The name of RYAN, it is stated by some family historians, is derived from the ancient Irish word righin, meaning "sluggish, or dilatory", and was anciently written Mulrian or O'Mulrian. Others assert that the Irish rian, meaning "Kinglet" or "Prince", was the parent form of the name. The name is found in the early Irish and American records in the various spellings of O'Mulrian, O'Mull Rian, O'Mulryan, Mulrian, Mulryan, O'Righin, Righin, O'Ryan, O'Ryne, O'Rian, O'Roin, Roin, Rian, Ryen, Ryne, Ryan and numerous others. Of those mentioned, the form last mentioned is that most frequently used in America today.

Of Milesian origin, the family traces its descent from one Cormac, the younger son of Nathi or Nathach, King of Leinster about the year 484 A.D. Cormac was Lord or Prince of Idrone, County Carlow, Ireland, about the beginning of the sixth century. This Cormac was the father of Colom or Colman, who was the father of Ronan, father of St. Chronmaol, who had a son named Aodh or Hugh Roin. The last was the father of another Colman, who was father to Laignen, father of Cairbre, father of Hugh, father of Bruadar, father of Dubhghall, father of Righin, from whom the family took its name. Righin was the father of Cairbre, father of Teige, father of Donoch, father of Melachlin, father of Lucas, who had a son named Daithi or David. This David had a son named Neimheach, who was the father of Jeoffrey, father of Henry, who had issue, probably in the latter part of the eleventh century of Henry Mulrian, O'Ryan, or Ryan. A later O'Ryan, Prince of Idrone, was slain by Raymond le Gros in the year 1170.

One branch of this family was represented in the latter part of the fifteenth century by Darby O'Ryan, who was the father of Mahowne, father of Daniel, father of another Darby, father of Daniel, who had a son, William O'Mulryan, who died in 1637. He married Margaret, daughter of John Cantwell, of County Tipperary, about the beginning of the seventeenth century. They were the parents of five sons: Darby, Donoch or Denis, Henry, James, and John, of whom the first, Darby O'Mulryan, resided in County Limerick, Ireland, and married Kathleen Fitzmorice, by whom he left numerous issue.

William Ryan, of Ballymackeogh, County Tipperary, Ireland, was the father about the middle of the seventeenth century of a son named Daniel Ryan, who was the father by his wife Honor, daughter of Colonel John Ewer, of William, Anthony, George, Elizabeth, Anne and Mary. Of these, William married Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Newstead, in 1725 and was the father by her of Ewer, Richard, George, Anne, Elizabeth, William and Anthony, of whom the first was married in 1754 to Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Magrath. To this union was born nine children, William, John, Anthony, Eleanor, Bridget, George, Richard, Rickard and Elizabeth.

John Ryan, son of one Daniel Ryan and his wife Frances, daughter of Patrick Ragget, of Inch House, County Tipperary, was married about 1714 to Mary, daughter of Thomas Mathew, and had issue by her of a son named Daniel, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Justin MacCarthy, in 1737. He was the father by her of, among other children, a son named George Ryan. This George was the father by his wife, Margaret Roche, of six children, Daniel, Philip, George, John, Denis, Margaret, and Elizabeth.

Not without distinction in Ireland, where many bearers of the name Ryan were of the landed gentry, the family was represented among the early settlers in America.

Possibly the first of the family in America was William Ryan, "Irish servand of David Stoddard", who was living at Boston, Mass., in 1722, being at that time twenty-three years of age. Nothing however, is definitely known concerning his immediate family or descendants.

Sometime before 1743 Anthony Ryan came from Ireland to Leicester, Mass. By his wife Margaret, he was the father of ten children: John, Mary, Katherine, Sarah, Samuel, Susanna (died young), Daniel, Margaret, Susanna, and Hannah.

John Ryan, who settled at Leicester at a slightly later date, may have been a brother or cousin of the immigrant Anthony, but this is not certain. In 1764 he married Elizabeth Sinclair, of Spencer, Mass., being at thattime referred to as a "foreigner". John is said to have served as a soldier in the French War, but no record of his progeny is available.

One Roger Ryan, "an Irishman, who was hired in the Parish", died at Newbury, Mass., in 1758, less than thirty years of age. It is probable, although not certain, that he left no issue.

Other early records of the family in America include those of the Revolutionary heroes of that name, some of whom were undoubtedly original emigrants from Ireland. The records of the Colonial forces in the American Revolution mention Alexander, Augustus, Barnabas, Bryant, Dennis, Derby or Darby, Edward, Francis, James, John, Matthew, Michael, Richard, Roger, Samuel, Stephen, Thomas, Timothy, and Lieutenant William Ryan, of Mass.; Andrew Christian, Daniel, Edward, George, Isaac, James, John, Joseph, Myles, Patrick, Richard, Thomas, Timothy, William, and Captain Michael Ryan of Penn.; Captain James Ryan, of South Carolina; Andrew, Cornelius, Edward, George, harris, James, John, Captain Michael, Nathan, Lazarus, Patrick, Philip, Thomas, Timothy, Whitehead, and Lieutenant William Ryan, of Virginia; and many more from the various other States of that period. No definite records have been found of the immediate families of these men.

Another of the early settlers of the Ryan name in America was John Ryan, who made his home at Bedminster, N.J., before the year 1780, and was married about that time to Catherine Himrod of Bedminster. He removed at a slightly later date to Crawford County, PA., and left issue there of Mary, Martha, Sarah, William, Andrew, Edward, Isabella, and Catherine.

Of the sons of John and Catherine (nee Himrod) Ryan, William was married in 1818 to Catherine Jones, by whom he had issue of Margaret, Emeline, Sarah, Amanda, Simeon, Corydon, Martha, Andrew, Catherine, Isabella, and Aurelia or Amelia; Andrew was the father by his wife, a Miss Jones, whom he married about 1820, of John a., Adella, Edward, Eliza, Sarah, William Swazey, Mary, Andrew W., and George Plummer; and Edward was twice married, but died without issue. Descendants of this line have settled in New York, California, Montana, Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, and Minnesota.

One Ryan (Christian name unknown) settled in the latter part of the eighteenth century in Westmoreland County, VA. he had three sons, David, John, and Solomon. The first two settled in Mercer County, KY., where David married Martha Buford and John married a Miss Runion. Both left large families, the sons of David including Thomas D. and James B. Ryan, of KY. Solomon Ryan settled in Randolph County, W.VA., about the year 1787. He is believed to have left issue there, although no definite record has been found concerning his children.

Sometime before 1790 an Irishman by the name of Ryan settled on Teters Creek, in Barbour County, W.VA. His son, John Ryan, had three sons: John, James, and William, of whom the first two removed to Ohio. William remained in Barbour County and was married in 1816 to Rebecca Bennett, by whom he was the father of Mary, Jacob, James, Daniel, Michael D., Jane, and John. Of these, the second son made his home in Iowa.

John B. Ryan, who was the adopted son of Captain Hart Williams of Gorham, ME., was married in 1791 to Hannah Wallace, of Portland, in that state. He, however, had only female issue, his daughters being Sarah, Mary, Martha W., and Louisa.

One Ryan, an Irishman, was living before 1815 in Fluvanna County, VA., and was the father in that year of a son, White G. Ryan, who made his home in Summers County, W.VA., and left numerous issue there.

Jacob Ryan (ancestry unknown) made his home in Calcasieu Parish, LA., in the early nineteenth century. He was the father by his wife Mary Ann Hartgrove, of at least one son, named Jacob, who was born in the year 1816. The descendants of this line are also numerous.

Fuller Ryan, who was of Irish extraction, made his home at Knoxville, TN., before 1817 and was the father in that year of a son named Morgan, who removed at an early date to Missouri, taking with him his wife and family.

Sometime before the year 1822 Charles Ryan was living in Rockbridge County, VA., and in that year year he married Sally Griffith. He is believed to have had several children, but their names have not been ascertained.

One T. Ryne or Ryan was the father by his wife, Mary MacDonogh, of William and Maria, of whom the son William was living in Chicago, IL, in the early nineteenth century.

Among the other comparatively recent emigrants of the name to America have been Michael Ryan, a native of Kings County, Ireland, son of James and Catherine (nee Moore) Ryan, of that place, who came to America in 1837 and settled in Louisiana; Terence Ryan of Limerick, Ireland, who came in 1848 to America, accompanied by his wife, Honora McCarthy, and their son, Terence E. Ryan, later of Kane County, IL.; Edmund Ryan, son of James and Bridget (nee Toomey) Ryan, of Ireland, who settled at Milford, N.H. in 1854, after having resided for a short time in New York; and Matthew Ryan, who came from Ireland to America when young and was married at Bayonne, N.J. before the year 1874 to Mary Myers.

Ryans in America have been characterized, on the whole, by physical vitality, love of adventure, fearlessness, power of will, and intellectual and executive abilities. Their history is that of frontiers of the nation.

One of the most ancient and perhaps best know of the coats of arms of the Irish family of Ryan is that described as follows (Burke, Encyclopaedia of Heraldry, 1844).