MacCotter Surname Reports

Paul MacCotter is a certified historian and genealogist with publications to his credit ranging from the academic to the populist and covering such subjects as medieval history, genealogy, early modern history, surname histories, placename history, manorial titles, church history, etc. I commissioned him to research the McGing surname and his reports follow.

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 at Paul MacCotter Genealogy

Initial Surname Report on McGing for John McGing October 3, 2000

Much material was provided from McLysaght, Griffiths etc and the aim was to examine the origins of the Connacht McGings. Several origins were suggested in the material provided.

Ulster Origins

One suggestion was that the surname originated with the well known Ulster settlement in Mayo of expulsed Catholics fleeing sectarian violence in the late 18th century. Two sources were provided to prove this contention, both being from Seanchas Ardmhacha (3/1 and 9/2). Only the first of these contained material relating to this exodus (3/1 17ff) and the names listed include no Maginns. There were, however, McCanns ("McKen") listed, but this is a distinct surname (MacAnna) and is not related to the Ulster Maginns Another source for the same exodus, B. O'Hara's Mayo, 87, lists McKan families as settling in Crossmolina, Co Mayo but no Maginns. I therefore conclude that the Ulster origin here suggested is incorrect.

In order ot be fully assured of this, however, I should have uncovered some earlier reference to McGing, McGinn etc in Connacht but this proved difficult. The main part of the research was taken up with this search, and the following sources were consulted:

O'Harts Irish Pedigrees
O'Harts Irish Gentry When Cromwell Came to Ireland
O'Flahertys Iar Connacht
O'Donovans Genealogy and Customs of Hy Fhiachrach
Topographical Poems of O'Duggan and O'Heerin
Stafford Inquisitions, Co. Mayo, 1635
The Composicion Booke of Connaught (1585)
Annals of Loch Ce
Annals of Connacht
Annals of the Four Masters
Books and Survey and Distribution for Cos. Galway, Mayo and Roscommon (1641 - 1680)
The Irish Fiants of the Tudor Sovereigns (1515-1601)
Knox's History of Mayo
M.D. O'Sullivan, Old Galway
J.F. Quinn'sHistory of Mayo
Ros Comain County History (In Irish, no author)
Hardiman's History of Galway
Unindexed pardons for Cos Galway, Mayo and Roscommon for the early 17th century on Calendar of Irish Patent Rolls of James I. (Pages 1-100)

The above sources form 60% of the principal sources for Connacht surnames, and include all of the principal annals, fiant collections, county histories and ancient tribal genealogies. In all of this I found only one reference of interest, that from no. 10: "1031 AD, death of MacFinn, erenagh of the guest house of Clonmacnoise". This monk was an important official in this very important early Celtic monastery just across the Shannon from east Galway.

The Sodhain

The reference provided by you intrigued me. This tribe were a very ancient tribe who lives in central east Co. Galway and early divided into six sections, each of whom would have come to be led by kings with a given surname. Your source is suggesting that one of these sections was led by McGinns. I next tried to trace this down. I examined Byrne's Irish Kings and High Kings, O'Briens Corpus Genealogorum Hibernicorum (early Irish genealogies) and Analecta Hibernica 1951, which contains the main O'Cleary genealogies (some early, but more a little later). These sources did not reveal any of the surnames associated with the Sodhain (pronounced Sogain), although O'Cleary has, on page 146, a pedigree of the Sodhain kings which includes one Maighninn, perhaps an error for MacFhinn.

Further work

At this stage your fee had run out. Bear in mind that the initial report is just that. In this case I was able to only go so far. I think that the McGing/McGinn of Connacht are certainly native to that province and have no connection with the Ulster sept. The one early reference I have uncovered may or may not be of this family but more research is needed to fill out the picture here. There remain several major sources which may well yield direct evidence of early Connacht McGings, especially the Papal Registers, State Papers and other sources while the Sodhain connection remains to be fully examined. Again, there are sources here which remain unexamined. As you will appreciate, there is a very large amount of material which must be searched in a case such as this. One further valuable source is the Journal of the Galway Historical and Archaeological Society, published over many years. Unfortunately this seems to have no general index and will have to be searched by examination of likely articles and papers.

One final intriguing area concerned surname distribution in Griffiths Valuation (CD edition, this was in addition to your Mayo data). This revealed one Maginn in Galway, 100 plus in Mayo and 43 in Roscommon. While many of these may be Mac Anraighe's and others in disguise, given Woulfe's assertion regarding McKing in Connacht it remains possible that many of these were really MacFhinns.

Surname Report #2 for John McGing December 2, 2000

The research reported on here was as agreed in the first report. The thrust of this was to try and establish the presence of a native sept of MacFhinn in Connacht.

Calendars of Papal Letters and Registers

These were searched for the period 1417-1512 i.e., vols 7-18. The earlier volumes contain little of Irish interest.

8/3: In 1428 Donatus Machayn, priest, was vicar of Kilsiorach in Killaloe diocese (Clare and north Tipperary)
13/196: In 1483 Odo Maegayn was appointed to the vicarage of Killursa in Annaghdown diocese (east Co. Galway) and was dispensed on account of his illegitimacy as the son of a priest and a married woman. Just before this the vicarage had been resigned by Cornelious Magayn and had earlier been detained since about 1469 by one Maurice Macgayn, a priest.
10/729: In 1454 Thady Magyn was a priest in Kilmore diocese (Co. Cavan)
16/356: In 1494 Cornelius Macghin was detaining the vicarage of Kilmaceyayn in Annaghdown diocese. (This is probably the later Kilmacregan, now Cummer, near Killursa.)

Apart from these references there were numerous mentions of MacKeans, etc, in Dromore, i.e., Co. Down, and these are the nrothern Maginns.


You will note immediately the references to MacFhinns in east Co. Galway, the actual territory of the Sogain. These represent a minor clerical lineage here and show the surname well established in the area in the second half of the 15th century. The branch further to the south, in Killaloe is also of some interest.

Calendars of State Papers Ireland

This series runs from 1509 to 1670 and all volumes were done apart from those dealing with the period 1598-1601, which tends to deal mostly with Ulster. Additionally the Calendars of State Papers, Carew, apart from those around 1600 were also done, bringing the total number of volumes to about 25.

1589-92/240: Henry M'Gin of Connacht noted in 1589

Those calendars for the period 1665-1670 contain numerous references to one Father Patrick McGinn, but in a maddeningly offhand way which tells us very little about him. In 24/6/1670 he was granted ten townlands in the barony of Ballintubber, Co. Roscommon. Earlier, in 1666, McGinn was to have a grant of the farm of the excise (tax collecting) in Co. Down. It is unclear whether he was a Connacht or Down McGinn.

Sodhain/Sogain genealogies

In light of the above findings in east Galway, my suspicion that the reference you sent me about the McGings being one of the chief lines of the east Galway tribe may be correct. Accordingly I deviated from my own recommendations and examined this source. I traced and read on microfilm all recorded Sodhain genealogies in the large collection of the Royal Irish Academy. Unfortunately those all seem to have been early and do not extend down to the time when surnames were adopted. Those occur in MSS nos. 536, 790, 836 and 1233. Another is published in O'Brien's Corpus Genealogorum Hibernicorum.

Journal of the Galway Historical and Archaeological Society

This journal began publishing around 1900 and continues an annual edition to this day. The only index ever published that I am aware of was of the first seven volumes and this does contain an article on the Sodhain, in vol 3, p. 137ff. As luck would have it my local university has the entire set apart from the first four volumes. I did note from the index that this article named the O'Mannin family as chiefs of the Sodhain. I have sent to Galway for a copy of this article but this will take some weeks to arrive. This will be sent to you in due course. I did not examine the remainder of this periodical in view of the work done above on the genealogies.


It looks increasingly to me that the material you sent me regarding McGing and the Sogain was correct, but I am not yet certain of this. Note that the Sodhain were an important tribe later eclipsed, whose ancient territory is preserved in that of the outline of the barony of Tiaquin in east Galway. Traditionally there were six branches of this tribe, and it would appear that the McGinn were descended from the chiefs of one of these branches. I am certain that the Connacht McGinns and McGings descend from the 15th century east Galway MacFhinns as recorded above. If we can tie them in with the Sogain this will extend the pedigree back another thousand years, for the Sogain were located here at the start of recorded history, about 500AD. I am not exactly sure where to go with this. If you leave it with me at present I may come up with some further work to firmly establish my suspected link. I will also be asking colleagues for opinions on this one.

Surname Report #3, January 28, 2001

This report is in response to your recent e-mail detailing a reference to the sept of O'Maigin in Galway.

Please fine enclosed a map (will be scanned soon) and pages from O'Donovans Tribes and Customs of Hy Many. Note the reference on page 159 to the O'Maigin and other septs connected with the Soghain. If you read carefully you will note that O'Donovan gives no source for this statement, which renders it well-neigh useless. While this looks somewhat authentic O'Donovan was a very early scholar and is regarded as far from infallible.

O'Brien's Corpus Gen Hib (page 318) shows that the original form of this christian name was Moicain, becoming Maigin later. It is derived fro the root "Mac" son and seems to mean "little son." The name occurs only once in the early genealogies, in a pedigree of a brnach of the Conmaicne people. These were principally located in Cos Galway and Mayo.

Turning next to two pages from McLysaght's More Irish Families, note the entry concerning the sept O'Macken. Here is the correct derivation of the earlier O'Maigin sept, as will be seen by carefully reading this. Note from the map the proximity of the territories of a branch of the Sodhain and of the Conmaicne in Galway. The O'Maigins were Conmaicne, not Sodhain, and descended as Macken, not Maging. The references to MacFhinns as derived from the Papal Registers in my last report clearly do not have the O' attached, and thus are not Mackens, as the use of Mac and O at this early period was universal. These were definitely the early Magings, etc.

I note your comments about my remaining vigilant for traces of early MacFhinns in Connacht, and this will be done.

So what is this all about?

It sounds like the Mr. MacCotter is saying is that the McGings (and other names derived from MacFhinn) that are found in Connacht are probably descended from the 15th century Galway MacFhinns, and these, in turn, may be connected to the more ancient tribe of the Sogain. For more information on the Sogain, look here . I've asked Mr. MacCotter to continue in this research, so we shall see. What is extremely interesting is his contention that the McGings are not descended from the Ulster McGinns.

Surname Report #4, February 10, 2016

This report reopens this research after many years. You have used Rootsireland to plot occurrences of the reputed variants McGing and Ging, finding Ging around Dublin and Meath in the early 1800s, and have speculated that the surname Ging may then have migrated to Mayo where you find it in the 1830s. My task was to examine this possibility.

Surname Distribution

Griffiths Valuation gives the following households of Ging during the mid 19th century:
Kildare 6
Meath 6
Offaly 4
Laois 2
Galway 2

McGing then has ten households in Mayo and four in Dublin.

The Tithe Applotment books from the period 1825 to 1835 give Ging:
Kildare 4
Meath 3
Offaly 1
Laois 2

McGing in the same source gives 2 in Westmeath and 1 in Louth.

The index to all diocesan wills from the late 1500s to 1857 recorded no wills of either surname, but the Prerogative indices (where somebody had property in more than one diocese) showed the following locations and dates for Ging wills and administrations.

Dublin, 1826
Kildare, 1844 and 1845
Meath, 1833
Laois, 1754
No McGings occurred

A second version of this source dating from 1484 to 1857 (, gave:

One Ging will in Meath and six in Dublin, all post 1800. No McGings.

I also made a general search of for both surnames, but all references were from the 19th century.

The British Library Newspaper Archive and the Findmypast British and Irish archive were both searched for the period 1750 to 1800 but only one Ging was found (John), a tenant on the lands of Ballymullagh and Mylerstown in Co. Kildare in 1796.

The Registry of Deeds index project (a database containing 20% of all deed entries between 1708 and 1850) found only one Richard Ginn, a Dublin courier of the 1760s.

Finally, a search of the Jacobite Outlawries in Analecta Hibernica 1960 found neither surname. This is an extensive list of Catholic rebels from the period 1689 to 1699 from most of Ireland.


I suspect that some at least of the Irish Gings are not Irish at all but may have originated as British planters, and thus have nothing to do with the Mayo McGings. The geographical distribution suggests as much. Online surname searches suggest that the surname may be German. Whatever of this, the databases show records of several men called Ging living in Kent and London in the late 1600s. The Irish Gings may have originated in this manner, but more research would be needed to substantiate this. I suspect the Irish Gings may not be in anyway related to the Irish McGings.

Noters on Sources Used

Griffiths Valuation is a land and property tax which lists the heads of all households in rural areas and the rates on their home and lands. It dates from 1848 to the early 1860s and was published at different times for different counties. In the absence of 19th century census records it is the nearest equivalent. The Valuation comes with maps showing homestead location and area of farms. Earlier material survives for some counties, usually dating four to five years before the published Griffiths, and this can contain additional data, such as the measurements of homesteads and details of rents and leases. This material is the house and tenure books of the Valuation Office, now held in the National Archives.

The Tithe Applotment Books are a collection of records by civil parish which record all farmers holding more than two acres of land. These mostly date from the period 1825 to 1835, and record acreage and land quality of farms, names of farmers, and amounts of tithe payable to the Protestant State Church. They are another valuable census substitute.