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MAC, MC and O's

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  • Xenia Stanford
    Hi all, I guess my faux pas some years ago about the Mc versus Mac lives on! Let me explain the story as my research tells me. Mc, Mac, O and variants (Ma,
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 5, 2002
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      Hi all,

      I guess my faux pas some years ago about the Mc versus Mac lives on! Let me
      explain the story as my research tells me.

      Mc, Mac, O' and variants (Ma, Mag, M', Map) are Gaelic patronymics.
      Patronymics are "surnames" taken from a father's first name. Just as the
      Nordic languages use -sen or -son at the end to indicate Johnson, son of
      John, so are the MacDonalds, son of Donald.

      The oldest origin in Gaelic of these patronymics was the Irish O' and it
      could be any older male ancestor - not specifically the father. For example,
      the O'Loghlin research I am doing reveals that the name O'Loghlin is a
      derivative of the O'Connor clan, which has been somewhat documented back to
      late BC - early AD in the Annals of the Masters. The O'Connors were the
      "kings" or "chiefs" of Burren (an early chiefdom in County Clare). Around
      400 A.D. there was a great leader named Lachlan (various spellings) of the
      O'Connor clan who was the ruling chief. His great grandson Melachlan assumed
      the throne upon his own father's death. Melachlan, I guess not being
      satisfied with his given name being after that of his great grandfather, he
      changed his clan name to also honour his great grandfather and thus became
      Melachlan O'Lachlan (O'Loghlin, O'Loghlen, O'Laughlan and other permutations
      are found throughout the history). This is the root of all O'Loghlin names
      (the McLaughlins formed somewhat later and elsewhere in Ireland).

      In fact the Mc/Mac combinations seemed to derive later than the O'
      combinations. Initially the Mc/Mac was used to distinguish the father more
      specifically than the elder lineage. Spelling was never important in those
      days as there was no standardization. Few people were literate anyway and
      pronunciation was the only guide. Thus the spelling usually evolved from the
      accents of the particular area.

      The Irish appear to have used all these combinations long before they were
      used in what is now Scotland. In fact modern Scottish people descend mainly
      from very early Irish Scoti tribesmen who were a seafaring lot. They
      migrated to Scotland and named the country after their tribe. The Scottish
      people intermarried with the Picts who lived there and thus evolved
      separately from the Irish but brought their naming practices with them -
      though the O' practice seems to have died out there.

      Now the Mc and Mac spellings are not Gaelic but are the Anglicized froms and
      evolved from pronunciation differences among the Irish and the Scottish and
      the Welsh. The early Anglicized spellings that evolved were Mc in Ireland,
      Mac in Scotland and Map in Wales.

      However, in early medieval times (800-900 A.D.) the movement of people
      became more common especially among the adventurers and warriors who moved
      beyond the confines of their islands and communities. The Irish brought the
      Scottish their pronunciations and spellings and the Scottish brought the
      Irish their versions and eventually the Welsh pronunciations and spellings
      transformed as well. Thus from the period in which we are most likely able
      to trace back to our ancestors' names the Anglicized spelling variations now
      show up in any part of the British Isles/Ireland. The variants include
      M', Mag, Maq, Ma as well as the Mc, Mac and Map forms.

      I should not have glossed over the explanation but you see it is somewhat
      lengthy.

      I never meant to imply that all the Mc names now are Irish or that all the
      Mac names now are Scottish. The origins are the same - i.e. from Gaelic. The
      pronunciations originally varied as did the spelling by regions but as soon
      as there was more interchange through commerce, war and other intermingling
      the differences became no longer region specific.

      à bientôt or perhaps I should say "Slán agus beannacht leat" (goodbye and
      blessings on you),

      Xenia Stanford (president@...)
      A.G.E. Ancestree Genealogical Enterprises
      Column: "Nos Racines Francaise" http://globalgazette.net/
      Local book and magazine sales: http://www.knowmap.com/age/
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