Membership of an Irish Clan

An Irish clan is a kinship group formed around inherited cultural identities that are real or assumed.

Historically, membership of a clan was determined by use of the clan surname, living in the clan territory and sharing in the culture and heritage of the clan. Today, to belong to a clan one must at least inherit or choose to carry the clan surname and identify with the culture and heritage of the clan.

It is a requirement that members specify on the annual registration renewal form the geographic territory that your clan or historic family is associated with. This ensures that people using the same modern surname may have equal access to registration with Clans of Ireland, provided that there is acceptable evidence that Members using the same surname are of clearly defined different geographic or ancestral origin. To this has been added the requirement that all existing Members of Clans of Ireland should recognise that other kindred groups of the same name may be granted entitlement, ceteris parabis, to apply for registration with Clans of Ireland and that such applications will be contingent on the inclusion, within the application of their authentic geographic or ancestral origin. In future, such applications will be treated by Clans of Ireland as if the surnames bore no more association with each other than similarity. This will effectively mean that there will be increased reliance on scholarly evidence of an existence of synonymy between the geographic or ancestral origin of the kindred group and the surname. To this end, Clans of Ireland will make available a list of academic reference material, albeit incomplete, to enable Members and applicants to access historical references between family/clan and territory. It has been decided by the Board that existing Member organisations that have not provided such evidence are to be asked to do so by 31st December 2021. Members that do not provide this will be designated as Members that are Surname Groups, without any loss of status, as a member. In future, Members qualify to be either Clans, Historical Families or Surname Groups. The result of all of this is a further development in the manifest individuality of each fine or clan, whereby the distinctiveness of origin will be clearly distinguishable from any other Clan or Historical Family, ensuring more complete historical integrity.

If you wish to register with your Irish Clan please consult the Register of Clans and contact your Clan directly.

Clans of Ireland does not recruit individuals to specific Clans.


Our function is to:

  • Authenticate and register Irish Clans and Historical Families
  • promote the interests of Irish Clans and Historical Families
  • provide authentic and scholarly information related to Irish Clans and Historical Families.


Please follow the links below to find out how to apply for registration as an Irish Clan.

Registration / Renewal

We have an online procedure for registration or renewal of clans membership of Clans of Ireland. 

Accessing the link here will take you to the Online Registration Form; which should be completed in full.

Some fields are mandatory and the form cannot be submitted until these are completed.

Once the form is submitted, you will receive two confirming emails; one confirming your application/renewal; and another from our Registrar, who will confirm arrangements for payment of the registration fee which is €50 per year.

New Clans should NOT submit registration before they have consulted directly with the Registrar of Clans of Ireland email

Please note: Clans must renew registration each year before 31st January.

Should you wish to to pay by cheque or bank draft, please remit to: 

Clans of Ireland, 53 Árd Aoibhinn, Athenry, Co. Galway, H65 DR60, Ireland.​ 

If you prefer to pay by bank transfer, our Clans Registrar will provide the necessary details.

Should you require any assistance, you may email our registrar at the following address:

Access the Online Registration / Renewal form here 

Registration Criteria

Finte na hÉireann ~ Clans of Ireland is an independent authority established to authenticate and maintain the Register of Irish Clans.

An Irish Clan or historical family may be admitted to the Register of Clans if the surname is authoritatively documented in Ireland prior to 1691, the date that is considered to mark the end of the clan system in Irish society.

Clans of Ireland seeks to maintain historical standards, and reserves the right to decline an application if eligibility cannot be established beyond reasonable doubt.

It is important to seek advice from the Registrar of Clans of Ireland before proceeding.


Clans of Ireland will only provide one registration for each historically distinct clan.

The names and addresses of at least six adult members bearing the surname of the clan are required if the clan is to be admitted to the Register of Clans.

The applicant will be recorded as a Registered Applicant until this condition can be fulfilled. If you would like to register a clan or to start a clan society please feel free to contact us and we will be glad to advise and support you in this regard.

A full copy of our Registration Policy and Criteria is available on request from the Registrar.


Chief of the Clan

It is important to remember that in Gaelic Ireland Chiefs were not monarchs who ruled over their people. An Irish Chief was acclaimed by his clan and appointed as custodian of his kinsmen and their resources (i.e. lands) which belonged ultimately to all members of the clan.


In modern times, some clans use the designation "Taoiseach" or  "Chief" while others prefer “Ceann Fine” or "Head of Clan" or similar designations. Several clans acclaim hereditary “Chiefs of the Name” some of whom may be members of Buanchomhairle Thaoisigh Éireann (Standing Council of Irish Chiefs and Chieftains). Others acclaim individuals from within their clan with a substantial ancestral claim to be Chief, while others again elect a member for a period of time who will act as titular head of the clan or family. Some clans also acclaim the head of a particular senior family from within the clan.


It is the policy of Clans of Ireland to respect the right of each clan to designate and acclaim one of their own as clan leader.

For information on hereditary “Chiefs of the Name” please contact the current representative Conor The O'Brien

Otherwise please feel free to contact us for advise on the designation of clan officers. 




Code of Practice

1. Each Irish Clan should maintain a current register of its clan members.

2. a) For promotional purposes details of events including Clan Rallies/Gatherings should include; dates,     times, prices, insurance details and venues being used and a detailed itinerary as well. Copies of promotional  literature should be forwarded to The Secretary of Clans of Ireland.

   b) Details of any Clan events such as Clan Rallies/Gatherings being organised by Clan Associations should be notified to Clans of Ireland as soon as possible prior to the event.

3. No Irish Clan can operate events in the name of another Clan.

4. No Clan Coordinator or Clan Committee member can apply for registration to Clans of Ireland for more than one Irish Clan.

5. No Irish Clan can call itself a member of Clans of Ireland or use the title Clans of Ireland in its literature unless it is registered and in good standing with Clans of Ireland.

6. Clans of Ireland has the right to withdraw registration of an Irish Clan in circumstances that are deemed to be in breach of the Code of Practice. In such circumstances the Irish Clan will be notified in writing.

7. Irish Clans should renew their membership with Clans of Ireland by the time of the AGM each year in order to be registered as an “Active” clan.

8. Each Clan should forward a copy of its periodical, newsletter or publication to The Editor, Clans of Ireland.

9. Each Clan should ensure the proper care, handling and display of all flags, banners and emblems and that these are treated with due respect at all times.

10. Clans of Ireland maintain their right to revise, amend, alter, make change or extend this Code of Practice as circumstances require.

Amended 14 February 2009

Charitable Status

Charitable Status
Your clan can use Clans of Ireland charitable status to collect funds and accept donations for educational and cultural purposes without creating a tax liability. Those clans who wish to use Clans of Ireland charitable status number CHY 11585 must have their main office in Ireland and will be obliged to maintain accounts for inspection by the board of Clans of Ireland as requested. If you wish to use Clans of Ireland charitable status number please ensure to complete the required form: