website security


Return to John Mackenny, Immigrant Ancestor

Researcher: Donald Earl McKinney Jr
These notes were compiled from material gathered since 1980 by personal research & correspondence. ************************************************

INTRODUCTION – Some Origins of McKINNEY (Myths & Reality)

I am a direct descendant of John Mackenny/Mackane (modernized McKenney), a soldier in the Royalist Army of Scotland during the English civil wars of the mid 1600's. They attempted to "restore" Charles II of Scotland to the throne of Great Britain as the heir of the Stuart monarchy that ruled Great Britain since the late 14th century. The Scottish army was defeated by military dictator Oliver Cromwell & the "New Model Army" of the English parliamentary forces after the battles of Dunbar & Worcester.
It is believed by most researchers & historians that he was captured at the Battle of Worcester & transported to Boston in 1652 with about 270 other Scots aboard the ship "John & Sarah". He settled in Black Point, Scarborough, Maine after his 7 year indenture. His name was spelled several different ways in the various transcribed records–Mackanny, Mackshane, Mackane, Machenne, Mackshawine, etc.

There are many McKinney/McKenney families in America, all with diverse, unrelated origins & various spellings. Some of these families had settled in Ulster, Northern Ireland, during the 1600’s when the English confiscated the land belonging to the Catholic Irish. This resettlement or "replantation" of Ulster brought in protestant Scottish & English settlers, the former group would later be known as the “Scotch-Irish” when they settled in the Applachian corridor of the American colonies during the 1700’s. Several historical authorities suggest that most of these Scot-Irish McKinney/McKenney families of Northern Ireland derived their surname from the MacKenzie & MacKinnon clans of Scotland.

However, the same authorities suggest that several McKinney/McKenney families of Ireland derived their name from the Catholic MacKenna/McKenna clan, original inhabitants of County Monaghan. Most of the Catholic Irish settled in the big cities, such as Boston & New York of the east coast of America during the potato famine of the 1840's. There were probably McKinney/McKenney families among that group.

Another group of McKinney/McKenney families, originated in Scotland & remained there until immigrating to America. Some were members of the MacKenzie clan & probably used the variant form of that name, which was pronounced with a silent Z in early Gaelic. Others may have derived their name from MacKinnon after their arrival in America. Some of these Scottish McKinney/McKenney’s were military prisoners transported to the American colonies during the 1600’s & early 1700’s after periods of civil war with the English.

These Scottish people were ironically descended from ancient Irish tribes called the “Scots” who settled in what is now Scotland sometime before the 5th century AD. These Irish "Scots" gave Scotland its name, also bringing with them the Celtic/Gaelic language & traditions such as the Mac prefix (used later in surnames), bagpipes, kilts & clan society. These Irish tribes mixed in with other warlike tribes, the "Picts", who had settled in Scotland centuries before. This resulted in the eventual establishment of Celtic Scotland. The Celtic traditions had a powerful uniting influence upon all the various other tribes who also invaded/settled Scotland, intermarrying with the Scots/Picts; the Teutonic Angles, Britons, Norse Vikings & the Normans. The Mac prefix, meaning "son of", was influential when the establishment of surnames began during the 13th century.

From Encyclopedia Britannica: MAC, a Gaelic word meaning “son,” & the distinguishing prefix in a large number of Scots and Irish personal names; frequently contracted to Mc and M’ in the written form. - - - - -Its use in forming Celtic patronymics is ancient in both Scots & Irish records - - - - From mac Coinneach, son of Kenneth, come M’Kinnie, McKenzie, M’Kenna, M’Whinnie

From “House of Names” Mac, Mc prefix Scottish and Irish patronymic surnames frequently have the prefix Mac or Mc. When these surnames were originally developed, they were formed by adding the Gaelic word mac, which means son of, to the name of the original bearer's father. - - - -Numerous variations of this prefix emerged, for a number of reasons. - - - -. Historical records concerning Irish and Scottish names reveal that the common prefix Mc and the less common prefixes M' and Mcc developed as abbreviations of the original Gaelic prefix Mac. Thus, the popular beliefs that Mc is a distinctively Irish prefix while Mac is exclusively Scottish, and that one prefix is used by Catholic families while the other one is specifically Protestant are erroneous. In actuality, the same person often had his surname recorded using both Mac and Mc on separate occasions.

From Linda Clifford’s Tartan List: Mac or Mc -- Mac is the Gaelic for "son" and is a very element common in Scottish and Irish surnames. It is often believed in the U.S. that Mac is Scottish and Mc is Irish, but this is not true. Mc is actually an abbreviation of Mac, and at one time was also written M'.

From Kathleen Givens Author of THE LEGEND All Mc and Mac names are of Gaelic origin and are patronymics, which means that they are derived from the father’s name. Mac means son of, as in MacGannon means son of Gannon and MacDonald means son of Donald.
The original form of son of was Mac, but it was often abbreviated as Mc (with or without a line or two dots under the c to show that the a was removed), or as Ma. And to make it even more confusing, Mac was sometimes abbreviated to a simple M’ , - - - - - -.
The Gaelic language is one of several Celtic languages, spoken by Celtic tribes in IRELAND, including the Scots, or Scoti. When the seafaring Scots re-settled in Scotland (and eventually gave their name to the country), they naturally brought their traditions and language with them.

From the Clan MacCallum/Malcolm Society: The various spellings of the names aren't particularly meaningful. In particular, the Mc vs. Mac myths are just that, myths. There is no truth to the stories that Mc means Irish and Mac means Scottish. The truth is that both forms plus a third from of M' are all just abbreviations that mean son of. The first two forms are in common use in Scotland and are frequently used within the same family. The M' form still occurs but is less common. It is important to remember that spelling of names wasn't very important to our ancestors who were frequently not literate.The name was often spelled the way it sounded to the person writing it down. This has lead to a number of common forms and a few that aren't quite as common.

The The Surnames of Ireland by Edward MacLysaght.: A note about Mac vs. Mc. The Gaels of Scotland are the descendants of the Gaelic settlers from Ireland. It seems not to be generally known that Scotland got its name from them, the word Scotus being Latin for Irishman. There seems to be a fallacy that Mc is Irish and Mac is Scottish. The practice of differentiating between Mac and Mc (and the now almost obsolete M') is fortunately dying out. There is no difference: Mc is simply an abbreviation of Mac.

Official histories of the Clans MacKenzie and MacKinnon in Scotland claim that representatives from their clans supported Charles II and participated in the battles of Dunbar & Worcester. The individuals mentioned above, are possibly members of either of these clans, some of them possibly from the MacKenzie clan & perhaps related to John Mackenny. Michael Tepper makes the following observation in his book, New World Immigrants, page 150. "This list is not to be accepted as a true record of their correct names. - - - -many puzzles left by the scribe in his attempts to spell out Clan names of Gaelic origin, spoken in a dialect that defied reproduction in English- --and as a result their names have undergone curious transformations."

From the Clan MacKenzie Society
MacKenney is a Sept of the Clan MacKenzie of Scotland
The name MacKenzie, or MacCoinneach in Gaelic, means literally, "Son of Kenneth." The original Kenneth lived in the 13th Century and was descended from a younger son of Gilleoin of the Aird, from whom can also be traced the once powerful Earls of Ross.

From the Clan MacKenzie Society of UK: "- - - - - Colin Fitzgerald was the first feudal Baron of Kintail. His grandson who in the Gaelic was called Coinneach MacCoinneach (Kenneth son of Kenneth), 3rd Baron of Kintail, became corrupted in English into MacKenzie (pronounced: MacKenny) and hence arose all the families of MacKenzie in Scotland. The name "MacKenzie" therefore coming from the Gaelic: "MacCoinneach" meaning: "Son of the Fair One".

From Scots Kith & Kin, page 71: "MacKenzie. Perhaps like the MacKays and MacLeans, one of the old transplanted tribes from Moray, though firmly rooted in Ross-shire ever since, this clan took their name MacKenny or MacKenzie after a 13th-century chief Kenneth, descended from Colin of the Aird who was ancestor also to the Celtic earls of Ross."

Several publications also have listed McKenney/McKinney as septs of the Clan MacKinnon of Scotland. Charles R. MacKinnon of Dunakin, Skye, Scotland was the author of several books concerning Scottish heraldry, and included a history of the MacKinnon family. He corresponded for several years with Pat Kirkwood, Editor of the McKinney Maze. The following are excerpts from one of his letters dated 1983:
"About the McKinneys, as I explained, I myself used to list them as a clan sept of the MacKinnons, assuming that is was a normal Anglicised distortion of MacKinnon, and it was the late Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Lord Lyon King of Arms, and a real expert on clans, who pulled me up for it. According to him it is a variation of MacKenzie. MacKenzie derives from MacCoinnich which some authorities give as a 'son of the fair' incidentally, which is also the meaning of MacKinnon. - - - - -Apart from accepting Sir Thomas's scholarship as far superior to my own, I was struck by how obviously MacCoinnich would Anglicise into MacKinney. So since Sir Thomas gave me his advise, I have dropped MacKinney from my pesonal list of MacKinnon sept names.

From Swyrich Web Site:
Mackenny is a Sept of the Clan MacKenzie

From Black's "The Surnames in Scotland": "MacKenzie. - - - The English form of the name is interesting as preserving the medieval Gaelic pronunciation of the genitive, which in early Irish is Cainnigh, pronounced 'Cainny'.- - - "

Concerning, my ancestor John Mackenny of Scarborough, Maine, some histories such as Ridlon’s “Saco Valley Settlements” & O'Brien’s “Irish Pioneers of New Hampshire,” claim that John Mackenny's name was McKenna. Ridlon assumed he was Irish because of the typical Irish name of McKenna. O’Brien claimed John McKenna first settled in the Isle of Shoals, coming from Ireland. Mr O'Brien also used Ridlon's book as a source, and most authorities I have corresponded with agree that most of the information concerning the McKenney’s, in both books, is inaccurate & very misleading, never using any original source material.

There is no record of anyone name McKenna or any variation of the name in the Isle of Shoals during the 1600’s. There are also no records in New England during the 1600’s or early 1700’s which reveal the surname McKenna/MacKenna.

As I mentioned in the Introduction, there were McKenna & McKenny families in both 17th Century Scotland and Ireland, as well as Ulster, Northern Ireland, all with different genealogical backgrounds. These Ulster "Scotch-Irish" began their arrival to the American colonies during the early 1700's with the Catholic Irish arriving during the potato famine of the 1840's. This was long after my ancestor John Mackenny arrived in New England. Of course, there were exceptions. The majority of the early Celtic/Gaelic settlers of New England during the 1600's came from Scotland, rather than from Ireland.

The foremost and most reliable researchers of New England, Noyes, Libby & Davis, as well as A.W. Underhill, offer specifically cited source material such as land, court & tax records, etc which y shows his name was Mackenny, sometimes “phonetically” transcribed as Mackanny, Mackany, Makenny, Mechene, or Mackane. Mackshane, etc which in the early Scottish dialect was most likely pronounced "Machkeny" or “Mechkainy”.

website statistics

website security