The O'Gradaigh sept originated in County Clare, although the O'Gradys are often thought of as a Limerick family, because for several hundred years their stronghold and the seat of the head of the family was at Kilballyowen in County Limerick. An important branch changed their name to Brady in the late sixteenth century. The well known name of GRADY, has to a large extent absorbed the rarer Gready, which is properly a Mayo name. This resulted in the name Grady being numerous in north Connacht and adjacent areas of Ulster.In the latter part of the sixteenth century, an influx of settlers arrived under the patronage of Elizabeth I of England, and colonized the country beyond the 'Pale', the area around Dublin that was the only part firmly under English control. At the same time , groups of Presbyterian settlers were encouraged to migrate from Scotland to Ulster, thus establishing the distinctively Scottish surnames of Ulster. During the long centuries of English domination, Irish surnames were crudely Anglicized either phonetically or by translation. In the 19th century, political repression and famine combined to force many Irish people to seek other countries in which to live. Large numbers emigrated to the United States, where strong emotional ties to Ireland are still preserved in many families, while others found themselves transported, willingly or otherwise, to Australia, often after having first tried to make a living in England. Irish surnames are now very widely dispersed, and are common in England as well as in Ireland, the United States and Australia.
The arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. (The O'Grady, Kilballyowen, County Limerick, formerly chiefs of Cinel-Dunghaile, a district comprising the present parishes of Tomgraney, County Clare, and Iniscaltra and Clonrush, County Galway. The Four Masters record under AD1184 that Cenfaoladh O'Grada of Tuaim Grene died; Donald O'Grady fell in battle AD1309 leaving a son who obtained the lands of Kilballyowen.) The lion depicted in the arms is the noblest of all wild beasts which is made to be the emblem of strength and valour, and is on that account the most frequently borne in Coat-Armour.
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