Surname Basics

I'd be less than honest to say that my research has centered on the English spellings of the surname, as opposed to the Gaelic. But Gaelic is masculine/feminine so the Gaelic spelling of the surname is Nic Fhinn {for a female} and Mac Fhinn for a male. And both are put into English as McGinn, except in (primarily) Mayo where McGinn became McGing. (There are McGings in Dublin before 1800, no known McGings in Mayo until after 1820 so that remains a mystery.) Plus almost no records exist that use Gaelic. English and Latin seem to be it. So the ability to track the surname in Gaelic is just not possible.

Y-DNA demonstrates a long Irish heritage for men surnamed McGing, so the idea of someone not Irish coming to Ireland in mid-1700s and dropping into the area (with the McGing surname) doesn't hold. So something in the way an Irish name gets translated into English with one form in Mayo but another result elsewhere happened, but no idea why. But my research (and DNA) on name usage outside of Ireland does hold up well for Mac Fhionn's in Mayo very consistently using McGing in the rest of the world. Not exclusively, some did use McGinn, but genealogical and DNA reseach on a number of these all come back to people surnamed McGing IF they came from Mayo while those who are from other counties always come to people surnamed McGinn.

MacLysaght has this to say about the name McGing:

McGING, or McGinn, Maginn -- from the Irish Mag Fhinn from the word fionn meaning "fair."  McGing is the form almost invariably used in counties Mayo and Leitrim,while McGinn is usual in Tyrone, and Maginn in Antrim and Down.

More Irish Familys by Edward Maclysaght (page 111)

MacGinn, McGinn and its composite form Maginn are approximately equally numerous and are now found respectively in Counties Tyrone and Down. MacGinn, or MacGinne, is listed in the "census" of 1659 as a principal Irish name in the barony of Oneilland, Co. Armagh, i.e. the territory which lies between Tyrone and Down. The name is Mag Fhinn in Irish. This is anglicized MacGing, or Ging without the prefix, in the three Connacht counties of Mayo,Leitrim and Galway. In Mayo, according to Woulfe, the variant Mac Fhinn, which becomes MacKing, is also found, but if extant this is very rare. I have found no evidence to determine whether MacGing of Connacht is a branch of the Ulster sept.

William Maginn (1793-1842) left Dublin in 1828 and became one of the foremost personalities in the literary and journalistic field in London. Edward Maginn (1802-1849), a Tyrone man, was coadjutor Bishop of Derry and a staunch supporter of the more extreme Nationalists of his time.

Feb 2019 addition – I have found a few families of named MacGing in Dublin. The earliest is at about 1780 and the latest is 1845 or so. I cannot push back earlier than this time period with documents. And I can’t find any way to link these Dublin based McGings with the Mayo McGings (there are some unique names in Dublin that never appear in Mayo.)

There were no McGing or McGinn or Maginn listed in the Mayo portion of "Landowners in Ireland, 1876"

"Vols. 1-25 of Co. Mayo Chronicles" are two McGing references:

V. 14, pg. 348 has Catholic baptisms from the Partry chapel in the parish of Ballyovey 16 May 1871 Thomas of Michael Derrig and Bridget McGing.

V. 23, pg. 579 has a continuation of the same parish register, and shows: 4 May 1873 Patrick of Michael Derrig and Bridget McGing

Frequency of the surname McGing in county Mayo Based on Griffith's Primary Valuation, 1848 - 1864.

6 in the parish of Aghagower, 1 in the parish of Breaghwy, 2 in the parish of Oughaval

Frequency of the surname McGinn in county Mayo Based on Griffith's Primary Valuation, 1848 - 1864.

3 in the parish of Aghagower, 6 in the parish of Ballintober, 5 in the parish of Ballyovey, 1 in the parish of Cong, 4 in the parish of Oughaval

Frequency of the surname Maginn in county Mayo Based on Griffith's Primary Valuation, 1848 - 1864.

1 in the parish of Oughaval

Irish Names and Surnames (The title is in Gaelic first) by Rev. Patrick Woulfe.

First published in 1923 in Ireland. Re-published in 1992 by the Irish Genealogical Foundation in the US and can be obtained from Michael O'Laughlin of The Irish Family Journal, Box 7575 Kansas City MO 64116 has the following entries:

Page 361 Mac Fhinn - IV - M'Iyn, MacKinn, MacKing, son of Fionn' (fair); a var. of Mag Fhinn q.v.; in use in Derry and Mayo, but rare.

Page 420 Mag Fhinn - IV - Maginn MacGinn, MacGin, MacGing, Megginn, Ginn; a var. of Mac Fhinn, q.v.; This form of the surname was peculiar to Co. Down

Surname Dictionary

Ging - Quite numerous: Laois etc. Ir.Mag Fhinn (Fionn, a first name meaning fair). More numerous as Maginn in Ulster.

MacGing - Quite numerous: Westport (Mayo) etc. Ir. Mag Fhinn - Synonymous with but separate from the Ulster Maginn and Mac Ginn, q.v.

Mag Fhinn, Maginn, Mac Ging: líonmhar: MacGinn i dTír Eoghain; Maginn sa Dún; Mac Ging(líon)i Maigh Eo & Tír Conaill Bhíodar suite in Ó Nialláin (Ard Macha) sa 17 céad. Seans gur teifigh Ultacha an dream i Maigh Eo

Bells Book of Ulster Names

McGinn. Also spelled Maginn. Irish in origin. Common in all nine counties of Ulster. McGinn is most common in county Tyrone, and Maginn in counties Antrim and Down. The name comes from the Gaelic Mag Fhinn. McGinne was listed as a principal Irish name in the barony of Oneilland, County Armagh, in Petty's 'census' of 1659.

Also, there are some McGing's who dropped the Mc when coming to the US, so there are some Gings out there descended from McGings. And in my studies of LDS documents, I've decided that it is quite likely that a name listed as McGin is a McGing. And last but not least, there are McGinns who were once McGings as well.

If you check out the birth and other records you'll see that the name was spelled about any way you can imagine. Ging, Maginn, Mcginn, Macginn, McGing. You can see the name change for the same family as children are borm and baptised. From reading and discussions, the fluidity of names in Ireland is well known, especially in the Gaelic west, where speakers of English did their best to write down the Irish names they heard. It's pretty clear that a discussion of McGing genealogy touches into McGinns and other varients as well.

McGing Early History - As submitted by Gerry McGing

Our family history suggests that we should be looking in the records of Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland for our beginnings.

The McGings were listed in the records of Armagh in 1750 or thereabout as Flax weavers and Leather workers.

The Battle of the Diamond in 1795 – 1796 when the Peep-O-Day Boys (later to be known as Orangemen because of the orange cockade they wore) attempted to throw all the Catholics from their homes, burning them to the ground. The Catholics tried to defend themselves, but as they were not allowed to own arms or weapons were unable to do so, and in fear for their lives they fled to the South.

Of the 30,000 refugees – 4000 fled to Mayo. Amongst these the McGings. They were given shelter by the three lords of Mayo. Lord Altemont, Lord Lucan and the Marquess of Sligo.

The Flax workers settled around Tourmakeady under the care of Lord Lucan and the leather workers around Westport cared for by the Marquess of Sligo. At this point all of the McGings were thought to have been related!

Sources: Patrick Tohall “The Diamond fight of 1795 and the Resultant Expulsions” – Seanchas Ardmhacha Vol 3 No. 1 1958
Patrick Hogan “The Migration of Catholic Migrant to Connaught 1795-96” – Seanchas Ardmhacha Vol 9 No 2 1979
W.E.H.Lecky “The History of Ireland in the 18th Century”
Keeper of the State Papers, State Paper Office, Dublin

I do need to point out that the above is a family history but I've been unable to find records showing McGinns/McGings as flax weavers in Armagh. I've also not found McGings on records of the Marquess of Sligoas they came to Mayo. So while I'd love for the above to be true, I've been unable to verify it.

From my Aunt Anne Donnelly

At school in Tourmakeady, we were McGings in English class and MacGinn in Gaelic class. My boss at work once asked me was my name McGing or McGinn. I said 'we were McGings but my father's family were McGinns. He said 'whatever was your father's name, should be yours' and from then on, he addressed me as "Miss McGinn".

To understand the three spellings (McGing, McGinn and Ging) - you need a little knowledge of the Gaelic language and spelling.

The alphabet has only 18 letters :-


To get the other sounds, you add H to the consonant, ibh has a v sound, gh has a y sounds, bh, a, u, o have a w sound. I won't bore you with further details. No Gaelic word has an ing ending. It was inn instead to get the sound right - even 'Sinn Fein' is Gaelic. It would not sound right as 'Sing Fein'. When English was forced on us in the 16th & 17th centuries and their translation gave us this ing spelling. Some of us accepted it - some others did not - they preferred the old inn spelling but as the English took over, it changed the sound inn e.g. Gaelic words like Binn, Cinn, Sinn, Linn and tinn all have the ing sound.

Believe it or not, I came to the conclusion we must be a rather passive bunch while the Donnellys and Lallys displayed their valour on the fields of battle all over Ireland and Europe. The McGings seemed to have stayed home perhaps praying and studying. I think May has told you about the Lallys. The Donnellys my in laws) claim direct descendancy from Niall of the Nine Hostages - the High King who brought St. Patrick to Ireland in the 5th Century as a slave. They seem to have showed gallantry in every Irish Battle from then to the Battle of 1601. The ones who survived Kinsale followed their great leader and Kinsman, Hugh O'Neill to the Continent and left Ulster open for Elizabeth 1st's plantation. They did not all go - enough stayed to defend their own town 'Ballydonnelly' in Co.Tyrone and they are still there. Some of them came south after the Ulster Plantation in 1601 and settled around Crossmolina, Co. Mayo. The Donnellys used to tease me about the little Chinaman named Ging who came ashore at Westport.

A few years ago, a documentary about the life of Saint Kevin appeared on Irish T.V. (Saint Kevin was a scholar who founded the seat of learning in Glendalough, Co. Wicklow. It was famous all over Europe from the 6th Century onwards.

His father's name was Ginn - he was a Derry chieftain. He had eight sons and Caoibh (Kev) was the youngest. He spent a lot of his time studying and praying and told his father that he wanted to enter a monastery. They chose one at Kilnamanagh (the Monks Church) just outside Dublin. Those were very dangerous times so his father sent two older sons to take care of him. (Kilnamangh is still there). They travelled from their home in Derry to discover that monastery life in Kilnamanagh was rather hectic. Caoibh - a very handsome young chap - found himself fighting off the ladies. It was not the quiet life of prayer and study he had planned so he stole away into the mountains of Wicklow through a very rough terrain, alone and found Glendalough.

How did the boy named Caoibh come down to us as Kevin? Again, you have to go back to the Gaelic. In our Gaelic school, we knew him as Naomh Caoibhinn. Some of those ancient chieftains did not use the usual 'o' or 'Mac' as their possessory. John Mhaire, Pat Mhicil, Michael Pheadar, so Caoibh Ghinn was usual. GH had a y sound (Caoibhyinn). As time went by, they cut out the gh so we have Caoibhinn. Then the English came along, the Ca had a K sound, the ibh has a v sound and they cut off the last n and we got Kevin in the English language. Some of his brothers used 'Mac' instead. He may not be our only Saint, as it was well documented that a Bishop McGinn was martyred during the Siege of Derry in 1690.

If you have an interest in how Irish names are spelled etc in Gaelic, a good quick primer can be found here Irish Names on Wikipedia.

This was sent to me by Andrew Tyrrell. While I can't vouch for the historic or heraldic accuracy, it's fun reading!

The Irish surname McGing is an anglicized rendering of the gaelic surname Mag Fhinn which may be translated as "son of finn" a personal name which is derived from the Gaelic term fionn meaning fair. Documented variants of this name include Macginn, Macginne and maginn. This sept controlled territories in the province of Connaught where they were amoung those six famillies who were called the Chiefs of Sodhan. This was the name of a large domain in the barony of Tiaquin, which had been divided into six parts, known as the six Sodhans. These chiefs were celebrated in O'Dugans topographical poems:

The six sodhans let us not shun
their chiefs are not to be forgotten
brave are their predatory hosts
to whom belonged the spear-armed sodhans

The McGings were members of the Hy Brune tribe which was founded by Brune or Brian, son of Eocha Moy Deagan, king of Ireland in ad 350. This tribe was amoung those ancient and noble septs called Milesians, for they claimed decent from Milesius, king of Spain, who os held to have invaded in ancient times. Notable decendents of this family have included William Maginn, 1793-1842 who became one of the most prominent personalities in the literary and journalistic world in London. Edward Maginn 1802-1849 who was the Bishop of Derry.

Blazon of Arms: Sable, two paelts argent, a chief
Translation: The palet is the emblem of military strength and fortitude while the chief signifies dominion and authority and was often granted in arms for a reward for successful command in war.
Crest: A cockatrice displayed vert
Translation: the cockatrice denotes invincibility in combat
Motto: Dum Spiro spero
Translation: While I breathe, I hope

Surname Reports Provided by Researcher Paul MacCotter, MA

Over the past year, I have been working with and commissioned Paul MacCotter to research the surname.

Dr. Paul MacCotter obtained his MA in history by independent research at UCC in 1994. After this he continued his studies into general and specialist genealogy and medieval history. During this time he continued to study, research and publish in the areas of medieval history, Anglo-Norman history, church history, genealogy, and Irish surname studies. MacCotter currently has nearly fifty papers published and four books. He was awarded his PhD in UCC in 2006. His book, Medieval Ireland: territorial, political and economic divisions has come to be regarded as a major reference work and MacCotter as a leading authority on this aspect of medieval Irish history. He worked as Historical Consultant for the Heritage Council funded INSTAR project, Making Christian Landscapes, and obtained a prestigious Government of Ireland fellowship, in 2010. Dr. MacCotter currently continues his academic research, and is an assistant lecturer in the Schools of History and Adult Continuing Education, UCC, and runs his own genealogical and historical consultancy (

I have his permission to reprint his reports, which are available here and at the top menu of each page.

Check it out, as the final (still tentative) conclusion is certainly not what I expected when I started this!

NOTE: I've received some emails from persons who say that my history of the name is inaccurate. I certainly don't pretend to be an expert, nor that the persons who have provided materials are experts (except for Mr. MacCotter). However, the material is put forth in good faith as at least a place to start. It provides references to known materials when such exist. If anyone has a problem with this research, I put forth the following:

  • Unless you can provide some rebuttal, some facts or references to sources that disagree with this, please don't send me an email with "Your research is all wrong". Such emails, besides being a waste of your time and mine, do nothing to correct or enlighten.
  • I am looking at McGings, an english variation of the english McGinn that is unique to County Mayo. Until such time as we can locate records that show that these MacFhinns (MacFinns) emigrated from Ulster to Mayo, looking into the possibility that they have a source in Galway is certainly not wrong. If Mr. MacCotters research into possible non-Ulster sources for the name offend you, he's online and you can take it up with him.

I know for a fact that even in my own family, the surname changed from McGing to McGinn once they were in England or America. So it is indeed possible that there are McGinns out there who are descended from Mayo McGings who "reverted" to the more common McGinn. That's a fact that is indisputable and so therefore not every McGinn has his roots directly from Ulster.

I also have seen the name Ging used in the Mayo records (usually early 1800s) and later revert to McGing. I have again searched, looking for an Irish surname such as Ging and other than the instances I have seen, I have not run across any. I have asked in various genealogical forums about the name Ging, and I've found nothing beyond the Mayo records. I asked Mr. MacCotter, who unequivically states that Ging is the name McGing with the Mc dropped, that there is no Irish surname as Ging which would have any other origin.

Which means that Gings who claim an Irish heritage are almost certain to be connected to the McGings. I think that's a "fact" one can count on.

I found a wonderful web site that is full of great information. It's not McGing related, but it is well worth your taking the time to read, as the owner really puts forth a lot of effort in explaining the history of Gaelic surnames, and I learned a LOT reading it.

Westport Quay

Westport Quay, located south west of Westport town was built in the late 1700s by the Brownes of Westport who were the largest landlords in County Mayo. They had previously constructed the town of Westport and encouraged the settlement of potential business men and had encouraged the growth of linen manufacturing among their tenants. The Quay consisted of a harbour capable of accommodating large ocean-going vessels and an impressive block of warehouses. The level of anticipated trade which Westport Quay was capable of handling never materialised and several of the warehouses went completely unused. Shortly after the construction of the Quay the linen industry in Mayo went into sharp decline and no alternative exporting industry replaced it. The advent of the railroad network in the 1860s, which was extended to Westport Quay not alone failed to bring additional business to the Quay but instead provided a cheaper and faster means of goods distribution than the coastal shipping trade.

Austin McGing was a writing clerk who resided in Westport Quay. It is not known if he was employed by one of companies who imported or exported from there or if he was employed by the harbour authorities.

The townland of Kinnewry

Kinnewry (also spelled Kinnury) takes its name from the Irish Cionn lubhraighe which means 'head of the yew' and probably refers to a location one located near an ancient yew wood. In the l9th century it was the property of the Blakes of Belmont, near Tuam, Co. Galway. In 1838 it was let in small farms of about 2 1/2 acres at a rent of £140 per annum for the whole townland through Patrick Kinnaun of Kinnewry, the Blake's agent. By 1855 the townland was owned by Charles Grotty (1812 - 1883) who resided in Kinnewry and farmed 425 acres. The remainder was let to twelve tenant families in 1855."The soil is very light and the crops are only middling". The townland contains 1036 acres of land.

The Surname McGing

The surname McGing and its variant form McGinn is in Irish Mag Fhinn, a variant of Mac Finn which means "descendant of the fair haired". Finn is the more common Anglicisation but McGing and McGinn are found in Counties Derry and Mayo. The surname may have evolved locally in County Mayo, or given its relative rarity, have come from the northern counties ip the 1600s or 1700s where there were several waves of migration to Mayo. The "census" of 1695 lists MacGinne as the principal surname in the Barony of Oneilland in County Armagh. The most famous bearer of the surname was William Maginn (1792 - 1842), apparently a native of Dublin, who left Dublin in 1828 and became one of the foremost personalities in the literary and journalistic field in London.

In Mayo the surname, under its various spellings, is found chiefly in the civil parishes of Oughaval, Cong, Breaghwy, Aghagower, Kilbeagh, Ballyovey, Ballinrobe, Kilbeagh and Ballintober with the greatest concentrations being found in the parishes of Oughaval, Aghamore and Ballintober.

From Sister Helen

From Sr. Helen: (Sister Helen is a Dominican nun who is a McGing who is from Westport but lives in Dublin)

Today also I went through Griffith's Valuation, 1855.

Union of Westport
Arderry - Patt M'Ging, John M'Ging
Killaghoor - Philip M'Ging (This is just above the town.)
High Street - Philip M'Ging (These are the same person, my great grandfather.)
Tonlegee - John M'Ging, Michael M'Ging, Catherine M'Ging and Daniel M'Ging

Cloonmonad - Austin M'Ginn
The Quay - John M'Ginn

Deerpark East - Michael M'Ginn

Moyhastin - Patrick M'Ginn Sr., Patrick M'Ginn Jr. and James M'Ginn

Union of Ballinrobe
Croaghrimbeg - Mathias M'Ginn, Thomas M'Ginn
Glenmask - Martin M'Ginn, James M'Ginn, Patrick M'Ginn and James M'Ginn (Pat)
Cappaduff West - Michael M'Ginn

Barony of Clanmorris
Cong - Bridget M'Ging

Counties of Galway and Mayo - Union of Ballinrobe
Ballyweeaun - Patrick Ging
Gortmore - James Magin, Michael Magin
Kilbride - John M Ging ?

When looking at all of this it seems to me that the McGings settled in two spots mainly, Glenmask calling themselves M'Ginn, and Arderry/ Tonlegee calling themselves Ging/ M'Ging. Moyhastin McGinns are connected to the Croaghrimbeg McGinn's and the Glenmask lot I think They are Michael (Bridge Street ) McGings. Austin from Cloonmonad and Michael from Deerpark East could be related to the Glenmask crowd also.

Our lot called Ging/McGing appear mostly in the Aughagower registers as such. They do not often appear as McGinn, I think, but this I would have to go into again. I would like to get hold of the early rent rolls for the Glenmask area. The Glenmask Census of 1883 gives McGing as the name. Could they all have changed their names so soon from M'Ginn in 1855 to McGing in 1883?. Were these lists written out much more recently?What I am wondering is are the M'Ginns all related as we think the M'Gings are. Have all the world-wide McGing connections come from these relatively few families? I know Michael Joe King said we came from Bohaun but no McGings or McGinns appear in Griffith's Valuation so I'll happily settle for Arderry. Other places one would have expected to find them in - they are not there. e,g. Derreendafdeerg, Tourmakeady