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Our Name, Where'd It Come From?


The Origins of Our Name

The history of this ancient Perthshire family traces its ancestry as a family of Dalriadian origin before the year 1100 and appears first in the ancient records in Perthshire. A book on Ulster surnames, found at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, gives the following information on the name: (please forgive me for not keeping the book name for reference) “The MacConaghy, MacConkey, MacDonagh, Donaghy and Duncan names all stem from the Scots and Irish Gaelic personal name Donnchadh, meaning ‘brown warrior’ (from donn and cath). This gives the personal names Donagh in Ireland and Duncan in Scotland. In Ireland, the MacDonaghs, Gaelic Mac Donnchadha, are most numerous in Connacht where they are a branch of the MacDermots. A variant of MacDonagh in counties Tyrone and Derry is Mac Donnchaidh, which was anglicised first to MacDonaghy and then Donaghy. In Co Fermanagh, it is thought that most Donaghys descent from Donnchadh Ceallach Maguire, who led the Maguire conquest of Clakelly in the mid-fifteenth century. However, the Scottich Clan Robertson of Atholl in Perthshire was equally well known as Clan Donnachie, Gaelic Clann Donnchaidh, after its chief Fat Duncan (Donncha Reamhar) de Atholia who lived at the time of Robert the Bruce in the fourteenth century and led the clan at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The MacConachies (also MacConaghy and MacConkey) were a sept of Clan Robertson, their family name in Gaelic being Mac Dhonnchaidh. (the ‘h’ after the ‘D’ makes it silent, thus sounding as Mac’onachie.) Also, after the 1745 rebellion, many members of Clan Robertson adopted the name Donachie to conceal their identity. There were also several MacConochie septs of Clan Campbell, one of which, the MacConachies of Inverawe in Argyllshire, descend from the fourteenth-century Duncan or Donachie Campbell of Lochow. The Clan Gregor MacConachies descend from the three sons of Duncan, seventeenth chief of MacGregor, by his second wife. There was also an old sept of Macconachies on the island of Bute. In Ulster all this becomes very complicated. As has already been stated, Donaghy is also an Irish name. Duncan, though a Scottish name used as an aglicisation of Donachie and MacConachie, has also in Ulster been used for the Irish Donaghy, as well as Donegan and Dinkin. MacConaghy has been noted as a synonym for Conaty, MacConaughty, MacConnerty and even Quinn.

Within Ulster, MacConaghy and MacConkey are mostly found in Co. Antrim. Donaghy is most common in counties Antrim, Derry and Tyrone and Duncan in counties Antrim and Tyrone. MacDonagh is most numerous in Fermanagh.”

Some McConnaghy’s believe themselves to be Irish, some consider themselves Scotch. My theory is that, obviously, we can be either or both, considering that the area called Ulster included both Scotland and Ireland in ancient times, and MacConahy’s and variants are found across that land. Not to mention that many moved from Ireland to Scotland to escape certain wars. I think it is safer to say Scotch-Irish for most of us.

Some variations of our name include: McConnaughey, McConnaughay, McConaughy, McConnaughhay, McConahy, McConnahie, McConaha, McConahay, McConahea, MacConahie, MacConaghy, McConaghy, McConnaghy, McConaty, McConnaghty, McConachie, McConaghy, McConaghie, McConaughey, McConahey, McConahe, etc.

This variety of spellings, above, does not confine itself to one particular family. Indeed, any one particular McConnaughy family, could be found under half a dozen or more spellings, so it is no good insisting that a name was always spelled a certain way. People often could not read or write, so had no idea how to spell their own name. It depended on the whim, or knowledge of the scribe who wrote it down, as to how it might be spelled.

Should any of you have additional information on the name, or your particular spelling, please pass along the information so that we can share it in a future newsletter.