Select Brophy Surname Genealogy

The Brophy name was derived from the Irish Ui Broithe or OíBroithe sept of uncertain meaning.  The ancestral seat of this family was Ballybrophy in present-day Laois in the Irish midlands.

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Select Brophy Ancestry

Ireland.  The Brophy sept had its roots in the ancient kingdom of Osraige in Leinster.  In the Brophy early history, this sept were driven north by the Anglo-Norman invasion in the late 12th century from Kilkenny to the territory of Upper Ossory in present-day Laois.  They made their family seat at Ballybrophy.  The territory was held by the Fitzpatricks who had ingratiated themselves with the English during the 16th century but then had their lands forfeited after the Jacobite defeat in 1690. 

In Griffith's mid-19th century Valuation of Ireland, the two leading counties of Brophy households were Kilkenny and Laois.  Significant numbers also existed in Dublin and Tipperary.

One Brophy family traces itself back to the Roscrea area in Tipperary around the time of the Great Famine.  Some of these Brophys departed for England or America.  Catherine Brophy was a young orphan girl who was sent to Australia in 1856.  Dublin descendants have included the Brophy Brothers Ceili Band. 

.  John Brophy came to Liverpool from Ireland with his wife Agnes sometime in the 1890ís.  He worked on the docks and was later an earthenware dealer.  His son John escaped his dull adolescence in that city in 1914.

ďAt the age of fourteen (lying about his age), he managed to join the British army at the outbreak of war.  His lie was never detected and he went on to serve four years in the infantry.  In 1919 he was just eighteen when he was demobilized and walked out with a limp brought about by trench foot.Ē

He became a writer.  He was the author of some forty books, many of which were based on his experiences during the war.  His daughter Brigid Brophy was an even more well-known writer and social critic. 

William Brophy, a plasterer, and his wife Mary from Tipperary came to England in 1887 and eventually settled in Liverpool.  Their son Francis Brophy enlisted in the Great War, but did not survive it.

  Brophy arrivals in America during the 19th century included:
  • Michael Brophy from Carlow who arrived in New York on the Dublin Packet in 1816.
  • James Brophy from Kilkenny who came on the Caledonia in 1843 and made his home in Wilmington, Delaware
  • Thomas Brophy from Dublin who arrived a year later and worked for the New York Central Railroad Company for close on fifty years.
  • Mathew Brophy who arrived from Ireland on the Albert Gallatin in 1850 and settled in Davenport, Iowa
  • Patrick Brophy from Carlow who came in 1877 and moved out to Butte, Montana four years later.  There he started a successful wholesale and retail grocery business.
  • James Brophy from Laios who came to Iowa in 1883 before later moving to Colorado where he made his home in Yuma county.
  • and, the best known, John Brophy from a family of miners in Lancashire, who came with his family as a young boy to the Pennsylvania coal mines in 1892.  He started work there at the age of eleven and rose through the union ranks to run as President of the United Mine Workers of America by 1926.  
Arizona.  Michael Brophy from Kilkenny had taken part in the Irish uprising of 1798 and been executed by the British.  His descendants, however, ventured into the American southwest.  The first record of them there was in 1851 when Francis Brophy, who had enlisted in the US Army in Mexico, died at Cebolleta in New Mexico.  Other Brophys followed from the 1860ís onward.  Hank Brophy was a member of the John Kinney cattle rustling gang in southern New Mexico in the 1870ís.

William Brophy arrived in Arizona in 1881 and joined his brother James at a ranch in the Sulfur Springs Valley.  He was later successfully involved in a number of mining and banking ventures in Arizona before departing for France in 1917 to serve with the Red Cross during World War One.  After his death in 1922 his widow Ellen founded Brophy College Preparatory, a Jesuit high school, in Phoenix.

Williamís son Frank was a banker and rancher who acquired in 1935 the Babacomari ranch in southern Arizona where he bred and trained racehorses and raised Hereford cattle.

Brophy is a well-known name in the Maritime provinces of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.  William Brophy was a local Newfoundland Assembly politician in the 1920ís.   Brophy Lane and Brophy Place
in St. John's were named in his honor.  More recently, Father Ed Brophy from St. Johnís has become known for his short-story writing.

Much earlier, around 1818, there were Brophys attached to the Newfoundland Regiment.  Thomas Brophy later moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  John Brophy, the well-known ice hockey coach, was born in Halifax in 1933.

Australia and New Zealand. 
Some early Brophys were forcibly transported to Australia:
  • William Brophy was convicted for pig stealing in Limerick in 1828 and transported to Australia on the Governor Ready the following year.  He received his certificate of pardon in 1835, but died in Sydney in 1844.
  • while Hugh Brophy, a leading Fenian agitator in Dublin, was transported for political reasons to Western Australia in 1868, the last year for convict shipment.  Brophy was pardoned the following year.  But he never returned to Ireland and died in Melbourne in 1919 at the grand age of 90 years.
Hearing about the gold boom, Kyran Brophy left the family farm in Laois and departed for Melbourne on the Constantine in 1859. He was unsuccessful at the Ballarat goldfields, but more successful two years later at the Otago goldfields in New Zealand where his party cleared £800 per man in twelve months.  He settled to farm in Pleasant Valley, South Canterbury.

Daniel Brophy
from Kilkenny also made it to the Ballarat goldfields, in his case in 1855, and he stayed.  He turned out to be a shrewd investor in local mining ventures and soon prospered.  As a sincere Catholic and Irish nationalist, Brophy won high repute among his fellow Catholics.  In 1868 he played a leading part in raising a fund to relieve the Irish political prisoners sent to Western Australia

Select Brophy Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Brophy Names

William O'Brothe was appointed Prior of the Augustinian monastery of Aghamacart in Ireland in 1481. 
John Brophy was a leading American trade unionist, first with the United Mine Workers of America in the 1920ís and then with the CIO in the 1930ís and 1940ís.

John Brophy
was a well-known Canadian ice hockey player and coach, supposedly the inspiration for the Paul Newman ice hockey movie Slap Shot in 1977.
Brigid Brophy
was a 20th century British novelist, critic and campaigner for social reforms.

Select Brophys Today
  • 2,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 3,000 in America (most numerous in New York) 
  • 6,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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