A Look at the Mc(ac)A/I/Ninch(sh) Surname(s), and Where They Might be from in Ireland

[This article is based on “A Look at the McAninch Surname, and Where It Might be from in Ireland”, McAninch Family History NL, Vol. I, No. 2, June 1993, pg. 2, and “McAninch in 1800's Ulster, Tithe Applotment and Griffiths Valuation”, McAninch Family History NL, Vol. III, No. 2, May, 1995, pg. 4]

"McAninch" is an unusual surname, and sometimes difficult to live with. This monograph is a snapshot of previous and current work-in-progress, and is presented below in four sections:

I. In the United States, Consistent Spelling(s) since 1770's

II. The Ireland Connection, Clues to County Antrim, Ulster Province, (Northern) Ireland

III. The Surname MacInnes, Ancestor of our Mc(ac)A/I/Ninch(sh,tch) Surnames

IV. Sources and References (and some books we're not in)


I. In the United States, Consistent Spelling(s) since 1770's

The paragraph heading says it all here. In 1790, in the first census of the United States, there are two McAninch's, both in south-western Pennsylvania, and both entries spelled exactly the same way we spell it today. Earlier records in Pennsylvania, “McAninch” and “McAninck”, corroborate this [1].

When coupled with the Irish sources, discussed below, it is my belief that our ancestors were consistent in the pronunciation of our name, and thus, that our current spelling is not accidental. Specifically, our current spelling is consistent with the Gaelic pronunciation, and appears to have been rendered fairly from the spoken Gaelic into the King’s English, by the Crown’s tax collectors and Colonial port agents.


II. The Ireland Connection, Clues to County Antrim, Ulster Province, (Northern) Ireland

Many clues point first to Ulster Province, Northern Ireland, and then specifically to County Antrim.

The first clue found was in MacLysaght, The Surnames of Ireland [2]:

"Mac Aninch, -Inch, -Ninch Ulster variants of the Scottish MacInnes"

also “Mac Inch see Mac Aninch”, and “Mac Ninch see Mac Aninch”

[but note: “Mac Neish, -Nish A sept of the Scottish clan MacGregor”, pg. 235]

In the introduction, MacLysaght also says:

“The practice of differentiating between Mac and Mc (not to mention the now almost obsolete M') is fortunately dying out. There is no difference: Mc is simply an abbreviation of Mac.”

We should also note that the channel separating Ulster, (Northern) Ireland from Scotland is as narrow as 20 miles across in some places, and that there has been a lot of channel-crossing down through the centuries, in both directions. Some historians believe that all Scottish Highlanders descend from Celtic tribes which crossed from the island of Ireland to the islands and highlands of Scotland, circa 500 AD

For a variety of reasons, there are very few early-Irish records with genealogical information available. Those that survive were created by the English, when Ireland was still a colony of the British Empire.

Before the American Revolution, of course, Pennsylvania was also a colony of the British Empire, and there were no formal immigration records kept between different colonies. It's possible that some ship's manifest or colonial port records exist for our ancestors' trans-Atlantic passages, but I've not found any.

However, 19th-century Irish records with our surname(s) indicate that the families in Ulster pronounced their name the same as it came to the New World. It is probable that the 19th-century McA/I/Ninch’s in Ulster and our 18th-century ancestors descend from common Gaelic lines. but this is not yet proven.

In chronological order, the Irish records researched are described below.

First, and probably most significant, is the Irish Householder's Index [3], the combined index to two different tax records of the early 19th-century, microfilmed by The National Library of Ireland --

1. the Tithe Applotment Books, circa 1820's, Tithe tax, to support the King’s official Church of Ireland (Anglican Church, Church of England),

2. and Griffith's Valuation of Tenements, date varies by County, 1848-1864

After examining these records, variations of our surname are found only at the Northern edge of the island of Ireland, directly across the water (about 20-30 miles) from Scotland, in Counties Antrim and Londonderry, in the coastal bog country around Coleraine, where the River Bann runs north to the sea, and east, along the Antrim coast directly opposite Scotland (Bushmills, Glenarm, Larne).

Twelve people in the Tithe Applotments, 1824-1834, all in County Antrim (in alphabetical order by first name):

 No. Given Surname Townland Parish Diocese County
1 Daniel McNinch Ballinlea Lower Ballintoy Connor Antrim
2 Daniel McNinch Ballymagard Culfeightrin Connor Antrim
3 David McIninch Dunaghy Ballymoney Connor Antrim
4 Henry McAninch Craigalappin Ballintoy Connor Antrim
5 James McAninch Ballyroy Culfeightrin Connor Antrim
6 James McAninch Knacknagarvan Ballintoy Connor Antrim
7 John McAninch Ballyboggy Dunluce Connor Antrim
8 John McAninch Low Town / Bog Town Kilwaughter Connor Antrim
9 John McAninch Wightown Kilwaughter Connor Antrim
10 John McAninch Tickmacrevin and Templeoughter   Connor Antrim
11 Robert McAninch Rory's Glen Kilwaughter Connor Antrim
12 Samuel McAninch Mullans Finvoy Connor Antrim

And twenty-three people in Griffith’s Valuation of Tenements, 1859-1862 (alphabetical by first name):

[T. “Town of”, P. “Parish of”, B. “Barony of”, U. (Poor-law) “Union”]

1. Archibald M'Ininch Lisnagunoque Lower P. Billy, B. Cary, Ballycastle & Coleraine U. Ant.

2. David M'Aninch, jun. Dunaghy P. Ballymoney, B. Upper Dunluce, Ballymoney U. Antrim

3. David M'Aninch, sen. Dunaghy P. Ballymoney, B. Upper Dunluce, Ballymoney U. Antrim

4. James M'Aninch Carnlea P. Kirkinriola, B. Lower Toome, Ballymena U., Antrim

5. James Maninch Hightown P. Kilwaughter, B. Upper Glenarm, Larne Union, Antrim

6. Jane Mininch [M’I ?] Ballyboley P. Ballycor, B. Upper Antrim, Antrim & Larne U., Antrim

7. John M'Aninch Tullybane P. Derrykeighan, B. Lower Dunluce, Ballymoney U., Ant.

8. John M'Aninch Calheme P. Ballymoney, B. Upper Dunluce, Ballymoney U, Antrim

9. John M'Aninch Greenshields, Upper Ballymoney, Upper Dunluce, Ballymoney, Antrim

10. John M'Aninch Bushtown P. Macosquin, B. Coleraine, Coleraine U., C.Londonderry

11. John M'Ininch Ballyvennox P. Macosquin, B. Coleraine, Coleraine U., C.Londonderry

12. John M'Candlish Carracloghy P. Derrykeighan, B. Lower Dunluce, Ballymoney U., Ant.

13. John M'Manninch Rory's Glen P. Kilwaughter, B. Upper Glenarm, Larne Union., Antrim

14. John Macaninch T. Coleraine P. Killowen, B. Coleraine, Coleraine U., Co. Londonderry

15. John Maninch Boydstown P. Kilwaughter, B. Upper Glenarm, Larne Union, Antrim

16. John Maninch Hightown P. Kilwaughter, B. Upper Glenarm, Larne Union, Antrim

17. John Maninch Moordyke P. Kilwaughter, B. Upper Glenarm, Larne Union, Antrim

18. Patrick M'Ininch T. Bushmills P. Billy, B. Cary, Ballycastle & Coleraine Union, Antrim

19. Robert Maninch Ballycraigy Parish of Larne, B. Upper Glenarm, Larne Union, Antrim

20. Robert Maninch Ballyboley P. Larne, Barony of Upper Glenarm, Larne Union, Antrim

21. Robert Mininch Ballyboley P. Ballycor, B. Upper Antrim, Antrim & Larne U., Antrim

22. William M'Ninch T. Larne P. Larne [Kilwaughter], B. Upper Glenarm, Larne U, Ant.

23. William McInch, Rev. T. Dundalk P. Dundalk, B. Upper Dundalk, Dundalk U, County Louth

Also, note that there were no M’(c/ac)A/I/K/Ninch(sh) entries in County Down, which was the location of the heaviest Plantations of Ulster, when the English moved Scot borderers and lowlanders to Ulster.

The next reference is later in time, at the close of the 19th century, Matheson’s Surnames in Ireland [4]. The first part has the title “Special Report on Surnames in Ireland, with Notes as to numerical strength, derivation, ethnology, and distribution; based on information extracted from the indexes of the General Register Office, by Sir Robert E. Matheson, LL.D., Barrister at Law, Registrar-General for Ireland; Dublin, printed for His Majesty's Stationary Office by Alex Thom & Co. Limited, Abbey Street, 1909”.

page 36: “The following are found exclusively in Antrim -- Buick ... M'Killen, M'Murty, M'Ninch ... ”

page 64: Table showing the surnames in Ireland having five entries and upwards in the Birth Indexes of 1890, together with the number in each Registration Province, and the Registration Counties in which these names are principally found --

“M'Ninch” 5 entries in Birth Indexes for 1890, all in Ulster province, principally found “All in Antrim”

The second volume in this book has the title page “Varieties and Synonymes of Surnames and Christian Names in Ireland, for the Guidance of Registration Officers and the Public in Searching the Indexes of Births, Deaths, and Marriages”, by Robert E. Matheson, Barrister-at-Law, Registrar General; Dublin, printed for His Majesty's Stationary Office, by Alex Thom & Co. (Limited), 1901”.

McAninch is listed at the bottom of page 53: No. | Surnames with Varieties and Synonymes

1375 | M'HINCH, M'Aninch, M'Inch, M'Kinch

This source is authenticated and referenced by MacLysaght [5]:

"Finally, a word should be said about a government publication of an unusual kind. It is entitled Special Report on Surnames in Ireland, but it is ordinarily cited as "Matheson" from the name of the Registrar General of Births Deaths and Marriages under whom it was produced. It was published in 1894 with a re-issue in 1909. In addition to a general dissertation on the subject and some very interesting examples of the vagaries of spelling and even recent translation of Irish surnames, it lists every name for which five or more births were registered in 1890 and it usually gives the county or counties in which each name is most prevalent. It is possible to say "is" rather than "was" in this connexion, because various tests ( which will be indicated at the appropriate places in the book ) show that the distribution of surnames in Ireland has not altered materially in the sixty years which have since elapsed; the revolution in transport, emigration and all the other disturbing elements of modern life, which might be expected to change the pattern, have not in fact done so. Matheson, therefore, has been found very useful, especially in the preparation of Part II of this book. A further bluebook sponsored by Matheson was issued in 1901; this is entitled Synonymes of Irish Surnames and is of considerable interest”.

A third source for County Antrim, which is not a primary source, but does corroborate the theory about County Antrim, is the seven "McAninch" records in the LDS IGI (International Genealogical Index) [6] for Ireland, all in Ulster, County Antrim, dated between 1838 and 1867, individuals Alexander, Alice, Lydia Ann, Robert, Sinclair, and Susan, locations Ballymena, Brocklemont, Dirrow, and Londonderry.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence that our surname survives in Ulster today. I have examined the 1969 telephone book [7] for all of Northern Ireland, and there were no McAninch, -Anich, nor McI-'s.

Also, received the following from The Irish Family Names Society [8]:

“McAninch = Inch = Ninch, all from the Scot family MacInnes who came to North Ireland.

... not currently in the Irish phone books, an indication that the family if still in Ireland is a small one”.

Additonally, have met briefly with Dr. Brian Trainor, Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation, Belfast (part of the Irish Genealogical Project, responsible for Antrim, Down and city of Belfast) [9]. Dr. Trainor appeared to recognize our surname, although he thought it might be from County Down.


III. The Surname MacInnes, Ancestor of our Surname McAninch

As we've already seen above, MacLysaght says McAninch is an Ulster variant of Scottish MacInnes.

The classic reference is Black's The Surnames of Scotland [10], which does not list any spellings Mc(ac)Aninch(sh), Mc(ac)Insh, nor Mc(ac)Ininch(sh). There are three relevant entries, however:

“MacAngus, 'son of Angus'. This form of the name is not common, as it seems early to have passed over to MacInnes”.

“MacInnes, MacKinnes, MacKinness. G [Gaelic] MacAonghais, 'son of Angus', q.v.

Donald McKynes was tenant in part of the Elryk in 1514 (Cupar-Angus, I, p.295), Duncan M'Kynnes appears in Lochalsh in 1548 (RMS, IV, 204), and John M'Kynnes witnessed an instrument of sasine in 1530 (Lamont, p.30; Laing, 381). Allester M'Callen M'Aneiss and John dow M'Aneiss had assignation of maills, fermes, etc., at Dunoon, 1574 (Notes and Queries, 11 July 1931, p.220). John dow McInoss in Glenlyon, 1583 (RPC, III, p.589). Ewin M'Inish in Collicheles was denounced rebel in 1675 (H.P., I, p.300), and four Macinishches were killed and two wounded (Coll., p.199). Miles MacInnes, a director of the London and North-Western Railway, was also M.P. for Hexham. McInnisch 1692, Mcwynwiss 1525, McGinnis and M'Guenis 1745, MacInnish 1745, V;Invische 1587 and “MacNinch, from MacAonghus, 'son of Angus', q.v.”

This next part is quoted from "The Name MacInnes" section, pages 4-6, part of Clan MacInnes [11], the 57-page publication by Clan MacInnes:

“The name MacInnes is derived from Angus. The origin of the name is Gaelic aonghais (unique choice). The Gaelic name is MacAonghais (son of Angus) while in the Irish the name is MacAongusa. The Irish Guiness and MacGuiness families also trace their ancestry to a chief of Dalriada.

“The name Angus is purely Celtic, from Aon, “one”, and gusa, “choice”. The name Innes is derived from Gaelic Aonghais, and so by adding Mac we get MacAonghais, “Son of the Choice One”, which has been Englished [sic] to MacInnes and MacAngus.

-- Rev. Somerled MacMillan, in The Scottish Genealogist, Dec. 1970

“Angus is one of the oldest names in the Gaelic language occuring frequently in Scottish and Pictish history. Gaelic orthography is Aongas, but, as in the genitive, the g is aspirated by the following h, the word is pronounced Aon'es, and hence Innes. -- McIan, Costumes of the Clans of Scotland, 1845.

“And then there is the age-old question as to when is it “Mac” or should it be “Mc”.

A newspaperman in Edinburgh, writing under the pen name of Allan Douglas, wrote a weekly column in the Weekly Scotsman. In 1962, in response to a letter sent to his paper, he sent the following information to a Miss MacBryde who lived in Raeford, North Carolina:

“'Mc' is merely a contraction of the Gaelic word Mac. Mainly in Ireland it once became common when writing in Gaelic, to use a sign known as a macron in abbreviating words. The macron is a short line about the size of a hyphen, which is used to denote a vowel missing. Hence 'Mac' became 'Mc' with a macron over 'c'.

“Later on, people who did not realize the significance of the macron sign, thought it was simply decorative, so they changed it, thinking it would look better under the 'c'. Hence 'Mc'. Still later, people who didn't know the macron had any significance at all began putting two short hyphen-sized lines under the 'c'. Still others changed the [horizontal] lines ... and made them run perpendicularly.

“Most of our highland ancestors who came from Scotland's mountains could not speak English (they spoke Gaelic) and when they arrived in North Carolina, it was then the latter part of the 18th century. At this time the use of 'Mc' as a contraction of 'Mac' was in current fashion. This explains why most North Carolinians of Highland ancestry spell their names 'Mc'.

Also, on page 44 of the same book is this pronunciation gem:

GAELIC NAME: MacAONGHAIS (Pronounced Mock-ah-noo-ish)

After practicing the Gaelic pronounciation a few times, the reader is invited to draw his / her own conclusions about the origins of our current surnames “McAninch”, “McIninch”, “MacNinch”, etc.


IV. Sources and References (and some books we're not in)

(1) 1778: On 11 May 1778, Daniel McAninck (-ck spelling), was a certifying witness to a Bedford County (Pennsylvania) sheriff's election. Pennsylvania 6th Series State Archives, Vol. XI, page 16.

(2) The Surnames of Ireland, Edward MacLysaght, M.A. D.Litt. M.R.I.A., Sixth Edition, Reprinted 1989, by Irish Academic Press Limited, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin; McAninch is on page 6; from cover notes -- "Edward MacLysaght is the leading authority on Irish names and family history He has served as Chief Herald and Genealogical Officer of the Irish Office of Arms, Keeper of Manuscripts at National Library of Ireland, and Chairman of the Irish Manuscripts Commission”.

But we're not in any of his 3-volume set: I. Irish Families, Their Names, Arms and Origins, 1957, II. More Irish Families, 1960, and III. Supplement to Irish Families, 1964

(3) Irish Householder's Index (index to Griffith's Valuation Lists and Tithe Applotment Books); Microfilmed by National Library of Ireland, Photographic Dept.; microfilms available through the LDS Family History Centers, Index on six films 919001-919006 (County Antrim on film 919001).

(4) Surnames in Ireland, Matheson, reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, 1988. Full title "Special Report on Surnames in Ireland [with] Varieties and Synonymes of Surnames and Christian Names in Ireland", Sir Robert E. Matheson, LL.D., Barrister at Law, Registrar General.

(5) Irish Families, Their Names, Arms and Origins, by Edward MacLysaght, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, Third Edition, Revised, 1973, page 12.

(6) International Genealogical Index (IGI), LDS Church, available at all LDS Family History Centers.

(7) Telephone Book, (all) Northern Ireland, 1969 (examined personally, Saturday, April 3, 1993, at an Irish / Gaelic seminar at an Orange County California Genealogical Society meeting).

(8) Irish Family Names Society, PO Box 2095, La Mesa CA 91943; reply June 1990, from my inquiry

(9) Dr. Brian Trainor, Director, Ulster Historical Foundation, Balmoral Buildings, 12 College Square East, Belfast BT1 6DD (Northern Ireland); April 28, 1993, and May 7, 1995, at two Irish / Gaelic seminars sponsored by the Orange County California Genealogical Society.

(10) The Surnames of Scotland, Their Origin, Meaning, and History, by George F. Black, Ph.D., pub. 1946, by the New York Public Library, Fourth Reprinting, 1974, Eighth Reprinting 1986.

(11) “The Name MacInnes” section, pages 4-6, part of Clan MacInnes, the 57-page publication from the Clan MacInnes Society, July 1992; book and/or clan info available through Mary A. Faulk, Secretary/Treasurer, 8232 Kay Court, Annandale, Virginia 22003 (703-560-4371).

Some other books I checked, which do not list our Mc(ac)A/I/Ninch(sh) surnames:

(12) The Book of Ulster Surnames, by Robert Bell, 1988. This book lists over 500 of the most common surnames in Ulster, with origins of each surname, and in what areas it is most common.

(13) The Scotch-Irish, by Bill and Mary Durning, 1991, pub. by The Irish Family Names Society, La Mesa CA 91943. This book has tables showing the surname, religion, nationality, county, townland, barony, and place/parish where immigrants settled in Northern Ireland, and could give clues as to where in Northern Ireland your ancestors came from. The closest entry is on page 161, “McNish P(Protestant), 6 (Co. Down), 22 (Kirkcudbright, Scotland), Drumbo (townland), Castlereagh (Barony), Drumbo (Parish)” We’re not in their first A Guide to Irish Roots either.

(14) The Surnames of Derry, by Brian Mitchell, pub. 1992, by the Genealogy Centre of Derry, 14 Bishop St., Derry BT48 6PW (Northern Ireland); from the Introduction -- “The 1989 Foyle Community Directory lists 1,860 unique surnames in Derry City. ... In this book an attempt has been made to explain the origins of all these surnames.”

McAninch Family History NL, vol.V, no.2, May, 1997; Copyright Frank McAninch; pg. 1997-11-to-16


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