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Mcgonicle Coat of Arms / Mcgonicle Family Crest

Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames: they came into being fairly generally in the 11th century, and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000. This name was derived from the Gaelic Mag Congail, whose descendants are to be found mainly in County Donegal and the neighbouring County of Derry. The surnames in Ireland originally signified membership of a clan, but with the passage of time, the clan system became less distinct, and surnames came to identify membership of what is called a 'sept'; a group of people all living in the same locality, all bearing the same surname, but not necessarily descended from a common ancestor. Adoption of the name by people who did not otherwise have a surname and by dependents was not uncommon. Just over one hundred years after the Norman Conquest of England, the first Normans arrived in Ireland. Richard de Clare, Second Earl of Pembroke (died 1176), was known as Strongbow. He was invited to Ireland by Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster, whose daughter he married, to help him in his wars with his neighbours. He was accompanied by several retainers whose name, like his own, have become well established as surnames in Ireland. The Normans established themselves in Leinster and paid homage to Henry 11 of England. Some of the Norman settlers acquired surnames derived from the Irish. Most of the European surnames in countries such as England, Scotland and France were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name.

This sept is notable for the number of distinguished ecclesiastics is has produced.

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Last Updated: Dec. 1st, 2021

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