Descendants of the O'Maoilsheachlainn sept of the stock of the Maoilsheachlainn, the 10th century High King of Ireland whose homeland was in Meath, became known as McLoughlin and McLaughlin. Other families descend from the Ulster Mac Lochlainn sept whose territory was Inishowen barony, County Donegal. The families descended from that sept will still be found mainly in County Donegal and County Derry. The name has many variant spellings. The maritime Ulster county of Donegal in the extreme north-west of Ireland is bounded on the west and north by the Atlantic ocean, to the south by Donegal Bay and an extending extremity of County Leitrim on the east by Lough Foyle which seperates it from County Derry and to the south-east by land boundaries with county Tyrone and County Fermanagh. The ancient name of the region was Tyrconnell or Tirconnell and its chief families were the ruling O'Donnells and O'Dohertys. The county was erected by the Lord Deputy in 1584, and after the forfeiture to the Crown of the O'Donnell estates, the lands of the county were included in the ambitious Ulster plantation scheme. About four-fifths of the cultivable land in the county was allotted for settlement in 62 portions, 47 for English and Scottish undertakers and servitors, and 15 for native Irish. The rest of the good land was assigned to the established church for its support to Trinity College, and for the support of schools in Derry and Donegal and to five corporate towns. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the flowing and draped garment worn over the armour. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another.
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