O’Neal, O’Neill, McNeill, MacNeill

Neal; Nihell; Nealy, McNeilly, O’Neillan .......

Family Name History from the Irish Roots Cafe

( Notes from an early family history work by Mike O'Laughlin ).

The Difference ?

To settle the family arguement - there is a difference

historically between McNeill and O’Neill, but it might

take a DNA test of a male member in the family to

find out which O’Neill line you are closest to in Ireland.

I saw a piece on national news that said DNA had

recently found that nearly all the ONeals in Northern

Ireland descend from the ancient Irish chieftain

“Conn of the Hundred Battles” - a remarkable feat to

say the least.

Switching Mac and O

In some places there is also the rare possibility that

some McNeals have changed the name to O’Neal

(using any spelling they please). So while McNeal

and ONeal are considered seperate families - you’ll

have to do some research to be sure in your case!

Most Numerous

ONeill is one of the 12 most numerous names in

Ireland. One clan served as chieftains in Northern

Ireland, That family bore the ‘red hand of Ulster’

for its coat of arms, one of the most ancient symbols

of Ireland. This is also the ONeill family noted in the

Flight of the Earls and the collapse of the gaelic culture.

A likely separate Irish clan is found in County Clare,

in the barony of Bunratty, others are said to exist in

Carlow and Waterford.

Bear in mind also, the name of O'Neilland or Neyland,

etc.., which can be shortened to O'Neill at any time.

Mc and MacNeill

The MacNeills, who also settled in the province of

Ulster in Northern Ireland, came from Scotland. Some

of these were mercenaries or ‘galloglass’, most often

found in Antrim and Derry. Perhaps due to the shortness

of the name, it has retained the O’ before the name more

often than most in Ireland. The very same family can

spell the name as McNeill, MacNeil, and so on in records.

O'Neill of Tyrone

By the way, Castle Hill, in County Tyrone, a seat of

power for Hugh O’Neill and family is being turned

into a park area along with the remains of the O’Neill

Castle there.

Sources and Spellings For the Name:

O’Neal and its variants are found in most of my books.

M’Neal in Guide to Spellings of Irish Names #1431.

M’Neal in Names of Irish Passengers to America.

McNeal in History of the Milesian Families of Ireland.

MacNeale & arms in Families of County Dublin, Ireland.

McNeales in Co. Mayo genealogy & family history notes.

McNeall in the1659 census of Ireland.

M’Neile in Guide to Spellings of Irish Names.

MacNeil in The Families of County Kerry Ireland.

MacNeill in The Families of County Donegal, Ireland.

Capt. Hector McNeill is noted in the early U.S. Navy.

In the Plantation

As would be expected the name appears numerous

times in the “Conquest of Ireland, a genealogical and

historical account of the Plantation in Ireland."

Including: C. McNeale; F. Mc Neale; C. McNeil

(Names in the Land Grants)... and of course all

the O'Neill spellings of the day are found there.

Great O'Neill

The Great O’Neill (spelling?) is also the title of two

books in my library. I think one was a biography

of Hugh O’Neill and the other was a play ?....

something along those lines.. The title fits well

in earlier days of Irish history. It was with the

'Flight of the Earls' O'Neill and O'Donnell in the

17th century, that the gaelic culture began its

final decline however.

Well Documented Name

Of course, the “Book of Irish Families, great and

small” contains a full entry for the O’Neill, and

McNeill name including coats of arms, as well

as an entry for O'Neyland or O'Neilland....

So end the notes from the Irish Roots Cafe today.


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