SOME DONEGAL SURNAMES
The surnames of Donegal families fall generally into four categories: -
(1) Milesian names, mostly of the 0 or Mac prefix though many of these are of the 11th Century and later. Milesian names may be thought of as those occurring in the great Manuscript for the tribal Genealogist, Rawlinson B502.
(2) Later names of 0 or Mac prefix, often from some saint's cult, such as McBride, Kerr/Carr, Coyle, though some of these may be Planters or "Newcomers", names of Scottish origin
(3) Newcomers Families' names, of which there are many (see under "Galbraith") can often be traced to baronies or villages in Scotland from which the families originated, or are derived from their ancestors work or perhaps as "the son of" a relatively modern personal name such as Donaldson or Wilson.
(4) "Modern introductions' which must include names brought by relatively early sept-movements from other parts of Ulster quite far apart; e.g. McAteer from Co. Down, McLoone from Co. Tyrone, not strictly indigenous families, of the 16th Century or later.
The spellings of the names often give a clue to origins and it is a pity to notice the dropping of O's and Macs for no particular reason. Some historical reason must have given rise to the distinction between the Doherty and the O'Doherty (not known to this writer but worthy of a piece of academic research). One can only encourage a cessation of such practice for the future if for no other reason than a love of one's family name and one's ancestors but also for the benefit it might have for future Genealogical research. One has often heard the dictum of Juvenal "Stemmata quid faciunt" ("of what avail are pedigrees") but the search for one's origins in one's family's former homeland may be applauded as a route to personal identity in a country very often valuing only the material.
The 19th Century emigration from Donegal to Scotland gave the emigrants and migrants some feelings of inferiority since they were regarded as "undesirable, often ignorant and superstitious" (otherwise "Gaelic speaking and Catholic") d R. de Brus Trotter described them thus saying "having improved their social standing, from motives of gentility they modified the spelling of their names in order to conceal their origin". He gives some examples; MacDonnell changed to "Dodds", O'Carroll to "Charles", McSweeney to "Swan", McDuffy to "Duff". The Donegal emigrants were not alone in this as it occurred under war conditions when Continentals felt obliged to disguise their Polish and German origins by alteration of their surnames to something more English. It is sad to say that the same occurred in Donegal when adoption of anglified versions of newcomers' names was frequent at several stages of history. It is remarkable how truly recognisable surnames of great antiquity have been preserved by the many Donegal families who stayed at home.
[Cunningham, McGonigle, Conaghan, Cunning] |
[McDevitt, McDaid, McDade, McGaughey...] |
[O'Doherty, Doherty] | [O'Donnell] | [O'Friel, Friel, Freel, (O'Farrell)] |
[Galbraith and other "Plantation" names] | [Gallagher, O'Gallagher] |
[McLoughlin, O'Loughlin, McGloughlin, Laughnane, McLaughlin] |
[McSweeney, Sweeney, Wheeney] | [References] |
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