Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mid Argyll Group Surnames

The Mid Argyll Kinship Group includes the surnames, listed in their anglicised forms and then in Gaelic, MacAlpin (Mac Ailpin), McCain (Mac Eáin), MacDonald (Mac Dónaill), Duncan (Mac Donnchaidh), Henry (Mac Eanruig) and MacLea (Mac an Leagha).[i]  These are not ‘clan’ surnames, meaning they do not necessarily relate to historical clans from mid Argyll.  They are surnames created from Gaelic patronymic naming customs.  Surnames were not fixed in Argyll until very late, circa 1500s into the 1600s.  Even then the use of clan surnames was not universal and was often a form only found on legal documents written by government officials, rather than the surname a family actually used in their community.[ii]  Clan surnames were used more by older sons of landed families.  The fact that the Mid Argyll Kinship families shared the same paternal kinship, but were using at least five different surnames is not unusual.  They do share some obvious connections.  They are all of Highland Gaelic ancestry and have histories connected to Argyll.  Several of the families have primary source records that placed them in specific locations in mid Argyll. 

[i] McCain Family DNA Project, http://mccaindna.ulsterheritage.com/
[ii], Michael Newton, A Handbook of the Scottish Gaelic World, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2000, pages 136, 137. 

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