Emmet family genealogy

Of Ireland, and America

Arms: Per pale az. and sa. a fesse engr. erm. betw. three bulls’ heads cabossed or. Crest: On a chapeau a unicorn’s head erased all ppr.

The first of the Emmet family in Ireland that we met with, was John Emmet, who was one of the A.D. 1649 Officers, commonly known as the “Forty-nine” Officers.

We next meet with the name of William Emmet, an officer in Cromwell’s army, whose Will was executed in the diocese of Cashel, county Tipperary. The following is an extract from the Will:


20th ffeb. 1671.

I, William Emmett, Lasongarron, doe declare that my kinsman Henry Emmett shall have no power to dispose of the benefit of the lease of the house of Lasongarron, which I have left him in my Will, to any Irishman whatever, nor to any others without the advice of my two trusty and well beloved overseers.

As witness my hand and seall, this 14th day of ffeb. 1671.”

Yet anti-Irish and Cromwellian as was that William Emmett, he was an ancestor of Robert Emmet [1] (b. in Molesworth-street, Dublin, in 1778), who, on the 20th September, 1803, was, as a United Irishman, executed for “high treason,” in Dublin.

It is, however, only from Doctor Christopher Emmet, Robert Emmet’s grandfather, that the regular descent can be now traced. That Doctor Christopher Emmet (b. 1701, d. 1743, and buried in Tipperary,) married Rebecca Temple, whose great uncle was Sir Thomas Temple, Governor of Nova Scotia, a grant of which country was made to him by Cromwell; but the Government bought it back. Sir Thomas Temple died without heirs, but a nephew of his, Robert Temple, settled in Boston, and there mar. a dau. of Governor Shirley, of Massachusetts, U. S., America.

2. Doctor Robert Emmet, of Cork, State Physician, was son of Doctor Christopher Emmet. He married, and had:

  1. Temple Emmet, Barrister-at-Law, who d. young.
  2. Thomas Addis Emmet, M.D., and Barrister-at-Law, of whom presently.
  3. Robert Emmet, who, for loving his country “not wisely but too well,” was, as above mentioned, executed in Dublin, on the 20th September, 1803.

3. Thomas Addis Emmet, M.D., and Barrister-at-Law: second son of Dr. Robert Emmet; was b. in Cork, on the 24th April, 1764, and died in New York on the 14th November, 1827. On the death of his elder brother, he relinquished medicine, and was (in 1790) admitted to the Bar. In 1791 he mar. Jane (d. 10th Nov., 1846), dau. of the Rev. John Patten, of Clonmel. The first case in which he distinguished himself was that of J. Napper Tandy against the Viceroy (the Earl of Westmoreland) and others, in which the validity of the Lord Lieutenant’s Patent was contested, as having been granted under the great seal of England, instead of under the Irish seal. Emmet’s speech attracted great attention, and a full report of the proceedings at the trial was published by the Society[2] of United Irishmen. In 1795 he appeared as counsel for persons charged with administering the United Irish Oath; and, to confirm his argument in favour of its legality, he solemnly took it himself in open court. In 1796, he began to take a prominent and leading part as a United Irishman. Already, in 1792, he had joined the Catholic Committee; and Tone speaks of him as “the best of all the friends to Catholic Emancipation,” except himself. Upon O’Connor’s arrest, in 1797, Thomas Addis Emmet took his place on the Directory of the Society of United Irishmen; and on the 12th March, 1798, the deputies were arrested at the house of Oliver Bond, in Bridge-st., Dublin. Emmet and others were taken at their houses, examined at the Castle, and after a few days were committed to Newgate. Soon after his committal, his wife managed to visit him, and with the connivance of the jailors was, it is said, permitted to reside with him during the whole term of his incarceration of twelve months in Newgate and Kilmainham. Meanwhile, during the summer, abortive risings of the United Irishmen took place in different parts of the country; and, after the engagements of Antrim, Ballinahinch, and Vinegar Hill in June, and the capitulation of Ovidstown, on the 12th July, all hopes from insurrection were over. Blood now flowed in torrents, and with the view to arrest the slaughter, Emmet and other state-prisoners entered into an agreement with the Government, by which they bound themselves to disclose all the workings and plans of the association, without implicating persons; upon the condition that the Government should stop the executions, and allow him and his companions to leave the country. In consequence of the objections of Rufus King, the American Minister then in London, to the deportation of “rebels” to the United States, the Government altered its intentions; and on the 26th March, 1799, after a year’s imprisonment, Thomas Addis Emmet, O’Connor, Neilson, and seventeen companions were embarked in the Aston Smith transport, landed at Gooroch, on the 30th March, and imprisoned in Fort-George, Inverness-shire. After about three years confinement, all the prisoners were liberated, and they landed in Holland on the 4th July, 1802. From this date, until 1804, Emmet resided successively at Hamburg, Brussels, Paris, and other parts of the Continent; and considered himself absolved from any promise of abstaining from action against the Government. In the end of Sept., 1803, he received in Paris the news of his brother Robert’s execution; and in the following Dec. he had an interview with Bonaparte, and presented him with a memorial relative to an Irish expedition. The hopes of the United Irishmen, then in France, ran high, as they saw the progress of the preparations for the invasion promised by the First Consul, in a communication to Mr. Emmet, dated 13th Dec., 1803; but they were disappointed, for in April, 1804, Bonaparte’s plans were changed. In October of that year, Emmet embarked with all his family at Bordeaux for the United States. During his residence in France, all who were dearest and nearest to him in Ireland had been swept away by death—father, mother, brother, and sister. His intention after landing in America was to settle in one of the Western States; but friends who knew his abilities opened the way for his appearance at the New York Bar, where his success was more rapid than he hoped.[3] He had five sons and four daughters:

  1. Robert Emmet, who became a Judge and a District Attorney.
  2. Dr. John P. Emmet, who became a Professor in the University of Virginia.
  3. Thomas Addis Emmet, who was Master in Chancery, until that office was abolished.
  4. William C. Emmet, who devoted his life to the law.
  5. Temple Emmet, who served in the war of 1812, and was in the Navy with Decatur.
  6. One of the daughters married Mr. W. H. Le Roy.
  7. Another became Mrs. Bache McEver, who in 1883, resided in London with her grandson, Sir Edward Cunard, a relative of the Cunard steamship builders.
  8. Another m. a Mr. Graves.
  9. And the fourth daughter, died unm. in New York, in March, 1883, at the age of 90 years.


[1] Emmet: Robert Emmet’s speech, before sentence, has often been remarked upon as one of the most thrilling pieces of oratory delivered under like circumstances. He was repeatedly interrupted in its delivery by Lord Norbury, the presiding judge, who, we are told, conducted the trial in a spirit of great harshness towards the prisoner. The trial closed at half past ten o’clock at night, by a sentence of death, to be carried into effect next day. He was immediately heavily ironed, and placed in a cell in Newgate prison, hard by the court, and at midnight was removed to Kilmainham. His last hours were spent in religious exercises and conversation with his friends. He rejoiced on hearing of the death of his mother a few days previously, as he hoped the sooner to meet her in the other world. About one o’clock, on the 20th September, 1803, he was conveyed under a strong guard to Thomas-street, where at the corner of the pavement by St. Catherine's Church, a scaffold had been erected. He ascended the steps with firmness, and addressed the crowd in a sonorous voice: “My friends, I die in peace and with sentiments of universal love and kindness towards all men.” The halter was then placed round his neck, the plank on which he stood was tilted from beneath him, and, after hanging a few minutes, the head was severed from the body, and held up to the crowd. His remains, first interred in Bully’s-acre, near Kilmainham hospital, are said to have been afterwards removed either to St. Michan’s or to old Glasnevin churchyard. In his speech, before sentence, he had made the request: “Let no man write my epitaph; for, as no man who knows my motives dares now to vindicate them, let not prejudice or ignorance asperse them. Let them rest in obscurity and peace: my memory be left in oblivion, and my tomb remain uninscribed, until other times and other men can do justice to my character. When my country shall take her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written.”—Webb.

The names of the twelve jurymen who condemned Robert Emmet to death were: 1. Richmond Allen, foreman; 2. R. Henry French; 3. J. W. Fitzgerald; 4. William Snell Magee; 5. John Halpen; 6. William Moore; 7. John Doncan; 8. Godfrey Byrn; 9. Richard Davidson; 10. Thomas Cannon; 11. M. Stanford; 12. Thomas Kinder.

The morning before Emmet was executed he gave a seal he possessed to the Catholic clergyman of the prison. The late Dr. Madden owned this seal for sixty years, when he at last presented it to Dr. Emmet, of New York. It is an Irish crystal set in Irish gold. The design on its face represents a tree bending to a storm, beneath which is a broken harp, and the legend: “Alas! my country.” It is right, perhaps, to observe that all the Emmet family were Protestants of the late Established Church, except Doctor Thomas Emmet, living in New York, in 1883.

Everything belonging to the Emmet family, even down to the butchers’ and grocers’ bills, was seized by the Government at the time of Emmet’s arrest, and retained. The papers were first sent to London; subsequently returned to Dublin, and placed in the State Paper Office, where they are deposited. It is said that, by orders of the late Duke of Marlborough, when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Emmet papers were sealed up and orders issued that they should not be opened for one hundred years. All the letters of Robert Emmet’s father and mother are also there, with the celebrated love-letters from Sarah Curran to Emmet, which Major Sirr, of 1798 memory, found so pathetic that he says he wept over them.

[2] Society: In 1794 the Society of United Irishmen was broken up; it was in 1795 re-organised as a Secret Society; and in 1796 the military organization was engrafted on the civil.

[3] Hoped: Thomas Addis Emmet died suddenly in court, in 1827. A tablet was erected to his memory in one of the court rooms in the City Hall; and a statue in honour of his genius now stands in the churchyard of St. Paul’s chapel, opposite the Herald office.