The O'HARA families are one of the relatively few old Irish families which did not, for the most part, ever lose their prefix of the 'O'. They descend from the O'hEaghra sept which held sway in the barony of Leyny, County Sligo, and which formed two main branches in the 14th century, the respective chiefs being the O'Hara Boy and O'Hara Reagh. Another branch migrated northwards and settled in the north of County Antrim. It is not known exactly what date a region in north-eastern Ulster was erected into the county of Antrim, but in 1584 the Lord Deputy, who was then attempting to subdue Ulster and subject it to English government, divided the county into baronies. The chief town is the port-city of Belfast. Due to the growth of industry in the Lagan valley since the 19th century, there has been a heavy movement of population into the city and the surrounding area. Following the subjugation of the Irish chieftains in Ulster, Scottish and English settlers were induced to establish themselves in County Antrim as in the other counties of the province and many of these settlers were encouraged by the government to engage in the cultivation of flax, both for linen manufacture in the county and for export as yarn. Further encouragement was given in this industry at the end of the 17th and early 18th century when Huguenot refugees received grants to enable them to share their experience of textile manufacture and instruct those engaged in branches of their industry in Antrim, to improve their methods, so by the latter decades of the 18th century, County Antrim produced almost one half of the total Irish exports of brown linens. 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.
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