MCKINNEY-L ArchivesArchiver > MCKINNEY > 2000-12 > 0978234367
From: "Wayne R. McKinney" <>
Subject: McKinney origins
Date: Sat, 30 Dec 2000 19:46:07 -0800
First I wish to thank everyone who has emailed me asking for more
information on McKinney origins. Second, I am not the last word on it. I
just have some experience in finding my own, and have been reading a lot and
watching the web a lot, and most importantly distilling the things my mom
finds in the courthouses and archives depositories. Courthouses for deeds
and wills, state archives for rent rools and church records are the meat of
genealogy, but that is another story. So lets get to it.
There is absolutely nothing that can be inferred from the Mac, Mc or M'. Mc
is not necessarily Irish and Mac is not necessarily Scottish. In fact, if
you look in a 'phone book in a Gaelic area all such names as ours are listed
in with the Ks. The thought of putting McKinney with the Ms just would not
occur to them. Mac and O's have even come and gone with the times like
clothes. Some families have them for a while, drop them and bring them back
over the generations. Mac means "son of" in Gaelic, and O' means "grandson
of." It might be in interest that women don't even use the Mac in the
highlands. They use Nic meaning "daughter of." (It may be the same in
Irish, but I don't know much Irish)
Now to the McKinney spelling. If there was not such a large movement to
change the spelling to this one, one might be able to infer something from
whether you are a McKinney or a McKenney. For example, one might at first
glance think that McKinney was more likely to come from MacKinnon than some
other clan--not so. There just seems to be some attraction to the McKinney
spelling which makes that the default. Whether you can infer that the
McKinney spelling implies that the family was part of the plantation of
Ireland in the early 1600's I am not at all yet sure. What drives me to
these conclusions is the various spellings which I have found in my family.
I have found almost all of the ones in the recent post and a couple of dozen
more. Remember that an educated Englishman did not learn Gaelic. As
recently as a few hundred years ago Irish were not considered human, and
could be killed with impunity. The phrase "beyond the pale" with pale
meaning fence meant across the English line in barbaric Ireland where the
protections of English law did not obtain.
My current suspicion is that the Mac/McKenn/e/y one is the more correct.
But it does not matter as most Irish and Americans seem to love the McKinney
one. My own family evolved from Meconik on a court record in MD.
(phonetically a dead ringer for Maccoinneach, thank heaven the court
recorder was decent at phonetics!!) to MacKenny to McKinney with dozens of
variations in between. When paying taxes or serving or juries or whatever
the Gaelic name was given a best effort by the english only speaking/writing
clerk who almost always botched the spelling--if there was a correct one
Now to clans. Clann (pronounced clown) is Scottish Gaelic for children. It
is where we get the English word clan which has come to mean family. It did
not always mean the same surname. Surnames were a fad which came into being
in the ~1300's. Since the Gaelic Mac and Nic were already in use in the
Gaelic regions they were a natural for the new surname fad. But there was
no uniformity. If you really look at say, the MacKenzie history, most if
not all of the Cheiftains that they proudly have in their genealogy book
were not spelled anywhere near MacKenzie. But here lies the rub. They
change the names when they use the sources--Even to the extent of changing
the spelling when they quote the source exactly or directly. And, I don't
mean to pick on just the MacKenzies for doing this. (Hopefully, I can get
away with it for being one of them!!) Most genealogists in print do it to
In the last five years I have observed and corresponded with many McKinney
researchers. My own informal poll gives the following results.
1. Maccoinneach/Maccoinnich leading to McKinney is the most frequent in my
research, and they are mainly from the mainland of Scotland, often with a
stop in the 1600's in Northern Ireland. This is the first place to look.
2. MacKinnon leading to McKinney is the second most frequent, and they tend
to be more from the Islands.
3. McInnish/MacInnes I have come across two or three, also tending to be
from the islands.
4. The book surnames of Ireland lists McKinney coming from the Irish
5. and claims there were Indigenous McKinneys in Ireland from at least the
These are the top five. I have never yet seen a documented case of the last
two. Some American Family name book has some reference to McInerge being
the most likely--hocum. In the McInnish/MacInnes cases they all found an
EKA in America with a spelling like that which brings us to the essential
points. How does one pick the correct clan?
1. You must go back to the point where the public record keepers were
trying to spell the Gaelic name. In my case, as I said above, I can look at
the 30 or so different spellings and see that the Gaelic which became
MacKenzie is the one. I have been greatly aided by a year of weekly
Scottish Gaelic classes. Another example. My neighbors as a boy were the
MacDowells. No such clan to my knowledge. But if you study the language
you find that MacDonald is pronouced quite close to the way we in American
would say MacDowell. Bingo, in their case it was easy.
2. Look at the given names on your whole family tree. For many generations
in the colonies they named everyone the same names over and over. For
example, in the MacKenzie clan there are zillions of Alexanders on both side
of the pond. (Alasdair in Gaelic) I have tons of them on my tree. That is
a big clue. It does not prove anything, but it does when added to other
circumstantial evidence. My EKA was an Iain meaning John. I have 50 ish
Johns in the families on my direct line. Study the frequency of names in
clan books which you suspect. Another example, a distant relative of mine
did a genealogy during WWII. His EKA was Mecum Maccoinneach. Mecum is
Malcolm, and let me tell you one did not name a MacKenzie boy Malcolm, it
just was not done. So, when he found a deported MacKenzie from a battle at
the right year with the English whose wife's father was Malcolm he made such
a case based on the likelyhood that his EKA was the only possible one who
had any reason to get the name Malcolm that even the Scottish MacKenzie
society bought the argument based on the odds.
3. Look at pictures. Don't let this one throw you. Faces just have not
changed. You can cut out the picture of the Alexander McKinney who wrote
the history of the clan in 1890 and insert my Uncle Homard's without anyone
noticing a thing. Same thing in several other cases. In the colonies,
except for the occasional German from PA, the Scots/Scots-Irish married each
other-- period. My tree contains a string of Scottish and Protestant Irish
names. Get the earliest clan book you can find, and look at the pictures of
people taken from the dawn of photography in the clan you are considering.
For further example, you can take the famous William Fee McKinney (known to
descend from a MacKenzie chased out of Scotland in 1715) and put my brother
Kenny's picture in the place and it is an exact match. I am not fooling. It
is positively scary.
4. Septs? Why do so many clans claim McKinney? Well, as you see above
McKinney just seems to be the darling favorite softened form of so many of
the Gaelic names which are a mouthful to prounounce. In addition, the clan
often included many allied families. Rich clans kept pipers, for example,
whose job was hereditary. There were many other families who gave
loyalty/tribute/rent/daughters etc. to the powerfull clans. The MacKenzies
for example, before they goofed politically by supporting the Stewart line
to the throne of England, were one of the most numerous and powerful clans
in the highlands. Switching sides and betrayal was a fine art. Remember
that in the movie Gladiator we are descended from the bellowing animal skin
covered Celt defeated in the opening battle, not the Romans. (Not there they
were something to envy)
This point brings back the most important thing to consider. NOTHING
substitutes for exact research of your line.
So, I have surely left out something, but this is a quick brain dump of some
of the things I have learned in my 5 year research effort with my mom. I
hope it is interesting and helpful.
Wayne R. McKinney
|McKinney origins by "Wayne R. McKinney" <>|