This Scottish and Irish name of McGONNELL (pronounced Maak Oonil) was derived from the Gaelic MacDhomhnuill, and has many variant spellings which include MacCONNAL, MacCONNEL, MacCONNELL and MacDONNEL. The name is composed of the Old Celtic elements meaning 'high' and 'valour'. In counties Louth some families of this name have changed to MacConnell an example of the not uncommon process whereby comparatively rare names become absorbed in better known ones of a somewhat similar sound. The name occurs mainly in the shires of Argyll, Ayr and Wigtown. An early instance of the name mentions William Mcconill Vayne Vic Ean Vreick, in the parish of Urray, was charged with being an engager on the Royalist side in 1649. (an engager was a follower in the engagement between the Scots Presbyterians and Charles I.) Many Highland families migrated from Scotland to Ireland during the 17th and 18th centuries, and were granted the lands of the native Catholic Irish. People heard of the attractions of the New World, and many left Ireland to seek a better life sailing aboard the fleet of ships known as the 'White Sails', but much illness took its toll with the overcrowding of the ships which were pestilence ridden. From the port of entry many settlers made their way west, joining the wagons to the prairies, and many loyalists went to Canada about the year 1790, and became known as the United Empire Loyalists. Surnames as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th Century. The employment in the use of a second name was a custom that was first introduced from the Normans. They themselves had not long before adopted them. It became, in course of time, a mark of gentler blood, and it was deemed a disgrace for gentlemen to have but one single name, as the meaner sort had. 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.
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