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Name variants: Mac or not Mac?

Discussion in 'Wigtownshire' started by Valzie, Aug 31, 2013.

  1. Valzie

    Valzie LostCousins Member

    In Wigtownshire, with the "Mac"or "Mc" at the beginning of surnames, it's a case of now you see it, now you don't.
    When I began hunting the children of Peter McKie and Margaret Blackstocks, born between 1807 and 1820, I found the father's name listed sometimes as McKie, sometimes as Kie; and at first I wondered if this could be the same man. Death registrations of the children confirmed that indeed he was. And as late as 1857, his grandson, another Peter, married in Leswalt, Wigtownshire, as Peter Kie - and then, having moved to Dunbartonshire with his wife Helen Torrance, showed up in the 1861 census as Peter McKie.
     
  2. alanmack

    alanmack LostCousins Member

    I always used to get upset when my surname was spelt without the 'a' . My GGM was present in the 1881 Census in Scotland as "Mckenzie" however. My GF, her son, re-adopted that name (brought up under his stepfather's name Burdon) when he married in England in 1903 as John Mackenzie. A correspondent made a good point even if untrue, that "the English only inserted the 'a' because they couldn't say McWhatever without it!".
     
  3. Alexander Bisset

    Alexander Bisset Administrator Staff Member

    Spelling is an incredibly recent obsession. I despair of researchers I've encountered who come up with such absurdities as "that can't be my ancestor we've never spelt our name like that." Sigh!! Not of course suggesting you are taking that attitude.

    Mc & Mac are standard celtic patronomics ie: meaning "son of". Typically Mc is more typically Irish and Mac Scottish but how it is written will vary enormously depending on the mood/inclination of the clerk doing the recording. The ancestor will have had little or more likely no say in the spelling recorded for their event.
     
  4. Valzie

    Valzie LostCousins Member

    It's only after the mid 19th century, in my experience, that the spelling of surnames remains constant from one generation to the next. Some surnames are subject to wild variation, based no doubt on local pronunciation: Flockhart, for example, can appear as Flochart, Fluckert or even Flucker. Not to mention Lockhart.
     
  5. Valzie

    Valzie LostCousins Member

    One of the oddest types of surname variation that I've encountered (this in Wigtownshire) is dropping the end of a surname presumably found to be too long and complicated: James Blackstocks married in Balcarry in 1812; when he died in Stranraer in 1868, his name was given as Blackstock - by son James b. 1828, who signed his own name simply as Black, which was in fact the way it and those of his 7 siblings had been registered. And between 1807 and 1820, Margaret Blackstocks sometimes became simply Margaret Black in the registrations of her children's births.
     
  6. Prairie Girl

    Prairie Girl LostCousins Member

    If Mc is typically Irish, and Mac typically Scottish, what are we to make of the M' spelling I have seen in many 19th century records? Were they covering all the bases, or just not able to make up their minds?
     
  7. Alexander Bisset

    Alexander Bisset Administrator Staff Member

    Shorthand. That's all. It's like ditto marks. It really is very very important in family history to pay no attention at all to spelling. Just be aware that spelling will almost certainly have varied a lot from one record to another. A slightly different spelling is absolutely NO indication of a different person. Indeed as was observed earlier in the thread it is often written simply how it sounded to the person doing the recording, nobody much cared about spelling until very very recently.
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
  8. Valzie

    Valzie LostCousins Member

    Well said, Alexander! (BTW I feel deprived: I've only 2 Alexander Bissets in MY family tree!)
     
  9. Alexander Bisset

    Alexander Bisset Administrator Staff Member

    I've only got 193 Alexander Bisset's in my tree. This is because I'm doing a one name study so I'd be really interested to hear more details of your Alexander Bissets as if they are from Scotland particularly NE Scotland then there is every chance I might have some info about them.
     
  10. canadianbeth

    canadianbeth LostCousins Member

    When my husband's ancestors came to Canada from County Cavan in Ireland in the early-mid 1800's the name was either McKigg or McKeage; no one seems to be sure just which. In any case until the late 1800's it was McKeage until one gentleman was travelling in the U.S. and was asked if it was "Mc" or "Mac" because which way depended on which religion he was. Well, he said, no way was he Catholic so it was "Mac" and so it has been for my husband's branch of the family ever since. :) This is hearsay of course but I have heard it from more than one source. There are a lot of McKeage's in southern Alberta but only our family now uses the "Mac".

    Beth - ;)
    Calgary
     
  11. Alexander Bisset

    Alexander Bisset Administrator Staff Member

    Yes Beth but again that entirely comes back to spellings. To be brutal about it there is NO "correct" spelling of names there never ever was a correct spelling. The "correct" spelling is as your example shows entirely down to those that recorded it and more recently families arbitrary decision as to what is "correct". Your particular branch happens to spell your name with a Mac its no more "right" or "wrong" than Mc. The trick with old records is to think how the name sounded to the person recording it and look for variants on that sound. Sometimes you even have to take unfamiliar accents into account.
     
  12. Valzie

    Valzie LostCousins Member

    Alexander, my situation is worse than I thought: I've only 1 Alexander Bisset. No dob for him, but he married Janet Martin in Strathmiglo, Fife, 8 April 1834. The couple had 2 sons that I know of: John, b. 11 Nov 1834 in Strathmiglo; and James, b. Strathmiglo abt 1839, who married Elizabeth McKillop (my 1st cousin 3 times removed) in Kinnoull, Perthshire on 22 Oct 1839. James and Eliz had 3 children: John b. 8 Jan 1870, Elizabeth b. 4 Aug 1871 and Janet b. 21 Feb 1873 - after her father had died 28 Sept 1872 on the N. British Railway Line in Edinburgh. Elizabeth McKillop survived longer but met an equally nasty end by drowning 10 Aug 1897 at the Balhepburn Fishing Station, Rhynd, Perth.
     
  13. Valzie

    Valzie LostCousins Member

    However, I had also come across another Alexander B. and just found the note I'd made: Alexander Bisset, Grieve in Balnashannan, and Betty Davidson in parish of Craig gave in their names for proclamation... (Forfar, 16 Aug 1799). And can it have been the same Alex B. , Weaver, who married Mary Davidson in Newburgh, Fife in 1801?
    Then I noticed a Thomas Bisset who was an undertaker in Forfar: named in the death registration of James Hood 14 Sept 1855.
     
  14. Alexander Bisset

    Alexander Bisset Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks for the information. I've not done much Fife research most of mine has been Aberdeenshire/Banffshire/Kincardineshire. I'll have a look though.
     
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1

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