Irish Cafe Irish Cafe Irish Cafe
Journal of Irish Families
Box 7575 Dept. HPA
Kansas City, MO
64116 USA

Mac, Mc, and O Names in Ireland, Scotland, & America

Mac, Mc, and O Names in Ireland, Scotland, & America
Price: $25.00

17th - 20th century records.

This is a study of Irish & Scots Family Names, sources, indexed. Locations in Ireland and early America. 1790 census records, Irish census record. Charts.
Names Identified and Located In print for the first time ever in 2003. Authored by Michael C. OLaughlin. This is a study of names that begin with Mac, Mc, and O, based upon several census records in Ireland and early America. Many families are noted and pinpointed as to specific location in both countries. Includes extracts on these names from the work of OHart; a chart of all Mac and Mc names from the 1790 U.S. census, along with count of names by county.

Names In Ranking Order Gives the ranking of the top Mc, Mac and O names in the U.S. based upon the social security records. In Ireland,the original spelling of all of these names is given based upon the 1659 census and the 19th century records of Mathesons survey...... Not a big collection of family histories but a guide showing the location these family names, spellings and locations, with actual records illustrated. Several old and worn pages have also been taken from the IGF archives showing famous and infamous individuals with Mac and O names as recorded in the 1800s.

From the Intro to this work Here is a passage from the introduction of this work; "By Mac, Mc, and 'O', you'll always know a true Irish or Scotsman so they say ".......The purpose of publishing this work is to introduce you to the meaning and use of these family names. Mac names originate in Scotland and Ireland. The 'O' names, which appeared first by many accounts, is a name considered exclusively Irish. Nearly all old Irish surnames were originally prefixed with Mac or 'O'. They were such attractive additions to a name that some families settling in Ireland from abroad took a name with a Mac prefix. This included the Vikings & the Normans ! Some old Irish families would drop the Mac or 'O' during certain periods of the plot thickens when trying to determine exactly what your name might have been spelled like then.

One fact needs to be recognized immediately. There is no difference between Mac, Mc, and M'. You cannot say one form is Scottish and one is Irish. It becomes obvious that Mc and M' are both merely shortened forms of Mac, which is the originally Gaelic form that has come to stand for 'descendant of'. Originally the 'Mac' meant 'son of', and the 'O' stood for 'grandson of'. Today both simply mean 'descendant of', or perhaps more generally in some cases 'follower of'. (The latter is more often ascribed to 'Gil' names like Gilmartin or Kilmartin, coming from the Gaelic 'giolla'). Census records often use the shortened forms of Mac, it simply saved time and space, as in the census records shown in this book.

Dropping the Mac or the O from names It is well known that the Mac and O have been dropped and added at will. In Ireland, especially in the area known as the 'Pale' around Dublin, it was declared that the Irish take on names in an English form. Many a man would drop the Mac and O when doing business with the powers that be, and then add it back again when among old Irish friends. The census taker could have used either form, with or without the Gaelic 'prefix' so to speak. This means you may have to look for both forms of the name when you go back into the records ! That is in addition to looking for other ways of spelling altogether - some examples of that will be given further on in this book. Suffice it to say that the sound of the name becomes more important than the spelling of the name at times.

Carrying things to an extreme, I will here illustrate the various forms a single name could take. Not only can the Mac or O be dropped, the Mac might change to Mc, M' or Mag at random. In a few instances the wrong prefix has been put back on the name! Here are samples of the kinds of changes you might see in your Mac or Mc name.

MacAmhlaoibh (The old form of the name)
McAuley (Mac changed to Mc)
M'Auly (Mc changed to M', and 'ey' changed to 'y'.)
M'Ouly ('A' changed to 'O', vowels interchanged in older records)
M. Auley (Mac changed to M. )
MacCauley ( The 'c' in Mac becomes a 'cC' )
MacCalley (vowel 'u' is dropped, the 'l' becomes 'll')
MacGawley ( 'g' substituted for a 'c'. )
Magawley (Mac changed to 'Mag' - not as common.)
Cawley (Mac dropped, but the 'C' stays
Cawllie ('ey' changed to 'ie'.)
Gawly (Name beginning with 'C' is changed to 'G'.)
O'Cauley (Rare Mac name changing to an 'O' name.)

There were no 'Mac' names among the top 50 in England. It is easy to see that there is much in common with Irish and Scottish Macs, particulary when you begin to look at these name spellings in early America.

Inside - Out
Scotland mirrors Ireland in many respects, although the spellings for similar names are different, particularly after the 17th century. At one point some of the highland Scots dropped the Mac from their names under political pressure, bowing to the politics of the day. (They would of course be free to add the Mac back again later.) Later, when it became fashionable, some lowland Scots added Mac to their names - where there had never been one! Add to this the fact that Irish Macs arrived in the Scottish highlands from Ireland originally, and that the Irish and Scots mixed for centuries in the lowlands. Distinctions become blurred. There are however many Mac names that are recognized as distinctively Irish or Scottish today. (see chart later in this book). Some Scotsmen today will say that you cannot capitalize the first letter in the name that comes after the Mac, unless you are indeed the son of the man being named. i.e. most people should be using Macdonald, not MacDonald - unless your fathers name is indeed Donald.

Most Numerous
Mac names that retain the 'Mac' prefix are numerous today in Ireland, Scotland and America. Indeed some phone books are composed it seems by a majority of 'Macs'!. Mac Names show up as relatively numerous in the 1790 census of the United States (see charts later in this book). When we look at the top 100 most numerous names that still retained the Mac or Mc in 1890, we find the following most numerous in Ireland. The rank of the name in the top 100 is given before the name:

13. McCarthy
21. McLaughlin
55. McGrath
63. McDonnell (sometimes O'Donnell & McDonald))
64. McMahon
88. McKenna
94. McNamara
95. McDonald
96. McDermot

In the top 50 names in Scotland, 'Mac' names include the following:

2. M'Donald
12. McKenzie
15. M'Kay
22. M'Lean (sometimes McLane)
30. M'Leod (sometimes McCloud)
39. M'Intosh (also found as Mackintosh)
44. M'Gregor (sometimes found as 'Gregory' )

There were no 'Mac' names among the top 50 in England. It is easy to see that there is much in common with Irish and Scottish Macs, particulary when you begin to look at these name spellings in early America.

Table of Contents

Arms (illustrated) ...........................

Mac, Mc, & 'O'
The Most Numerous..........................
1790 U.S. Census spellings/locations......
Early American Names.....................

Record of Names
Mac Names in 1659 listed...................
Mac Names in the Irish Birth Index.......
'O' Names in the 1659 Census...............
'O' Names in the Irish Birth Index.........
'O' Names in the Master Spelling Index..
Mac & Mc names in the Master Index.....

Ancient Irish Surnames.....................
Modernized Spellings........................

Famous and Infamous Individuals with Mac and O
From John McBride, Hugh MacCaghwell and Alexander McCaine to Edward McCall, Judge Wilson McCandless and James McCarroll, we have compiled extracts on a few of the famous Mac and O names from earlier times.

Charts and Illustration
Spelling Rules.................................
Owen Roe O'Neill............................
Grace O'Malley, sea queen..................
O'Donnell Abu................................
McDonald Locations..........................

The Final Word Full size 8 1/2 x 11, heavier parchement cover, spiral bound, indexed, charts, 61 p., new. Some records are reproduced here exactly as they appear in the original documents in the IGF Library, and so they will show the wear of time. A must for any collection or study of Irish names. Many families are pinpointed as to county locations in both Ireland and America, as would be expected, some are mentioned as variant spellings, etc. Comiled and written by Michael C. O’Laughlin. You can learn more about this author in the Irish Roots Cafe, here at

Search Family Name Index


Get an Irish Family Membership Now!

The Inside Scoop

Subscribe to this podcast with iTunes

Subscribe RSS Feed URL

Related Books:
Families of County Clare

County Donegal Genealogy and Family History Notes

Complete 26 volume set of Genealogy Notes & Coats

The Birth Index of Ireland

Missouri Irish

Conquest of Ireland

The Irish Book of Arms, Genealogy & Heraldry

Irish in America

Click on the titles to listen.
Created by Big Vision Design