Surname Basics

McGing Basics

Some basic McGing information that I paid an internet genealogist for:

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 MacGinn 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 USA and can be obtained from Michael O'Laughlin of The Irish Family Journal, Box 7575 Kansas City MO 64116 USA 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


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


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

Mag Fhinn

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



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

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.

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.

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:

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.


Last updated  April 16, 2018