This family, with its numerous variants are the descendants of the gallowglass warriors who settled in County Donegal, where they had come first as mercenaries. By the 15th century they had formed three septs named Mac Suichne. The surname is found mainly in Munster, particularly in County Cork, where a branch of the family migrated from Ulster, established itself, multiplied and flourished. The Irish MacSuibhne denotes 'pleasant'. 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 separates 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. They came into being fairly generally in the 11th century, and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000. When the sparse Irish population began to increase it became necessary to broaden the base of personal identification by moving from single names to a more definite nomenclature. The prefix 'Mac' was given to the father's christian name, or 'O' to that of a grandfather or even earlier ancestor. They were an Irish sept possessed of a territory in County Donegal, of the race of O'Neil, and claiming descent from Suibhne Menn or Sweeney 'The Renowned', who was monarch of Ireland A.D.616-28; MacSweeney Fanait was chief of this sept while St.Kevin was at Glen-da-loch. The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. Registered in Ulster.
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