This surname derives from one of the commonest surnames in Ireland, which was originally O'BRADIGH is now usual without the prefix, and is most heavily distributed in Ulster and Leinster. The territory of the MacBradaigh sept (a powerful sept), was in eastern Breffny, in the eastern part of the Barony of Loughter Upper, County Cavan, close to Lough Oughter, and there is still a heavy concentration of Bradys in County Cavan. Dr MacLysaght has noted that the Brady families in Munster mostly descend from O'Gradys of County Clare who, for some reason, adopted the surname Brady in lieu of O'Grady in the 16th Century. When the sparse Irish population began to increase it became necessary to broaden the base of personal identification by moving from single names to a more definite nomenclature. The prefix MAC was given to the father's christian name, or O to that of a grandfather or even earlier ancestor. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over the armour.
In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another.
A line of the Grady family changed their name to O'Brady (for reasons that are not clear) when its leader Donough, was knighted by Henry VIII. Donogh's son Hugh was the first Protestant Bishop of County Meath.
A notable member of the name was Nicholas Brady (1659-1726) the Irish Anglican clergyman and poet, born in Bandon, County Cork. He was educated at Westminster, Christ Church College, Oxford, and Dublin. He took holy orders and was rector at Stratford-upon-Avon from 1702 to 1705. He wrote several published works.
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