 12th century when they seem to have migrated into modern day Sligo.
We know from the Annals of Ireland that around the late 6th century the number of filí or poets in the patronage of the Royal Houses of Ireland became so numerous that it was decided that only a few families would be allowed to act as poets to the Kings and the O'Higgins were one such family. In fact over the centuries since then the O'Higgins have produced more poets than any other hereditary bardic family in Ireland and several of them were Chief Poets of Ireland. A large number of poems and satires (external link) by O'Higgins poets survive to this day and these provide us with a window into the culture and life of Gaelic Ireland.
By the mid 16th century the O'Higgins were well established with seats stretching from Dooghorne, Kilmacteige and Ballynary in County Sligo to Kilbeg in County Westmeath. However, by the end of the Cromwellian plantations in 1654, due to their loyalty to their Catholic faith and their Gaelic traditions, the O'Higgins had lost all of their lands in Sligo and Westmeath and many fled to mainland Europe where they entered the service of Catholic monarchs there. Those who remained in Ireland were forced to work as labourers and tenant famers for the new English aristocracy and landlords. It was around this time that some members of the family began to drop the "O" from their name and were called just "Higgins" instead. Today, there are about 50,000 people worldwide with the surname O'Higgins/Higgins who can claim membership of the O'Higgins of Ireland and of course there are many more people who do not carry the surname but who are descdended from an O'Higgins/Higgins through a female line.
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