DNA-R1B1C7-L ArchivesArchiver > DNA-R1B1C7 > 2011-07 > 1311272378
From: Jerry Kelly <>
Subject: Re: [R-M222] New Tactics - 'Niell McEwan vicNaill Kennedy'
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2011 11:19:38 -0700 (PDT)
As you know, 'Niell McEwan vicNaill Kennedy' is a pretty good English phonetic
attempt at Niall mac Eoghain mhic Ne/ill Ui/ Cinne/ide = Niall son of Eoghan son
of Niall O'Kennedy.
The English writer nailed the sound of mhic ("vic") and Ne/ill ("Naill")
>From what I've seen of early 17th century English reports in Ireland, this was
the typical way a person would give his/her name, or at least the typical way it
was recorded. In those documents, English officials were usually careful to get
the surnames in order to figure out patterns of loyalty and disloyalty to the
crown, or to know which other family members to hold responsible for the actions
of the individual.
I can't advise on how 'Niell McEwan vicNaill Kennedy' would be rendered in
Scottish Gaelic today, but this is still perfect naming practice in Irish, and
it definitely makes clear which Niall we're talking about. If there are only a
few surnames in a given area, and with so few first names being passed down
within families due to the Gaelic naming pattern, the miniature genealogy is
needed for identification.
The shorthand version of this (without use of the surname and without use of the
words mac or ini/on - 'son' or 'daughter', but still a genealogy) is still the
rule in Irish-speaking areas (and even adjoining English-speaking areas which
are influenced by the Irish custom). Take for example the well-known TV host on
TG4 by the name of Ma/irti/n Tom Shea/ini/n. (See
http://www.tg4.ie/index.php?id=124 ) His name means 'Martin Tom of John'
(Martin Tom son of John). Or, if he's mixed English and Irish practice, Martin
of Tom of John (Martin son of Tom son of John). Either way, the 3 names make
clear which Martin we're talking about even without knowing his surname.
From: Iain Kennedy <>
Sent: Thu, July 21, 2011 4:09:49 AM
Subject: Re: [R-M222] New Tactics
Certainly all the locals would have known that the MacUalraigs were Kennedys.
Officials from outside the area may not have done but probably didn't care as
long as they got the right one they were after.
I asked the archivist at Inverness Archives the question about identity. The way
he explained it was that these people would have carried an oral tradition that
the two names were interchangeable. That still seems a bit strange since I
imagine whole generations might have gone by without anyone recording them as
Another factor is that often the clerk was not only not local but not a Gaelic
speaker/writer. So some considerable mangling may be taking place. For all I
know, 'Niell McEwan vicNaill Kennedy' might have been rolling on the floor in
laughter if he had seen his name written like that. I am sceptical that he would
have literally given that to an official as his name. More likely his brother
gave his name as John McRory Kennedy and so they stuck Kennedy on the end of the
other man's patronymic?
> Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2011 22:57:16 -0400
> Subject: Re: [R-M222] New Tactics
> I just read through some of Iain Kennedy's web pages.
> He makes some interesting observations. These caught my eye:
> 1. Rannoch men were mostly using patronymics and not surnames well into the
> 18th century.
> 2. The people of the Appin of Dull switched over to modern surnames
> sometime earlier, by 1660 at the latest.
> This one is strange (to me at least).
> 'post 1743'
> Camiserichbeg features Niell McEwan vicNaill Kennedy and John McRory
> Kennedy his brother
> This is classic confusing patronymic material! But there is logic in the
> names, as John is the son of Rory and his brother is the grandson of Neill.
> Would anyone guess the following person is really a Kennedy?
> McEwin VcInduy alias McCorig of Leonachinbeg, Duncan, decree against him,
> My question to Iain is did these men in Scotland have fixed surnames but
> just didn't use them (they seem to pop up now and then in between the
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|Re: [R-M222] New Tactics - 'Niell McEwan vicNaill Kennedy' by Jerry Kelly <>|